The final ride of FX's Sons of Anarchy sputters

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Jax Teller rode out of our lives on Tuesday.
  • Michael Yarish/FX
  • Jax Teller rode out of our lives on Tuesday.
We knew this was coming: Sons of Anarchy is over. The FX show bowed out on December 9 with more of a whimper than a bang as Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) Thelma & Louise'd into oblivion in "Papa's Goods." But the fuss is far from over; among all the usual recaps and goodbyes, there have been think pieces about the show's ending and bizarre police reports about a supporting player.

I'm not surprised that Jax's death is generating Tony Soprano-level interest; though the end result is hardly ambiguous, his motive remains up in the air. But let's just be relieved we have an ending because this final season was kind of a drag. Too much time was spent creating side plots to distract from the main story arc: What would Jax do when he found out his mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) had murdered his wife Tara? Because it was only a matter of time until he did. Gemma and Juice's (Theo Rossi) cover-up, which included killing the only witness (in this case, the sheriff of Charming), was bound to unravel; Juice wasn't stable enough to maintain the facade and Gemma was too paranoid to really let Juice help her.

After leaving viewers hanging on through a season's worth of hour-and-a-half-long episodes, creator Kurt Sutter decided not to save Gemma's demise for the finale. Instead he resolved her latest betrayal in "Red Rose" as Jax did what he was born to do, both as Gemma's son and as Sutter's creation: he shot her in the back of the head. It's kind of a tearful scene; they're in the rose garden at Gemma's childhood home, and she calmly begs Jax to end her life. Although this ending seemed inevitable, it felt a little inconsistent with the survival instincts Gemma's displayed over the past seven years. OK, maybe she'd finally had enough, but that just means we should have seen this much earlier in the season.

But back to the finale: Jax spends most of the two-hour ordeal getting his affairs in order. First he convinces his charter to vote unanimously for him to "meet Mr. Mayhem." I know what it sounds like, but it's not actually a carnival ride; Mr. Mayhem is death, which means that Chibbs (Tommy Flanagan) and Tig (Kim Coates) and everyone else tearfully agree to send their club president to meet his maker, sorry, Mayhem. Jax does this to prevent any retaliation against his club for his deceptions (he killed a fellow club president and then lied about it).

Jax continues killing off of the competition, which, at this point, is really just the "Irish King" gun runners, because Jax and his crew have wiped out most of the Chinese underworld while working with the black and Latino gangs to take control of the gun and drug trades. This mostly goes off without a hitch, and Jax throws in the murders of a corrupt cop (Peter Weller) and a rival gang leader (Billy Brown) to further secure SAMCRO's future.

After leaving his estate and children to Wendy (Drea de Matteo) and Nero (Jimmy Smits), Jax kisses his boys goodbye. He admits to Nero that he is a bad man, and he doesn't want his children to have any memory of him. He takes pains to ensure this, destroying most of the family documents and his own journals.

His bucket list also includes wrapping up murder investigations for ADA Patterson (CCH Pounder); to solve Tara's murder, he points her in Gemma’s direction which ultimately also solves Gemma and Unser's murders.

Of course, his bike brothers were never going to go through with killing him, and Jax is free to visit the site of his father's fatal accident. Once there, he bemoans his father's absence, as it left him in his mother’s evil clutches. After killing dozens of people in a week (somehow it's only been a week or so since Tara's murder), including his own mother, this thirty-something man sits at the side of the road complaining about how it's really all Mom's fault: "And Gemma, she had plans."

That just rankles me. The finale was all about Jax taking responsibility for his own actions, going so far as to attempt to erase his existence from his children's lives, because he understood just how deep the, for lack of a better word, evil in his family runs. And he knew there couldn't even be the myth of him, because look at how well that worked out for J.T. (Jax's dad, in case you didn't know). So why that line about Gemma? After all the world-building and Hamlet-distancing and then Hamlet-invoking, what we really have on our hands is MacBeth. And maybe not even that, since the Shakespeare references were all over the Bard's oeuvre.

I'm not soured on the show, though. I'll likely watch it in syndication. It can't hurt to work on my allusion skills.

Finale thoughts:

The unnamed woman that appeared throughout the show's history remains a Resurrection Mary-like mystery.

Maybe this was all actually Henry VI, Part I? The penultimate episode was "Red Rose," which might come from "Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer, but dare maintain the party of the truth, pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me." And you know, all that War of the Roses stuff.

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