“This is more than just another street beef.” Jax tells the club he always knew they would be going head to head with August Marks. “We need to handle him with leverage, not blood,” he says. While that sounds tidy and civilized, it’s safe to assume that in Sons of Anarchy, it always ends in blood.
The Sons are setting the next phase of their plan in motion: align with the Mayans to navigate the heroin trade with the Aryans; work with the Aryans to take down Lin; bring together the Grim Bastards and the One-Niners to continue running guns with the Irish; everyone comes together to take down Marks. Nice and neat, with everyone getting all the smack, semiautomatics, and satisfaction they require, and plenty of Jax’s smirking revenge.
In “Greensleeves,” the seventh episode of this final season, Juice is used as a pawn in this game. Jax gives Juice his cut back, and he rides off, the van following him. The Sons touch the hill, which has “J.T. 11-13-93” and an anarchy sign carved into it. This is the place where John Teller was killed, where the real betrayal that set the club in chaotic motion took place. Jax and Bobby embrace, and go on their way. At first, it seems as if Juice is being placed to commit suicide by cop; however, it’s simply a plan to get him locked up in County.
“I know this is a big risk,” Jax tells his table while Juice is going down. He explains that if Juice “stays on plan” on the inside, Tulley will set him up to kill Lin. If he chokes, then Tulley will kill him. It’s a win-win for the Sons, and Juice has something to prove, and nothing to lose.
By the end of the episode, Juice gets a roommate who has a swastika on his throat. This is probably the only time in Juice’s life when such a roommate made him feel like everything was going as planned.
To get Marks where they want him, the Sons need to use “Pantyhose” Pastor Haddem’s widow and stepson as leverage. They visit Grant and Letitia at the Piedmont Grace Center for God. They need Letitia and Grant need to sign statements that Marks threatened them, and the Sons can use that signed statement and photos of a very dead pastor in Pope’s yard as leverage against Marks. Leverage, not blood.
Some blood needs to be shed, though, as Grant and Letitia are being blackmailed by “Greensleeves,” the pimp who supplied the pastor with his young acolytes. This is barely a bump in the road for the Sons, who track Greensleeves down (thanks to Nero). Greensleeves is in the middle of physically assaulting his prostitute, Winsome, and telling her that the abuse she receives from a john is him “paying for the privilege of making you stronger.” “C’mon, baby, who puts the O in ho?” “I do,” she apologizes playfully. (Note: This scene is disgusting. More on that later.) After a quick street fight — with some of his girls throwing formidable punches in his defense — Chibs and Jax hunt Greensleeves down in his apartment, get the phone, and perform a “very sloppy suicide.”
Jax has gotten the signed letter from Grant and Letitia, and sends them to the cabin so they can hide out and Letitia can get clean (“My mom can help taper you off the junk,” he says). “You need to trust me,” he tells them. “This is the only move.” “Trust me,” Jax repeats over and over again, never quite delivering the results promised.
When he asks Rat Boy and Happy to get Gemma and take her to the cabin to take care of Letitia, they hesitate. “Are you afraid of my mother?” Jax laughs, and Happy quickly responds, “We all are.” Because of their fear of Gemma (at least someone recognizes her potential), they coolly, with some discomfort, tell her they need to take her to the cabin, Jax’s orders. Gemma is already visibly nervous about what Juice may have said to Jax, and this puts her over the edge. “It’s a mother-son thing. A family problem,” Rat Boy explains. “He was clear,” Happy adds. “You need to come with us.”
Gemma is terrified. At first, it’s enjoyable to watch, but it’s easy to imagine her killing everyone in her path if she feels threatened. She nervously says she needs to pick up a few things at home; she goes into her bedroom and loads her gun, just a few feet from the baby, showing the violent, deadly juxtaposition of her mothering and her killing.
Her caged birds behind her, Gemma starts “singing” to Thomas, admitting everything to him, hugging him, rocking him, and crying. “I had to do it,” she says. “You’re the only one who needs to know. I was trying to be a good grandma … killing your mommy was an accident.”
However, Thomas isn’t the only one who knows now. Abel is already acting out in school and becoming “more distant every day,” and now is looking in the room, the door ajar. He hears it all, takes it in, and walks away. Abel has absorbed enough of the violence around him, and now this. Considering the child of a gang member shot up a school in season six, we can’t underestimate what Abel might do with this knowledge. This scene is one of the most suspenseful in the episode — we expect Wendy to overhear, we worry the gun might go off, we worry Gemma might, in a fit of crooked self-preservation, off Rat Boy and Happy. But just Abel hears — stone-faced, disturbed, a burgeoning Son of Anarchy. It’s easy to imagine the series ending with Abel’s thousand-yard stare.
But otherwise, things are looking up for Jax and company, it seems. Juice rooming with a neo-Nazi? Check. Phone with blackmail photos? Check. Signed letter on its way to Marks via Tyler? Check. Pastor Haddem reburied, with photo evidence of his body in Pope’s property? Check. A healthy relationship with the Mayans, Grim Bastards, and Niners? Check. What could go wrong?
The Sons and Mayans are riding at dusk, lovely, soft music calling to mind a free, Easy Rider biker sentimentality (of course, we know how that ends). Everything is coming together as they go to meet Marks. Bobby is driving separately, alone — you do not ride alone — in a wood-paneled station wagon, singing and enjoying his ride, when an SUV and luxury car run him off the road. It’s a nasty, graphic wreck, but he’s alive as sharply dressed black men descend the hill toward his car.
The sun is setting on the Sons at the park, as Marks has clearly stood them up. Marks sends a messenger, though — Moses Cartwright, who introduces himself as the “head of Mr. Marks’s security team.” “His reply to your request is in the package,” he says, setting a box down on the picnic table. “I really admire your level of camaraderie. I see how brotherhood is important to all of you.”
They’re at a table, with an answer in front of them. Jax takes out a knife and opens the box to reveal Redwood Original patches and an iPad with a recording of Bobby being tortured. He pulls out a small dish with the product of the torture: Bobby’s eye in a blood-soaked napkin. Marks has positioned himself among Greek gods, using enucleation as a punishment. Chibs sobs, holding on to Tig, and Jax simply walks away into the darkness.
At the beginning of the episode, Jax delivers a heartfelt monologue, thanking his crew for staying with him in this course of personal vengeance: “You all are my family. I love all of you.” But Jax’s family — at his hand, his mother’s hand, and the hands he’s setting up — is crumbling all around him. He’s right. He’s not going to be able to repay this debt. Jax and Abel both walk away from unspeakable tragedy this week; what will happen when they walk back into the frame?
• Gemma is mothering another mother at the end of the episode; she has escaped what she thought was sure retribution for now. However, her cradle-side admission to Thomas will have lasting effects.
• Wendy is also left mothering, tucking in Thomas and Abel as “Greensleeves” starts to softly play in the background. She strokes Abel’s head and walks away, turning out the lights. Abel opens his eyes; his eyes have, literally and figuratively, been opened.
• Nero wants out. He tells Gemma his uncle will sell him the farm for a $150,000 cash down payment, and he wants to sell his share of Diosa for it. He wants her to come with him, and she promises she’ll think about it.
• Winsome quickly accepts Nero and Jax’s offer of employment at Diosa, as they promise her a flexible schedule, working in house, making more money — one almost expects to hear them offer a 401(k) and a competitive health savings account. The damsel in distress thing isn’t new to Sons of Anarchy, but something about this situation seemed forced and shallow.
• Bobby reports that they should be hearing soon about the “guy Jury knew, how he disappeared.” This has been a slow burn, but Jury — his knowledge and his name — still waits to creep out of the shadows.
• Eglee is awake, and Unser tells Jax she won’t say anything about the club as long as she’s safe. Jax promises. “We had nothing to do with what happened,” Jax says. "I’ve always liked Eglee.” Unser responds, exhausted, “Yeah, I get it. Not that it matters.”
• “Alas, my love you do me wrong …” Mythology surrounding the song “Greensleeves” includes the story that Henry VIII wrote it for Anne Boleyn, that “Lady Green Sleeves” was a prostitute or promiscuous woman, and it’s been used as a war march and ice-cream truck chimes. Lust, familial violence, war, and ice cream? Sounds about right. Katey Sagal covers the ballad.
• There are too many sunglasses moments in this episode. I enjoy symbolic gestures (the cigarettes and joints from last week), but something about the sunglasses just makes me cringe. I don’t know why. Wait, yes I do.