Sons of Anarchy
“But I have that within which passeth show / These but the trappings and the suits of woe.” (Hamlet, 1.2.85-86)
In this final season of Sons of Anarchy, episodes are often punctuated by morning and night. Coffee, cigarettes, and “good mornings” signify the start of a new day — new possibilities, a brand-new start. By the end, lives have been lost, truths have been unwound, and night falls.
It’s morning in Charming again, and Abel sleeps in his bed (mirroring episodes that start with Jax sleeping in bed, showing the tattoos of his sons’ names). Abel has gained a mother and given up a grandmother; he sleeps well. Jax, however, appears to have been up all night, attempting to digest a new truth.
Wendy soon gives him more — that she helped Gemma and Juice and that Unser knew, too. Jax looks startled, with wide eyes and an open mouth. Jax’s clenched jaw of earlier episodes — showing his unrelenting, misplaced revenge — is replaced by a gaping mouth and tears in “Suits of Woe.”
Gemma is talking to Tara again (an empty seat at an empty table): “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I’m so sorry this happened.” Juice repeats to himself, “This gets done,” while fingering his shiv in preparation for Lin. Chibs picks up his kutte and leaves Jarry’s, while she acts like she’s sleeping until he leaves. The silence during this opening sequence is an excellent backdrop. Tension builds, and as the sun shines in on Abel’s face, birds start singing.
It’s all coming together. Jax acts quickly and is determined to get to a truth that he seems to know is real, but doesn’t want to be. He starts with Unser. Unser plays dumb with Jax and smart with Gemma. It’s unclear exactly where Unser stands here. By the end, we realize that he, Chucky, and Nero have all let Gemma run all over them and away because of their undying love for her.
Unser must be smarter than he acts in this episode. His ignorant act about Juice and Gemma to Jax is turned upside down as he talks to Gemma, questioning her and acting suspicious. Is he acting as a double — or triple — agent? Gemma looks woozy after he tells her what Jax knows (that they were helping Juice, and the Asian guy they identified wasn’t even in the state when Tara was killed).
Jax gets a face-to-face with Juice, moments after he’s killed Lin. After being promised his life would be spared if he gave up the rat, Lin confesses that the rat was Charlie Barosky (“Cops are the biggest criminals of all,” he smirks). “I’m a rat,” Juice says as Lin bleeds out. “What makes you think I wouldn’t be a liar too?” Juice has completed his task and has a few minutes to look forward to being in good with the club. “I did everything you asked,” he proudly tells Jax when he sits down at the table.
But Jax didn’t ask him to kill Eli and protect Gemma, and that’s what he finds out he did. Jax lays out what had happened in the last 24 hours — Abel’s self-harm and confession. “Before I send in a team of shrinks to twist him up more and create deeper wounds, I need the truth.” Juice composes himself and, when pressed, starts to cry and confesses everything. He tells Jax the entire story, and Jax starts sobbing. This scene is incredibly cathartic for us, as we’ve been waiting all season for Jax to hear this story. It’s satisfying for the entire truth to be out and corroborated. Of course, this catharsis for us is the opposite for Jax, as he realizes the suffering he’s caused — by his hand and by retaliation — is all for naught. His revenge is empty, and he’s filled with grief. We finally see him weep and be vulnerable; he’s not just mourning Tara anymore. This scene is well-acted, with convincing and powerful tears and emotional outpouring from both characters.
Juice calls Gemma to confess that he’d told the truth, and she hangs up on him and starts to pack her bags. Women are featured heavily in domestic spaces in Sons of Anarchy — bedrooms, kitchens, schools — and Gemma slowly moves through these places before escaping. Her last stop before leaving Charming is the home where she was born (next to the church where her father was a pastor). She explains that her mother didn’t like hospitals and that a “midwife or a witch or something” was at her birth. Gemma delivers a monologue about how her mother didn’t really seem to want kids, but that she wanted a “dozen sons,” and never quit on Jax. She’s giving a final plea for sympathy, trying to tell herself and her audience that she is redeemable.
Jax has to work on two separate but related betrayals in this episode — he’s looking for Barosky and for Gemma, to settle business and family scores. In a long monologue to the club, around a makeshift table, Jax tells the entire story: “Every body that dropped, every relationship that was torched … West, Jury, Bobby — everything that jeopardized this club was my fault.” He promises to sit down and talk to Indian Hills about Jury and talk to Tyler, the Irish, and the Mayans about guns and territories (they still need to “clean up” the rest of Lin’s crew, but “by the time Marks gets a new crew formed, black, white, and brown will be united”). That sounds like a perfectly solid business plan. Will his honesty be able to protect him from a Mayhem vote?
The pain and betrayal they feel must be deep, and the desire for revenge against Gemma — the matriarch who makes these men’s knees weak in one way or another — has to feel completely foreign and confusing. When Jax tells them that he had thought “the level of brutality in Tara’s murder” could only be “gang retaliation,” he tells us very clearly that he has underestimated the capability of women to commit acts of brutal violence. This underestimation (not only by Jax, but obviously by Unser and others who could have recognized this) allowed Gemma to slide by unquestioned. It’s a good thing her guilty conscience has a penchant for talking out loud, otherwise she may have never been found out — because no one would suspect a woman.
Juice has been squeezed dry. He talks to Unser and Jarry as they frantically try to get him a deal so he will tell them the truth. “It doesn’t matter anymore, Sheriff. I’m done. It’s too late, for all of us,” he says, tear-stained and numb. He tells them he told Jax the truth and that Gemma knows the truth. By the end, guards are taking him to the infirmary, where Lin’s men will be waiting for him. And he had just gotten into Brontë. Jax did promise it would be quick.
There’s an APB looming over Jax, as Unser demanded it in a fit of rage. Unser antagonizes Jax (“If you gave a shit about Tara, maybe you’d spend a little less time being a thug and more time being a dad … I’ll wait for somebody to come stick a fork in my head”), and Jax punches him. While Unser’s points aren’t not valid, we know what Jax knows, and those comments are just too much. It does seem, however, as if Unser pushed him to the point of violence so he could demand an APB. He wants him off the streets.
Jax is still out there, though, attempting to make everything right that he has done wrong. The cops close in on him at Barosky’s Deli, but with a little carjacking and a lot of strange jazz music, he wins the chase.
Unser shows up at Gemma’s, where Chucky has let her punch him and run off so he can tell the guys that he tried to keep her from going. “She’s not coming back, is she?” he asks Unser. They sit at the table, stunned. The camera focuses in on Unser as he stares sadly into the distance. Is he trying to protect Jax by getting him off the street? Is he trying to protect Gemma? Nero also lets Gemma leave after he learns the truth. The men who love Gemma let her get away (for now, at least).
When Abel says good-night to Wendy, she has him kiss his little brother too. The next scene is Chibs and Tig hugging Jax, saying, “I love you, my brother.” The delineation between given family and chosen family is something that Jax points out to the club, and we’re seeing it in these scenes. Nero plays a surrogate father to Jax; Wendy steps back in as given and chosen family to Abel and Thomas. The families of anarchy are not just blood.
Before Gemma leaves town, she finds Abel on the school playground, and from the other side of the fence gives him a SON ring that she had taken out of her jewelry box. It was John’s, and she tells him, “It’s for you — so you have it, when you become a member.” This is the ring of his grandfather, not the father. Is Abel going to be part of a SAMCRO that John always wanted? Which ring will he someday wear, if he can’t escape the family he was given? When Nero and Jax speak at the end, Nero suggests that perhaps it’s time to “honor Tara’s wish” (to leave Charming and SAMCRO behind). Jax looks like he knows he’s right, but it seems impossible. And after everything, he still loves Gemma. He cannot understand how she did what she did.
Gemma drives off in the night, smoking her cigarette and singing “Blessed Assurance” (“Heir of salvation, purchase of God / Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood … Visions of rapture now burst on my sight … / Echoes of mercy, whispers of love”). As we ride into the final two episodes, Gemma is riding into her fate: She will be washed with blood, certainly, be it redemptive or vengeful.
• There’s plenty of crying in this episode, and it feels good. Being emotionally vulnerable has never been a problem for the men of Sons of Anarchy — the tears don’t feel forced, weak, or contrived.
• The “trappings” of this episode contain a great deal of blue and red imagery. Chucky shines a blue bike with a red cloth as Jax revs it. “It sounds good — your dad would be happy,” Chucky says. The contrast of these colors, which often symbolize peace and innocence (blue) and blood and lust (red), is stark. Ms. Harrison wears a blue dress as Gemma gives her her trust. Red Woody gives a red backdrop to talk of Mayhem.
• Rat Boy. As readers have pointed out (I never wanted to, because the thought makes me cringe), his name could be indicative of something larger. When some of the men are talking at Red Woody, they discuss what might happen if it wasn’t Jury that was the rat. “That means a Mayhem vote,” Rat Boy interjects, and Chibs and Tig walk away.
• The themes of motherhood that have run throughout Sons of Anarchy are coming to the forefront. Gemma talking about her mother and father (a pastor) again serves as a foil to Grant and Loutreesha. “She’s my mom,” Jax sobs.
• Gemma is driving north. A sign announces Portento, Fortuna, and Eureka. Fortuna and Eureka are cities in California. The eureka — “I have found it!” — refers to Jax’s realization, which she’s running from; Fortuna is her good fortune in escaping, or perhaps the “malevolent” fate of the poetic “O Fortuna.” It could go either way. Portento doesn’t appear to be an actual city, but “Oh portento! Oh stupor!” is a Bach choral piece about Judith’s decapitation of Holofernes. Paired with depictions of Lucretia’s suicide, paintings of these women have revealed a “ … fascination with the relationship between femininity and violence, and exemplify the demand for images of illustrious women who caused the downfall of powerful men.”