[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesday's series finale of Sons of Anarchy. Read at your own risk.]
Up to its final moments, FX's Sons of Anarchy was a bloodbath.
After a penultimate episode that killed off three major players and delivered the show's emotional climax, the series finale featured Kurt Sutter's Hamlet, Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), tying up remaining loose ends. The episode opened to the strains of Bruce Springsteen's "Adam Raised a Cain," and even in those first moments, Jax seemed a different person (perhaps) the morning after killing his mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) for her own murder of Jax's wife Tara (Maggie Siff). Not only did he trade in his (now blood-stained) white sneakers for black boots, but he took all of his journals he'd been writing to his sons and burned them along with his father's manifesto — the document that set the whole show in motion.
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Indeed, Jax was on a mission. So, let's take it step by step.
"What if we call you SAMCRO"?
The first order of business is for Jax, now with the apparent blessing of the other Sons charters to change the racist bylaws, to patch in the Grim Bastards' T.O. (Michael Beach). "Change is good, my friend," Jax tells T.O as he welcomes him to the club. However, the smiles can only last so long. Soon enough, Jax & Co. get to work finding finding Connor so they can take him out, per Brendan Roarke's request. This whole sequence was typical Sons of Anarchy negotiating and double-crossing. Ultimately, just as it seemed Jax was set to kill Connor, he instead took out Brendan and his men in exchange for Connor dealing all his illegal weapons to Alvarez. When Connor questioned Jax's reckless decision to kill off an Irish King? Jax remained as confident as ever. "My old man tried to sever that tie 20 years ago," Jax says. "Better late than never."
During all of this back-and-forth, however we learn why Jax is living like there's no tomorrow. He tells Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) that now that Jax told the other charters the truth about Jury's death, they've called for a mayhem vote. Based on Chibs' devastated reaction, it seems Jax has instructed Chibs and SAMCRO to cast "Yea" votes. "This is how you learn to be a leader, doing the sh-- that hurts the most," Jax tells him, seemingly passing the torch — or gavel, if you prefer. When the time comes, it's an emotional vote, but all the guys do as they were instructed. "Jax Teller meets Mr. Mayhem," Chibs says, fighing back tears.
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"I'm not a good man. I'm a criminal and a killer. I need my sons to grow up hating the thought of me."
With club business (mostly) settled, Jax moves on to personal matters. He asks Nero (Jimmy Smits) to meet him at Teller-Morrow, where Jax shows Nero all the paperwork he will need to give Jax's houses and the garage over to Wendy. The catch: She is to sell everything and move. To Norco with Nero, back East — anywhere but Charming. "Why?" Nero asks. "You know why," Jax says, simply confirming what Nero feared most, that Jax had killed Gemma. "I did what I know how to do. What Gemma knew had to be done. The lies caught up to all of us, man. I tried to hide from it... run from it. This is who I am. I can't change. I need my boys to leave this place so they don't become what I became."
After a tearful goodbye with his sons Abel and Thomas, Jax assures a concerned Wendy (Drea de Matteo) that "everything's gonna be fine." With that, Nero and Wendy heard out of town with the boys and Jax fires up his dad's old motorcycle and rides away.
"The bad guys lose."
Next up, Jax heads to see D.A. Patterson (CCH Pounder) to finally tell her the truth about Tara's murder. He tapes a confession, during which he outlines what Gemma did, how Juice (Theo Rossi) helped her cover it up and why all the violence escalated with the Chinese. Jax stops short of incriminating himself or the club — he also slyly says Gemma is in Oregon with Unser (Dayton Callie), leaving out the fact that they're dead, of course — but promises Patterson that by the end of the day the violence will end.
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And Jax quickly makes good on his word. He shoots Barosky (Peter Weller) for ratting SAMCRO out to the Chinese. And then — after one final run-in with the mystical Homeless Lady, who gives Jax her blanket, which he uses to hide under the courthouse steps — Jax guns down August Marks (Billy Brown) as he's being released on bail. Once the bodies are discovered in Oregon and Patterson and Sheriff Jarry (Annabeth Gish) see Barosky's body, they issue an APB on Jax.
"I got this."
But Jax wasn't finished with just those bad guys. He heads back to meet up with the club and emotionally removes his president's patch from his SAMCRO cut. Once Chibs officially hands off VP duties to Tig (Kim Coates), Jax hands Chibs the president's patch. Jax then places his gun on the table. "I'm ready," he says. But just as it seems Chibs is going to kill Jax, he shoots Happy (David LaBrava) in the arm instead. Jax never intended for his brothers to kill him. He gives them all hugs and says his goodbyes before uttering the words above — the same words Opie (Ryan Hurst) told Jax before sacrificing himself. Nice touch.
Jax then heads to the spot where his father was killed, and makes his final apology for not living up to the manifesto. "Fear and guilt crippled me," he says. "Good outlaw and good father can't settle inside the same man. I'm sorry, J.T. It was too late for me. I was already inside it. And Gemma, she had plans. But it's not too late for my boys. I promise they will never know this life of chaos. I know who you are now and what you did. I love you, dad."
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When a highway patrolman spots Jax, he asks him to surrender, but Jax opens fire instead. He then leads an ever-growing number of cop cars on a long-and-winding final ride through the mountains. And as fate would have it, Jax just so happens to see a semi truck ahead (driven by Vic Mackey, er Milo, the trucker Gemma met last week). He smiles and grabs the throttle before ultimately letting go and accepting his fate. Just like his father before him, Jax's life ends with a head-on collision with a truck.
"Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love."
I argued last week that Gemma and Juice's deaths were inevitable. And the truth is, given Sutter's homage to Shakespeare's Hamlet (which was quoted on-screen after the show cut to black) Jax's demise was probably always written in the stars as well. There may have been times when we thought Jax and Tara could have escaped this life and saved his boys, but after Tara's death, that hope vanished. I just hope Nero and Wendy can save Abel, who was clutching to that Sons ring Gemma gave him.
Overall, this seems like a pretty fitting ending to this tale of death and destruction, and a tidy conclusion to an often complicated and complex series. Some might argue that because of how twisty the show often was that this ending seems too simple, but the story was told. Jax was never going to ride off into the sunset, but letting him ride one final time on his own terms? He probably couldn't have asked for much more than that.
What did you think of the finale?