WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS!!
When I first started watching SONS OF ANARCHY about five years ago, I was quickly hooked by the central theme of Jax’s moral dilemma of how to balance being a good father and being a good outlaw, and while this theme may have waned in the last couple of seasons, it took center stage again in season seven as the show raced toward its final episode. Following the murder of his wife, Terra, Jax is out for revenge and Gemma, in an effort to hide the fact that she is Terra’s killer, pins the blame on the Chinese. Jax starts an all out war that impacts the balance of power on the streets and strains ties between SAMCRO and some of the other Sons charters. As new alliances are forged while others are broken, the body count starts to rise and SAMCRO takes some painful loses. There is an old saying “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead,” and we see it’s work in motion as an offhanded comment by Wendy leads Jax to the thread that eventually unravels the truth surrounding his wife’s murder and sets in motion a swansong of violence and redemption.
I was highly impressed with the craftsmanship of the story in the final season of SONS OF ANARCHY. Kurt Sutter (TV’s THE SHIELD), creator, architect, and primary writer of the show, really brought the series back to its roots this season, coming full circle and giving closure to this long journey that has been SOA. As the season gets underway, there is a mass of loose threads that need to be tied up: August Marks, conflict with the other charters, the war with the Chinese, relationships with the Mayans and the One-Niners, Charles Barosky, Nero Padilla, ties with the Aryan Brotherhood, DA Patterson, and the strained relationship with the IRA are the most prominent ones that come to mind. Almost all of these relationships have a complex history that has been going on for several seasons, yet Sutter easily wraps them all up in a way that feels completely natural and unforced, while still juggling a few new surprises that pop up during the season.
I can’t review this season without talking about the amazing ending, so if you haven’t finished the season you should stop reading now. I have long been tired of Gemma as a character, and I was profoundly happy that they finally killed her off, as it should have happened ages ago. However, the way they used her death to give Jax the push he needed to finally make the right decision was great. In the wake of murdering his mother, Jax finally comes to grips with the fact that he is not a good man and that he can not let the legacy that was passed on to him be passed on to his kids. So, in order to assure that his club is sound and his family is safe, he takes the only exit he can, which is to start a chase with police that ends with him crashing into a semi with arms wide open as a soulful and moving song plays out. The fact that he made the choice to end the legacy by his own hands makes it much more powerful than if he’d just allowed himself to be taken out, giving the show a closing that speaks of personal responsibility rather than arbitrary consequences, which I find far more powerful and satisfying.
The one thing SONS OF ANARCHY has always had going for it are great actors delivering powerful performances, and that holds true in the final season. Charlie Hunnam (PACIFIC RIM) has been at the center of the show in his role as Jax Teller, and while we’ve long since seen his character run the gambit of emotions, it was a treat to watch him embody the rage, conflict, and final peace that Jax experiences this season. One of the actors who constantly surprises me on the show is Theo Rossi (METH HEAD) who plays Juice Ortiz, a disgraced member of SAMCRO. Rossi has a unique style of depicting desperation, one that is both calm and erratic at the same time. This style gives him great screen presence this season and he easily steals scenes from the more prominent characters. While I have long tired of Gemma as a character, it’s hard not to love Katey Sagal’s (TV’s FUTURAMA) wonderful portrayal of the mother gone mad. Sagal has such brilliant control of her emotions and expressions that no matter what situation her character is in, you can read it on her face and in her body language. Sagal is one of those actresses who is so good at what she does you almost don’t realize that she is acting, and that is some of the highest praise that can be given to an actor. One of the biggest reasons I am sad to see SOA leave the air is that I won’t get to see Tommy Flanagan (TV’s PEAKY BLINDERS) deliver the wonderful character portrayals he is known for. Flanagan has played Chibs throughout the series, and I’ve quite enjoyed his transition into a main role this season. Flanagan is brilliant at portraying gruff characters, but he has the acting chops to give them the full emotional range when it’s called for, making him a very engrossing entertainer. New to the show this season was Annabeth Gish (TV’s THE BRIDGE and THE X-FILES) who played Sheriff Jarry, the new head law officer in Charming. Gish delivered an intense and emotional performance as the new Sheriff trying to balance her heart and her job. It’s a shame that she is such a late comer to the show, because she gave us one of the most interesting and endearing characters to ever appear in the series.
The final season of SONS OF ANARCHY was the ending the series deserved. It brought the show back to its roots, tied up all the pertinent loose ends, and delivered an ending that rose above typical Hollywood tropes. Fans of the series are sure to love this season, and for any of you who have walked away from the show over the years, I’d recommend giving it another chance, because this ending makes the ride well worth it.
Final Score: 9 out of 10