Kurt Sutter really wrecked the curve for "Sons of Anarchy" season finales with last season's disastrous "To Be, Act 2." So anything would probably have been an improvement over that. But there was still a chance that "J'ai Obtenu Cette" (French for Opie's final words, "I got this") would go completely off the rails after what's been a solid enough (not great, not awful) season.
It didn't go off the rails. But it also didn't do much to really change the repetitive game we've been watching for five seasons now.
If I told you Gemma and Tara are feuding, Jax and Tara's relationship has turned rocky, and Jax wants Clay dead, would any of that even be considered spoilers? Or simply more business as usual.
The major storyline the season finale finished off was Jax's mission to get revenge on Damon Pope for essentially ordering Opie's death. While Jax has been treating Pope as a revered mentor all season long (and probably learned a few things in the process), it turns out that he never lost sight of his true goal. He just wanted to orchestrate one of those elaborate plans that would neatly tie his season-long goal of killing Pope into his series-long goal of killing Clay.
After serving Tig up to Pope just as the crime boss demanded, Jax busted in on the execution and turned the tables. He didn't even have to pull the trigger. He simply handed Clay's gun to Tig, gave his shocked friend some motivational words ("You kill the man that burned your kid alive"), and let Tig do his thing.
Pope's last words: "You stupid cracker bitch, you know what happens to whoever kills me, right?"
Jax's answer: "I'm countin' on it."
As many of you predicted in the comments, Jax wants to use Pope's "life insurance" plan to his own advantage. He'll frame Clay for Pope's murder and let the men sworn (and paid) to avenge Pope's death take out Clay for him.
This is Jax as puppet master, so above it all he doesn't even get his hands dirty in the murders of Clay or Pope. He just pulls the strings. He had Juice provide the weapon, Gemma ensure that Clay wouldn't have an alibi (he was with her when Pope was killed, but she'll swear he wasn't), Roosevelt make the arrest (happily, even if he knew it was a set-up) and Clay himself supply the motive with his open dislike of Pope and stupid actions that got him kicked out of SAMCRO. The only things Jax has to do are sit back and feel proud of himself. And maybe make smug comments like, "I'm just a mechanic looking out for my family" to Pope's right-hand man August Marks (Billy Brown, who gets a little more time in the spotlight this week and rolls with it nicely).
I'm not sure if we're supposed to respect Jax for this or be horrified by his cold-bloodedness, but there are at least two strong reasons to believe the latter. The most obvious is his conversation with Bobby after Bobby finds out Clay's been picked up for Pope's murder. "It wasn't about being smart enough to hurt him," Bobby tells Jax. "It was about being smart enough not to hurt him. You had a chance to be different."
Jax's disappointing reply: "Maybe I'm not so different."
And for the other obvious clue we have to go back to last week's episode and Jax's loathsome and indefensible attack on Wendy. That reverberates this week as Wendy visits Tara's office to explain everything that Jax did to her. Tara, of course, is horrified and finally seems resolved to actually get the hell out of Charming. "Trying is never gonna get you out! Go to Oregon now, before something awful happens to you and your sons!" Wendy screams in case Tara doesn't get the message. But Tara does. And of course it's too late.
Over five seasons, we've seen how Jax's inability to get over his hatred and anger has wreaked havoc in his life. He can't let go of the club in the exact same way he can't let go of his hatred for Clay or anger at Wendy. He may dress it up in noble talk about protecting his friends and protecting his family, but Jax is driven by wrath. He probably wouldn't even recognize himself without it.
And this is the Jax we're left with at the close of Season 5, with only his scheming mother there to back him up. Tara is going to jail and will be charged with conspiracy to commit murder (because of Gemma?). Clay is on his way to jail too, where it won't be easy to survive with Pope's henchmen after him. Bobby has turned in his VP patch, Juice feels like a broken man after betraying Clay, Tig remains both a good soldier and an irreparably damaged human being.
That's a lot of collateral damage to help Jax get to the top. Think he's feeling lonely there?
Odds and ends:
- For those of you wondering exactly when we'd get it, the season finale delivered the annual Katey Sagal song. This year it was a cover of "To Sir with Love" playing over the opening montage, and the song also happens to be available on the new "Sons" soundtrack.
- How much is too much? It's a question worth asking after watching Otto bite off his own tongue (WTF!?) instead of giving his statement ("Way to commit, Otto," Donal Logue's Toric notes) and seeing the garbage cans full of dog corpses that disgust even Tig. We don't watch "Sons of Anarchy" for flowers and rainbows, but there's a way to be dark and edgy without getting stupid and repulsive.
- Speaking of unnecessary nastiness, Gemma wishing Tara gets "fist-raped" in prison was pretty vile, even for her. (Add the fact that Gemma herself is a rape victim, and it may be the lowest low of the whole episode.)
- I'm glad Jimmy Smits' Nero survived the finale, and even though I wish he'd actually listen to Jax and buy that farm (that sets up an awful joke if he eventually gets killed, doesn't it?), I'm glad it seems like he'll be around next season. Seeing where the writers take Nero and seeing what Smits does with it, is easily the part of Season 6 I'll be looking forward to the most.
- Runner-up for what to look forward to in Season 6: more of Logue's Toric. Poor, underused Unser gave us a little more info on Toric's background tonight. He has a Harvard education. He's ex-special forces. He made a lot of high profile arrests as a Marshal but also has a long list of misconduct allegations: excessive force, intimidation, racial profiling. He was forced into early retirement and Nurse Pam was his only family. Sounds like a dangerous man to have as an enemy.
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