‘Sons of Anarchy’: The Shaky Final Season Comes to a Close

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This post contains all sorts of spoilers for this week’s Series Finale of Sons of Anarchy. You’ve been warned.

Oh, Jackie Boy.

Sons of Anarchy ended this week with a finale that was more-or-less satisfying, but not quite one for the record books. Over the past few years, SOA has steadily built a following that was once full of die-hard Shield and [creator] Kurt Sutter fans. Thanks to Netflix and strong word of mouth, SAMCRO’s hogs could soon be heard from miles away. Seven very full and very looong seasons later, the finale and final season followed the same path that the rest of the series did, and well, it was a bumpy ride.

Post Clay’s death, the series never reclaimed its prime (which in my opinion are seasons 1-2 and 4-5. I curse that Ireland season to hell. HELLLLL!) Once Jax took over the club, things went haywire – for its characters and its storytelling. It wasn’t that I wasn’t on board with the whole “Am I a Good Guy or a Bad Guy” internal conflict, it was that Sutter failed to balance out Jax’s struggle. Jax was all good before, and then flipped a switch over to bad. Gray is always more interesting than black and white.

Following Tara’s shocking and brutal murder (seriously, I was disturbed for weeks), Jax’s redemptive qualities were scarce. It could even be argued that they were non-existent. Who were we rooting for anymore? As the final season continued drowning in its own cross-biker-gang politics, my attention drowned with it. Had we seen more of Jax’s old self shine through, I think his hardships would’ve been more effective and relatable. Instead, a show that has had quite a few powerful, emotive moments started to mirror a shoot-‘em-up action film – bloody,  violent, and entertaining, but at times, lacking in substance.

In SOA’s penultimate episode, lots of storylines were tied up. Juice was offed, which was a good thing because every Juice storyline ever has resulted in some major eye-rolls. Unser went down still fighting for someone who didn’t deserve his love, and Gemma…well, she finally got what was coming to her. Was it satisfying? Did it make me a giddy TV fan? Not really. And I had been waiting for that payoff for so long. The actors gave it everything and should be commended, but I fear the show’s ups, downs and dragout 90-minute-plus episodes destroyed the electric pace the show once had. Regardless, adios Gemma. You took us on quite a ride. (I can’t wait to see Katey Sagal again.)

Even the two-hour finale suffered a similar fate. Plots didn’t really start to boil over until well over the halfway mark. Jax sets his serial killer in the making son boys up for a brighter tomorrow. He makes sure the club has a new President and Veep. He rides away from Charming and straight into his death (or, you know, a tractor trailer, in one of the worst CGI moments ever executed on TV or film). I’ve been saying forever that Jax had to die, and personally, I’m glad he did. He failed Tara and he failed his family – and his Bad had overwhelmingly outweighed his Good. There is a little justification in this, seeing as he finally saw what he became and knew he couldn’t change to salvage the remains of his family life. Commendable. But too little, too late? Last 20 minutes of the series? OK. I guess…

Sons of Anarchy was a good series and had a very enjoyable run. The acting was very good most of the time…but let’s keep things in perspective. What I once deemed “The Sopranos on Motorcycles” turned out to be NO Sopranos. Sons should not stand alongside the Tonys, Don Drapers, The Fischers, and the Carrie’s (seriously – Homeland is crushing right now) in the annals of television history. Among the great antiheros of our TV age. Rather, Jax sort of makes me wish for the end of the antihero era. It’s time for some new types of characters to step up to the plate.

Sutter’s ego seemed to hurt the series over time; Sons started to take itself a little too seriously, and by Season 6, it started to feel drawn out. (Perhaps a 5 or 6 season series might’ve done it more justice and trimmed some of the fat.) Sons was badass for a lot of the time, and a real drag some of the time, but it was a good series. I’m just not sure how memorable it will be over time.

Having said that, I’m not sure if I’d ever rewatch Jackie’s story – a huge indicator in measuring how I feel about a show. But if Sutter ever wants to jump-start a Venus/Tig spinoff – I’ll be first in line.

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