I love the mega FX hit television show Sons of Anarchy, but it’s gotten really dark this final season. Too much death, and too much of it with protagonist, Jax Teller, on the giving end. I felt heavy and conflicted after watching the penultimate episode last week, and I don’t like those feelings.
[SPOILER ALERT: read only if you are up to speed on the latest episode of Sons of Anarchy.]
I shouldn’t be surprised after all, given the premise of the show. But da-yum Kurt Sutter, did it have to be this brutal?
I wrote an email to EW’s resident SOA expert Mandi Bierly after Tuesday night’s penultimate episode with just three words: “I hate Jax.” And how could I not? THE BASTARD GUNNED DOWN UNSER FOR CRISSAKES!!! Unser, who always protected the club. Unser, who had become the conscience of the show after anyone else with a conscience was either killed off (Opie, Piney) or lost it long ago (Jax). Unser, who is terminally ill. When Jackie boy killed Unser—who was only trying to protect his assailant from offing his own mother—he became impossible to root for. And therein lies the genius of Sons of Anarchy.
Ross goes on to explain that Sutter is picking up the same element of all great anti-hero shows, that of daring us to continue cheering for the main character, no matter how horrible they become – Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey, Walter White, etcetera. We might be able to forgive Jax for everything that has come before, but killing Unser – the conscience of the show, the man who has had SAMCRO’s back time and again, the man whose loyalty knows no bounds – is unforgivable.
In discussing the show with a friend on Facebook last week, we both agreed there is much about Sons that almost compels you to watch week after week, if at times only peeking through fingers as you cover your face. It gets violent, brutal and nasty. But what makes the show particularly believable, rich and entertaining is the racial and ethnic diversity together with the complex, flawed and human characters. Gemma, Jax’s damaged-but-strong mother, is particularly loved by many fans.
Brilliantly written and acted, this show.
Ross makes an excellent observation. Daring us to continue to root for Jax as he turns dark – even after offing Unser – is brilliant indeed. But I think the real genius of the show comes from a different angle. It’s subtle and wanes as each season of the show passes, but is ever present and could very well make a final appearance tomorrow night – the shadow of John Thomas Teller (I bet we’ll also see JT’s 1946 Harley Davidson Customized FL Knucklehead bike play a key role).
In the pilot episode, Jax found his father’s book, The Life and Death of Sam Crow: How the Sons of Anarchy Lost Their Way, in storage and began reading it. The manuscript points out how the club started, and where it went wrong. JT is portrayed as a philosopher with strong anarchist tendencies, but a good man who wanted to do the right thing for his family and the club.
After reading the manuscript, Jax takes his father’s wishes for the club as his own. Time and again in his journaling sessions, Jax is either conversing with his father, or speaking as a father to his boys. Like his father, Jax wants to do right by his family and his club.
Later, Jax is shown to despise his father, believing him to be a coward for not leaving the club when he wanted to and instead just writing about it. Jax eventually finds out that JT and others were on their way to a meeting with the IRA to end the gun running business, but JT was killed before it could happen. Knowing the truth, and with renewed purpose, Jax is finally able to succeed where his father did not – he clears the way for the IRA to run guns to August Marks and the Niners, effectively getting SAMCRO out of guns for good.
And then Gemma up and kills Tara, with whom Jax had recently reconciled, and all hell breaks loose. As if it hadn’t already.
At the beginning of this current and final season, Chibs tells Jax “the last time I heard you share your vision, you were talking about cutting the ties to the things that were killing us.” Jax confesses, “I don’t have a vision anymore.” So we’ve watched as Jax turns from non-violent leader into death-dealing reaper, by placing his personal vendetta to avenge his wife’s death above everything and everyone else – including his boys. He has clearly lost his way.
Does he even know who he is anymore?
How can Jax redeem himself, and live up to the legacy left by his father, JT? We are given an image of JT as a man who gave his life to return the club to peaceful pursuits – to get the club out of guns and on legitimate footing. How can Jax live up to that vision of leadership when he has no vision anymore? Does he even want to?
I think he does – desperately – and I think we’ll find out tomorrow night.
What is it about the father’s voice that is so compelling? Why is it that all kinds of social ills are linked to fatherlessness? Is there a father-shaped hole in our hearts, that only a father can fill?
I say Jax needs to pull his shit together, stick around, and be a father to his boys. Those boys need their daddy! Can we not have Jax ride off into the sunset towards Nero’s ranch with Wendy and the boys? Alas, that wouldn’t make as powerful or dramatic a final episode as we all expect. Besides, he’s in too deep now. He’s committed too many crimes. The worst one, according to SAMCRO rules, being the murder of Jury White, Indian Hills SAMCRO president, then subsequently lying about him ratting out the club. And for that, he must pay.
We won’t know the details until tomorrow night, but from all signs given in last week’s episode, Jax is likely to follow his father’s footsteps in death. Will it be at the hands of his fellow SAMCRO club members, like his father, or will it be on his own terms?
One way or another, mayhem – as the other chapter presidents said last week – has to land.
We are all responsible for our own sins. We can no more blame our fathers for our own choices than anyone else. But like it or not, we were all shaped by our father – whether he was good, bad, present, absent or somewhere in between.
We all live in the shadow of our fathers.
Questions to get the conversation started…leave a comment below!
- Will Jax find redemption tomorrow night? Can he ever find redemption, given his deeds?
- Can Jax still be a good father, even when mayhem lands on him?
- How have you felt the influence of your father in your own life – good, bad or otherwise?