Sons of Anarchy: Season 7: a review

SOA

Season 7 of Sons of Anarchy was the final season of the series. And, it was a doozy.

As always, this review contains massive SPOILERS, so don’t let me ruin anything for you if you ever plan to watch this series. Which, by the way, I recommend that you do watch. Just don’t get into it expecting rainbows, puppies and happy endings, because they aren’t to be found here. This show, which creator Kurt Sutter said was loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was always intended to be a tragedy. It’s final season was suitably tragic. Much ado about the comparisons between the television show and Shakespeare’s play has been written, and here’s one such article for you to read, if you want.

The season kicks off with the aftermath of the previous one. Jax Teller is in county lockup, where he earns an audience with Aryan Brotherhood (or AB, in series shorthand) bigwig Ron Tully. The role of Tully is played by none other than Marilyn Manson, who shows up throughout the season and helps facilitate the tragedy to its various conclusions. Manson is, as always, creepy and a bit off-putting, which suits his role as Tully. Jax is forming a shaky alliance with the white supremicists, even though he engineered the massacre at Gerber ranch the previous season, made to look like an internal beef.

Wendy, Jax’s junkie ex-wife and mother of his older son Abel, bails on rehab after nine days and returns to her apartment, only to find the ever-slippery Juice hiding out inside. Gemma, Jax’s mother and club matriarch, set him up there since Wendy was expected to be in rehab for, what?, 81 more days. Gemma is helping Juice hide from Jax, who wants him dead for being not just a rat, but an unreliable rat, because Juice helped her after Gemma murdered Jax’s wife Tara, mistakenly thinking that Tara was about to rat out the MC. Juice killed Lt. Eli Roosevelt before he could call in Tara’s murder and helped cover up the crime.

I know the plot is a convoluted one, but the first episode of the season further complicates it, setting up a Gordian Knot problem to unravel the remainder of the season.

Gemma and Juice concoct a lie to pin Tara’s murder on the Chinese. This was an unfortunate move on Gemma’s part. It leads to a lot of pain and death that she could not foresee. It begins with Jax’s revenge upon the Chinese gangster who Gemma fingers as Tara’s killer at an otherwise peaceful social event where Jax was making tenative peace with the Chinese. By episode end, Jax has the man tied to a chair and is driving a barbecue fork into his brain.

There is a side-plot about the Sons’ involvement in the death of a kinky pastor who is tied to August Marks, who has taken over the reins of Damien Pope’s criminal empire. Jax uses this first-episode, seemingly-inconsequential event to later bring down Marks.

Also, Gemma and Nero Padilla are back together as a couple so quickly you almost forget that Nero dumped her at the end of last season. I was okay with this. I liked them better together than apart. Jimmy Smits puts on an acting clinic this season, and my respect continues to grow for the man destined to raise Leia Skywalker as his own daughter.

A lot of stuff is packed into the season’s thirteen episodes. Much of it is action-reaction plot, and it doesn’t all go well for the club. Jax’s plan to take down Lin’s criminal empire while appearing to be his ally, in what he believes is retaliation for Tara’s murder, falls apart, eventually resulting in the mass-murder of everyone at Diosa, including the uber-madame Collette introduced last season. Jax’s moves against the Chinese backfires in other ways as well. Jax recruits their Indian Hill charter, and its president Jury, to help dismantle Lin’s organization. Jury hires a couple of “freelancers” to assist in a raid on a Triad weapons buy. Afterward, without the Indian Hill charter’s knowledge, Jax and his crew kill the two hired guys and frame them for the raid. One of the guys killed was Jury’s son, although no one knew that at the time. This comes back on Jax later in the season, after Jax kills Jury when he suspects him of ratting him out. Murdering another club member leads to the mayhem vote against Jax, who, of course, has to die for this series to end. But, that doesn’t happen until the last episode.

Unser is drawn into the conspiracy, along with Gemma and Wendy, of keeping Juice safe for much of the season, even though both he and Wendy are unaware of the true account of Tara’s murder. Juice, forever the Judas (or the Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, if you prefer), continues to be the weakest member of SAMCRO, even in exile. He manages to foil a plot by Gemma to kill him, after she realizes what a weak link he truly is, but ends up turning himself in to the club itself. Jax, rather than killing him outright, orders Juice to fire upon some cops to get himself thrown into jail. This is after Lin is already inside before Jax can kill him. Juice is punished through daily prison rape, wooed by Marilyn Manson, and he eventually is able to assassinate Lin for the club. His usefulness over, Juice is eventually shivved, almost lovingly, by Marilyn Manson’s Ron Tully. Juice is finally dead, about three-and-a-half seasons after he initially betrayed SAMCRO. Did he redeem himself at the end? Maybe a little. He managed to become one of the characters I liked the least, but Theo Rossi became one of my favorite actors on the show. And, he died well.

While Jax is trying to leverage the dead pastor in his fight against August Marks, Bobby Elvis is held hostage by Marks’ black ops soldiers and is ultimately killed right in front of Jax. He lost an eye and the fingers of his clutch hand while he was being tortured, but his death scene was especially brutal.

I’ll interrupt my recitation of character death scenes by saying that there was time for love this season, as well. Love of sorts, I guess. In the background, the character Rat is making time with the possibly-underage girl who broke the Scoops window last season. Then, of course, there’s Nero and Gemma. Jax and Wendy briefly hook up at the end, just before Jax plans to dump his kids on her. Chibs has a torrid, kinky love affair with new sheriff Althea Jarry, who is another complex, damaged character who also dances with the dark side of things. I was sad when the relationship ended, although my head canon insists that their romance was rekindled in the post-Jax Teller era. Even Tig has a love interest this season, with none other than transvestite Venus Van Dam, played by the amazing Walton Goggins. Tig remains one of the weirdest antiheroes ever (he was apparently a necrophiliac as well), but this relationship seems like it survives the finale. I, for one, ship it (let’s call the pairing Tenus or, perhaps, Vig). I was just happy Walton Goggins made it out of this series better than he did on The Shield, which Kurt Sutter also wrote for and eventually executive-produced.

Speaking of The Shield, Michael Chiklis (forever Vic Mackey no matter what else he does) has a guest-starring stint as a truck driver named Milo, who both gives Gemma a lift during her final pilgrimage to see her father and has a fatal road meeting with Jax during the final scene of the series. I also saw Charisma Carpenter as the nursing home receptionist. I’m sure there were other cameos I missed. CCH Pounder and Peter Weller made limited appearances throughout the season. As did Robert Patrick, as the president of another SOA charter. Weller also directed several of the shows, and was killed by Jax in the last episode because his character Barosky was the one who really betrayed the club and revealed the location of the stolen weapons.

The death and mayhem were almost unbearable for me. Jax ends up killing Unser, almost reluctantly, accomplishing what cancer has been unable to do during the entire run of the show. Then, in a memorable garden scene behind Gemma’s father’s house, he executes his own mother for Tara’s murder. As another character said during the season, there’s no coming back from that. Jax ends up getting the mayhem vote from all of the Sons charters for killing Jury under false pretenses. Rather than carrying out the mayhem themselves, SAMCRO allows Jax to commit his own execution. Of course, he does it with style, leading a score of police on a merry chase until, riding with no-hands and eyes closed, arms spread in a Jesus-like pose, Jax surrenders himself to Michael Chiklis’s on-coming tomato-hauling truck. Splat. The End.

I would be interested in a series about SAMCRO in the post-Teller/Morrow years, with Chibs as president and Tig as Veep, but I guess that’s not happening. Talk about a prequel series centered on the Mayan MC continues, possibly with Edward James Olmos. So, we’ll see what happens there. I would watch it.

Sons of Anarchy will go down in my book as one of those series I will always recommend to others. It joins The Shield and The Wire, among others, so it is in good company. I am glad that I was finally able to finish watching the series, but I’m also a little sad that it’s over.

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