I think we’ve reached the point, which has been a long time coming, when we as viewers can finally say that our disbelief has been over-suspended. In “You Are My Sunshine,” the penultimate episode of Sons of Anarchy’s sixth season, we’ve entered one of those classic nothing-can-go-wrong zones for Jax and the club. Okay, sure, there’s some family drama, and Juice almost overdoses, and everyone is basically living on a knife’s edge. Despite that, the comeuppance that has been implied all season, as Jax gets in over his head even by his daredevil standards, refuses to come to pass.
And it’s frustrating. And the fact that it’s frustrating means that Jax has lost us, to some extent. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; he’s been morally compromised this season, fulfilling the prophecy that the president’s gavel corrupts. He’s well on his way to becoming a new version of Clay, and the only thing differentiating him, really, is that he’s hellbent on executing the dream of his father and getting the club out of guns.
And that’s the front where the absurd twists and turns frankly ask too much. Maybe it seems unsporting to haggle over “believability,” and normally I find that kind of exactitude fairly annoying. It’s a tv show, after all. But there’s a point at which our emotional investment, stemming from our identification with the characters, is threatened by the continuous liberty-taking of the writers. If, for example, Jax suddenly gained the ability to fly and swooped all over Charming dropping boulders on his enemies, we’d all probably agree that the show had gone too far. The question, then, is where to find that line?
It’s a subjective debate, but for me, they reached and breached that point of no return yesterday. Jax, we should keep in mind, is the leader of a small club. Sure, that club is connected, but it’s always strained belief to watch him juggle no less than four huge gangs. He’s been adept at playing the Irish Kings, the Mayans, the One-Niners, and the Chinese against each other, and maybe his status as a small fish was helpful in that regard. Now, though, he’s playing them all at the same time. In “Sunshine,” he kills two Irish gunrunners, attempts to prop Connor up and fools the Kings into believing that Clay and Galen killed each other (which is already doubtful on its surface; Galen was the only one keeping Clay alive from the moment Jax became president). He sets up the Chinese (who are basically disposable parts at this point), kills Henry Lin and his henchmen, and brings in August Marks and the one-niners to deal with the Irish and simultaneously save Tig’s life.
And I’m afraid there will be no fallout. In real life, Jax would have the Irish and Chinese out for his head, not to mention the Mayans, who are intent on a race war and are forcibly taking Nero’s gang away. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong next week, but it seemed an awful lot like we’re supposed to take the gang’s celebration at the end at face value; yay, we’re out of guns! Hopefully everyone forgets everything we’ve done to them. The entire episode is drenched in blood, and it felt almost like the writers hadn’t realized the complicated web they’d woven over the first 11 episodes, and were desperate to extricate themselves in a hyper-kinetic hour in order to free up next week’s season finale for the family drama.
And as much as I might complain about the gun-running subplot, Tara’s marathon journey to escape Charming with her children had a significant emotional payoff in “Sunshine.” As Bobby stabilizes and Tara holds the bullet that will bring down the club and earn her witness protection, everyone else relaxes. She realizes this is her chance, and there are harrowing moments of absorbing tension throughout—such as when she arranges a secret meeting with D.A. Patterson at the hospital, and Gemma threatens to spoil the party when she shows up looking for drugs to help Wendy. Some fast talking by Patterson curbs any nascent suspicion, but the drama is ratcheted up again when Tara leads Gemma on a wild goose chase back to the clubhouse (she says Bobby is bleeding again), only to show up at Gemma’s house and take her children out from under Wendy and Unser’s nose.
The culmination, though, is another letdown. Patterson and the feds wait at her office, expecting Tara to arrive with the bullet. Instead, as the minutes drag on, we see the desperate mother park and open the door … at a motel. At the final moment, she couldn’t betray Jax, deciding to flee, instead. Here again, the decision felt frustrating. Not only does the move open her up to a retribution murder from the club (and Jax, raging, seems like he’s ready to pull the trigger himself), but it’s also less safe for her children. They could be caught in the crossfire, or, at best, they will be shipped back to the dangerous club life in Charming. For a woman who constantly protests that she only has their interests at heart, her decision to stay somewhat loyal to Jax is confounding. Once more, it’s hard to accept Jax’s constant good luck; he lives in the middle of a tornado, but he’s never touched by the debris.
The next threat, though, is Nero, who learned from an oxy-tripping Juice that Jax ordered the murder of Darvany, the wife of his cousin who had apparently asphyxiated in the cabin earlier this season. He, too, is in a rage, and the episode ends with his arm on Jax’s back. His eyes are red, and it’s impossible to guess whether this latest threat will be the final agent of fate that punishes the chosen one for cheating death against all logic.