8.0

Sons of Anarchy Review: “Papa’s Goods”

(Episode 7.13)

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<i>Sons of Anarchy</i> Review: &#8220;Papa&#8217;s Goods&#8221;

If you knew you were dying within 24 hours, how would you spend your last day? If you’re Sons of Anarchy’s Jax Teller, you’re saying goodbye, tying up loose ends, and living in a violent world without consequences.

I like this version of Jax. He’s kind. He’s Zen. And he’s hella productive. He wakes up before anyone else, takes care of all sorts of paperwork (and burns quite a lot too), visits the graveyard, attends a few meetings, and kills some enemies. All before the sun starts to set (literally and figuratively).

That opening scene was strong—we’re watching Jax revisiting old journals, and seeing him tenderly place rings on Opie and Tara’s graves. It reminded me of a young, contemplative Jax, the one who actively tried to improve his club. In the early seasons, Jax was the best kind of antihero—even though he did terrible things, he actively sought redemption, and we cheered him for it. I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do as club President.

Unfortunately, all that antihero business was forgotten after Tara’s death. It’s been a pretty disappointing season, watching Jax play the reactionary fool each week. Instead of rooting for his success, we’ve been reveling in his failures, and his suicide felt like a small consolation prize for the season. Even though I’m a little giddy because I predicted his suicide weeks ago, it hurts to be disappointed by a show I used to love so much.

I hate being negative about Sons; it pains me to root for the deaths of our beloved characters. I’ve been disappointed with Kurt Sutter for wasting this season, but now I realize maybe he’s been doing us a favor this whole time. Maybe these 13 bloated and self-indulgent episodes actually did serve a purpose…

Have you ever dated someone who was too lame to break up with you, so they became really mean in the hopes that you’d break up with them instead? I think that’s what’s happening here. Since Kurt Sutter knows how much we used to love this show, he decided to make it easier for us to say goodbye in the final season. Don’t you see? Hating the show makes it possible to say goodbye—memories of plot holes and poor dialogue minimizes nostalgia. If this is the case, then I say “Thank you, Kurt Sutter,” because you really did make it easy to say goodbye to the series.

This is especially true when we’re stuck with two-hour episodes seemingly filmed by a freshmen film student. How else can you explain the long, lingering shots of Jax’s bloody shoes, his empty seat at the SAMCRO table, the animated crows flying over Jax’s police chase, and—good golly—even the bloodied bread on the road in the final scene. It was all so heavy-handed and obvious, I actually felt like I was a high school film student again, dripping water on my friend’s mascara so it’d look like she’d been crying. I did enjoy the shot of Jax on his bike when the camera pans over his head to the expanded police chase—it was great camerawork, and I wish there had been more like it. In general, I’d like to see more subtle cinematography, and less obvious soap opera-type shots.

Speaking of soap operas, let’s talk about the plot. Jax set things up nicely for his successor Chibbs,and the rest of the club. First, Jax killed Barosky, so the rat problem is taken care of. Then, he kills Marks and Marks’ #2, so that threat is now totally eliminated. The club killed the Kings and set up shop with Connor, so the Mayans and Niners have a piece of the gun business in addition to the drugs. Plus, Jax insists the club votes for his death to assuage the other charters, but then he sneaks away so they don’t actually have to kill him.

Overall I think it was a good succession plan, and it was enjoyable watching Jax doing something calculated and proactive. Jax understood that he needed to take himself out of the picture in order for everyone to move forward, and it was nice to see a final act of redemption on his part. I was also pleased to see Nero and Wendy ride off with the boys (and Lucius I’m assuming), since I’ve been rooting for that since episode six. I do think that Sutter and his team did a great job of rounding out the characters for us… we know where everyone is going, so there’s no ambivalence about anyone’s future. That was a nice gift for the fans.

Okay, there’s actually one piece of ambivalence, and it involves the homeless woman who handed Jax a blanket behind the courthouse. Is she a ghost? A real person? Who is she?! There are several theories, and I’ll give you mine: she is the mother of Brooke, Rat’s girlfriend and the daughter of the woman who was also killed in JT’s accident. So … that makes her a ghost. She has appeared several times throughout the series — at Unser’s support groups, in Belfast, in the park with Tara — and most notably, handing Jax a blanket in Season One when he’s shivering beside his father’s grave. She handed Jax a blanket this episode too, so he can hide in plain sight to kill Marks, and that was a nice throwback reference by Sutter.

I also felt a certain buoyancy to the episode. Wait, what’s that? Did I just say “buoyant?” Yes, I did. Sure, there were a lot of tear-filled goodbyes, but I thought Jax was practically ebullient. He has a plan, he has said his goodbyes, and he can go about killing people without consequence. At the heart of it, I think that’s what Jax has always wanted to do—live free of burden, ride the open road, and operate above the law. It’s like he said at JT’s rock—“A good father and good outlaw can’t settle inside the same man.” Yes, I think in this episode Jax finally felt free, and I was happy for him. I just wish they answered the origins of his mysterious leg ailment before he died.

Overall, I’m ready to say goodbye to Sons of Anarchy. It was a great show, but I think it peaked in the third season. I enjoyed watching seasons 4-6 well enough, but this final season was especially messy, long, and miserable. What was once a reasonably well-balanced antihero story morphed into excessively bloody plotlines that played into Kurt Sutter’s worst impulses, and the series suffered for it. In the end however, I’m glad I stuck with the it, and this was a satisfactory ending: my favorite cardigan-wearing OG Nero makes it out alive, Gemma is dead, and Jax has finally found peace in himself and his leather boots.

Favorite quotes:

“It’s hard to strap a baby into the Chola machine.” “Not too many child safety laws in 1964.”—Jax and Nero, lamenting Nero’s switch to a Volvo Station Wagon

“What happens at the end of the day?” “The bad guys lose.”—Jax and DA Patterson, and I’m glad Kurt Sutter realized this.

“This is how you learn to be a leader, brother. Doing the shit that hurts the most. The shit you’d rather make someone else do. It’s part of the gig.”—Jax to his successor Chibbs, and I’m glad Jax realized that.

?How about you? Were you satisfied by the ending? Were you satisfied by this season? Are you sad to see SAMCRO go? Sound off below!

Emily Worden is a Boston-based freelance writer and author of Make. Sell. Repeat. The Ultimate Business Guide for Artists, Crafters, and Makers. You can follow her on Twitter.

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