Sons of Anarchy has always had intense finales, but oh mother. The show has been moving towards the events in “A Mother’s Work” for awhile, even though seeing them play out (and how they played out) was one of the most disturbing things Sons has ever done. Like Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy has a harsh moral universe, where violence begets more violence, and so forth. Nero alluded to this when he asked Jax about his belief in karma, and the consequences of his actions. It’s something Jax himself knows, but as he said in the cold open, he’s always been able to justify it (something he also has in common with Walter White — no act is too much for the protection of his family). But what if family goes against family? Hit the jump for more.
“A Mother’s Work” was a slow burn to start, and for most of the episode, things were being put into place for next season’s plots. Nero finally had enough of SAMCRO and Jax’s unilateral decisions that always seem to equate to “just this last ultra violence, then it will all be done” (which of course it never is). He broke things off with Gemma and cast his lot back with his old crew, along with the Mayans and the Chinese. The race war alluded to last week is coming to full effect: with Marks and the Niners controlling the guns with the Irish, black and white do seem to be positioned against brown and yellow.
SAMCRO can never be out of gang violence, or there really wouldn’t be a show. Setting up this war — something we haven’t had for a few seasons — keeps SAMCRO involved whether they want to be or not. They may literally be out of the gun trade, but they aren’t out of the gang violence that is what makes the gun trade viable.
Jax’s focus on guns seems to be what leveled out his personal sacrifice — by turning himself in to protect Tara and the club, he would pay for the sins of the guns. It was a leftover sin from Clay, whose bad karma he inherited, but also one that he himself played into. Patterson was right that Jax is the nexus of all of what has happened to his family and to the club post-Clay, as regrettable and emotional as that was to face.
As I’ve mentioned in past weeks, in Sons of Anarchy‘s world, there’s no getting out of the game. Every time Jax or anyone has tried to escape it, they either end up dead, or back in the midst of the fray. Tara knows this, even thinking Jax would go so far as to kill her for taking the boys and wanting to rat out the club (and had it gone that direction, he might have). “There’s only one way this can end,” she tells him, but also us. It was obvious that there wouldn’t be a happy ending for Jax and Tara after this season. It was just a question of how it would go down.
Still, the show played into the hopes that things might actually turn around. Jax putting Bobby at the head of the table was a great move, and the mandate to keep leading the club towards legitimacy a nice idea. Jax’s personal sacrifice was meant to absolve the sins, and for a moment, it was almost believable that he would start over (again) with Tara in the service of breaking the cycle for his sons. Him sitting by Opie’s grave at the beginning illustrated that as a genuine desire. Though Jax admits he craves the mayhem, he also sees what it has done to those he loves. What kind of lives could Opie and Jax have had away from SAMCRO? How could Abel and Thomas flourish if outside of its grasp?
All of this was the payoff the show has been building to this season, and it felt good (which should have been the warning shot). Then it kept going. The mayhem, as it always does with SAMCRO, took control. Unser’s weaselly tattling and misinformation pushed Gemma off the ledge Nero put her on, and her murdering Tara was then covered up by Juice killing Eli, and cleaning up Gemma’s involvement.
Gemma has always been a slippery character. Her inner strength and ability to keep the club running was something that could make us overlook her other failings. Her constant war with Tara was grating though, and it reaching a fever pitch this year did not do either of them any favors. Tara should really have been the heroine, the new face of the mother of club at Jax’s side (as has been teased before on the show — that Jax and Tara are the heir apparents to the throne built by Gemma and JT, not Gemma and Clay). Instead, Gemma has continued to rule, and “A Mother’s Work” pit the two mothers against each other once again, with Gemma winning out. Maybe this was just the final illustration of Jax’s transformation into Clay instead of JT, and that any new direction for the club is truly hopeless. That’s a bleak place to end, even for Sons of Anarchy.
Ultimately, this season has been a mixed bag, though the finale did bring out some exceptional acting and truly difficult moments, fraught with hard truths. Sons of Anarchy always sets things up for a really interesting season to come, no matter what has transpired before, and seeing how things play out in the wake of Tara’s death, Juice and Gemma’s betrayals, and Jax’s incarceration should bring viewers back for what is likely its last season. That will be the stage for the final reckoning, though it is difficult now to imagine things getting much bleaker, or more in the control of the mayhem Jax thinks nourishes him, but which ultimately destroys.
Episode Rating: A
Season Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I really thought Juice was going to sacrifice himself for Gemma, and make it look like he killed both Tara and Eli in some kind of revenge on Jax before killing himself. He’s been battling the murderous and the melancholy all season though, and it looks like the murderous won out. Surely he will have to die next season though, Jax basically already put that order out to Bobby and Chibs. A sad arc for his character.
— The conversation between Tara and Jax in the park was some of the most real and most emotional dialogue the show has ever engaged in. It was difficult to watch; the idea of a mother being stripped of her children and then executed for wanting to protect them (which she can no longer do) is grim indeed.
— I don’t think there’s any chance Jax would go down for double murder.
— I’ve never hated Unser so much as in this episode. How stupid could he be to drop that knowledge on Gemma when she was in that kind of condition?
— Speaking of stupid, though not to speak ill of the dead, despite all of Tara’s precautions, she really thought that the lawyer wouldn’t be tailed? Really? I thought she was setting it all up, but she looked genuinely afraid and surprised when Jax showed up.
— Tara has basically been written off the show all year (or was clearly heading that way), so it wasn’t surprising things ended as they did. Her staying in the club would never have been satisfying (given what she has been through and what she wanted for her family), even if she had moved away with the boys.
— R.I.P. Eli, who was an underused character. I thought he would be the next David Hale, but he was never developed that well.
— With the horror of the last few minutes, it’s easy to forget some of the good humor of the first half, mostly from Gemma:
Juice: “I think I over shared.” Gemma: “It’s ok, he knew you were gay.”
Gemma: “I’m about to go cat fight on the colored girl.” Jax: “Mom, not today.”
Gemma: “Suck my white crack.” Patterson: “We can’t choose our family, right?”
The homeless girl introducing Chucky to Kneepads Nina … “She likes em freaky.
— There’s no justice in a world where Wendy ends up ok and Tara ends up with a fork to the brain stem.
— “It ain’t easy giving up the crown; every peasant and whore wants the jewels” – Barosky.