Sons of Anarchy‘s final ride has begun, and judging from the premiere, the road will be full of twists and slick with blood. Jax’s revenge can’t stop at the poor Lin Triad member Gemma blamed for Tara’s murder—we still have 12 more episodes to go. But there’s something poetic about this kill for Tara being so premeditated and drawn out compared to his first kill for Tara in season 1, when he abruptly shot stalker ATF agent Joshua Kohn. It shows how much Jax has changed over seven seasons—how much thought has to go into every complicated move now, and how he’s no longer the man who sits on the edge of the bed jittery.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The opening montage: As Audra Mae and Billy Valentine’s weary cover of “Never My Love” plays, we quickly get everyone’s whereabouts: Stone-cold Jax beats a Neo-Nazi snitch in County. Gemma’s with the boys at her house, and Abel throws some serious shade. Brooke and Rat make eyes at each other. SAMCRO rides alongside the Grim Bastards (and hey, Malcom-Jamal Warner is a member). Juice does naked push-ups, which means he’s totally alone in his own personal prison—a.k.a. Wendy’s place—because when else would you do naked push-ups? Unser visits Tara’s grave, showing she’s still on his mind. Jax carves a swastika into the man’s torso. Wendy packs to leave rehab, so yes, she’s once again the healthiest person on this show. Nero’s with the Mayans in Stockton. Lyla opens the doors to the brilliantly named Redwoody porn studio. And Jax pulls out two of the Neo-Nazi’s teeth with his taped hands. In the end, you’re left wondering if the love he’s never getting over is Tara or the club. That’s why this show is so compelling: When he’s making a violent gesture to secure a sit-down with Aryan shot-caller Ron Tully (“Marilyn Manson, whose acting is perfectly acceptable”—EW), you’re almost angry the club has pulled him back in. But later, when he’s back with his SAMCRO brothers at the Reaper table, it feels as if we’re home, too.
The DA speaks to Jax, and to viewers: Both at County to visit Jax, Gemma explains to Patterson why Jax has only talked to his mother for the last 10 days: “He found the woman he loved dead. The woman he loved more than anything. What do you want him to say?” That reminds Patterson that Jax is a man who loved Tara enough to turn himself in. Now, he’s free to go—and she knows that’s dangerous. When she lost her son and a nephew to gang violence, she didn’t want anyone arrested, she wanted them all dead. It’s a natural response. (I felt it, too, 14 years ago when my mother told me someone threatened to kill my lawyer sister in court.) The difference is, in Jax’s world, where bullets frequently fly, violent retaliation is a realistic outcome. (In my world, I just fumed until I cried.) Patterson had never told someone on Jax’s side of the table about her personal life, but she wanted to connect with the man who knows the importance of family and that more violence will only destroy what’s left of his. That Jax of 10 days ago is gone, but she did connect with viewers: We can’t hate Jax for what he’s about to do because we’d have thought about it.
Gemma speaks to Juice, and to viewers: The most uncomfortable scene in the episode: The car ride home from County when Jax thanks Gemma for handling the situation he has no idea she created. Charlie Hunnam’s subtle fidgeting when Gemma says Abel only knows that his mother is in heaven shows he can still feel for the boys even if he can’t bring himself to see them: He needs to get clear on what he has to do first, he tells Gemma. After that conversation, we have the same question Juice later asks Gemma: How does she just talk with Jax about Tara? She’s not a psychopath, she tells him. She knows how awful Tara’s death is, but she’d made a decision based on the “truth” that she had, as did Juice when he decided to help her. If she comes clean, Jax would lose his mother, too, and the boys would grow up never knowing the love of a strong woman. She’s holding the family together, so it’s not selfish in her eyes—she’s doing it for Jax and the boys. She sounds like someone who’d tell you not to confess to cheating on your spouse because the admission would only make you feel better, not the spouse.
Gemma is grateful to Juice for giving her a truth that works (pinning it on the Chinese), so she’ll continue to help him. She doesn’t want to know why Jax wants him dead (which is good, because her thinking that Juice could confess her secret to Nero would be bad). Juice gets to stay at Wendy’s because Wendy wants to live at Gemma’s with the boys. One big happy dysfunctional family.