Sons Of Anarchy
Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Sons of Anarchy‘s season 5 finale, stop reading now. All season we’ve been building to the answer to this question: Can Jax sit in Clay’s old chair and not become Clay? We got our answer. For more on the season finale, read our postmortem interviews with creator Kurt Sutter and Kim Coates (Tig) and Ken Tucker’s review.

Because that morphing was the theme of season 5, it was fitting that the finale opened with a montage of Tara’s face fading into Gemma’s and Nero’s tattoo fading into Clay’s black out Reaper — and ended with Gemma replacing Tara in a pose similar to the one Tara and Jax struck at the end of season 4. It’s amazing isn’t it: How this episode leaves you hating Gemma almost as much as you did Clay last year, and feeling sorry for Clay and, you can admit it, angry with Jax? Let’s break it down.

Jax went to see Pope at Charming Heights to discuss the final details for Tig’s delivery. Worried that Pope would no longer need their working relationship after Tig was dead, Jax said he wanted Pope’s word in writing re: T-M’s maintenance contracts for Charming Heights, the subsidized housing for Lyla and the kids, and SAMCRO’s percentage for bringing Pope and Hale together. Auggie said he’d work with the lawyers to put something together for both Jax and Hale, and they set Tig’s execution for 2 p.m. at one of Pope’s rural storage garages. At T-M, we saw Juice take something out of his locker (which we assumed was the gun Clay had given him) and put it on one of the bikes in the garage. Clay didn’t notice because he was there to talk to Gemma, who told him that her suitcase was in the car. Clay thanked her and said Ireland would be a fresh start. He told her to meet at his place at 3 p.m. for their 4:30 p.m. flight with Galen.

Over at the hospital, Tara found out there was no permanent damage to her hand and she’ll be operating again within 6 months. Of course, why should she get to enjoy that good news: Wendy showed up to see her and told her what Jax had done the night before. Tara was appropriately horrified, but Wendy didn’t threaten to take Abel again — instead, she yelled at Tara to get herself and the boys out. Tara assured her that was the plan. Slight problem: The practice forgot that Tara asked them to keep the news quiet from Jax, and they sent a congratulatory basket of perishables to her home (instead of to the hospital, where they knew she was?) — and Chucky found it on the porch when he delivered mats to the house. He brought it back to T-M to be refrigerated and Gemma read the “Welcome to the practice” card.

Before that situation exploded, we caught up with Nero, who needed to deal with Dante, leader of the rival gang (Triple Twos) moving in on the Byz-Lats’ protection business. The SAMCRO boys offered to do a little recon at Dante’s dogfights to see how big his crew is now. Honestly, that dogfight was as or more painful to watch than anything else we’ve seen this season. I had to mute it. If I weren’t recapping, I would have fast-forwarded entirely. Tig was the most disturbed and followed the guy carrying the losing dog outside to put it down. When you saw the garbage bins full of dead dogs, you wanted Tig to shoot this guy and everyone else there. But Jax told him that’s not what they’re there for. They had Phil take the dog with him when he went to tell Nero it was on. After Jax paused to watch a woman speaking to a tiny stuffed animal horse in the trash like it was a child — perhaps hammering home that Tig saw Dawn in those helpless dogs — the boys found Dante counting his money. This wouldn’t go well: SAMCRO eventually got chased out of the warehouse, but Nero’s crew and the Mayans arrived to shut the Triple Twos down. Chibs, Jax, and Nero chased Dante and one of his men back into the warehouse. Chibs almost got dead, but he hacked Dante’s guy in the gut and then Jax put the dude’s face in some nails. While he wailed, Nero laughed as he chased Dante and threw him through a window into the street. Dante carjacked a lady, but oops!, she had a pitbull in her SUV and it started attacking him. Nero wouldn’t let Dante out of the car, and Jax smiled. Isn’t that what we all wish would happen to people who organize dogfights?

Jax headed back to T-M, and Tara was waiting to tell him about her hand and give him a chance to come clean about what he’d done to Wendy. He didn’t tell her the specifics, he just said no one would ever believe a junkie like her. Unser told Jax what he found out about Lee Toric (Donal Logue): Harvard grad, ex-special forces, recruited into the U.S. Marshals in ’91, high-profile arrests and honors, but forced into early retirement for excessive force, intimidation and racial profiling. The nurse Otto killed was his only family. Cut to Lee behind the glass at the prison, getting ready to watch Otto give his statement. Otto laughed. Lee laughed. Finally, when the camera was turned on and Otto was asked to state his name for the record, Otto leaned in, stuck out his tongue, and slammed his chin down on the table. HE BIT OFF HIS TONGUE. He then picked it up and threw it at the glass where Lee was. It slid down, blood trailing. “Well, way to commit, Otto,” Lee said to himself. Was Otto laughing, crying, or both as blood oozed from his mouth? That was gross, but awesome. On the FX press site, there’s a shot of Lee in that room with Otto actually talking to him. I assume that means a scene was cut from the episode, either for time or for impact. Maybe if we saw Lee threaten Otto again, it would have felt like Otto did this in defeat, as opposed to a choice he’d made on his own to stick it to Toric?

Tara really needs a secretary to keep people the hell out of her office. Gemma came to see her to discuss Tara’s exit strategy and threatened to tell the investigators that Tara had asked her to give her that crucifix and told her exactly what she’d have Otto do with it. Tara told Gemma that Jax would kill her for that, and Gemma said he might as well kill her because she’s dead without her boys. “At least I would have the satisfaction of knowing you were locked up gettin’ fist-raped until they were well into their 20s,” Gemma said. And that is the moment I officially turned on Gemma. Tara grabbed Gemma’s throat, and Gemma punched her in the gut. The bruises may not be as bad as what Clay inflicted on Gemma, but the moment was ugly. Tara told Gemma to do what she had to do, but she’s leaving Charming with her sons.

Back at T-M, Chibs worked on stitching up the dog, and Jax called Auggie to have him tell Pope he was running late but would be there soon with Tig. Jax lied and told Tig that one of Nero’s guys had called and said he’d found the breeder supplying the dogs for the fights. Tig said he had this. Jax made sure they went alone.

Over at Clay’s, Juice was helping him pack up his house when Gemma arrived early. I really hadn’t pieced this together yet. For all I knew: Juice was supposed to kill Clay, and Gemma was there to make sure it happened so she’d have more bargaining power with Jax and Tara…

NEXT: Tig’s time is up… or not

Once Jax and Tig got to the location, in the middle of nowhere, I paused to pick up a pillow to hold, and Tig didn’t see any kennels or pens. It was too quiet. Tig turned around, and Jax had his gun pointed at him. He made Tig give him his gun and knife. As Tig demanded to know what was happening, Pope pulled up. “Sorry, man,” Jax said, coldly. Pope had Jax’s gun taken, too, as a precaution. Jax made sure that Pope gave him the contract that Auggie had drawn up. They’d sent one to Hale’s lawyer as well. Jax suggested Pope take care of Tig inside the garage because he’d spotted hikers and sound travels out there. That’s the first moment I believed Jax might have a plan to save Tig. Jax told them he’d need Tig’s cut, and they stripped it off of him. “It all comes around, Tiggy,” Jax said. And Tig spit at him. Pope and two of his men led Tig inside. Jax took the cut to his bike and pulled out the wrapped gun that Juice had placed at the start of the episode. He shot the guy doing a crappy job watching him in the head and ran inside. Jax shot one henchman, and then the other. Tig, who had his hands tied, shoved Pope so he fell to the ground and dropped his gun. Jax cut Tig free and handed him his gun so he could kill the man who burned his daughter Dawn alive. Pope tried to remind Jax that he knows what happens to whomever kills him. “I’m countin’ on it,” Jax said, with a big grin. Then Tig fired two shots into Pope’s head. Whoever is in charge of splatter earned their money this episode. Jax put his hand on Tig’s shoulder, and Tig was understandably jumpy and pushed Jax away. Jax apologized — he couldn’t tip Tig off because Pope would have picked up on it. Tig pointed out that Pope could’ve killed him right away. But he didn’t, Jax said. “That’s Clay’s gun,” Tig said, as Jax went to grab it back. “Yeah, it is. Is that gonna be a problem for you?” Jax asked. Tig shook his head no and cried as Jax held him and told him it was over.

Someone called in the tip to the cops and said Eli would want to find the body. Once there, Eli got a call from Jax, who pointed him to a vent halfway up the hill and said “You’re welcome.” Presumably, that’s where “Clay” dumped the murder weapon. And yes, Eli found it.

Back at the hospital, the lawyer told Tara about Otto’s self-inflicted plan to stay silent. It was gruesome but good news: Anything they could charge her with without his testimony is only a misdemeanor. The lawyer then gave Tara the papers she’d drawn up: life insurance, guardianship of the boys, documents for both Jax’s house and her dad’s home. Tara didn’t want to read them, she just wanted to sign. The lawyer told her they weren’t binding until Jax signed them and they were notarized. (So you knew that wasn’t going to happen, right?)

Over at Clay’s, Clay told Juicey that he’d miss him most of all. Ah. He knew Juice had found the legal documents, and understood that Jax had pressured him and forgave him for it — he told Juice to forgive himself. As they hugged, Juice got teary-eyed and told Clay he needed to take his bike and leave now — but it was too late. A knock at the door. It was Eli and his second in command, whose name I should really learn at this point. They had the gun used to kill Pope and three of his associates. They asked Clay where he was all day. He said at the house, which Gemma could confirm. Should have gone with Juicey, Clay. He’d have broken. But not Gemma. She said Clay had left for a few hours and took the gun with him. She said he told her that he had to settle up some accounts before he left. Clay just closed his eyes and shook his head. “I didn’t think he’d kill anyone,” Gemma said. And then Clay’s eyes were wide open — shocked, angry, hurt, lost, everything at once. Bravo, Ron Perlman. And because we were at least a bit anti-Gemma at this point, we could allow ourselves to feel for Clay. He was arrested, and Eli told Gemma she’d need to come down and give a formal statement. Gemma exhaled. Juice crouched. Are they gonna have to kill Juice to keep him quiet? He’s the weak link.

Back at Charming Heights, Jax waited as Auggie got the call confirming that police reports say Clay’s prints are on the weapon. I’m so happy Auggie wasn’t killed! Truth: He was my favorite part of the Pope story. He has an energy that’s similar to Jax’s, and he can wear a suit. Auggie had questions, and Jax had answers: He explained how Clay could’ve followed him to the Heights, then Pope to the meeting spot. He said he and Tig bailed when they got there and saw all the cars, because Jax didn’t want to spook Tig. Auggie knew it all fit together so nicely and wondered if Jax had set it up. Jax said Auggie gives him way too much credit — “I ain’t Pope, I’m just a mechanic lookin’ out for my family.” Auggie said they’d be looking into Pope’s death, and if the police are wrong, they’d probably retaliate against more than one man. Jax said if it was any consolation, he was looking forward to working with Auggie. They shook hands. As Jax left, Auggie put the bounty on Clay. He said he wanted him dead before his hearing. My question: Will Auggie still want Tig killed, since that was part of Pope’s agreement with Jax?

Back at T-M, Jax told Juice he was proud of him and kissed him on the head. Tig was there loving on the dog (I wonder what he named her) and told Jax she was going to be just fine. (This was one girl he could save.) Jax sat at the head of the table by himself, and Bobby came in. He said he knew what Jax had done to Clay — but not because Tig and Juice told him. Jax said he’d kept his word to Bobby and the club and hadn’t touched Clay. “It wasn’t about being smart enough to hurt him, it was about being smart enough NOT to hurt him,” Bobby said. “You had a chance to be different.” “Maybe I’m not so different,” Jax said. Again, that’s what this whole season was about. Jax turning into Clay, even using Tig to pull the trigger for him.

Gemma told Nero what happened. She’s ready to be with him. He wasn’t sure he could give her what she needs right now. “And what is it you think I need? Love? Only men need to be loved, sweetheart. Women need to be wanted,” Gemma said. He told her his life is about to get very messy. “I know messy. It’s what I do best,” she said. And they kissed. Lyla interrupted them to tell them Jax was there. Nero and Gemma must be officially together because he used the bird names she suggested earlier in the episode: “You should look after Carl and Carla,” Nero said. “They want you.”

That scene between Jax and Nero is also what we’ve been building toward all season. Nero wanted to give him the club’s half of Dante’s haul, but Jax wanted to give it back to Nero as payment toward what he owes Nero for saving Wendy from Galen. Jax told Nero he needs to buy that farm and get out, and Jax will help his cousin keep the crew whole. Nero said he’d make Jax a deal — if Jax walks away now that his business is handled with the cartel and Feds, he’ll walk away, too. “Have a good night,” Jax said. I took that as a no.

Jax went home and found the legal documents on the table. I was glad Tara was holding Thomas — I didn’t really think Jax would have grabbed her, but why risk it. He wanted to know why Wendy was listed as the guardian. Tara told him she was the best choice, and he shouldn’t have attacked Wendy. “Is that what this is? You’re trying to teach me some kind of lesson?” Jax said. Tara put Thomas down and explained that she used to think she’d be betraying him if she wasn’t loyal to the club and Charming. But now she knows that being his old lady means being strong in moments when and where he can’t be. So she took the job in Oregon, and it starts in two weeks. The boys are coming with her, she said. “If you love them, and if you love me, you will follow us up there.” She said they both know if they stay in Charming, they’ll end up like the two people they hate most and the boys will be destined to relive all of their mistakes. There was a knock at the door. It was Eli. Jax thought he was there to talk about Clay. But no. He was there to arrest Tara for conspiracy to commit murder. On cue, Thomas started crying.

“No,” Tara said. “He’s crying.” Tara’s mind couldn’t comprehend the moment — how she could be led away from someone who needs her that badly. She broke down in tears, shaking. She looked at Jax. Then, she went numb (or steeled up, depending how you want to look at it) as she walked out and told Jax to call the lawyer. Maggie Siff is the unsung hero of this show. It felt like we were the ones being punished for daring to live in this outlaw world.

As the episode came to a close, we saw how unraveled this world had come: Bobby cut off his Vice President patch and left it on the table. (Good for him for sticking to his guns.) Tig had the dog on his lap and was doting on her — that was our only happy ending. Nero once again had to sleep with a weapon on his nightstand. Clay was being transported to prison, where he’ll be a sitting duck. Tara was in a cop car, looking out at Gemma walking by. I assume she gave her statement on Clay and Tara, when she went to the station. (Maybe she did it for herself, maybe she did it because she heard Jax tell Nero he wasn’t getting out, so she thinks she’s doing it for him, so he can stay in Charming with his boys.) And then Gemma walked into Jax’s house, where he was sitting at the table holding Abel by the legal documents, which were now torn in half. She put her hand on Jax’s shoulder, and he reached for it. “I’m here, baby,” she said. He needs her now, and Gemma is the Queen again.

Your turn. What did you think of the episode? Do you like how it sets us up for season 6? Will Clay die in prison, or will he somehow get out? (If they can prove Gemma was lying about Tara telling her she was going to have Otto kill the nurse, wouldn’t the authorities have to question her story about Clay, too?) Do you want Lee Toric to stick around? I assume Jax will do whatever he needs to do to get Tara out, but if he doesn’t, I’d be fine with Toric having a go at him. And wait, was it Toric — not Gemma — who somehow got the police to arrest Tara, hoping they could get her to turn on Jax and the club to save herself? That sounds like Lincoln Potter’s M.O. — could he be back next season working with Toric to take down SAMCRO now that the Romeo/Luis c—block has been removed? Imagine Potter and Toric in a room together… Perfect, or more like Justified than SOA?

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Sons of Anarchy | ''I watched five seasons of Sons of Anarchy . I resisted for ages because I had no interest in watching a show about a motorcycle…

Sons of Anarchy

Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.

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