[SPOILER ALERT: Read only if you have watched the series finale of Sons of Anarchy.]
“I’m not a good man. I’m a criminal and a killer. I need my sons to grow up hating the thought of me.” —Jax Teller
Would Jax live or die? That was the big question heading into tonight’s Sons of Anarchy series finale (hauntingly titled “Papa’s Goods”). And we received our answer tonight in dramatic fashion.
Over seven brutal, violent, tender, emotional seasons, we watched Jax try to rescue his beloved motorcycle club from his villainous stepfather Clay, all the while becoming more and more like him (even after Clay was gone)—and then taking things to frightening new levels this season to avenge the murder of his wife, Tara. After Jax killed a fellow club president in Jury (and then admitted to lying about Jury being a rat) his fate appeared sealed upon his acceptance in last week’s penultimate episode that “mayhem has to land.” But how would it happen, and who would deliver the ultimate punishment? The short answer: Not in any way by any person that anyone expected.
The episode began with Charlie Hunnam’s Jax waking up after his night with Wendy, throwing away his white sneakers stained with the blood of the mother he had just killed, burning his father’s “The Life and Death of Sam Crow” manifesto, and then visiting the graves of the two people he was closest to: best bud Opie and Tara. That moment of quiet reflection for Jax was followed by the momentous voting into the club of former Grim Bastards president T.O. and then a crazy baby-doll-crashing car chase after a gun-toting Connor Malone and the killing of many, many Irish men.
But the episode really hit home as Jax began plotting out his exit strategy and saying his goodbyes: first informing Chibs of what needed to happen, and then partaking in a heart-wrenching confessional to Nero—telling Jimmy Smits’ character of killing his own mother that, “I did what I know I how to do; what Gemma knew had to be done…This is who I am. I can’t change.” Then, after saying goodbye to Wendy and his sons, Jax hopped on his father’s old bike and rode off to visit District Attorney Patterson and tell her all of the events that transpired around Tara’s murder with a confession that rivaled Vic Mackey’s from The Shield. (Of course, he conveniently left out the part about him going off next to kill Barosky and August Marks.)
Meanwhile, the club voted unanimously—at Jax’s request—for him to meet Mr. Mayhem, and he visited them to seemingly carry out his sentence after tying up all the loose ends. After making Chibs president of the club (and Chibs in turn passing his V.P. patch over to Tig) Jax said two final words: “I’m ready.” But instead of shooting Jax, Chibs put the bullet from Jax’s gun in Happy’s arm instead as a means to cover Teller’s escape. But Jax had one more stop on his way out of Charming—addressing his father at the spot of his death. “It’s not too late for my boys,” he told JT. “I promise they will never know this life of chaos.” He then engaged in one last high-speed chase, being pursued by a phalanx of police cars and motorcycles and intentionally crashing into a truck driven by none other than… Michael Chiklis! (Chiklis was not playing Mackey, unfortunately, but rather reprising his role as Milo the trucker who met Gemma at the truck stop.)
The finale was a fitting and unpredictable final chapter to a season in which creator Kurt Sutter dared us to continue rooting for the main protagonist, even as that protagonist did terrible things like murdering and framing people on his own side to advance his master plan, and offing Unser when Wayne refused to stand down and let Jax kill his own mother. That inspired lots of debate as to whether viewers wanted Jax to live or die. Ultimately, Jax was able to gain a measure of redemption for his sins—finally doing what Jax himself admitted he “should have done when my wife was still alive” by making sure his kids got out of Charming for good. Viewers will now be able to argue about whether it was enough, and if the series finale was a satisfying conclusion to the Hamlet on Harleys saga.
What did you think of the Sons of Anarchy finale? How did it compare to other series finales? And did Jax get a fitting send off? Be sure to check back soon for Mandi Bierly’s full recap of ”Papa’s Goods,” as well as plenty of other SOA coverage.