'Sons of Anarchy' series finale recap: 'Papa's Goods'
Jax Teller is dead. According to a poll in our recap of the penultimate episode, it's a fate 72 percent of fans expected, with 25 percent correctly predicting that Jax would kill himself on his father's bike. He rode it head-on into the Papa's Goods truck driven by Milo (played by Vic Mackey himself, Michael Chiklis), as roughly 20 cops tailed him. Does that make it a predictable ending? Some commenters on our instant react certainly think so. (At the very least, it makes you realize, again, how great FX's pre-season teasers were.) But that didn't make this ending unsatisfying. It was the only way Jackie Boy could go out after completing an otherwise unpredictable plan to make everything fine for those he'd leave behind.
Ever since learning the truth about Tara's murder—and understanding that it was Gemma's lie that fueled his vengeance and massive body count—Jax has been committed to being honest with those he cares about. Think back to what Nero told Wendy during that ride early in the season: How he trusts that if you tell the truth, whatever is supposed to happen will. Jax had to know that if he told the forum what really happened with Jury in "Red Rose," they'd recommend a Mayhem vote. That's why he'd asked Nero to take his boys to the farm and watch over them at the start of that episode. He also knew there'd be no recovering from murdering Gemma, and that he'd have to kill her—for Tara, for himself, for his father, and also for his boys, whom she could get to once he was gone.
Jax had to make things right for SAMCRO, which he knew was out of its league battling Marks. He even executed Marks with a sense of honesty: He took off the blanket the Homeless Lady had handed him ("It's time," she'd said) and gave Marks a moment to realize it was Jax shooting him outside the courthouse. There were witnesses there, just like there'd been earlier at Barosky's bakery when Jax walked in without any form of disguise and put the rat down in front of
its first patrons. He also owed it to his allies Tyler and Alvarez to keep their deal in place: Having the Mayans distribute for rogue Connor achieved that. Shooting Rourke, just as he had Galen? Well, that was Jax finally severing the ties with the Irish—something JT had always wanted. Now SAMCRO would really be legit, taking Jax's piece of Red Woody and Diosa. He got loyal T.O. patched into SAMCRO. And he also gave Patterson the full story about Tara and Eli's murders and the address of where she could find Gemma and Unser.
Some viewers will argue that while Jax may have succeeded in honoring his father, he failed when it came to his boys. He left them with well-provided-for Wendy and Nero. But Jax didn't see that as abandonment—he saw it as the only way to truly break the cycle. It may be hard to admit it since we'd been rooting for Jax up until he killed Unser (which was difficult to watch again in the "previously on" montage)—but he isn't a good guy. Though he proved himself a good man in this episode, he's not someone you should actually want your kids to emulate. If Jax didn't take such drastic measures in the end, his boys would never have been safe. And because of those measures and his desire for transparency, he was headed to jail for life if he'd been caught. Did anyone really want to see Jax Teller end the series behind bars, after all, we've seen go down in the prison system?
Now, let's dig in. (Update: Read our postmortem with executive producer Paris Barclay, and how creator Kurt Sutter and Charlie Hunnam explained the ending on Anarchy Afterword.)
NEXT: The final day
We're back to opening with a musical montage. This time, it's Bruce Springsteen's "Adam Raised A Cain." Jax wakes up next to Wendy, looking a bit forlorn. We, however, get one final look at his killer abs. He puts on his SO-NS rings, checks on sleeping Abel, and kisses wild-haired Thomas. He throws away his Nikes covered in Gemma's blood and puts on boots—which is more upsetting than it should be, considering it's just footwear. Are those his dad's boots? They have to be important, because lord knows he has more than one pair of sneakers if they're all that white. He puts all his notepads in his backpack, checks that his gun is loaded, and dons his cut. He surveys his home, much like Tara did before she died—only she'd been smiling.
He goes to the storage unit and looks through old photos: like mother, like son. He does manage a smile at an old photo of him and Wendy at T-M, but it fades when he sees a shot of young Jax on his father's bike. He sees the family birth and death certificates and finds his father's manuscript, which Gemma said would be there. Anyone think he'd take them to Patterson? Wrong. He burns the notepads and manuscript, and even some photos. Is he remembering what Jury said, that JT had worried what would happen if the manuscript got in the wrong hands? It could destroy the club and his family. Still, it's sad to think about all that Jax has written for the boys being gone.
He arrives at T-M, visits the charred old clubhouse, and checks out deeds in Gemma's files. He looks through her office window and sees his father's bike covered up. He rides out on his own bike and visits Opie's grave, where he leaves his SO-NS rings. He then stops at Tara's grave and kisses the headstone, placing his wedding ring there.
Jax next heads to Red Woody, where the guys and T.O. are enjoying watching rehearsal for Fat Ass In My Face. As they should, really: "Dom," the man lying on his back as Lyla directs a woman to wiggle on his face, is the show's longtime and well-liked publicist Dominic Pagone. Lyla has turned Fat Ass into a franchise, which makes Jax happy. He kisses her on the head and tells her he loves her. She says she loves him, too, and seems to guess something is brewing.
SAMCRO hits Chapel for a status report: Tyler has been leaving messages for Connor about a meet. The club will arrive at the location early to talk to Tyler and make sure the Niners are moving in on the Chinese blocks that their latest massacre secured. The guys want to know what the forum decided, but Jax isn't ready to tell them yet. He says he's still thinking about what's best for the club. He does share the news about the forum okaying SAMCRO striking down that unwritten bylaw about no blacks being allowed in the club. They vote in T.O., and since he's led the Bastards for a decade, he gets to skip being a prospect, though he'll have to wait a year to hold an office. The guys do their usual trick where they call someone in and make him think they're not voting in his favor…but then it's man hugs all around.
Nero shows up at Jax's looking antsy like he's trying not to jump out of his skin after a sleepless night. Wendy can sense the tension when he says he hasn't heard from Gemma, but she dispatches him to pick up snacks for the road trip to the farm, which is still on.
SAMCRO meets with Tyler at the ballfield. Everything is good with the Chinese blocks, but he's worried about Marks getting out that afternoon. As the guys mount their bikes to go hide out in wait for Connor, Connor arrives early and fires at them. It's a chase scene set to a punkish version of "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You." Odd choice? Yes. But you need something high energy here, and perhaps using a song with a strong Elvis connection is a nod to Bobby. It may be the first time you've ever rewound a chase scene on Sons. As they speed through a doll warehouse, you know Tiggy is not happy even before he yells, "Ugggggh, no dolls!" Connor gets away when a dump truck has bad timing. Jax lays down his bike. (Foreshadowing?) They're going to need to talk to Connor's guy, Hugh.
NEXT: Chucky gets another sweet moment
Nero goes to T-M looking for Unser. Chucky tells him he hasn't come back yet; the cops were there looking for Gemma. He's not an idiot—he knows something bad happened, and he wants to know if Gemma is okay. Nero, being decent even when his world is collapsing, shows Chucky respect: "I know you're not an idiot, Chucky…I don't know what happened. That's the truth," he says. Nero goes into Unser's Airstream and sees his makeshift cop board with crime scene photos of Tara and Eli, notecards with names and question marks, and police reports—including Jax's with a King of Spades card and a Post-It with "Teller?" written in red. There's also a Joker and a Jack of Spades on the board. You can discuss that symbolism in the comments. I'm more curious about what Jimmy Smits was thinking when Nero sat down. Only he can put a softness in his stare and sigh like this. Is it that Wayne was too close and he shouldn't have sent him? That Gemma and Unser's photos will likely need to be added to the death board? That he should just head to the farm because this is all too complicated?
Jax and Chibs get some quality time on the Red Woody roof. If you thought that port location was beautiful at night, it's gorgeous during the day. From the moment Jax says he needs to tell Chibs some things he's not going to want to hear, Chibs looks as though he's on the edge of welling up—and viewers are right there with him. This episode may have been the best ever for Tommy Flanagan. Jax tells Chibs he needs to trust that what he wants is the best thing for him, his family, and for the club. And then Jax reveals what he told the forum and that their recommendation was a Mayhem vote. Chibs' reaction is stunned silence. "No. Christ, Jack, that is just not gonna happen," he says. Chibs holds it together, but I, for one, lost it. Jax insists he hears him out. We don't get to, of course. We cut to the Irish bringing Hugh in downstairs. Tig tells Lyla to call it a day, and she wants to know what's going on and if Jax is okay. Tig just kisses her head and tells her, "We're all good."
When Tig goes upstairs to tell Jax the Irish have arrived, Chibby is still shell-shocked. Briefly alone again, Jax makes his final plea: "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. It's how you earn respect. I need your word you're gonna do as I asked."
"You have my word," Chibs says. For a moment, they sit side-by-side. Jax puts his hand on Chibs' knee, and Chibs pounds it with his fist. It's the bro version of holding hands in a time of crisis. Does Jax want Chibs to convince the others to vote for Mayhem? To agree to kill him when the time comes?
Tig comes back with Hugh and two of Rourke's men in tow. They tell Hugh he's going to call Connor and tell him he's escaped. Why would Connor buy it? Because Jax has Tig and Chibs each kill one of Rourke's men. Hugh will send Connor photos for proof. When the meet is set, they'll call Rourke.
For a second, I thought it'd be Nero who decides to pop by Jarry's office—but no, it's DA Patterson. She and Jarry share their updates: Juice is dead, they need to put out an APB on Gemma, and oh, right, Jax has called to schedule a meeting with Patterson for that afternoon. Jarry gives Unser some props and says she'll bring him up to speed. Patterson offers Jarry a backhanded compliment: Her numbers don't reflect the good work she's done, but she still thinks Jarry's the right person for the job.
At Hugh's meet with Connor at yet another warehouse, Jax and the boys walk in with Alvarez, Oso, and other Mayans. They pump Connor for information on who he's been selling guns to: Salvadorians outside of Nevada, and some Chinese and Russians up north. He has access to as many AKs as he wants and about half the Glocks. Rourke and two of his men arrive. Naturally, he wants to know where Declan, one of the men who was watching Hugh, is. "Dead," Jax answers, and he shoots Rourke in the head. Tig and Alvarez handle his escorts.
The new plan: The Mayans will distribute Connor's guns, which will arrive via the Stockton port. The Sons' Belfast charter will handle the IRA there, while the Mayans keep Connor safe from any blowback here. "I think the words you're looking for, Con, are thank you very much," Chibs tells him, resting his gun-carrying hand on his shoulder. The smile Jax gives Chibs makes you want to burst into tears: It's love and admiration mixed with a bit of sadness—he's going to miss that sense of humor.
At Hugh's urging (since they'd be dead men in Belfast), Connor agrees. Once Chibs gets him to say thank you to Jax and they shake hands, Connor reminds Jax that there's no coming back from killing an Irish King. (Um, wasn't Galen one?) "My old man tried to severe that tie 20 years ago. Better late than never," Jax says. Charlie Hunnam does that wonderful thing where his voice gets slightly higher when Jax talks like a son. He did it when he was sobbing to Nero after he found out that Gemma was Tara's killer. He does it here, smiling. He did something that would make his father proud.
NEXT: The goodbyes really start
Jax meets Nero at T-M, and Nero is surprisingly calm. Only that scratching of his forearm gives him away. He's going to meet Wendy and the boys there and take her SUV to the farm, since his ride isn't made for child passengers. (So he's not going to kill Jax, then. Breathe.) Chucky's in Gemma's chair, but excuses himself after telling Jax that he put a plate on his dad's bike. Jax wants Nero to handle some business for him: He's got the lawyers putting the garage and houses in Wendy's name. He wants her to sell them and take the money to set herself and the boys up—in Norco with Nero, on the East Coast with her family, wherever she wants. "What are you doing here, Jax?" Nero asks. "What I should have done when my wife was still alive," Jax answers. His part of Diosa and Red Woody go to the MC through the dummy corporation, he says. They should use the profits to buy Scoops cheap from Hale since Chinese grenades lower property value. Nero wants to know why he's doing all this instead of Jax: "I'm leaving, Nero," Jax says, with his chin starting to quiver. "Why?" Nero asks. "You know why," Jax says with tears in his eyes.
"Gemma," Nero guesses. "Yeah," Jax says. He apologizes to him. "I did what I know how to do, what Gemma knew had to be done. The lies caught up to all of us, man. I tried to hide from it. Make it legit, run away from it. This is who I am. I can't change," Jax says. He's saying this sitting in Gemma's chair.
Nero wants to break down but pulls it together. "I need you to promise that you'll make sure that my boys leave this place, so they don't become what I've become," Jax continues. Nero would do anything for the boys. We know that. Chucky interrupts to tell them Wendy and the kids are there.
"Where you gonna go?" Nero asks. Jax smiles: "I'm not sure." (Heaven or hell, huh?) "What am I gonna tell Wendy?" Nero asks. "Everything," Jax says. "When the time comes, she needs to tell my sons who I really am. 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." Nero shakes his head.
"Daddy," Abel calls from outside. Nero has to put on sunglasses to hide his tears. Jax tells Wendy he's just reminiscing as he holds Thomas and walks Abel to the car. He tells Abel to be good for mommy and that he can call Wendy that. He wants Abel to listen to Nero because he's daddy's best friend (tears!) and what he says goes. He wants him to have fun and enjoy all the animals. He kisses Thomas, who starts to cry. He tells him he loves him and hands him back to Wendy. Then he hugs Abel again, and they exchange I love yous.
Wendy wants to know what happened, but that's for Nero to tell. All she gets is Jax saying, "Everything's gonna be fine. You're a good mom, Wendy. I love you." He kisses her and walks away. Nero says they should go, and I don't know how Wendy doesn't demand Jax say more. Then again, that's not the relationship they had. Jax sits on his father's bike (the same color as Nero's car, how fitting) and tries to smile. He's doing that for himself, but also for viewers, I think. We need to know this is really what Jax wants, that seeing his boys leave Charming brings him peace.
Jax shakes Chucky's hand and tells him to take care. Chucky seems to know it's goodbye and says it. (He's going to do books for Red Woody, right? Chucky will be okay?)
NEXT: Chibs toughens up
Back at Red Woody, Jarry meets with Chibs because he's stopped answering her phone and she needs to find Gemma. We learn Patterson's so-called pep talk was effective: He's once again no help, so Jarry tells him whatever "this" was is over. She doesn't want his payoff or him. She's just a cop and he's just an outlaw, and they'll both do what they have to do. He moves in. It could be hot, but it's just dangerous:
Chibs: I think that's a mistake.
Jarry: Why? 'Cause you have feelings for me?
Chibs: No, 'cause cops who land on the wrong side of us, they tend to go away.
Jarry: Are you threatening me?
Chibs: Don't have to. History doesn't lie…Stay safe, sheriff.
He's got that Jackie snarl now. You're not sure you like it in that moment, but he's steeling himself for the vote inside—which won't include T.O., who they've sent to help the Mayans work out their deal. "Are we really doing this, brother?" Tig asks Chibs, tears in his eyes. "We have to," Chibs says. Tig wants to cry. "Hey, I need you, Tiggy. Get right," Chibs orders. "Yeah," Tig says. "I am. I will. I'm here. Anything you need, I'm here for you, brother." That single tear just clung to the bottom of Kim Coates' right eye like it didn't want to betray him and fall. Beautiful moment for those two.
At Jax's meet with Patterson, he thanks her for trying to help Tara, which he knows was more personal than professional. (She'd wanted Tara to get the kids away from the kind of violence that took her son.) She says he can thank her by finally telling her everything. "You might want to record this. I didn't have time to write it down," he says. She takes out her phone, presses record, and announces him as president of the Redwood charter—"Redwood Original," he corrects her, smiling. Which we all did at home.
He tells her about Gemma killing Tara and Juice killing Eli, and that they both admitted it. Patterson fearfully asks where Gemma is now. Jax hands her the address of his grandfather's house in Oregon and says she's there with Unser. When Patterson asks about Lin and all the other bodies that dropped, Jax tells her to turn off the recorder. She does. He says Gemma and Juice concocted the Chinese lie to set him on fire but that he's not copping to the retaliation and implicating his club. What happens when the street finds out the truth? He assures her everyone who could be impacted has either been informed or moved on—by the end of the day, the violence will be over in Stockton. Why the end of the day? He won't answer at first. "You've been very fair with me. I wanted you to have the truth," he says.
"Jackson, what happens at the end of the day?" she asks again. "The bad guys lose," he says smiling. Tears again.
At the table, Chibs tells the guys they cannot allow their hearts to be louder than their reason. "All those, all those in favor," he says, needing to start over because he's choking up. "All those in favor of Jackson Teller meeting Mr. Mayhem…" Quinn and Montez say yay. Rat hesitates until Tig, who's been like a father figure to him let's remember, touches his shoulder. A composed Tig and a soft-spoken Happy agree. Chibs smiles at the men for following Jackie's wishes, but now it's time for his vote and the smile fades. "Yes… Jax Teller meets Mr. Mayhem." He taps the gavel, then slides it in front of Jax's empty chair. The camera pans back across the Reaper table.
Jax's next stop is Barosky's bakery, which for once has four customers. Barosky is in an apron behind the counter. "Well, look who it is. What can I do for you, Handsome Jack?" he says. Jax pulls out his gun and shoots him in the head. He puts another three bullets in him and leaves. (Witnesses mean Jax is really dying. Now we know it. He's not just going to fake his death.)
The cops in Oregon find Wayne and Gemma's bodies, just where Jax left them. Gemma's white, cold body and slightly opened eyes are, frankly, more upsetting than seeing her shot. Jax walks toward the courthouse the long way, so no one sees his dad's bike. He stops and smiles when he sees the Homeless Lady. "Who are you?" he asks. She hands him the blanket she'd been wrapped in as she sat there eating a loaf of bread and drinking wine (or something else in a bottle whose label we can't read). "It's time," she says. And off she goes with her baby carriage. The camera focuses on the bread and liquid. The last supper?
Jax pretends to be homeless (like he did in the pilot), but this time, he's sitting on the steps of the courthouse like he's a Grim Reaper you'd see in movies. Marks walks out with one of his lieutenants and presumably his lawyer. Jax pops up and shoots the lieutenant first. Then he takes off the blanket so Marks has time to register who's taking him down. Jax fires four bullets into his chest. He just tucks his gun away and hops a fence. We cut to commercial to avoid seeing guards rush out, guards who could end this story too soon.
NEXT: The last play
Jax goes to a warehouse, pauses before he opens the door, and then walks inside to find the guys waiting. He takes off his cut and cuts off his president's patch. Then he cuts off Chibs' VP patch as Chibby tries not to cry. Chibs hands the VP patch to Tig. "Good choice," Jax says. Then Jax hands Chibs the president's patch. "It's your charter now, brother," he says. A man hug. A kiss. Jax puts his cut back on and lays down his gun. "I'm ready," he tells Chibs. What Gemma said. Tig and Happy walk him a few steps away. You think maybe he'll stand with his back to Chibs, but no. He faces him, and Tig and Happy keep their hands on Jax with outstretched arms. Is that to steady Jax or give him comfort? Maybe, in this case, it's both. Chibs walks up. Jax nods. And Chibs fires…at Happy's forearm.
"You okay?" Jax asks him. They'll tell Packer that Jax laid down some fire and got away. "I would never put this burden on you guys," Jax says. "We know that, brother," Tig says. Did we?
"I love all of you," Jax says. Quinn gets a hug first, but no line. Then Montez, no line. Smiling Rat gets a bigger hug and a smile, but still silence. Happy's next, and like after Bobby's death, Hap crying hits you hard. Jax kisses him on the forehead. Tig smiles, then they have a soft embrace. Tig whispers something to him that ends with, "Don't worry." He wants Jax to know he'll be okay. Last is Chibby. They shake hands and then bring it in. He tells Jax he's gotta leave now. Chibs kisses him on the cheek, and Jax makes his exit as the guys look on. He turns to face them before putting on his helmet: "I got this," he says. I lost it. Chibs smiles, and Tig places his hand on his president's shoulder—they were there with Jax when Opie uttered those famous last words. With that, Jax rides off. The club stands in silence.
Jarry gets a call and ask her deputies to put out an APB on Jax for multiple homicides. We see Jax ride off in a direction that looks like the landscape where his father had his accident. After a commercial, it's confirmed: he's at that location and talking to his dad. "I think the struggle I understand best—even more than all the things you wanted for SAMCRO, what we eventually became. The one I feel the most is the war of the mind [that] happens when you try to get right with both family and patch. That fear and guilt crippled me. I realized, as I think you did, a good father and a good outlaw can't settle inside the same man." That's the moral of the story. A cop car pulls up.
Jax smiles and nods. He knows his time is coming. His helmet and sunglasses sit in the dirt. "I'm sorry, JT. It was too late for me. It was already decided. And Gemma, she had plans," he continues, smiling again. "It's not too late for my boys. I promise they will never know this life of chaos."
"I know who you are now, and what you did. I love you, dad," he says. He smiles again. Smiles equal peace. He starts the bike and has a cigarette in his mouth. The cop gets out of his car and asks Jax to get off his Harley. Jax does—then takes out his gun and fires three poor shots. He didn't want to hurt him. He just wanted to speed off in one last chase.
Nero's car is 47 miles from Norco when the music starts. The song, with lyrics by creator Kurt Sutter and sung by The White Buffalo, is "Come Join the Murder." Abel is coloring like a normal kid in the car, not drawing on secret family letters or in a composition book. Nero holds Wendy's hand for support.
With that cigarette in his mouth and the wind in his hair, Jax looks just like he did when we met him in the pilot as he sped past two crows eating bread on the street. (Only then, he was riding at night in search of condoms.) There's a sense of fun and freedom, like there was back before all this began, before he killed.
The guys at Red Woody are far more solemn, sitting in silence with open bottles and cigarettes. Tig is alone with Venus, sitting on the floor with his head resting on her leg as she strokes his hair with her French Manicure. His cut lays on the chair, and Venus is now dressing like an old lady—all black, tight pants, and a revealing top. That's a happy ending.
Jax continues to ride with more cops joining what frankly seems to be a leisurely chase. His cigarette is out now and he's enjoying the view. Jarry and Patterson are at Barosky's, looking at his body and racks of bloody bagels. Jax is on WEST 580.
Chibby sits at the head of the table running the president's patch through his hand and staring straight ahead. Gemma's body gets placed on a gurney in a bag that is finally closed. The boys are awake in the back of the SUV as Wendy sleeps. Abel plays with the SON ring his Grandma gave him. Is that supposed to leave open the door that he'll still turn out like his father? (Or worse, his grandmother?)
We see a truck approach with the words "Papa's Good" on its side. We know that's the title of the episode. He's driving on EAST 580. A crow, always symbolic on Sons, flies off the Interstate marker. We see the driver is Milo. Why didn't we think of this sooner?! That's why he's playing a trucker. We know how this will end.
Jax leads an even longer parade of cops. As the camera pans up from him, we see seven crows—a murder—fly by. What do those represent? The seven members of SAMCRO with him in spirit: Chibs, Tig, Happy, Rat, Quinn, Montez, and T.O.? Or the spirits of members of SAMCRO killed during the series: Piney, Opie, Clay, Otto, West, Juice, and Bobby?
At this point, roughly 20 police cars follow Jax. He looks back at them and then sees the truck approaching. Now he smiles. This is what he's been waiting for. It's a sign. He revs his engine. He lifts his hands from the handlebars and begins to drift into the other lane. Milo slams on the breaks, but he's too late. Jax's arms are wide out and his eyes are closed. He's ready. You'll have to forgive the bad CGI: Sutter could've ended it sooner, but he didn't want any doubt that Jax does in fact die, and I appreciate that. It was his story; we should know exactly how he decided it would end. (And plus, we still have the true meaning of the Homeless Lady to debate.)
We never see Jax's body. We cut to a loaf of bread on the road, stained down the middle like the bread the Homeless Lady had been eating by the courthouse. As in the pilot, two crows are eating it. Now we see the parked cop cars in the background. It's over. The crows fly away as we zoom in on the bread. Blood from the body offscreen flows toward it.
Cut to the Reaper. And then a quote from Shakespeare: "Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love."
Jax did this for love. Love of his sons and love of his club. On Anarchy Afterword, Sutter said he liked the idea that Gemma asking Milo for a ride the previous day may have affected his schedule and put him on that collision course with Jax. Was Jax choosing to go out as his father had—her ultimate punishment? And do you think JT really did commit suicide (remember, it took him days to die), or was that seed just planted within the story to give Jax the idea?
Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.