With the Mayhem vote nearing, Jax sets his grand plan in motion.

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December 10, 2014 at 01:05 PM EST

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 the 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

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