Over the course of seven years with SAMCRO, Jax Teller has attempted to go legitimate, to get out of the game started by J.T. and exacerbated by people like Clay Morrow. There have been glimmers of hope, instances in which he believed he could do it, but in the end, he realizes that it’s not possible. “I’m not a good man,” he says, telling us what’s been on his mind for a while now as he watches his kids leave for the last time. In the end, he realizes that in order for his remaining family to have any semblance of hope for a future, that future must not include him.
So, he burns all his old pictures and documents, he ties up all his loose ends–Charles Barosky, August Marks, Brendan Roarke–and he says his goodbyes to the people he cares about. He started to get his affairs in order last week, but whereas “Red Rose” was built more as a climax of sorts, this week is the fallout, the inevitable conclusion to the tragedy of Jax Teller. There’s a pervasive tranquility to his demeanor in “Papa’s Goods”, a calmness that manifests in the smile we see on his face at the end. He knows that this is the only thing he can do, and he knows that this is the best thing to do for his club and for his family.
So, what we see in the series finale is essentially a long goodbye to and tour of the show, and while it’s certainly dull in some places, it finds poignancy in various moments: Jax visiting Opie’s grave, Jax’s last conversation with Nero, Jax’s last meeting with the club. The moments aren’t quite as emotionally resonant as Sutter wants them to be, but he does effectively set up a contrast between the joy of patching T.O. into the club and the sadness of the Mayhem vote by the club. Predictably, the show chooses not to have Jax die at Chibs’s hands, but predictable is almost a relief in a show that loves its outlandish twists and brutal violence.
Of course, after Jax talks to JT–he aptly states that “A good father and good outlaw can’t settle inside the same man”–he starts riding off into the distance, and here’s where my biggest gripes with the episode lie. First of all, the production of the scene itself is legitimately awful–Sutter probably spent too much time picking the montage song to focus on anything else–and second of all, the scene reads as a high school film class project. We get heavy-handed symbolism that Sutter is definitely patting himself on the back for, and it’s absolutely unnecessary. Yes, I understand that the homeless woman represents the Reaper and that the show is trying to throw in a bunch of religious imagery and that the show is trying to parallel the deaths of Jax and J.T., but jeez, this is not how you go about it.
It is just a laughingly terrible scene, what with the police cars going at not-a-police-chase speed and with Jax literally spreading his arms because, ya know, Jesus. Then, we see some crows eating bread as Jax’s blood enters the frame, and we scream, “WE GET IT!!!!” The ultimate insult is when we cut to a Hamlet quote as if this is high class entertainment, as if the show didn’t stray from Shakespeare after season one, as if this show was all about Hamlet. It’s a sour ending to what is a serviceable finale.
Ultimately, it is by no means an awful finale, and it at least isn’t a betrayal of everything we know about the show. However, rather than going out with a bang, the show limps off into the distance. In the end, though, it accomplishes what it wants to accomplish, and it is perhaps best summed up by the following exchange between Jax and Tyne Patterson:
“What happens at the end of the day?”
“The bad guys lose.”
GRADE: B- for most of it, D+ for the final few minutes
SEASON GRADE: C
SERIES GRADE: B-
-Vic Mackey must have let that day job affect him quite a bit, as he has the reaction time of a 95-year old man at the end there.
-I’m sure Chibs and Tig will do a great job.
-The final song is called “Come Join the Murder”, written by Kurt Sutter. Thankfully, it wasn’t sung by Katey Sagal. These montages are definitely what I will miss the least.
-Nice to see Tig and Venus together at the end.
-One more round of applause for Jimmy Smits. He’s consistently been the best part of the show for a while now. Also, Nero was proof that you could get out of this life.
-That’s it for me. This show should’ve ended a while back, and I think its major flaw these last few years was letting Sutter do whatever he pleases. I’m glad FX isn’t Showtime–which loves to intrude upon all its shows and make decisions for the creative teams–but this is a showrunner who needs reining in. When he is reined in–like he was on The Shield–he can be a truly terrific writer.
-Favorite season? Season two. That was truly great.
Photo credit: FX, Sons of Anarchy