In the penultimate Sons of Anarchy recap, death is all around as some very iconic characters say goodbye for the last time and Jax descends upon the actions that will lead to his final ride….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
In a series like Sons of Anarchy that is so wrought with violence there was no way all of the people who were in the debut episode more than two months ago would still be alive by the time the finale rolled around in December. Members of the club were going to die. There was little doubt that Juice was going to meet Mr. Mayhem. But there were a thousand other questions about the remaining characters, especially the matriarch herself.
Gemma had committed the most awful sin of all since the show’s inception, but she was still Jax’s mother. Nero’s lover. The mother to an entire motorcycle club. Regardless of her actions, would she still die or was a future alone without any family the real hell she would be forced to live in?
The penultimate episode of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ titled Red Rose was a show all about closure and letting go. A few characters that have been around since the beginning, seven seasons ago, met their demise this week while the prince seemed to stare down his final ride, knowing it’s just seven days away.
With that let’s recap the next to last episode of Sons of Anarchy.
The episode opens with Jax waking up the night after finding out that Gemma killed Tara and he sobbed into Nero’s arms trying to wrap his head around the fact that the woman who brought him into this world destroyed the person he loved most. He sits up from the cot where he spent the night in Alvarez’s warehouse and starts to put on his rings and tie up the laces on his shoes. The guys arrive with a fresh shirt and news about a meeting that will take place in just a little while to put the finishing touches on a new division around Northern California splitting up different areas between the Mayans and the One-Niners. When Jax hops up, he almost trips and falls back over when Chibs catches him.
What happened to Jax’s ankle? Why is he limping? This can’t be an accident because he’s dragging his foot for the remainder of the episode.
By this point, the club has filled in Alvarez on what actually happened with Tara and he gives his deepest sympathies to Jax, but he also knows that the chaos that erupted on the streets as a result of his revenge play — built by lies or not — created a power vacuum and a whole lot of bloodshed. The cracks need to be filled and Jax has to be the one to seal them up. He agrees and sets the meeting so they can come to an agreement while also working on a new way to distribute guns thus cutting August Marks out of the business arrangement all together.
At the meeting, Tyler and the Mayans argue over territories but ultimately come to an agreement with a few concessions being made by both sides. The One-Niners will get a bigger piece of the overall territory, but they also have to pay a fee to the Mayans for the privilege. In exchange, the Mayans will take over the gun trade and sell directly to the One-Niners before anyone else gets a taste. Oso, the Mayan president from Stockton also offers to help stop the Triple-Twos from stepping on Byz-Lat turf but they have to start moving heroin as part of the deal. Nero tries to intervene, but he’s made it clear that he’s on his way out. The Byz-Lats now belong to his cousin Fiasco and it’s time for him to sit in the big boy chair and make some decisions of his own. Fiasco agrees to push the junk and once again everybody is happy.
Jax promises to deal with Barosky in his own way and once they get the Irish gun deal locked down, everybody can move the pieces into place. The entire situation feels like a powder keg with a half lit fuse slowly burning towards an explosion, but for now things are settled. For now.
Before he leaves, Nero asks to share a few minutes with Jax. He’s heading to his uncle’s farm tomorrow to get the place ready for his son Lucius and it’s almost as if he knows this is a last goodbye to share with his friend. Jax asks Nero to take Wendy and the boys down to the farm with him and of course Nero jumps at the chance to do it. He’s wanted to pull Abel and Thomas away from this violent world all season long and now Jax is not only allowing him to do it, but he’s giving him his blessing in the process. Jax tells Nero he appreciates him looking out for his boys and there’s a real sense of finality in these moments. The two hug.
For the past few seasons Nero was the father Jax never really had in his life. His actual father JT died when he was still just a boy. Clay was no substitute and probably saw Jax as a vague memory of the friend he murdered more than he ever did an actual son. Nero was the person who wanted more for Jax than the life he chose just like a real father would do. He counseled him and got harsh at moments. They even exchanged a few punches, which many fathers and sons tend to do as almost a right of passage. Except it appears, on the surface, as if Jax and Nero have faced down their final journey together.
Nero eventually makes it to Jax’s house where he share the good news with Wendy that they are getting out of town for a few days. The boys will frolic around the farm. Lucius will spend time with his dad. Most importantly nobody has to die and nobody has to witness the kind of awful things that have taken place over these last few months. It’s a good place for the boys to be while their father finishes his other business.
The Longest Road
Gemma is asleep in her car at a truck stop when a driver comes up and politely knocks on her window. She’s parked in a truck lane and he needs a place to park. Underneath the hat and the kind words hides Michael Chiklis — the star of Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter’s last show ‘The Shield’. Sutter has said for the last seven years that he loved working with everyone on the show and many of the cast members have made appearances, but Chiklis was probably the one person he could never put on the series. Since he was the star of ‘The Shield’, there was just no easy way to introduce him to Sons of Anarchy in an organic way. It seems for a cameo in the next to last episode, it was time to invite Chiklis to the family.
A few winks later, Gemma is sitting and having a smoke when the trucker approaches her again. They start bantering about family — he has four kids and an ex-wife and his name is Milo. Gemma says her name is Rose (her mother’s name, which she used previously in the show as well) and she has no kids at home. She asks where he’s headed and it seems this produce driver is going north to get a load of tomatoes. Gemma asks for a ride and he thinks she’s propositioning him for some truck stop prostitution.
“How’d we get from kids to cocksucking that quickly?”
She promises that’s not what she’s after. She just wants to go visit her father in his home one final time and even though he has Alzheimer’s and won’t know who she is at least in Gemma’s mind she’ll know she went there. But what about her car? What about the bag she packed? Gemma says she doesn’t need them anymore. She knows what’s coming for her and she’s finally settling all of her accounts.
When he drops her off, Gemma heads inside to the place where she put her father a couple of seasons ago with Tara’s help. Inside the caregiver informs Gemma of some bad news — the only person listed on Nate’s paperwork as a primary signee is Dr. Tara Knowles. Gemma has to tell the lady that Tara is dead. Typically, I’d be expecting Gemma to dropkick the office worker or find some snide way to call her a bitch, but instead she’s as gentle as a lamb and offers up her identification and a way she can verify her identity. The receptionist complies but in the process calls Jax’s house for verification — Wendy is the one who answers and gives the information but now she knows Gemma has gone to see her father.
Gemma finally gets clearance to go see her father and as she walks in it’s clear he’s no longer the man she grew up with but she still needs to say goodbye. He doesn’t remember her name or who she is, but wonders if she’s someone from the church. Deep down, Nate is still and always will be a man of God. Gemma apologizes to her father for all the hell raising she did as a kid. The way she handled herself and made life extremely tough on him and her mother, Rose. While it’s tough to feel sympathy for Gemma after everything she’s done, Nate looking up at her and asking why she looked so sad was definitely heartbreaking.
Before she leaves, Nate finally has a spark. He remembers a girl named Gemma — she was the one who loved playing in the garden and looking at the flowers. It was all so simple then. Gemma leaves to go to his house and what will eventually be her final resting place.
The Awful Truth
As the day started, Jax had Chucky make a call from the garage for Unser to go make a pickup with the tow truck. When he arrives, Jax pops out from a van and surprises the former Charming chief. Unser immediately suspects the worst. Jax has other ideas.
He needs Unser to call off the all-points bulletin for his arrest. In exchange he’ll tell him the truth about Tara’s murder. Unser loved Tara and wanted nothing more than to find out who was responsible for killing her. The cancer that’s been eating away at him for seven seasons hasn’t caught up yet, but before he shuffles off this mortal coil, Wayne needs to know how Tara died so he can bring her closure.
Jax finally unloads the truth on Unser, whether he likes it or not. Gemma was the one who killed her. Brutally and without mercy. Juice then killed Eli and the two of them covered it up and then set the lie in motion that eventually started a war with the Chinese and got Bobby killed, got 16 women at Diosa killed and put the Sons at odds with their own charter. Unser’s blown away by everything. He agrees to drop the charges against Jax so he’s free to roam around town without the cops chasing his every move.
Unser wants to arrest Gemma and bring her in if they can find her, but Jax can’t allow that to happen. He’ll deal with Gemma in his own way, but more importantly the news that she was responsible for Tara’s death can’t be revealed. If the Chinese and the rest of the people involved with the recent war in the street find out the attacks were completely unprovoked then it might just open up a wound that’s still healing. Unser agrees to let it go for now, probably because Gemma is gone in the wind and he doesn’t expect her to come back any time soon. When Jax leaves, Unser retires to his car where he cries and mourns for the news he just received.
One side note — the tears Unser cried were likely for the truth he just found out, but I have to wonder if he’s really feeling that he might be partially responsible for what happened. Let’s not forget, Unser went back to Gemma’s house last season and told her that Tara made a deal and Jax is going inside. He gave her false information and Gemma believed Tara ratted and was going to get Jax sent to prison. That’s when she rushed off, stole Wayne’s truck and went to Jax’s house and eventually confronted Tara. Unser was the catalyst to the entire ordeal. He doesn’t acknowledge it verbally in the episode, but it’s impossible to forget that in a way he set this entire chain of events in motion.
Back in prison, Juice is still in the infirmary when he finally gets a visit from the men responsible for putting him there — the last remaining Chinese Triad members looking for revenge for whoever killed Henry Lin. Juice still has a little fight left in him as he refers to the ring leader as Jackie Chan, but the banter only gets him so far.
The Chinese Triad leader says that he knows Ron Tully and the Aryan Brotherhood set up the Lin hit and now they’ve been given the green light to kill Juice, but curiously he’s still standing. So they decide to charge him with another job — but before they do a line of Chinese prisoners are going to run a train on him. Juice’s second trip to prison is way, way worse than the first.
At dinner that same day, Juice gets some alone time with Tully and tells him what’s going down. The Chinese have given him the mission to kill Tully as revenge for Henry Lin. Tully tells Juice that he’s sort of blowing the element of surprise by giving out all this information. The truth is Juice is just giving his own last rites. He has no intention of killing Tully and if the Chinese kill him, the AB gets blowback from the club. So he hands over a scalpel to Tully and tells him to do it instead, but he has one final request.
“Just let me finish my pie”
The wayward Son finishes his cherry pie and Tully orders his men to start a fight as a distraction. Juice stands up from the table and awaits his fate. Tully takes him from behind, wraps an arm around his chest and whispers in his ear.
“You went out good, sweetheart”
Tully proceeds to jab the scalpel into Juice’s neck repeatedly as the blood starts gushing out. Juice’s fate was sealed the day he revealed he killed Darveny to Nero and even by accident sold out his club president. His situation only became more dire when he decided to cover up Tara’s murder to help out Gemma. Juice finally came clean in the last episode and he knew by doing so he was signing his own death warrant. As badly as he wanted back in SAMCRO, the only way he could go out with honor was to die in a pool of his own blood while protecting his club from the Chinese at the same time.
Poor Juice became such a tragic character and in this Hamlet on Harleys story he is truly Laertes. Just like Laertes in the classic play, Juice asks for forgiveness in the end and Jax gave it to him but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to die. Now Juice is gone. No son, no shine. His final resting place on the cold steel of a prison gurney, a sheet pulled up over his face. Goodbye, dear friend.
Side note – Theo Rossi if you ever read this, get ready to have a lifetime of cherry pie delivered to you wherever you go in life. Somebody will always buy you a piece of pie. I guarantee it.
Meeting Mr. Mayhem
With no cops on his tail, Jax heads back to Red Woody where the presidents from all of the other Sons of Anarchy chapters have gathered to take action after he killed Jury a few episodes ago. The members of SAMCRO are on edge because they know this meeting could end in a very bad way.
Jax goes inside and meets with Packer (played by Robert Patrick), Gaines (the Indian Hills president who took over for Jury) and two more local chapter leaders. Just like he promised, Jax comes clean with everything. Jury never confessed, he lied. It was Barosky who set them up. He admits that when Jury fell and went for his gun, he never gave him a chance to tell his side of the story because in that moment it was kill or be killed. The rest of the presidents are stunned.
Gaines wants to settle this for his dead president and he doesn’t care if Jax is the leader of the mother charter or not. He killed a member in cold blood.
“Mayhem has to land.”
Packer reluctantly agrees because as much as he understands the grief and anger Jax was dealing with after Tara’s murder, this is still no excuse to gun down another member, much less kill another president. The mayhem vote has to be had. The presidents and the members of SAMCRO will gather in a few days and decide. A unanimous vote means Jax will die by the hand of a Son. Anything else will save his life, but it’s clear from Jax’s demeanor that he’s already sure where the vote will land. He’ll make sure his guys support it as well.
Packer: “A president killing a president. Sends a dangerous message.”
Jax: “I’ll make sure they vote the right way.”
One final thing before this meeting ends — Jax wants to eliminate an old bylaw that was added from his dad’s day starting the club. The other presidents agree that it will be a unanimous vote, but the law is never spoken about. It’s clear this is Jax eliminating the rule not allowing men of color to enter their ranks. If Jax leaves behind one legacy for the Sons of Anarchy it’s that they will admit the best possible members regardless of the color of their skin. It seems the Grim Bastards will soon be patched over and the Sons of Anarchy will have an Oakland chapter working in unison with the guys in Charming. Jax never wanted to pick up the gavel and become Clay, but in the end he may have done worse things to tear his beloved club apart. It was the last thing he meant to do, but the deed is done.
“It’s been a privilege to wear this President’s flash. I’m sorry I couldn’t live up to it”
When the meeting disperses, all the guys from SAMCRO want to know the results. Jax isn’t ready to give them the information yet, but promises it will be all good. He’s not prepared to tell them he probably just sacrificed himself for the greater good and expects them all to vote in a way that ends with his death. Chibs is especially concerned but Jackie Boy isn’t giving up any answers. Before he can get pressed too much, the guys get a call from the Irish that a meeting has to take place.
Irish Eyes Are Smiling
Part of the deal with the Mayans and the One-Niners is predicated on August Marks’ gun trade being handed over from the Irish. When Jax tries to broker the deal, the Irish contact in America Connor Malone scoffs at the idea. He already had to work really hard to get the Kings of Ireland to sign off on the idea of working with someone like August Marks and now the man who built that deal is burning it to the ground. There’s no trust left in this partnership.
It seems Connor was the one who couldn’t be trusted.
When the guys show up at a local Irish owned business, they walk in to find a dead body and Connor’s No. 2 man tied to a chair. Rourke, the Irish contact from the Kings is there as well and he’s got a message for SAMCRO. It seems Connor was going behind the backs of the IRA and selling guns to contacts connected to August Marks and keeping the profit for himself. Just like Jimmy O before him, Connor is getting greedy and he needs to be dealt with swiftly and harshly.
The problem is that’s two contacts in a row who have pulled off this maneuver right under the nose of the Irish Kings. They can’t have it anymore, but they also can’t allow news of this to reach back to the Emerald Isle. So the deal is this — if Jax and SAMCRO can hunt down and dispatch of Connor quietly and in a way that could never be traced back to the Kings, they will sign off on at least a temporary deal to work with Alvarez and the Mayans as the new gun runners in Northern California.
Jax has no choice but to agree. There’s one big problem in this entire deal — where the fuck is Connor Malone?
The only play they have left is to ask the One-Niners to contact him directly and ask for a buy of guns. He has no idea the One-Niners are working with SAMCRO yet, but he does know they work with August Marks. So this is a way to get Connor out in the open so SAMCRO can snatch then kill him without it ever getting back to the Irish how it all actually happened. Tyler agrees to help but only under one condition. He’s followed along with SAMCRO’s lead for week, but he needs to get some shit out of this deal already. So Tyler tells Jax he needs to help eliminate the remaining Chinese threat up north so the One-Niners can officially take over.
Jax agrees to help and in return the One-Niners will set the meet with Connor.
Time is Running Out
In the midst of the madness, Wendy calls Jax to check in and let him know about their trip to the farm with Nero and the boys while also making sure it’s all good for her to go. She also lets slip that the nursing home called to verify Gemma’s identity, which means she’s gone to Oregon to see her father. It’s all the information Jax has needed. Wendy also tells Nero the same information while revealing she already told Jax about it. Wendy has no clue that Gemma killed Tara, but Nero knows what Jax is going to do with the information.
He races off to the garage and meets up with Unser. He’s about to tell Unser the truth about Tara’s murder, but the former police chief already knows all the ugly details. Well, now Jax knows those same details and he has Gemma’s location. Nero begs Unser to go after Gemma — arrest her, put her behind bars, anything just get to her before Jax arrives. Unser is sure Nero is doing this because he still loves Gemma.
Nero isn’t trying to save Gemma. He wants to save Jax. He knows what killing Gemma will do to Jax. That’s the kind of pain that never goes away.
Unser races off to find Gemma as Jax climbs on his bike to make the same journey.
In the end, Unser manages to arrive first and as he gets to Gemma’s father’s house, he finds her on the floor looking at old photos and listening to big band records on the stereo. He brought his badge and gun because this will be an arrest. At least she’ll live for another day. The problem is Gemma won’t budge. She’s not interested in getting arrested. She doesn’t really seem interested in living at this point. Unser’s had enough and he finally starts to call it in to the Oregon State Police when the roar of a motorcycle is heard outside. Just as Unser opens the door, Jax stands on the other side.
Gemma’s unwavering stare is finally broken as she looks over at her boy. When Unser claims to have already called the cops, Gemma yells that he’s lying. She knows what’s going to happen and cops arriving would only interfere with that. Actually, Wayne being there in the moment is interfering as well.
Jax tries to get Unser to leave, but he’s not moving. He pulls his gun on Jax and Jax does the same to him. The two former friends are staring each other down, finger on the trigger as Gemma stares up from the floor.
Unser: “Look where we are Jax. What we’ve all become. This has to end here.”
Jax: “I know. I know. Go home Wayne.”
Unser: “I can’t do that. This is all I got left.”
And in maybe the most shocking moment in all of Sons of Anarchy history, Jax without flinching puts a bullet in Unser’s chest. The longtime ally of the club falls over dead. It barely registers with Gemma, who is almost catatonic at this point. The way Jax sees it, Unser got in the way in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only way to remove the obstacle was to destroy it so he did. Unser survived cancer, a few different wars taking place between various factions and even manage to set up a Federal officer to be murdered and never ended up in harm’s way. Now he’s dead with a single gunshot wound to the chest.
In the Garden
With Unser dead, there’s no where left to go and no one left to save Gemma, but she already knew that. She tries to explain that she loved Tara, but Jax doesn’t want to hear any of this. She killed the woman he loves. She robbed his children of having a mother. She took away the person that meant the most in the world to him. She did it viciously and without mercy. Now he’s going to show her the same courtesy.
Before they go any further, he does ask if she still has a copy of JT’s manuscript — The Life and Death of Sam Crow — and she confesses that she does. It’s hidden in a storage locker along with birth and death certificates. It seems Jax wants to pass along his father’s prophetic message to his club maybe as his last give as president. Don’t forget what’s also hidden in that same box as the manuscript — the missing letters that JT wrote to Maureen Ashby that implicated and proved Gemma was involved in his death on the highway. Will Jax find those letters and feel even more vindicated for what’s about to happen next?
Gemma asks to go out into the garden, which is the same place she loved so much as a child. It was the one memory her father could gather from his disease riddled mind and that’s where she wanted to go. Outside, the white roses gleamed in the moonlight and Gemma walked down a path before stopping cold in her tracks. Jax walked up from behind, cocked his gun and prepared to do what he came there to finish. He wanted to avenge Tara’s death and kill her killer.
He hesitates for a moment. This is his mother after all. She loved him above all others. From the time he was born until now, she never stumbled and she never fell. Gemma loved Jax with all her heart, but she also crushed his the day she plunged a carving fork into Tara’s head. She knows it’s time to go so Gemma offers words of encouragement to her son.
“I love you, Jackson from the deepest, purest part of my heart. You have to do this. It’s who we are sweetheart. It’s okay. My baby boy. It’s time. I’m ready.”
As soon as her final two words were uttered, Jax found the strength to pull the trigger. As Gemma’s face exploded and blood went flying, the white roses were turned to red. This wasn’t a sign of love. This was a sign of death. Gemma’s death.
The matriarch is dead and she’s not coming back.
Jax takes one last look at the sky maybe wondering if Tara is looking down on him. He turns and leaves as his mother’s body lays face down in the dirt. For all the heart wrenching losses that have happened on this show — Opie, Bobby, Tara — the one that always felt justified and maybe even a little overdue was Clay finally dying by the hands of his stepson. For only the second time in the show’s history have I felt an action was equally justified. Gemma’s sins went back more than 30 years and while she’s paid for being a part of the life, when she murdered Tara there was no coming back. There was no more redemption. Her father told her before she left his side that God forgives everyone. That may be true in a Biblical sense, but there was no forgiving Gemma for everything she did to rip her own family apart at the seams. She got what she deserved. Unfortunately, her death might be the final thread that unravels in what’s left of her son’s life.
Blood on My Hands
The last scenes of the episode are set to a musical montage because that’s only fitting for Sons of Anarchy. Tig, Happy and the guys are out hunting down the remaining Chinese Triad members along with the One-Niners, gunning down a street crew and then a card game. Chibs knowingly spares one random prostitute, maybe feeling mercy because of what happened at Diosa? Either way leaving a witness doesn’t seem like the best idea but we shall see.
Jax finally goes home for the night and the opening shot that captured his pristine white shoes getting laced up is reversed as he takes them off after a very, very long day. This time one shoe is covered in blood. Gemma’s blood. But Jax doesn’t seem to care. He left Gemma and Wayne exactly as he left them because when the police come calling, it’s safe to say Jax won’t be there to answer. He tucks the shoes away as Wendy comes out to check on him. She still has no clue what just happened, but the two of them share a tender moment and finally kiss.
It’s been a long time coming this season and Wendy takes him into the bedroom where they share a passionate night in the bed they once shared. Wendy said a season ago this was the one place her relationship with Jax made sense. In this moment, sex was the best possible distraction for Jax so he wouldn’t have to wrap his head around the awful shit that just took place hours earlier. His church offers no absolutes. Wendy allows him to worship in the bedroom. She takes in his sin. But Jax isn’t forgiven and he isn’t free.
He’s just buying time until tomorrow comes.
Notes of Anarchy:
— The song the closed tonight’s episode is titled “Make It Rain” as performed by Ed Sheeran and originally written by Foy Vance. He also had a song featured earlier this season called ‘Paper Prince’.
— Guest stars galore in this episode — Michael Chiklis as Milo the trucker. Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as the receptionist at the nursing home. Robert Patrick returning as Packer. And Emily Putner — the homeless woman/guardian angel — pops up at the truck stop looking for change in the vending machines. Probably one last look at this mystery character before the end.
— This is the final episode directed by executive producer Paris Barclay as well, who worked with Sutter on ‘The Shield’ and will also direct the pilot for his new series ‘The Bastard Executioner’.
— No word on guest stars for next week’s episode, but T.O., the leader of the Grim Bastards is one name who will definitely appear. Maybe the Bastards get patched over before the end?
The final episode of Sons of Anarchy airs next Tuesday night at 10pm ET on FX titled ‘Papa’s Goods’ and it will be written and directed by show creator Kurt Sutter. Don’t miss it and make sure to come back to visit us for one more recap of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ when the final ride comes to an end.