In the Sons of Anarchy series finale recap, we say goodbye and go on one final ride with Jax Teller and the Sons of Anarchy….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
If there’s a common theme in most of Shakespeare’s tragedies it’s the fact that the main character sooner or later met his/her demise. There is a reason they were called tragedies after all.
When Kurt Sutter typed the first pages of his outlaw opus ‘Sons of Anarchy’ more than seven years ago he based the central outline on two principles — this would take place in the world of an outlaw motorcycle club and it would be loosely based on the story of Hamlet. He didn’t try to hide the fact and the show ended up with a nickname of its own — Hamlet on Harleys.
But in the end like all tragedies, the story had to end with death and in this case the person was Jax Teller.
One could argue that he was destined to die the minute he threw his leg over a Harley and accepted a patch from the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original. His father, John Thomas Teller wanted no part of this life for his son. He was trying just before his death to get his club out of gun running and back on the path he original envisioned for them — a brotherhood and commune for like minded freedom seekers that couldn’t be tied to a desk or work a 9 to 5.
Jax tried to move his club in the same direction that his father wanted, but he was thrown off course as well in a hail of gunfire, drugs and dollar bills. And then when personal tragedy struck close to home, Jax became even worse than the monster he believed was responsible for his father’s death.
In the opening moments of the debut episode of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ following an explosion and a fire that puts the club right in the crosshairs of a potential war with another faction in town not to mention local law enforcement, Jax tells his stepfather Clay some very prophetic words that still rang true up until the moment when he drove his motorcycle into an oncoming tractor-trailer
Jax: “It ain’t easy being king”
Clay: “You remember that”
Ring of Fire
The final episode of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ titled ‘Papa’s Goods’ opened the morning after Jax came home from murdering his mother Gemma and Wayne Unser in his revenge trip to finally get payback for the death of his wife Tara. He wakes up in bed next to his ex-wife Wendy before getting dressed and ready for the day. He puts on his rings and picks up the box full of notebooks he’s been writing in since his sons were born as his own manifesto so they could understand their father just a little bit better. Every time Jax wrote in those journals, it was a cathartic place for him to go while dealing with a shattering world around him, but the words were meant to based down from one generation of Tellers to the next. It was the same thing his father did when he wrote ‘The Life and Death of Sam Crow: How the Sons of Anarchy Lost Their Way”.
It was a message he could leave behind in case he wasn’t around one day just like his father wasn’t around for him.
Jax puts his bloody Nikes in the trash and for the first time in the history of the show, he puts on a pair of biker boots before putting on his cut and heading out on his bike. He visits the ruins of the burned out clubhouse before gathering some paperwork from inside the Teller-Morrow garage.
From there he visits the storage locker where his mother told him he could find the last manuscript from his father. Instead of handing it over to the club or using it as some last rite of passage, Jax burns it along with all of the notebooks he pored over while trying to send a message to his sons one day.
From there he heads to the graveyard where he visits his best friend Opie and leaves behind his SONS rings. The last time he did this was in season one when he left the same rings behind on his father’s grave. And finally, Jax went to see his wife Tara at her gravesite. It was a place Jax hadn’t been since she passed because he just couldn’t quite wrap his head around her being gone. Instead he enveloped himself in rage and revenge rather than sadness and loss.
Jax kisses Tara’s grave and his final ride is off.
It’s a New Day
There weren’t a lot of happy moments in this final episode of Sons of Anarchy but there was one in particular that was a sign of the times. When Jax met with the other club presidents and asked for a particular bi-law to get wiped out of the Sons charter, the logical guess was this had to do with racial lines that divided the club from every inviting anyone in with a color of skin that was just a little too dark.
The presidents agreed to the new rule so in one of his final official moves as president welcomes in Toddarius Orwell Cross, or T.O. from the Grim Bastards as you may know and love him, as a full patch member of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original. It’s a move that’s embraced by all the brothers and T.O. officially joins the ranks of Charming’s most wanted.
Across town, Wendy is putting the final touches on packing to get ready to travel to Norco with Nero and a stay on his uncle’s farm. Nero arrives, but when he finds out Jax didn’t get home until 4am and no one has heard from Gemma or Unser, he already knows what probably happened. He makes a stop by the garage and Chucky gives him even more proof that the news is not good. Unser never made it back and Gemma is still missing in action. He searches through Unser’s tin can, but there’s nothing there except the ghosts of an investigation he was conducting where apparently he had Jax pegged as a suspect. Love can cloud a mind like you wouldn’t believe, even one as sharp as a former chief of police.
Following the vote to bring T.O. into the fold, Jax and the rest of the guys go to meet Tyler so they can finish up things with Connor and the IRA. Tyler put a call in and has a meeting set up with Connor to ‘buy some guns’, when in reality it’s a set up so SAMCRO can eliminate him and get back in with the Irish. Unfortunately, Connor’s paranoia pays off for his long term health because he shows up early and spots the Sons before getting into a mad dash across town in a classic car chase scene.
In the midst of the car chase, Connor ends up going through a warehouse that stores baby dolls and much to Tig’s horror he’s showered with them while trying to catch up. A severe fear of dolls is a phobia passed along to Tig from creator Kurt Sutter so it’s hard to tell just how difficult this scene probably was to shoot.
Connor’s evasive tactics pay off and he’s able to skip in front of an oncoming truck, which cuts off the Sons as he makes his getaway, but don’t worry he’ll be back sooner rather than later.
Passing the Torch
Jax’s long string of goodbyes all but guarantees his death early on in the episode, but there are still a lot of questions remaining about how he’ll get there. He makes sure to tell Lyla he loves her — she was the last connection to his best friend Opie. On the roof, Jax calls to Chibs and brings him up to share some news that he’s not going to like, but he has to hear.
Jax informs his No. 2 that when he met with the other club presidents their final verdict was a mayhem vote. Chibs immediately shoots down the idea that the club would ever vote to have him killed, but before even sharing the news with him Jax made him promise that he would follow through on whatever orders he gives. We don’t hear what he tells him exactly but the message is clear by the stunned look all over Chibs’ face. The final message Jax gives his vice president is one of leadership because it’s something that will affect him in the hours to follow.
Jax: “This is how you learn to be a leader, brother. Doing the shit that hurts the most. Shit you’d rather make someone else do. It’s a part of the gig. It’s how you earn respect. I need your word you’re going to do ask you’re asked.”
Chibs: “You have my word.”
The Irish show up with Connor’s right hand man Hugh and Jax soon unleashes his new plan. He kills the two IRA members guarding him and informs Hugh that he’s going to snap pictures of the dead bodies and send it to Connor as proof that he got the drop of them and he’s really in the clear. It’s the only way they can flush Connor out of whatever rathole he’s hiding in after the car chase.
They meet at a designated warehouse, but as soon as Connor walks inside he’s greeted by the members of SAMCRO, who were there waiting for him. Seems so simple, right?
The IRA show up seconds later to come face to face with the man who betrayed them. Connor thinks he’s done for until Jax pulls out his weapon and shoots Brendan Roarke in the face while the other Sons and the Mayans take out the rest of his crew. Connor stands in stunned silence at what he just witnessed.
Jax’s new plan involves getting rid of the IRA all together. Connor will deal his rogue guns directly through the Mayans and their ports in Northern California and in exchange they will deal with any blowback that happens as a result of this little green mess just made with a dead Irish king. Connor agrees to the deal of course because he would have been a dead man otherwise, but as Jax turns and leaves he makes sure the boy king knows what he just did when he assassinated a member of the Irish Republican Army. A smile creeps across Jax’s face before he shows his hand.
“My old man tried to sever that tie 20 years ago. Better late than never.”
A Criminal and a Killer
With the gun business now settled with the Irish and the Mayands and the One-Niners in place in Oakland, Jax has some personal business to tend to back at Teller-Morrow. The papers he was collecting earlier were deeds and other property papers needed for what was about to happen next. He finally meets up with Nero before laying his plan out for the future.
He’s giving the garage and his houses to Wendy with the purpose of selling everything and using the money to set up some place new with his sons. She can go to Norco with Nero or set up back east, as long as the end of the road doesn’t lead back to Charming. His half of Diosa and Red Woody goes to the club to sell so they can buy Scoops as a new meeting spot. Obviously, Jax is planning for a future where he’s no longer around to do any of this himself. Nero doesn’t see the writing on the wall at first until he realizes once again what Jax was doing the night before.
Remember two episodes ago when Jax first learned about Gemma murdering Tara as he tried to wrap his head around what to do next. Nero warned him that if he killed his own mother, there was no coming back from it. Jax seems to agree.
“I’m sorry. I did what I know how to do. What Gemma knew had to be done.”
~Jax to Nero
The other message Jax asks Nero to pass along to Wendy is the truth about the life he led. At some point all of his secrets are going to come up and he doesn’t want his boys to be hidden from any of it. This goes back to Unser’s speech last season when he told Gemma that there’s nothing romantic about this life. It’s just dirty and sad and it’s only going to get worse. He was right.
This also goes to the heart of why Jax burned his father’s manuscript and all the notebooks he wrote to his sons. Jax is cutting all ties because any link to the past might draw them back in the same way he was seven years ago when his father started speaking to him from beyond the grave. The only way to ensure that his sons don’t grow to have some kind of fondness for him later in life is to ingrain in their heads that he was a bad man who did bad things.
“This is who I am. I can’t change. 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. 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.”
When Nero asks Jax where he’s going, he dummies up and just says he doesn’t know but he’s already written his ending. Jax just has a couple of more chapters to go through before he gets there.
Outside of the garage as Nero packs the car, Jax says one final goodbye to his boys, kisses Wendy and tells her that she really is a good mom. With tears in his eyes, Jax climbs on his father’s motorcycle that he’s been quietly restoring all season long (go back and see various episodes to watch the transformation of the bike that once sat in the clubhouse painted light blue and now it’s been full re-commissioned with a slightly darker color). He says goodbye to Chucky and he’s on the road again.
The Hard Truth
District Attorney Patterson reappears for her final time after missing most of this season due to actress CCH Pounder landing a lead role in the new CSI series set in New Orleans. She first visits Sheriff Jarry to see where the police are at in the Tara Knowles murder case. Jarry has to share the bad news that all of their leads of just crashed into dead ends and the one witness they had is now dead (Juice). Despite all the bumps in the road, Patterson still has plenty of faith in Jarry. She’s the right person for this job and Patterson knows that to be the sheriff who gets dropped in the middle of a blood war, Jarry has to play the middle from time to time, bending but not breaking. It’s not clear if Patterson knows Jarry is on the take or currently banging the vice president of Sons of Anarchy, but her words ring true either way.
Before she goes, Patterson informs Jarry that Jax Teller called her office to ask for a meeting later that same day.
When the D.A. leaves, Jarry makes a beeline over to Red Woody to have it out with Chibs one more time. Pattersons’ speech about her being the right one for the job turned her back into Captain Do-Gooder so Jarry has to officially break things off with Chibs and tell him to shove his envelope full of cash where the kilt don’t shine. Chibs is ice cold in response. He first thinks this is the typical dance they do where she can’t handle his life and he can’t handle hers and then they end up having sex on top of a cop car or slapping each other silly before ripping each other’s clothes off. Jarry is having none of it this time. She’s all business and Chibs will get no pleasure.
In return, Chibs passes along a word of warning to the new reborn sheriff over Charming, California about what happens when law enforcement decides to go against instead of work with the Sons of Anarchy.
Chibs: “Because cops who land on the wrong side of us tend to go away.”
Jarry: “Are you threatening me?”
Chibs: “Don’t have to. History doesn’t lie”
Jax arrives at Patterson’s office and her agenda is on another page than what she expects out of the outlaw king. She’s seen the escalating violence around Oakland and knows it’s payback for what happened to his wife, but no one is talking and there’s no proof so she’s helpless unless he cooperates. Patterson is stunned when Jax agrees to give her everything on the record in a statement.
He proceeds to tell her that Gemma is the one who murdered Tara in a fit of rage and Juice killed Eli Roosevelt to protect her. They made up the lie about the Chinese being the ones at fault, which then led to his rampage through Stockton and Oakland killing anyone close to Henry Lin. He gives Patterson the address to his grandfather’s house in Oregon where Gemma is with Unser so the authorities can find them. While the truth is a beautiful thing, Patterson has to wonder about payback once the real killers are brought to justice and the gangs on the street realize this entire war was started thanks to one colossal lie.
Jax tells her to go off the record and he informs her that by the end of the day anyone in dire need of revenge has been informed or they’ve already moved on. She’s curious what he means and why he was so specific about the end of the day.
Patterson: “What happens at the end of the day?”
Jax: “The bad guys lose”
Meeting Mr. Mayhem
The club is in chapel at Red Woody and Chibs has already informed everybody about what has to happen next. They need to take a vote on mayhem for Jax and this has to be unanimous and unwavering. Chibs fights back the tears as he opens up the floor for a vote. Each member quietly passes a yes around the table, but no one can quite muster the strength for more. It’s a heartbreaking moment as Chibs lays down the gavel for the first time and he’s handing out an order to kill a man he loves like family.
“Jax Teller meets Mr. Mayhem.”
While the club is voting on Jax’s very life, he’s out finishing the business he started earlier and tying up a few loose ends. The first stop is Barosky’s bakery in Stockton. In this situation, Jax is a man of few words. He walks in, pulls out his gun and unloads several rounds into Barosky’s head and body. In another life, Jax would have rather given him the snow globe treatment for what Barosky’s betrayal cost them with Diosa’s staff getting cut down and a grenade getting tossed into their clubhouse as well as West being murdered.
Jax leaves Barosky’s and heads downtown to the courthouse. Before he gets his next piece of work done, Jax runs into the infamous homeless woman that’s been haunting him ever since this series first began. She always seems to show up in a moment of peril and just happens to be wandering by at the most crucial moments in or around Jax’s life. He finally stares at her and asks who she is exactly, but instead of responding, the woman puts down the half eaten loaf of bread next to a bottle of wine and hands him the blanket she was wrapped in before he arrived.
“It’s time” she tells him before grabbing her empty stroller and walking away. Following the episode, Kurt Sutter said the homeless woman was whoever the fans wanted her to be and he would never put a label on her. The theory I’ve been working with since the beginning is that she’s a guardian angel and has been looking over Jax ever since he was born. She took the form of a woman who died alongside his father as some way to comfort him in those moments when they finally ran into each other. The fact that she was eating bread and drinking wine (the blood and the body of Christ) just further proves my point.
The blanket she gives him comes in handy because the next time Jax is spotted, he’s disguised underneath it on the steps of the courthouse when who walks out but August Marks, fresh from jail. He’s thinking about a city council meeting, but doesn’t notice the “homeless” person just a few feet away. As soon as August walks by, Jax pops out from under the blanket and fires round after round into his chest. As August takes his last breath, he has to wonder how this outlaw got the best of him.
Don’t feel too bad August — Jax got one over on Damon Pope as well and he did far more damage in the long round.
Goodnight Sweet Prince
Jax heads back over to the warehouse where his brothers are waiting for his arrival. The vote has been had and his fate sealed. He takes off his cut and tears the president patch loose before handing it over to Chibs — he will be the new president of SAMCRO. In turn, Jax cuts off the vice president patch currently occupying Chib’s right breast and the new king hands it over to Tig, who will now serve at his left.
Jax takes out his gun and lays it on the table before Happy and Tig each put a hand on his shoulder. Just when it looks like Jax will meet his end at the hands of his closest friends, Chibs fires a round into Happy’s forearm but there’s no eruption or surprise. This was planned all along.
Chibs promises to tell Packer and the other presidents that Jax laid down some gunfire, shot Happy and got away before they could get to him. Jax shares a final moment with his club saying goodbye to them individually. Each one is harder than the last. When he finally reaches Happy, there are tears in his eyes. When he gets to Tig, the embrace is hard to let go. One last hug for Chibs and he’s finally off to meet his maker.
As he gets heads outside and gets ready to sit on his father’s biker, Jax turns to his club and says the same thing his best friend uttered when he sacrificed himself to save everyone else.
“I got this”
While Jax rides on the open road, Jarry finds out about the murders he’s been committing all over Northern California and issues an all points bulletin for his arrest and capture. Jax has no plans of ever seeing the inside of a jail cell. In Oregon, police find Gemma’s cold body on the ground and Unser’s inside the house. More evidence of the bloody trail Jax was leaving in his wake.
In the end, Jax visits the spot where his father died for a conversation he never got to have while he was alive. JT Teller tried to pass along a message that he didn’t want this life for his son, but things got lost in translation. Jury White intimated to Jax several episodes ago that when JT died it wasn’t a result of a sabotaged motorcycle or just bad luck. JT’s time was up and he went out on his own terms. As Jax stared at the spot where his dad died, it appeared he was going to do the same.
“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. Happens when you try to get right with both family and patch. The fear of guilt crippled me. I realized as I think you did, a good father and a good outlaw can’t settle inside the same man. I’m sorry J.T. It was too late for me. I was already inside it. And Gemma, she had plans. 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.”
A police cruiser happens upon Jax as he’s sharing a moment of peace with his father. Jax climbs on his bike and the officer demands otherwise so he fires a few rounds in his general direction. Jax gets back on the motorcycle and tears off to the highway.
Meanwhile, Nero and Wendy are just miles away from a new life in Norco, raising Jax’s sons far away from Charming and the ghosts that will forever haunt that town. Little Abel is coloring in the backseat before he reveals a ring around his finger — it’s the Sons ring Gemma gave to him a couple of weeks ago. Is this cycle just destined to happen again or is this just a final reminder of the family he’s leaving behind?
The boys from SAMCRO sit in a melancholy funk after saying goodbye to a brother, a Son, a best friend and a leader. Tig is comforted by his lady-love Venus, who gently caresses his hair while he tries to deal with the loss of another person he loves. Patterson is on the scene where Barosky was shot dead and now she knows what Jax meant when he said the bad guys would lose. He was going to make sure of it. Chibs sits at the front of the table, gavel to his right, reaper in front, while he silently reflects of the events of the day.
The police give chase with one car becoming two and two becoming ten until an entire armada is behind Jax as he cruises down the road. He left his helmet and sunglasses at the site where his father died because he knows he’s not coming back to claim them.
Jax continues to drive until an 18-wheeler comes down the same road and the driver happens to be Milo — played by Michael Chiklis — who also gave Gemma a ride to Oregon in last week’s episode. He’s driving a truck of organic tomatoes from Papa’s Goods thus the title of the finale. Jax spots the truck and realizes this is was inevitable. He lets go of the handlebars, closes his eyes, raises his hands and meets fate head on.
In the road, a pair of crows are eating away at a chunk of wine-stained bread. The same bread the homeless woman was eating. The same bread and crows that were in the first ever shot of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ seven seasons ago. When the crash happens in the distance and Jax Teller expires, his blood streams across the street as the scene fades to black and the reaper appears for the last time.
Jax gave everything he had to this life and it took the life out of him. Now it’s time to be at peace. To be with at his father’s side. To be back with Tara.
Just to be.
There were more than a few tears shed at my house when this episode aired and while some finales fail to live up to expectations, this was 77-minutes wrought with emotion from beginning to end. The finality in Jax’s every move this episode let us know that when it was done, he wasn’t coming back, but the real heart of this series finale was written in the journey. We had to see how he got there. And now his journey is done.
‘Sons of Anarchy’ succeeds in ways that so many other shows have failed when it comes to a perfect beginning, middle and end. I’m not hiding the fact that this happens to be my favorite television show from past or present, but there was always going to be that trepidation if the series didn’t end as strong as it started. Instead, the series finale was beautifully executed and the modern day telling of Hamlet comes to a close.
Shakespeare would be proud.
Notes of Anarchy:
— The track that opened the show was “Adam Raised a Cain” by Bruce Springsteen, which was a rare treat because ‘The Boss’ rarely lends his songs to television shows. He’s composed tracks for films before like ‘Philadelphia’, but Springsteen hardly ever gives permission for one of his tracks to get used in a film or television show. Maybe even ‘The Boss’ knew just how grand this ending would be.
— The track that closed the episode was written by Kurt Sutter and performed by The White Buffalo and The Forest Rangers. Rather fitting considering Kurt is the show creator, The Forest Rangers are a band that came to life thanks to Sons of Anarchy and The White Buffalo has had more songs featured in the show than any other artist.
The song is called ‘Come Join the Murder’ and you can pick it up on iTunes today.
— Fat Ass in My Face was the last Red Woody production before the end of the show. Yeah, that makes perfect sense really.
— Kurt Sutter will begin pre-production on his next show ‘The Bastard Executioner’ early next year with hopes of a fall 2015 debut date. Hopefully, he will also revisit Charming one more time for his series ‘The First 9’ surrounding the genesis of Sons of Anarchy and the first nine members to form the club.
—The final screen after the show ended were lines from Shakespeare’s original play:
“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
~ William Shakespeare