Sons of Anarchy Manages to Diffuse an Explosive Finale

As you may have noticed, I don’t review Sons of Anarchy on a weekly basis as I usually only do that with one show at a time. But with the way this season of Dexter has gone, I almost wish I had made a different decision, as at almost all times during this fall, Sons of Anarchy has been the best show on TV.

This isn’t a new phenomenon,since the show was superb in seasons two and three, with the finale of the latter being one of the most jaw dropping hours of televisions I’ve EVER witnessed. I wanted to at least touch on this fourth season’s final episode, even if I’ve missed discussing all those that came before it.

What I have written about SOA recently is that I discovered that the show is a loose interpretation of Hamlet, with biker gangs subbing in for nobles. But the real meat of that is that there’s a son (Jax) haunted by the ghost of his father (John) and he must rise up and kill the king (Clay). With Jax discovering ALL Clay’s misdeeds last episode, including killing his father, his best friend’s father and trying to kill his wife, it seemed clear what had to be done.

Not exactly an honor killing, but it would have done.

This is the problem with successful television. Sometimes you’ve built an arc that’s perfect for a penultimate conclusion, but the high ratings of your show force you trudge onward even if creatively that’s the wrong decision. It happened with Lost, it’s happened with 24, it’s happening with Dexter, and now it seems like it might be the case with SOA as well.

This should have been the series finale, with Jax killing Clay amidst a shitstorm of chaos. What we got instead was an ultimate anticlimax. It wasn’t a horrible ending per se, but the entire tension of the last eleven episodes was instantly diffused by a few strokes of the pen on the script.

The RICO case was dissolved when it was revealed the Galindo cartel was working with the CIA and their operation had to continue unimpeded for the “stability” of Mexico. Otto flipping was stopped for the same reason, and Juice’s record was wiped clean out of the kindness of the DA’s heart. Worse yet, Clay was forced to be allowed to live so the deal can go through with the Irish which is what the CIA demands, lest they take down the entire club.

“We’re with the CIA, holmes.”

Don’t get me wrong ,it was an expertly set-up way to allow the club to escape disaster at the last minute. The best seasons of shows are when all seems lost, but then things resolve themselves in a completely unexpected manner. It happened with Dexter, when it seemed he would be identified as the Bay Harbor Butcher in season two. It happened in 24, when Jack Bauer volunteered to sacrifice himself to detonate a nuclear bomb to save millions. It happened last season in Sons, where all appeared to be coming crashing down, but then the script was flipped which created an exceptionally satisfying finale.

This wrap-up was smart, but it wasn’t satisfying the way last season’s was. Yes, it was very cool to see Jax finally take his place at the head of the table, but it seemed like the entire season was building with a slow boil but the burner was turned off at the least minute. This would have been a PERFECT way to end the series for good in my estimation, but the show will live on for as long as the numbers are there. Few shows actually volunteer to quit while they’re ahead (really only Seinfeld comes to mind), but I just hope Sons doesn’t wear itself thin as I’m not sure how long it can keep up this sort of breakneck pace.

So next season we’ll tune in to see what gangster the club has pissed off by Tig accidentally killing his daughter, and we’ll see what the CIA wants from the club and how Jax handles a neutered Clay. But even before this stuff happens, I really think this was the season to end it all, and I just hope the show can keep delivering after deciding to press on once more.

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  1. Could have been a great way to end the show. Going to be hard to build up this level of tension again. But I trust the writers to be able to do it.

    Anyone else notice that Juice was watching the Shield while in prison? Another great FX show that was able to wrap up the whole story pretty effectively. Lets how Sons can do the same when its their time.

  2. As did Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica ended on its own terms.

    And, no, Eddie Olmos’ refusal to let the show go (see: the very shitty The Plan and that Adama comic book shit he’s working on, which both feature little to no involvement from Ron Moore) doesn’t count.

  3. On the episode itself, I loved it. Sutter is commited to seven seasons (whether he gets that or not is to be seen), and I think that would be great. The episode is one of my favorite kinds of episodes for a so called “action drama” show in that it turns your expectations (especially for a season finale) on its head and doesn’t feature tense actions scenes and “now or never” cliffhangers and such. It went for a good quiet slow burn fallout episode, picking up the pieces from this season to move on into the next. Really, after all the shit that went down this season, I don’t want them to rush into a finish and just say “Oh, well, everything went to shit. Night, folks!”
    I don’t think we have anything to worry about, and I guarantee this episode will be appreciated a lot more in a year or two. One only has to look at The Shield, where Sutter pretty much learned the ropes of this type of show to see that we can wander on the rug for a good while before we have to have it yanked out from under us and get the finish we’ve been waiting for.

  4. The season 3 finale twist gave us unexpected vengeance and satisfaction, and season 4 has been building towards a similar ending with Clay being killed, only to have the twist take that away in a reverse of season 3.

    So it’s not as immediately mind-blowing and satisfying, leading to a lot of people being disgruntled with it, but I like where it’s leading for season 5. Kurt Sutter has said so many times he wants 7 seasons and that the S4 finale would feel in some ways like the end of the series rather than being just over halfway, and I’m actually interested to see what happens with Jax as president and Clay sitting at the other end of the table where Piney (RIP) was.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with you review of this season/episode… I really hoped the writers of this series had the balls to just finish the great story they had build up during the past seasons.

    Although the ending of this episode isn’t a complete letdown, there explanation for RICO backing off is believable and the fade out to the old picture of Gemma and teller is promising, I do really hope the writers pull it off to continue this great series.

    So nothing left to do but hope that next season i dont have to look back and think about what could have been……..

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