If you had no idea what was going to happen in the final 20 minutes of last night's Sons of Anarchy, you weren't alone. The Season 3 finale "NS" brought to a close another thrilling—albeit occasionally frustrating—chapter of the drama, with a flurry of events that were masterfully planned by our hero, Jackson Teller.
First, I'll say this: It was nice to see things go well for SAMCRO for a change. Aside from free beer and sloppy parties with porn stars, it seems like being a member of SAMCRO is little more than a constant rain cloud overhead, what with all the murder, kidnapping, car-bombing, and drive-bys. I'm guessing the happy ending had something to do with creator Kurt Sutter looking at feedback from the Season 2 finale, which ended with the bad guy getting away and Jax howling for his baby boy as he watched an Irish bloke boat away with him. It wasn't exactly an uplifting moment. Not so with last night's finale. Both bad guys got it, things ended with a clean break (or as much as going to jail for 14 months can be considered a clean break), and in the final scene we actually saw Jax smile. Imagine that!
The most stirring part of last night's episode was the split-second after Agent Stahl ratted out Jax to SAMCRO, leaving him to be torn apart by his brothers. In a series overflowing with way-high ups and plummet-to-the-bottom downs, I can easily single out that instant as the moment when my heart sunk the lowest. I was absolutely devastated, and that's a testament to my affection for the character of Jax Teller, a bad boy bound by loyalty but torn apart by honor. He's a man I'd follow into battle, and when he felt betrayed, I felt betrayed as well.
But the joke was on me, as that double-cross by Stahl was part of Jax's hidden plan. I don't think we'll ever know when Jax told the rest of SAMCRO about his idea to save the club and get rid of some pesky flies, and I don't think it matters. Jax did what he had to do to save the club and those he loved, and if that meant lying to his mother and girlfriend, getting in bed with Stahl, and riding too close to the edge, then that's what he was going to do.
Let's have a moment of silence for Agent Stahl, who gets my vote for this year's best villain. Was anyone else this year so evil? So self-motivated? So incredibly bitchy? It was Ally Walker's excellent performance that drew us in, but it was Stahl's unflinching determination and consistency as a character that made her character bring out our bloodlust. We wanted to see her head on the sharp end of a stick, but we also loved having her around. I can never get enough of Walker's crazy eyes.
Season 4 is a long ways away, but we can guess at what's in store for SAMCRO. With the Irish problem resolved (we think), the Russians might be the next opposing force. Slimy Jacob Hale and his weird hair are climbing Charming's political ladder, so he'll be a major obstacle next season as well.
But as was hinted at in the closing moments, Jax's biggest problems may lie a little closer to home. As Jax takes after his dad more and more, the possibility of a Jax-Clay showdown becomes greater, and that's something I've been dying to see since the series' pilot. Did John Teller's note hint that Clay and Gemma were behind his death? Given Sutter's past work, I wouldn't be surprised.
Looking back on Season 3 as a whole: Overall, I enjoyed this season almost as much as Season 2. I wasn't a huge fan of the hunt for baby Abel and the trek over to Ireland; like most fans, I like to see SAMCRO operating in Charming. The Stahl and Salazar storylines were the highlight for me, and kept my interest when the Irish storylines got too confusing—at one point I think there were (exaggeration alert!) 300 storylines to keep track of simultaneously, and in my opinion, that's a bit too much.
What did you think of the finale and of Season 3 as a whole?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom