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FX (ended 2014)

Sons of Anarchy S06312: "A Mother's Work"

Sorry fellas and lady fellas, Kaitlin is off for the week preparing her unauthorized and incredibly invasive James Wolk biography, so it's just me tonight. And since no one is here to keep me level-headed... I'm apologizing in advance to all Sons of Anarchy fans who enjoyed this episode.  

So who wants to talk about the first 65 minutes of Sons of Anarchy's Season 6 finale? Yeah, me neither. Season 6 has been a test of endurance for me, with series creator Kurt Sutter taking full advantage of FX's thin fall schedule and consistently pushing past the typical 60-minute runtime mark (one-hour dramas generally run for 44 minutes, with 16 minutes of commercials). And tonight's finale "A Mother's Work" was the longest of all, an 80-minute marathon that took up two hours of primetime television because... ummm... I have no idea why.

Other super-sized episodes of Sons of Anarchy felt slightly extended with scenes that meandered, but a few minutes of extra run time were tolerable even though it was a repeated offense all season long. However, "A Mother's Work" felt drawn out and stretched thin beyond the extra lingering shots of Jax doodling in his notebook or one character holding a glance a few seconds longer than necessary. There were full scenes that didn't belong in "A Mother's Work" that disrupted any pace the episode was trying to build and had the same effect as warm milk or half a bottle of whatever pills Juice took. And it's a shame, because all that waiting around weakened the thunderous and HOLY SHIT finish when we look at the episode as a whole. And we should look at the entire episode. if Sons of Anarchy wants those awards that Sutter is so obviously envious of, he'll have to make a show that's good from start to finish and not rely on his trademark moments of insanity to bring in the gold. Because that ain't happening the way he's doing things.

As far as I could tell, the first hour or so was mostly about finding Tara, or Tara making sure a deal was in place that was to her liking, or Nero struggling to pick a side. While these things are important to the story, they took a hell of a lot longer to develop than they needed to, turning a large chunk of the episode into quicksand. And for every scene that perked up my attention (Jax and Tara in the park was fantastic), there was a scene that shouldn't even be included in the Superfan Sons of Anarchy Complete Series Deleted Scenes DVD set. Did we really need to see Wayne and Wendy, two characters who barely mattered to the season at all except for creating stalling tactics, sit around a table and talk about Wayne's ex-wife or Wendy's ex-girlfriend? This is the season finale, let's get that smackhead bitch off the screen so we can deal with the people we actually care about, okay, show?

What we did manage to wring out of the first part of the episode is that Jax changed his mind and took a big one for the club. And his decision came from an unusual source: DA Patterson. She gave him a lesson in how a man with testicles should act. Own up to your business, take charge of your situation, and do what you have to do to protect your family. That manifested in Jax deciding that he would take the blame for the guns and the school shooting and probably Unser's cancer, too. Basically, he's going down to save Tara and his boys. It's a decision I wasn't entirely comfortable with him making as it came from nowhere and never sat atop a well-constructed foundation. It would have been nice to see some catalyst for his decision process, or the instant the decision was made. And maybe next time Tara could show a little remorse or sadness that her husband and father of her child was potentially going to jail for 25 years? The grin on her face was something else.

Jax making such a sacrifice would arm the emotional landmine for the episode's final moments. It's not surprising that Tara died, I think we all saw The Reaper's shadow hovering over her all season long. How she did, well that's another thing. It's fitting–and somewhat lame–that Gemma would be the one to *ahem* stick a fork in Tara. (Yes, I realize it was a BBQ poker thingy, but c'mon, let's call it a two-pronged fork for wordplay's sake.) And I hope I got this right: Gemma was drunk from her breakup with Nero when Unser told her that Jax was getting arrested because Tara turned on the club even though that wasn't the truth, because Jax was voluntarily giving himself up. But Unser got that intel from his police connections (why are the police calling an old man with cancer who isn't really a cop anymore with this info?) and accidentally fed Gemma wrong information, which sent Gemma out on a trip to murder Tara. Yes, Unser was a bit of an idiot here, giving a powder keg of drunken anger a flamethrower and not following up on her (and also being silly enough to leave the room when Gemma clearly wanted to get on the road in her inebriated and pissed-off state).

In the end, this means Tara was killed over a misunderstanding and a spiteful old lady sauced on half a bottle of whiskey, which really drops a turd on the season's entire main story of Tara leaving with the kids. After all the flipping and flopping and restraining orders and pacts with the authorities, Tara was stabbed in the back of the skull with a BBQ prong over an old man's assumption relayed to a shitfaced grandma. Tara's death? Shocking. Sad. But the way it unfolded? Kind of stupid, and it didn't make everything before it coalesce into something that made sense. Sons of Anarchy has been fond of AHA! moments in season finales with varying degrees of success, but this was more of a HUH? moment that didn't even try to take the season full circle. Tara died because the finale needed some sort of tragedy, and getting things all the way to the point where Jax was ready to sacrifice everything for Tara makes Tara's death all the more painful for Jax. But this was practically an accident. Again, Tara's death was brutal and depressing, but it also ended up being weightless from a narrative perspective, a tough draw for a character that deserved a better exit. It was a similar sayonara to Clay's in that it was senseless to the series. It was the soap-opera turn we all expect and love from Sons of Anarchy, but it's not the quality dramatic storytelling we hope for. 

Adding to the carnage was Juice's shooting of Roosevelt to make sure Gemma wouldn't get stuck with a murder charge. It's a believable move for Darkest Timeline Juice because anything is possible with this guy, but it's a sad end to Roosevelt and another HUH? moment. Remember Opie's death? That stung and had purpose. I guess I'm looking for more meaning behind the deaths of Tara and Roosevelt other than soapy shock value. And maybe that meaning is a lesson: blood and death will follow SAMCRO and Jax no matter where they go because that's how this life in the MC goes. There was Jax as the episode faded to black, learning that lesson firsthand on the kitchen floor with his dead wife in his arms. If that's the case, message received. Again. 

"A Mother's Work" gave us those painfully sad moments and character deaths we love from a season finale of Sons of Anarchy, but not a whole lot more than that. But that's a fitting way to end a season that hasn't been anything more than blood and misery drawn out into ego-stroking hour-plus episodes. Season 6 has been sloppy and loose since the beginning, and though noteworthy for many shocking events (Clay! Tara! T-M blowing up!), it has to be one of the worst seasons of the series. Sorry! That's my opinion. Okay, you may now call me an idiot in the comments.  


– The show lost all hope of me taking it seriously with that early close-up shot of a dove getting run over by Jax's motorcycle. Sons of Anarchy can't be silly and serious at the same time, yet it clearly wants to be both.

– Jax grabbed Juice's head and totally Godfathered him with a "You betrayed me!" I expected shit to go down between the two of them, but Jax just went about his day and walked back into the ice cream store. Was Juice killing Roosevelt a way to do right by Jax?

– Any chance Patterson tries to pin Roosevelt's murder on Jax, or what?

– The Mayans betrayed Marks' boys in one of the most obvious turns of the season. Did I miss something, or did that not get back to Jax? Didn't Chibs know?

– From Jax's opening monologue: "I have tremendous remorse for the acts of violence I've committed, both planned and spontaneous. But I think what brings me the most sorrow, is that I've learned to justify this behavior. I always find a reason, a cause a need, that allows me the karmic lubrication to stuff my guilt into a savage compartment. I've become the thing, the one I hated." Oh really, Jax? Your way of showing remorse is to do more and more violent things.

– Tara on the run is SHOCKED when Jax finds her... at one of Abel's favorite parks. Couldn't you pick a better spot to meet clandestinely with your lawyer than a place Jax is already familiar with?

– The thing I'm most interested in heading into Season 7 is the developing gang war. Throwing Nero over to the Mayans' side potentially against SAMCRO sounds like a fun time to me. 

– But it looks like the big conflict in Season 7 will be Jax versus Gemma instead. We all thought it would be Jax versus Clay, which it should have been, but Clay's a goner. I guess it pays to be married to the show creator.

Sons of Anarchy loves to populate its world with characters, but then finds itself wondering what to do with them. Think about Collette and Charles this season. Why were they even added? Poor Kim Dickens showed up, took her clothes off, and that's about it. Maybe she'll matter more next season, but as for Season 6, I have no idea what her point was. The same for Charles (Robocop), but he'll be important to Season 7 if the Mayans continue to work in Stockton. Maybe the show should have waited until next year to bring these characters into the fold.

– Thanks for reading our reviews all season, and we'll see you for what should be the final season next year!

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 12/9/2014

Season 7 : Episode 13

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