Sons of Anarchy 3.13 ‘NS’

After a season that took SAMCRO to Ireland and back, the finale served as a bookend, with Jax laying his “NS” ring on his fathers headstone next to the “SO” he left there in the premiere. It marked the completion of his journey to find Abel, and the end of his soul-searching about the direction of the club, at least for the time being.

“I’m done listening to dead men,” he declared in “Bainne”, after learning that his father was not quite the heroic idealist he had built him up to be.

“NS” was a very satisfying episode, both emotionally and narratively, and did much to lessen the sense of restlessness many viewers felt this season. Between Stahl, Father Ashby, and Jimmy O, the Sons were manipulated and thwarted at every turn. No one could argue that Kurt Sutter and the writers were just arbitrarily throwing challenges at Jax and the club for the sake of tension.

On the contrary, they were perhaps too ambitious in stretching out the story to expand on the background of the Sons and their Irish history. So many characters were introduced from the Belfast charter and the IRA that it was difficult to become invested in them (although the iPhone app goes a long way towards filling in little gaps–a must-have for any Apple user/SOA fan).

But as Sutter explains, it was important to take the guys out of Charming and deepen the show’s mythology. Based on the finale, I can see what he means by that, and I think that the so-called “unevenness” of Season 3 will be diminished in hindsight. Everything that happened has already taken effect on Jax and his relationships, with his family and with his club. That character development really grounded the storytelling this year, and Charlie Hunnam did his best work of the entire series.

“NS” began with a montage of perfect moments. (Stahl’s inclusion was a case of “Which of these is not like the other?”) Jax and Tara, Clay and Gemma, Jax and Abel, the whole club together–they were all happy. It was for this reason that the warmth in my heart was followed by dread. Surely something or someone would ruin this. Wasn’t this a theme of the show? These people have chosen a life outside traditional society, and that life requires sacrifices–just ask Donna, or Half-Sack, or anybody.

It seemed like too much to hope that all the secrets and troubles that have been ruminating throughout Season 3 could end in anything but bloodshed and tragedy. And then like the con that Jax pulled on Stahl, I fell for Sutter’s con–because this time (even if only this time), the Sons got to win. After everything they’ve been through over the past few seasons, they deserved it.

I didn’t even mind the anxiety they put me through, waiting for something to go wrong in the deal with Stahl or with the Russians, and then fearing what would happen to Jax after Stahl told Clay and the others that he was a rat. Then that moment–that amazing reveal when Jax and the guys began to laugh in the ATF truck–made it all worthwhile.

We don’t know when Jax brought his arrangement with Stahl before the club. That seems to have bothered some viewers like Mo Ryan at AOL TV, but I loved being tricked and watching everything fall into place.

Unser, removing his badge and service weapon to go perform his part in the deception, because he knew he couldn’t do so as a cop. Despite his earlier misgivings, he chose his side–he was with the Sons. Bad things happened because of them (Zobelle, Hale), and bad things happened beyond their control (Stahl, Salazar).

I think he ultimately decided that he would rather be part of the SAMCRO family and make some morally ambiguous decisions than suffer in righteous indignation, alone. As usual, Dayton Callie is astounding in the emotion he can convey with the smallest glance or gesture. It will be interesting to see the role he plays in Season 4 when he’s no longer Sheriff.

Chibs, finally getting his revenge on Jimmy for the scars on his face and the pain of being separated from Fiona and Kerrianne.

Opie, sitting in the car behind Stahl and making her feel what Donna felt.

Gemma, relief washing over her as she read Jax’s letter and understood that he had protected the club and his family.

Now it feels like a fresh start going into the hiatus until Season 4. Jax, Clay, Tig, Bobby, and Juice, will be doing short-time in prison for the guns charge that has been looming since Season 2. Piney, Opie, Chibs, et al, will run the club while they’re gone. When the guys get released, Tara will be taking care of Abel and her baby, and she will have had a year to process what she read in JT’s letters to Maureen Ashby.

It should come as no surprise that this Shakespearean “tale of blood and woe,” as Sutter calls it would be borne out of a devastating betrayal. Jax will emerge from prison renewed in purpose and devotion to the club, a clear leader and heir-apparent to a business that now extends to a massive gun-running deal with the RIRA. Contrary to what he believes, the Ghost of John Teller is still very much alive.

Other highlights from “NS”:

-Katey Sagal never ceases to amaze with the power of her performance. The standout moment for me was her scene with Stahl in the jail. Gemma has called this woman some mean names, spewing anger and threats, but here it was replaced by a real sadness, almost a pleading with Stahl to understand what she was doing to Jax: “I promise you–it’ll end badly.” Stahl passed the point of human empathy a while ago, though–as Sutter has described, she became more evil than the evil she was hunting. Ally Walker has been a tremendous asset to the show, but it was time for that bitch to die.

-The cameo from Sonny Barger, real-life leader of the Hell’s Angels, as Lenny the Pimp, one of the First 9 doing life in prison. It adds a certain special quality to Sons of Anarchy to know that someone from from that world respects the show enough to be a part of it.

-Chucky, finally having something more to do than act as a diversion!

-We didn’t delve further into the feud between Tig and Kozik, after learning last week that it began over a dog, but I hope we see Kenny Johnson again in the future. He has been a great addition this season.

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