Sons of Anarchy Season 7 Review “Red Rose”


Last night’s episode of Sons of Anarchy truly marked the end of an era. Let’s get right to it – last night’s episode was all about three characters tying up loose ends and preparing themselves for their impending date with Mr. Mayhem:

Juice

I am genuinely relieved that Juan Carlos Ortiz is finally out of his misery. Like Clay, Juice had long outlived his usefulness on the series. I appreciate that the writers tried to keep the fan favorite around by tying him into exposure of the respective acts of betrayal by Barosky and Gemma. The cost of keeping Juice around, however, is that we had to watch him be sexually assaulted repeatedly. In just a few short episodes, Juice became the new Otto – giving his body and his life to the club. Even at the very end, Juice was still thinking of the SAMCRO and still trying to act in the club’s best interest. With any other character, it would have come off as pathetic, but with Juice, it was just a tragically sad ending for a character that could not find value in his life without the club. In an episode that clocked in at a whopping two hours with commercials, the writing could have been much more efficient by leaving most of the Juice scenes on the cutting room floor. However, I appreciated watching another strong performance by Theo Rossi, so I won’t complain too much.

Gemma

With only two episodes left in the series, I was starting to accept the possibility that Gemma might be the last one standing – even if she was standing alone. There are so many parallels between the storytelling in Sons of Anarchy and another show on which Kurt Sutter served as a writer, The Shield. I was fully open to Gemma ending the series alive if it meant that, in the end, she would get the Vic Mackey treatment. I won’t elaborate any further on that for those who may not have watched The Shield.

As Gemma’s farewell tour continued, I suspected that she would be dead by the episode’s end. An episode titled “Red Rose” had to be Gemma’s swan song. Despite the somber tone of the episode, the Michael Chiklis cameo was a fun, unexpected surprise. As many fans of Sons of Anarchy and The Shield know, Kurt Sutter has always maintained that it would be impossible to bring Walton Goggins and Michael Chiklis on SOA without fans thinking of them as Shane and Vic. In a season 4 episode, Sutter gave fans a bit of a tease when Juice was in federal lockup watching an episode of The Shield, which was technically the first appearance of Chiklis on the show. After the brilliant way in which the writers brought Goggins on, I should have known that before the final ride was over, we’d see Chiklis. Milo was a great way to allow Gemma to be her quick-witted, snappy self one last time before the character was killed.

I have mixed feelings about the writers’ decision to have Jax kill Gemma. On the one hand, I love what the moment means to the series as a whole. Despite all of her faults, Gemma’s love for Jax has always been pure and sincere. However, her ability to compartmentalize the things she did out of what she viewed as a necessity – like plotting with Clay to kill John Teller, keeping a seemingly endless number of secrets and murdering Tara – destroyed her relationship with Jax and culminated with him putting a bullet in her head.* Jax killing Gemma is especially sad when you reflect on the close, loving relationship they had in season 1.

*As an aside, I got a good chuckle out of the incorporation of flowers into Gemma’s final scene. It was very reminiscent of a season 4 episode of The Walking Dead – a show that Sutter has criticized on numerous occasions.

Alternatively, I hate that Jax killed Gemma because of what it means for Jax. Like Nero, I wanted Jax to be saved from having to carry out such a heinous act. When Jax pulled the trigger I mourned for the long-haired, bright-eyed optimistic antihero we met in season 1, who was inspired by his father’s transcript and wanted to fulfill his father’s vision for the club. Granted, most of those parts of Jax died with Opie and Tara. Whatever traces of optimism I had for Jax’s future died the moment he pulled the trigger.

Jax

Like Juice and Gemma, Jax exuded a very calm resolve about his fate as he worked to wrap up loose ends. In particular, his confession about Jury to the other SOA presidents and failure to share the details of that conversation with the brothers in his chapter, confirmed that Jax was at least prepared to deal with being voted out of the club. Worst case scenario, Jax goes to the farm with his boys and has a painful tattoo blackout session with Happy. Sure, there would have been a mayhem vote, but at that point in the episode I could still see the possibility of the club having mercy and allowing him to walk away with his life. After Jax coldly killed Unser and shot Gemma in the head, I felt much less optimistic about that mayhem vote that will likely go down in next week’s finale. I’m sure that Jax is overwhelmed with guilt over what’s become of the club, his SAMCRO brothers and his family, but it’s hard to watch him accept not only his deadly fate, but the fact that he will be leaving Tommy and Abel without a father. Seriously, how does Abel bounce back from so much loss?!?

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. I could be completely wrong about Jax’s future, but I’m decidedly preparing myself for the worst next week.

Other thoughts and observations . . .

– I could have done without Jax and Wendy having sex. I would much rather have watched him tell Wendy that Gemma killed Tara.

– Loved the Ed Sheeran song at the end of the episode.

– I really hope that Nero, the kids and his collection of cardigans make it out of Charming alive. Keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn’t “buy” the farm in the proverbial sense.

– I’m guessing Jax’s request of the SoA presidents was for them to end the restriction against Black club members. SAMCRO could definitely use the numbers, but I’m not sure how this “diversity initiative” works in light of the club’s very recent partnership with Tully’s white supremacist gang.

– I’m sure Jax has a plan, but he’s going to have one hell of a time trying to get the Redwood chapter, especially Chibs, Happy and Tig, on board with any plan that ends with his ouster and/or death.

– I wish there had been some discussion between Jax, Wayne and Gemma about John Teller’s murder. Unless Jax finds another copy of the letters and records that Tara may have stashed away for a rainy day, that storyline will always feel a little underdeveloped for me.

– I like to think that Wayne dying in the service of Gemma would be happy ending for him. A very stupid ending, but a happy ending for him nonetheless.

– I still believe that allowing Gemma to live alone and in shame would have been a much better punishment for the character. I also think giving Jax permission to pull the trigger was much harder on him than it was on her. Even in death, she still kind of comes out on top. Damn it, Gemma!

– If Jax dies at the hands of a club member, it would be a fitting parallel to Gemma’s death – with both characters being killed by who/what they love dearly.

Until next week!

Only one more episode remains, fellow Sons of Anarchy fans! Sound off below with your thoughts and predictions!