Several shows are completing their final season — Boardwalk Empire (Oct. 26), Parenthood (Jan. 29) and Two and a Half Men (Feb. 19) among them — but none of them I’ll miss like Sons of Anarchy. SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) is an outlaw biker family formerly headed by the late Clay Morrow, following the death of founder John Teller. JT’s son, Jax (Charlie Hunnam), now runs the club, aided by Bobby (Mark Boone Junior), Tig (Kim Coates), Chibs (Tommy Flanagan), Juice (Theo Rossi), plus myriad members who have come and gone during the past seven years.
SOA — the finest TV show since The Sopranos — had the highest ratings this year of any series during FX’s 20-year history, and with good reason. It’s also one of TV’s most under-appreciated shows, virtually ignored by the Emmys, Golden Globes and any other award recognizing talent and creativity. SOA thrived for eight seasons under Kurt Sutter’s guiding hand and produced some of the finest performances ever, starting with Katey Sagal as matriarch Gemma Teller. Widow of John Teller and mother of Jax, Gemma scares the crap out of everyone, including most club members. Well, it’s not that they’re scared of her, they just don’t want to get in her line of fire, figuratively or literally: she wields a mean Glock. She’s also gone through two husbands and is working on a third: Nero Padilla, played by the understated Jimmy Smits. Sagal created one of TV’s most intensely complex characters. Much as I love Edie Falco, Carmela Soprano is no Gemma Teller.
Interestingly, Drea de Matteo — who played Adrianna, Christopher’s girlfriend, in The Sopranos, is also in Sons. She plays Wendy Teller, a recovering junkie, Jax’s ex and mother of his oldest son, Abel. Unlike Adrianna, Wendy climbs out of the hole she’s in and proves to be the one bit of stability left in Jax’s life after the murder of Jax’s wife, Tara (the magnificent Maggie Siff), by Gemma.
When Jax is told that a Chinese gang killed his wife, he goes on a killing rampage; when he finds out that it was actually Gemma who, in a misguided fit of rage, killed Tara, he is filled with remorse over the carnage he left in his wake. He knows what he must do, and so follows Gemma to her childhood home and kills her in the rose garden. The amazingly talented Dayton Callie, as ex-police chief Wayne Unser, tried to protect Gemma from the first episode but can’t — Jax also kills Wayne when he tries one last time to protect her.
SOA‘s last season brought the show full circle. Jax never wanted the club to become the savage group that it is, and he failed on all counts. When he’s censured by the club, Jax faces death by “Mr. Mayhem” — the club term for the elimination of a member. But SAMCRO can’t do it: he must ride off into the sunset on his late father’s bike and choose the manner of his death. Unlike The Sopranos, we have a clear ending: Jax rides into an oncoming semi. DOA for SOA; may they all rest in peace.