“THIS IS ALL I’VE GOT LEFT.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
Damn, that was heavy. While we’ve been expecting several of these deaths for a long time now, watching it all play out was possibly the darkest Sons of Anarchy has ever been. Gemma, Juice and Unser all met their maker here in violent fashion. They were all killed either directly or indirectly by Jax, which is quite fitting considering the roles each of them played in Tara’s murder. Unser revealed information that led to Tara’s death, Gemma killed her and Juice helped cover it up. While Wayne was the least guilty of the three, his devotion to Gemma was his true undoing in the end.
So let’s talk about Gemma. She went through her own period of acceptance throughout the episode. At first it seemed like she may be fleeing, but in the end she just wanted to see her father one last time. There was none of Gemma’s trademark self-preservation on show here, with her returning to one of the places she knew Jax would most likely find her. Katey Sagal has done a fantastic job throughout the years playing Gemma, and her time spent with her father was quite touching. Gemma is a character who has quite rightly been loathed by a large amount of the show’s fan-base, but I’m glad she ended up making it this far. In a way, Gemma is the catalyst for every single thing we’ve seen on the show so far, and her death here will go down as one of the biggest moments of the entire series.
Jax shooting his own mother is an incredibly dark turn of events. After the last episode or two, it looked like Jax might be willing to spare his mother, but in the end he couldn’t. The moment of hesitation in the garden, followed by Gemma basically telling him it had to be done made the scene all the more heartbreaking. As I mentioned above, very little tears will be shed for Gemma, but this also completely destroys any hope of some sort of redemption for Jax. You could almost say any hope went out the door the moment he shot Unser. Unser has been a key figure in the show from the very beginning, which is funny considering he supposedly didn’t have much time left due to his cancer. He was one of the more morally righteous characters on the show, but his love for Gemma led him to do some stupid things over the years. It was tough watching Jax gun him down, but Unser was given every opportunity to leave and he just couldn’t do that.
Juice was another character who had been living on borrowed time for quite a while now. Juice had also come to terms with his impending death, and he decided to go out on his own terms. It would have been easy for him to align with the Chinese to prolong his life for another little while, but he fittingly went out protecting the club. It’s easy to feel a little sympathy for Juice this season, especially with the repeated rape he has endured. As with Gemma though, he was only in that situation because of his own actions. He lied, cheated, betrayed and killed to save his own ass, and making sure the Aryan Brotherhood killed him was the only way he could gain some sort of self-redemption.
With those three deaths, the whole Tara’s murder angle is kind of closed now. There’s no doubt that her death will continue to cast a shadow over the series finale, but Jax has gotten the revenge he so badly needed. The most pressing issue left for the finale will be what fate Jax will meet. A “Mayhem vote” has been called to see whether he will be executed for murdering Jury. I loved that scene with Jax and the other SOA charter presidents. It was just so refreshing to hear him take 100% responsibility and accept the truth. His apology also rang completely true. The most important part of this meeting could be the law that Jax asked them to change. We weren’t privy to what exactly this law was so I have to assume it’s going to be significant in the finale. At this stage I don’t think Jax really cares what happens to him. In an episode full of characters accepting their fate, Jax also seemed resigned to his when he asked Nero to take Wendy and the kids down to his farm with him. He also didn’t even attempt to cover up the murders of Gemma and Unser, and even brought his blood-stained clothes back to his house with him. All of this points to Jax understanding that he’s out of time, and his romantic reunion with Wendy at the end of the episode may prove to be a goodbye.
As a big fan of the excellent police drama The Shield, it would be remiss of me to not mention the surprise appearance by guest star Michael Chiklis. Sons of Anarchy and The Shield have always had a big connection, with SOA creator Kurt Sutter being heavily involved with the making of The Shield, and a large amount of actors appearing on both shows. Chiklis was the final member of The Shield’s original “strike team” to make an appearance, and it was a nice bit of fan service thrown in there. Chiklis was effective in the role of trucker Milo, as he simply gave Gemma somebody to talk to as she made her final journey. Also making an appearance during these scenes was the mysterious homeless woman who has appeared periodically throughout the series. Speculation has been rampant over the years, with theories ranging from her being Jax’s real mother to her being an angel. We got a little bit of information last year when it turned out she was Brooke’s mother, who had apparently died in the same accident that killed John Teller. With this likely to be her final appearance, we may never know for sure whether she had simply survived the accident or if she is ghost. Her appearance in Belfast during season three and the fact that SOA is regarded as a modern retelling of Hamlet point to the latter.
“Red Rose” was a completely gripping and bloody penultimate episode that wrapped up the loose ends from Tara’s murder in one fell swoop. This being Sons of Anarchy though, there are still loose ends left to be tied up in the finale. Jax’s plan for peace amongst the various gangs rests on him finding Conor for the IRA. I like how they’ve tied the IRA back into things as they have a long history with SAMCRO. Charlie Borowski also remains at large, and he certainly has a lot to answer for. It’s been seven years in the making, but we’re finally reaching the end of the road on Sons of Anarchy. Now all that’s left to do is make sure the finale sends the show out on a high note.
What fate is in store for Jax after the events of “Red Rose”? Is there any possible hope of redemption, or will Mister Mayhem come calling for him in the finale? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
97/100 – ‘Superb’
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