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Sons of Anarchy Review: Playing Jax

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We knew it would come down to this, didn't we? Son vs. stepfather. Vice President vs. President. Charming vs... anywhere but Charming.

On "To Be, Act 1 - the first part of a Sons of Anarchy season finale that will wrap up next Tuesday - the shocking conclusion to last week's episode was revealed to be mere fodder for the decision that will alter the future of SAMCRO, as Tara and Gemma played a game of Jax and viewers were left wondering which path their pawn will choose:

Destiny or family?

Jax in Jail

Jax sees into his possible future. Will he escape SAMCRO being turning out like Lenny?

Gemma initially made a compelling case for the latter. This has been her end game for the last few weeks: get the letters, come (mostly) clean to Jax, give him the motivation he's been seeking since season one to truly make a move on Clay, take over the gavel and become his father's son in the way those manuscripts inspired him to be many years ago.

But Gemma underestimated her protege. Tara may never want to be Gemma (she has no interest in being the de facto SAMCRO Old Lady), but she's clearly been taking notes, both in manipulation and in taunting.

I'm smarter than you and I know Jax better than you do. He's mine.

Did anyone see that coming?!? Tara has seemed on the verge of losing her mind over the last couple weeks, but she apparently discovered it just in time to outmaneuver the woman who is always planning six steps ahead.

I do question why Gemma needed to wait this long to make her letter-based move. Couldn't she have gone to Tara right after Clay killed Piney and made the same plea then? Urged Tara to give her the letters, so she could hand them to Clay and end his murderous mission to destroy all evidence of his hit on JT? I'm not clear why Gemma insisted that Unser frame the enemy cartel for Piney's death when Clay as the trigger man was a key argument in her discussion with Tara.

This season has been absolutely riveting, but if you stop and think about a few plot points, it feels like the show has had to contrive a few secrets/machinations in order to drag out the tension for 14 episodes.

But that 14th installment won't be a series finale. We know Jax will stick around Charming. We know there are at least three seasons remaining of Sons of Anarchy if Kurt Sutter gets his way (at the very least; with its ratings, FX may push for more). We know the club will look different next year, but not so different that Jax won't be a part of it. So what could keep the vengeful SOAer in town?

I hate to speculate (editor's note: that's not true), but... he could get caught trying to kill Clay... Tara could get killed... the Niners could blow up Charming and cause the entire club to move.

Okay, the final guess is unlikely to go down - but, damn, Tig. Show some restraint. It was touching that Clay's closest pal felt so guilty over his failure to be there for his friend, but his reckless, rogue actions might also serve to keep Jax at the table. Look what happens when there's no leadership. Jax may admirably want to choose his real family over his leather jacket-clad family, but will be be able to walk away if the latter truly falls apart without him?

My only complaint from the episode was how much it marginalized Opie and the cliffhanger from last week. Ryan Hurst has been so incredible over the past few episodes, and Opie has such a legitimate reason to be in the middle of everything at this point (Clay is responsible for the death of his wife and his father), that it's a bit disappointing to see him shoved all the way out of the picture in favor of a full focus on Jax.

But who knows what role Opie could play on the finale. The same mystery surrounds the Irish. And the cartel. (although... hmmm... Romeo says Otto didn't rat out the club? Hard to believe this was just bad intel and not a clue into something more going on with Galindo.) And Potter. And now the Niners. All are converging on SAMCRO and Charming just as Jax is looking to leave them both behind. Will he fulfill this promise to Tara? Will he have no choice but to renege?

And, whichever path Jax chooses, how many more bodies will he have to step over to arrive at it?

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (250 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Be nice to see more HAMC

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Just have to add...... Otto met him but he can't see and Juice met him too but Juice is not the original 9. I do not think the new members knows what John Teller looks like and when Gemma was looking at the pictures, I swear that was Lincoln Potter.

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Does anyone think Lincoln Potter is John Teller. Gemma was the only one to meet him outside the florist and " " Don't I know you or have we met before? I think John Teller faked his death, as we all know, no one gets out but by death. perfect plan on his part, if that is the case. now he is back to clean up the club and get Charming back to the way it was before they tried to kill him!!!!!

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No no no no no sir, Tara does NOT have to die… they just made her 4 times more interesting between Wendy coming back, the fate of her hand being up in the air, her becoming essentially a younger Gemma, and she still has two sons to raise and her man to look after or else he will be overrun by the club’s messes.
Gemma had to become Gemma somewhere along the line folks she wasn’t always the Gemma we know and love.. hence Sutter bringing out that picture and reminding Gemma of a time before all this, and reminding us people aren't just born into Gemma's kind of mindset. Gemma’s event that made her cross over was JT cheating on her, and this is Tara’s event. Personally I am loving watching the descent of Tara… or some could argue, the ascent of Tara. I believe something happens where Tara realizes they can't leave, at least not right away... and that most likely will be Jax getting arrested at the meet next week.

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songs in this episode To be:act1 Terrible Tommy by Ryan Horne
Starts after jax gets the letter, dies out for a bit, then picks up again in the end Burn It Down by AWOLNATION
The scene where tigs is going rogue against the niners Crimson and Clover by Tommy James & The Shondells
Tig waits in the car to approach Leroy

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Wow!! This season is awesome! We knew or hoped that it would come down to Jax vs Clay and it finally has. Watching Tara manipulate and out play Gemma at her own game...amazing!! And to see Gemma sit there stunned was amazing. Not too upset that Opie wasn't in this part of the finale, he had to get the hell out of town so that the Niner attack story would seem credible. Really worried as to what is gonna happen to Bobby and Juice and the fallout of Otto ratting on the club. I got the same feeling as some of you - that Romeo is playing a game as well by lying to Jax.
I don't feel like Tara has to be killed off for Jax to stay, I think Jax is starting to realize a few important things: that something is going on in terms of Otto and the possible ramifications that could come into play IF he did rat - the realization that Clay killed his old man/Piney/Donna and his attempt on Tara - the possibility of his mom knowing more than she let on about this whole thing - the leadership ability of whoever will take over when he leaves and Clay is dead - the possibility of another blood war, this time with the Niners - the cartel and the IRA I think these things are going to make him WANT to leave but HAVE to stay.

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i really like Phil...he brings balance and sweet humor to the show. Unlike Rat, Phil pulled the trigger on himself without hesitation (even though he did throw up after). i am a fan of Phil. i just don't see any way Jax stays in Charming unless his reason for leaving is dead. i just don't see any way around Tara being killed in the final episode. About Romeo being an informant...a few episodes ago Romeo killed 3 or 4 Mexican guards playing cards in cold blood and in front of the Sons. Do informants or agents have that much leeway? Jax saved Leroy's life, and it wasn't Jax who killed Leroy's girlfriend...there will be retaliation on the Sons but i don't think it will be on Tara. There is no way Jax is going to kill Clay. Why, i think Jax feels more rage toward his Mother. As for Gemma, i will give her credit for trying to salvage what she "worked 20 years for" BUT, using her own Son to murder for her? The better plan is if Jax makes Gemma have to live with Clay or do it herself.

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Gemma took out some of the papers before she gave them to Jax and told him about Clay, and why did she put the picture of her and J.T. on the floor in the storage unit? She is hiding something, The imvolvement in J.T's death? And lets not forget that Tera has read (all) the papers so she knows about Gemmas imvolvement in Jax's dads death. Also the hit on Tera is still on remember, so does she get killed for Jax to stay in Charming and take the helm as president of S.O.A.cause you know he isn't going anywhere. Will Jax get back with Wendy after Tera's death now that she is straight again to keep his son? and the lawyers of of him.

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My prediction, sad as it is: Tara has to die. If Tara is still alive, Jax and Tara leave town, and that doesn't leave the show as much to work with next season. If Tara's dead, Jax stays because he needs Gemma's help to raise the boys. Also, don't we have the cartel still after Tara? With Clay in the hospital, they're going to think they have to take care of Tara themselves. It also sets up some nice story lines re: custody of Abel for next season. My bet isn't the Niners killing Tara. It's the cartel.

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I gotta say, the first 5 minutes almost lost me. I thought it was kind of a cop out - not only did Clay survive with 2 bullets in him, but as he's lying there he's masterminding yet another cover up about how he got shot. That's pretty much all that's happened this seasons - lies, cover-ups, back-stabbing...it just goes in circles. But I was sucked back in by the end. Tara was awesome. I missed Opie too - way under-utilized.

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