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 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?