Season finale review: Sons of Anarchy ‘J’ai Obtenu Cette’ – Maybe I’m Not So Different

soa s5 ep13In the end, Gemma wins. After all the violence, Opie killing, Pope dealings, Clay and the nomad nonsense, the big winner of season 5 turned out to be the boozy, smoking weed and crashing cars Gemma who wins out in the end, with Clay sentenced (in more ways than one), her in Nero’s bed, and Jax tucked safely under her wing while Tara heads off to prison. It’s telegraphed to us with the opening montage – set to an awful Katey Sagal cover of something – when Tara and Gemma’s scenes waking up and sneaking off are juxtaposed against each other: these two characters are similar in many ways, and their war is just as important as the rest of the various dramas taking place on the show.

Overall, ‘J’ai Obtenu Cette’ (which is a terrible fucking name, mainly because nobody can figure out what it means) was a very cookie cutter finale for a show like Sons of Anarchy. After five seasons of Sutter finales, I think we all expected every single piece to find its neat little place in the plot puzzle – a recurring theme that’s really starting to annoy me. At some point, the amazing way everything comes together in an SoA finale feel overly orchestrated, all while simultaneousy unraveling something else to connect seasons together. And unfortunately, many of the arc conclusions in this episode simply feel constructed without any real thought put into logic or motivation beyond “well, it makes everything fit together nicely, so let’s go with it.”

This conversation obviously begins with the death of Pope, a scene that screams “We’re not sure what to do with him, so let’s just kill him.” We all knew Jax wouldn’t hand over Tig, especially not after Pope greenlit Operation Cave In Opie’s Skull, so it was really just a waiting game for Jax to get rid of him. Of course, Jax couldn’t tell Tig he wouldn’t dangle him in front of Pope, because that would just make sense. The funniest part of that whole plan is when Tig says “What if he had shot me right away?” to which Jax confidentially replies right before a big bro hug: “But he didn’t.”

It’s that kind of attitude that permeates the writing of an SoA finale, where putting all the pieces together in the coolest, most dramatic way possible overrides common sense. And like the last two seasons, the most important scene of the episode isn’t even shown! Jax getting Juice to turn over Clay’s gun was foreshadowed pretty heavily (all the attention paid to it when Juice first got it from Clay), but for us not to be inside the room when Jax convinces/threatens/shames Juice into giving up the gun is a complete fucking cop out by the creative team. It could’ve done a lot: humanize Juice’s intentions, which don’t seem to make sense at all (“Clay, I’m going to betray you but ALWAYS tell you at the last second, right after you tell me you love me”) and it would’ve shown us a little more of the ruthless animal growing inside Jax, an evil he seems willing to embrace at this point.

Which brings me to the single biggest issue of the episode: I don’t understand why Jax still wants this. Every neon sign tells him to get out – beginning with the fact original members were MURDERING each other in his childhood, but don’t get me started there – and he just blindly sits there with that mad look on his face (while Tara sits in a cop car alone, I might add). What will it finally take for Jax to say “enough of this shit, I’m tired of double-crossing my supposed brothers, threatening others, committing a dozen murders a season… I’m getting out!” Early in the season, it felt like Jax was weighed down by all the brutal violence around him, and that it would bring up the rebellious nature in him to try and steer his club in the right direction. But that’s gone (for now, I’d imagine the redemption story will ultimately return in the final season), and instead, he’s decided to act without any intelligent thought.

I’m sure there’s a part of him being drawn to the power of being the man in charge making big moves, but if he thinks he’s doing all of these things because he’s just trying to protect his family, he’s kidding himself. Next season, we really need to get deeper into Jax and the corruptive effects of being a leader – right now, it just seems like business as usual, with Jax executing his plans as he sees fit… but the grislier nature of these plans (plus the double-crossing Jax willfully participates in at every angle) really needs to hit closer to home with Jax and the internal struggle his character is still facing, no matter how much he uses the chair as a shield for his repercussions of his behavior.

I suppose that mindlessness could be attributed to him having to pay attention to his secret plan – one I might add, that pushed Bobby out of the VP seat, another plot line I don’t understand. There is just so much obvious orchestration to give the feeling of closure or forward movement in the overall narratives been fighting to fix the club and Jax all year, all of a sudden just say “Fuck this, I’m out of here”?… it’s all just too neat to feel real, and even on a soapy show like Sons, the big moments can’t feel like they were intentionally hidden until the end – or not shown out at all – just so all the pieces can come together in the last 20 minutes of the season.

It doesn’t make for awful television – but it’s definitely not great, either. By now, this show is nothing but a group of characters that shuffle around to land in the same positions they were in: Jax and Tara have marital problems, Tara wants to get out, Jax doesn’t know what he wants to do with life, Tara and Gemma hate each other, Gemma’s in charge of everything…. in that sense, a lot of tonight’s episode undoes the ‘change’ they’ve been trying to establish for the last season.

‘J’ai Obtenu Cette’ is not a ‘surprising’ or ‘shocking’ finale – it has its violent moments (Mexicans like brutal animal fights! huzzah!) and it has some moments that hit – particularly Jax and Nero’s conversation about what Nero tells his son when he talks about the farm. That material has always been fantastic – but at this point, Jax’s struggles to figure out what he wants from the club seem silly: instead of him trying to actually change things, he’s inexplicably resigned himself to being Clay (until season 7’s season of redemption, as I predicted earlier), the exact thing he was trying to fight from day one (along with trying to not make the same mistakes of his own father, something he hasn’t really cared to try and do). So even when Sons finds some good emotional moments for its characters, they feel flat and forced together, because ultimately, every bit of character exists only in the service of plot, and not the other way around.

Grade: C+

Season Grade: C

other thoughts/observations:

– the entire Pope plot line hinged on Tig loving pitbulls…. whodathunkit.

– what the fuck was with the “Chucky is into French” stuff, and how does it play into the title? Somebody please fill in this blank for me.

– the agent who was going to interview Otto looks like Obama’s stunt double.

– after three seasons, the homeless woman returns!!!!!! Odd moment to see her, but then again, her appearances have always been mysterious. For the record, she says “… to be safe, my love” to the giraffe in the garbage can. Theories? I have to watch her other appearances again before I share my own.

– speaking of Otto, as soon as he smiled at the beginning of the scene, I turned to my girlfriend and said “things are about to get gross.” You can always count on Sutter to do nasty, largely pointless things to himself (with Gemma’s statement, Otto’s act of self defiance turned out to be useless).

– “I’m looking into Pope’s death…” guess who’s returning next season? Hopefully its not for a one-off thing, like the absolute letdown the Russian storyline turned out to be back in season 3/4.

– Man, Ron Perlman can nail the depressed look of Clay when he finds out everybody sold him out.

– Gemma just gets worse and worse every season… and for some reason, she gets away with it all (minus one brutal gang rape, something the show’s completely forgotten about).

– “well… way to commit… Otto.” see you in season 6, Donal Logue!

– nothing says ‘finale’ like an opening and closing montage.

– will we ever find out why “redwoods bleed”?

What did you think of the season finale? Love it or hate it, feel free to leave your thoughts below!


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