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So far, this season of Sons of Anarchy has been a season of reckoning, retribution and consequence. It has definitely had its fair share of controversy, especially regarding the season premiere’s display of underage gun violence. It seems that everyone is taking a “shot” at Kurt Sutter's, as well as FX’s, decision to include such a violent narrative. For more on that issue, check out this article. However, I’m not here out of dismay or disapproval. Creative expression is integral to the creation of worthwhile programming. I’m quite sure the television rating system and graphic violence warnings aren’t just decoration. These warnings work doubly as a way to caution and as a way to allow for such creative liberties. I’m not saying I didn’t find the episode shocking because I certainly did, however, it’s precisely that shocking, and sometimes dark, characteristic that draws me into a show season after season. Instead, I want to take a moment to look at the narrative structure of the entire series up to this point. If you’ve been a fan of the show since its beginning, it’s not difficult to understand why this season is heading down this dark, winding road.
From the very beginning, the audience has been faced with growing concern over violence through Jax’s own contemplation of the club’s bloodshed and aggression. There was a small sliver of hope that Jax and his family could escape the crime-ridden world of the Sons, but that hope faded as Jax watched his best friend surrender himself to the brutality of the club life. Opie’s brutal murder for the sake of the Sons made it quite obvious that the Sons of Anarchy weren’t going to escape the vicious consequences of their violent and selfish actions. This season is taking this one step further toward an assumed forthcoming end to the series. This entire time, the narrative has been consumed with how the violence has affected the members of the club and those having any sort of association. The club itself has been forced to reexamine its structure. This season’s narrative extends this violent action outside the club’s circle. These violent actions can no longer be contained. It’s now time to take a look at the bigger picture. Violence cannot be controlled. It’s an infestation that spreads like a weed. There have been so many twists and turns since the start of the season that it’s hard to believe we're only four episodes in. I feel like I’m on an intense rollercoaster of emotion.
First and foremost, I was so completely relieved when Tig was standing at Jax’s door at the start of the fourth episode. I’m not saying that Tig is an angel destined for a happy ending, but I just didn’t want to see him go out like that. He keeps surviving hit after hit, season after season. I don’t think he ever really recovered from the accidental murder of Donna. He seems to be a punching bag for the club and the world. Even when he has begged for death, he’s been denied it. Tig listening to his daughter burn alive was one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the show. Tig doesn’t deserve to simply die as some sort of pawn. I’m just not ready to see him go, especially because of Jax’s currently shady morals.
Although I was happy to see Tig’s lovely face on the other side of Jax’s door, I was a bit heartbroken to say a final farewell to Otto. His death was bloody and dignified, two characteristics that I’ve associated with Otto’s character since his first introduction. He has repeatedly stepped up for the club. He’s never been one to shy away from duty, even if it leaves him bathing in blood. His death felt necessary. With such focus on violence and its consequences, it just seems as though his character wouldn’t be able to get away with yet another bloody and violent action. I’m also glad that we weren’t forced to see him die by lethal injection, although it would have been an intense last scene that could have easily tugged at the heartstrings. Letting him kill Toric and essentially go out in a blaze of glory was much more fitting. Honestly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Another character stepping up to the plate this season is Chibs. He’s always been one of my favorites. He’s much more practical and has helped keep Jax grounded. With Jax going off the rails, Chibs has no problem calling him out. I know he’s not the only one to have ever questioned Jax or given guidance, but he’s the one who has been the most consistent. Opie tried, but he had his own problems going on. Bobby made his feelings known, but instead of sticking around, he hopped on his Harley and headed out. He may still have the club’s best interests in mind, but he’s certainly found it easier not to face Jax head on. Chibs has stuck it out. He’s a beacon of morality in a dark world. Jax really needs to start paying attention to Chibs’ warnings. I especially loved when Chibs’ way of forgiving Juice was by beating him. It was so violent, but at the same time, it felt morally dignified. Chibs has this code he seems to live by, which he expects those he cares the most about to follow. Chibs merely had to teach Juice a lesson about loyalty and trust. The lesson just so happened to involve Chibs’ fist to Juice’s face.
All of this talk about characters I currently love leads me to realize how much I currently dislike Jax and Tara. I feel like I was pulled in because of his fight against violence, but he’s venturing down a road I don’t quite agree with. It’s feeling more and more like a tragedy. The shimmer of hope represented by a young man questioning the life in front of him at the beginning of the series is quickly fading. Tara seems to be heading down this road as well. She’s righteously scheming Jax’s children away from him, but I feel like she’s spiraling down the same rabbit hole as Jax. They’re both ignoring the world and being selfishly dishonest with themselves, one another and everyone else. The hope they stood for seems to be vanishing.
I don’t tune into a television show to remain complacent. I want something that will push the limits and force a serious examination of culture. This season is surely pushing the limits. The series as a whole has always been about violence. Each character’s trajectory is a result of their association with violent action. This last episode, “Wolfsangel,” has Clay saying, “You don’t hate me because I’m bad. You hate me because I’m familiar.” This brings about the idea that while each of these characters can be very different, deep down they have “familiar” ties. The thread of violent actions seems to be at the core of their lives and beings. While some are much more violent than others, when reduced to bare essentials, each character has similar characteristics. Power, corruption and violence seem to be inescapable. The series has always used violence to end violence. This isn’t much different than our real world use of war to bring about peace.
My hat is off to Kurt Sutter. Thank you for intelligent, thought-provoking material. To the complete cast and crew, your remarkable work draws me back in week after week, season after season.
Don’t miss a second of this outstanding FX series on Tuesday nights at 10/9c.