This review contains spoilers.
7.11 Suits Of Woe
About halfway through Suits Of Woe, I was reminded of Ozymandias, Breaking Bad’s third-to-last episode. That is not to say that this instalment of Sons Of Anarchy was remotely in the same ballpark as that superlative hour of television, but the two episodes shared a lot in common, in the best way possible. Without spoiling anything for the Breaking Bad uninitiated, Ozymandias marked the moment that Walter White’s dark empire began to fall apart, and in many ways tonight was that moment for both Gemma and Jax.
In Gemma’s case, it was a very literal destruction, as one by one all the people she cares about learn the truth of what she did to Tara, and in the end she is left with no option but to flee. For Jax it was a more internal collapse, as he realised that everything he has done over the course of this season, every violent and deplorable act he has perpetrated in the name of vengeance, has been tragically, horribly misdirected. The only problem is that the target deserving of his wrath is his own mother. It is the revelation we have been waiting for with frustration since Gemma sank that fork into Tara’s head last year, and week after week we have watched the show stall in giving us the required payoff. And while I hesitate to say it was it worth the wait (not even an Ozymandias is worth the drudgery of this season), this episode went a long way to restoring my goodwill toward Sons Of Anarchy.
Considering the dreadfulness of recent weeks, I was beginning to lose any faith that the writers would effectively be able to handle the nightmarish revelation that Jax has to deal with, but watching him move from fear to rage to finally crying in Nero’s arms like a confused child was riveting, and nobody deserves more credit for the emotional wallop this episode packed than Charlie Hunnam. While I have always thought of him as a good actor, the sheer agony he managed to convey was heartbreaking. Even after everything Jax has done, Hunnam made me care about what this man is going through, and left me genuinely unsure of what he will do next. Several weeks ago I would have said Gemma’s death warrant would be signed the moment Jax learnt the truth. Now? I’m not so sure. Nero’s warning about killing his own mother at the end seemed to have an effect, but what is the alternative? If this quality can be maintained, I can’t wait to find out.
Normally I get really irritated by the many scenes in Sons Of Anarchy where characters tell other characters about events that we have just seen play out, but this episode was different. The territory we are now in is so fraught that, after seven seasons, it would be a cheat not to see how each character reacts to the truth of Tara’s murder. There was even a nice variation when the sound dropped out as Jax told Nero, letting Jimmy Smits’ face tell us everything. Of course, not every relaying of the information could be handled like this, but that in particular was a really powerful moment, made all the stronger by Gemma standing in the foreground, looking almost like a statue, cold and poised while her world shatters.
In fact, everything Katy Sagal did in this episode was great. At this point Gemma really deserves what is coming to her, but watching this woman accept her death and say goodbye to the few people she could risk seeing was actually quite moving. From Chucky’s ‘you’re my best friend’ to Abel’s ‘goodbye Grandma’, it was poignant stuff. In particular her moment with Nero at the house she was born in was masterful; I’m surprised a show that usually has the grace of a sledgehammer would so beautifully depict a person who knows she is about to die revisiting the life she had before it all went wrong, like a reminder that once upon a time Gemma was innocent and untainted by the life she would go on to live.
The weight of this episode was such that it was easy not to notice that not a lot actually happened outside of the Gemma reveal, but in this case it really worked. Something as big as this needed time and space to let the characters absorb it, and for once, the extra time afforded the episode felt necessary. In fact the only real quibble I had was the reveal of Barosky as the rat; aside from being slightly anti-climactic, I felt as though both this and the death of Lin could have happened weeks ago. That said, this was less a flaw in the episode itself and more in the overall structure of the season.
So what comes next? Jax has finally accepted culpability for his actions, and it remains to be seen just how this will play out with the other charters. But at this point the most pressing matter is the imminent showdown between mother and son, although that will almost certainly be saved for the finale. Funnily enough, it doesn’t feel like there is actually that much ground left to cover (small matters like August Marks just seem like annoyances to be dealt with), so I am hoping for some last minute twists to make the final episodes truly memorable.
Even if the next two weeks rank among the best offerings Sons Of Anarchy has ever had, this season still by-and-large will have been a bloated, turgid mess. But the climax and resolution consolidate a legacy more than the chapters leading up to them, and on the basis of Suits Of Woe, it looks like Sons Of Anarchy could yet be remembered as a great series.
Read Gabriel’s review of the previous episode, Faith And Despondency, here.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.