Remember how season three ended, where Jax got everything he wanted -- no consequences for the club, a sweet legal deal for himself, his family whole again and waiting on the outside? Well, he almost pulls it off again this time. The key word there is almost.
Early in this overlong episode, Jax and Patterson have a discussion where she lays out some hard truths for him: If Jax lets the mother of his children go to jail for the sins of the club, the moral weight of what he’s done will tear him apart. She tells him that before he’s the president of a biker club, he’s a husband, father and man – and he needs to honor those roles first.
So when the club manages to hunt Tara down in Lodi (thanks to the tail they’ve put on her lawyer, because apparently it never occurred to anyone in the DA’s office to finesse any communications with a skittish witness and her lawyer?)… Jax and Tara have a conversation in the park where she basically asks him to kill her out of the kids’ eyesight and she tells him she’s not a fan of dying but since this is apparently how the Teller family solves its marital issues, at least she tried like hell to free the boys from the cycle of violence that has Jax trapped in a ceaseless waking nightmare. Jax, who spent the morning monologuing about living in a constant state of terror and had lunch with a lady who forced him to think about his priorities, tells Tara he’s not going to kill her.
Instead, he offers Patterson a deal: If she drops all charges against Tara and leaves the club the hell out of things, he’ll take the rap for supplying the gun for the school shooting. Patterson okays the deal, and for the first time all season, Jax and Tara really reconnect. Tara even tells Jax she loves him, which totally makes his day. Then Tara drops off the boys at the candy store so they can have a last afternoon with their father before he goes into the pokey, and she heads home…
Meanwhile, Gemma’s had a hell of a day, what with being furious about Tara’s presumed ratting, then getting dumped by Nero. When Unser runs to her with half-baked suppositions about Tara cutting deals and selling out Jax, a post-breakup, very much drunk Gemma drives over to Jax & Tara’s house.
So Tara walks in and is promptly ambushed by her drunken, enraged mother-in-law. Gemma shoves Tara’s head into a dishpan full of water and stabs her at the base of the neck repeatedly. When Roosevelt comes in to see what in the hell just happened, Gemma babbles that she had to do it for the good of her son because Tara ratted. Roosevelt corrects Gemma -- Jax made a deal to protect Tara, and Tara never ratted. Gemma is horrified. And that is when Juice comes in and shoots Roosevelt dead, I guess out of misplaced fury for the events of season 4, but mostly because Jax knows that Juice spilled the beans about Darveny’s murder and has branded him a club traitor. Protecting the murderer of the person Jax loves most in the world makes sense – the enemy of the enemy and all that.
So. Juice is now an accessory to one murder and the killer of a second sheriff within the space of a week. Gemma killed Tara, mostly because Unser spun her up with his supposition, the lovesick little walking tumor that he is.
And Jax comes home to say goodbye to his wife before turning himself in, only to discover a dead sheriff on his kitchen floor and his wife’s body lying in the doorway to the pantry. Patterson finds him sitting on the kitchen floor, clutching Tara and sobbing as he sits amidst the bodies and blood.
There is also some hoohah about the Mayans being super-pissed about the gun deals and getting super-aggro about it, and Nero jumping to the Mayans for real and for true, so that will probably be a thing in season seven.
But who gives a crap about the gun business? I’m looking forward to season 7 because with Tara’s death, Jax’s last best hope for "being a man, husband and father before everything else" died. He’s going to spend season 7 indulging the need for vengeance, and when it finally hits him that his mother killed both his father and his wife, the clash of the show’s two biggest monsters is going to be glorious.
It’s just too bad it took Tara’s death to get us here. Buried inside this overlong episode -- symptomatic of a flabby and overindulgent season -- is a tripartite tragedy: Little boys lost their mother before they were even old enough to remember her; a woman whose family life was never easy died at the hands of "family"; a man lost the last person who loved him without an agenda and believed in his capacity for good.
This show has always been about the lasting damage done to people in broken families – and about the damage they do in return. Tonight’s episode only underscored how the cycle of damage can smash through generation after generation without stopping.
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We open in the Charming graveyard on a tight shot of a bas-relief carving of the blessed mother atop a tombstone. The camera tracks to Donna Winston's grave and then we see Jax, sitting against Opie's headstone and writing the following:
"There are lessons to be found here, but mostly I do this so you can know me. Lately, as I write these, I realize they are as much for me as they are for you. This is the one place I can be completely open. The pen and paper has no judgment, no vote. It simply receives my truth and allows me to turn the page –"
I'm sorry. I have to interject here. Is it just me or does this seem less like Jax writing to his sons and more like Kurt Sutter writing to the audience? In a way, this is almost like Prospero's final soliloquy in The Tempest, which concludes, " As you from crimes would pardoned be/ Let your indulgence set me free." ANYWAY. We're an entire episode plus a season away from the series wrap-up, so let's resume Jax's monologue and see if there are any other allusions:
"Today, this is my truth. I am terrified a great deal of the time: afraid of what I've done, of what I'm doing and of what I might have to do. It's not a crippling fear. In fact, it's just the opposite. I thrive on it. I crave it. I need that rush of terror to get me out of bed in the morning. It's in my DNA. I have tremendous remorse for the acts of violence I've committed, both planned and spontaneous. But I think what brings me the most sorrow is that I've learned to justify this behavior. I always find a reason, a cause, a need that allows me the karmic lubrication to stuff my guilt into its savage compartment. I've become the thing… the one I hated. And with that awareness comes periods of days, sometimes weeks, when I have to avoid looking into a mirror. My self-hate is so deep, so palpable, I fear I'll lunge at my own image, shatter the glass and cut myself with shards of broken reflection --"
I'm sorry, I have to interject again: "Cut myself with shards of broken reflection?" Really? I sincerely hope that whatever extra material is released with this season's DVD, "Jackson Teller's literary selections and what they mean to him" is included as a short film. Because I'd love to see how the people who write this guy -- who barely squeaked through the GED, remember, and whose days are simply crammed with biking through the San Joaquin, Alameda and Amador counties -- can justify Jax's ear for florid language. OKAY. Let's see if we can finish this "Tell, don't show" look into the wine-dark heart of Jax Teller: