Sorry, guys – this episode fell well short of the high water mark known as the season three finale. Pbbbbbbbt. That's me using my still-attached tongue to give it the raspberry.
There's a white puff of smoke over Oakland as Auggie is declared the next Pope: Jax begins the episode getting needy and emotional with Pope, all, "Once I deliver Tig, you have no incentive to ever talk to me again. Please, ease my mind by making the Charming Heights deal completely locked down on paper. Also, I will have Tig on a silver platter at the location of your choosing in a few hours." Faithful second-in-command August draws up the papers and makes everything nice and legal – so hooray, Lyla! You get a McMansion! – and then Jax takes Tig out to a secluded storage facility Pope owns, then pulls a gun on him, strips him of his cut and hands him over to Pope. But! Then Jax pulls out a gun he had Juice hide on his bike earlier, and he kills many people before letting Tig kill Pope. Immediately after, Tig is all, "What the actual FUCK, Jax?" and Jax is all, "I had to be sure you'd sell it. Also, you're totes okay with framing your former BFF for this, right?" Tig just sobs. Then Jax goes and meets with August, spins a story about how Clay just went bonkers in a murder-y way, August knows this is bullshit, but Jax demurs any allegations of masterminding an elaborate murder plot. So now these two are in business together. And probably plotting each other's deaths, all while vigorously denying that they have the mental faculties to do so.
It's a dog-eat-dog world and Tig's wearing Milk-Bone underwear: It's part of show history that Tig really likes dogs – his entire feud with Kozic was over a dog named Missy, remember? – so watching the ridiculous mini-gang Nero runs with get all hot and bothered over dog fighting really upsets him. He rescues a loser dog who was about to be put down. At gunpoint, since he's Tig, but still, one gets the feeling most people who run dog rescue operations would approve. After Tig endures the unpleasantness at the storage facility (see preceding paragraph), he comes back and, well, who doesn't love a story about a boy and his dog? It is the one feel-good moment in this episode.
The king is dead, long live the king: Clay was finally getting his mojo back right – Gemma coming to Ireland with him! – when he gets arrested for the murder of Damon Pope and three of his associates. What makes it sting: Gemma lies about Clay's whereabouts (thereby setting him up) and Juice is the one who passed along the gun Clay gave him, thereby framing him at the crime scene. The double betrayal hurts perhaps worse than knowing he's going into a prison system where he's got a million-dollar bounty on his head and no club protection whatsoever. As for the new king: Jax and Nero have a conversation wherein it's confirmed that Jax has no intention of leaving SAMCRO. Once you put on the uniform, you play the game…
Free Tara! Wendy confronts Tara with what Jax did to her, and that is when it finally sinks in with Tara that she married a monster. "This town kills everything that you love. Go to Oregon now, before something awful happens to you and your sons," Wendy raves, hair flying and eyes wild, looking for all the world like a mad oracle. And … she pretty much is, because thanks to a string of highly improbable, gift-basket-related circumstances, Gemma realizes Tara's leaving town with the boys and what do you know? Tara gets arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. Now who could have ginned up the false testimony that Tara was planning to hand over a murder weapon? Did you say, "The lady who can testify, truthfully, that she warned Tara the prison guards wouldn't let Otto keep the crucifix?" It's not shown, but come on: Gemma has made it clear she'll do anything to have unimpeded access to her grandchildren. And given how Jax welcomes Gemma into his life with open arms, I'm thinking he's probably okay with Mom's help in sidestepping the touchy discussions he and Tara were having about her career path and her choice in children's guardians.
And finally: Rather than say a thing to Lee Toric, Otto elects to bite off his own tongue. By the end of this series, all that will be left of this guy will be his left kneecap and an upraised middle finger. Lee Toric says sarcastically, "Way to commit, Otto." I love him and hope he sticks around in season six now that I no longer have the cerebral ruminations of Pope to thrill to on a weekly basis.
Lisa Schmeiser reports, writes and blogs in Oakland-adjacent Alameda. She delay-tweeted this episode.
Let's get one thing straight: the bass line on "To Sir, With Love," is one of the most marvelously competent foundations in a pop ditty. It adds a lovely note of fortitude to what is really an elegy, an understated way of saying "I will survive," whether what you're surviving is the regret that you have exposed yourself to alt-rock's premier mushmouth (Natalie Merchant, I'm looking at you and your cover of "To Sir, With Love") or a season of Sons of Anarchy where the battle for Jax Teller's soul has been settled and it's all over save for the losing party's surrender.
So it's fitting that this cover of "To Sir, With Love," has a light, rangy string arrangement that somehow manages to make the goodbyes feel unmoored and untrue -- the singer desperately wants the feelings to be genuine, but knows they're not.
And how fitting that this cover plays as Tara watches Jax sleep, then her face morphs into Gemma watching Nero as he sleeps. She gets up and Nero shifts in his sleep, his tattooed arm transitioning into Clay's black blotch as the old man drinks his coffee alone, a gun by his wedding band-wearing left hand. Close up on his face ... then onto Jax, who is just waking up. Tara's left a note on his pillow -- "Took the boys. Love, T." She has the neatest handwriting of any doctor in the history of ever. That, or she suspects Jax's reading level stalled out sometime during seventh grade language arts. Jax sits up in bed ... and we go to Nero, who is also a tad logy, and noting that Gemma (who has the same handwriting as Tara, because, PARALLELS) has left a note on the lovebirds saying, "You should name them Carl and Carla, <3 Gemma." Then we go to Tara, who is surprisingly meditative as she sees the results of her hand's healing, then to Jax, who is apparently taking the scenic route to Oakland by way of downtown Los Angeles.
Jax pulls up outside a Pope Partners construction project, shakes hands with Pope and August, and says, "It dawned on me: Once I hand over Tig, it might be the end of these little chats. I'm going to miss that. Now that I handed over the coke to the Mayans, the only thing I got left that you want is Traeger." Pope asks, "You don't think I'm going to come through on Charming Heights? No faith, son." August laughs appreciatively. As Jax says, "I'm just following your business model: trust no-one," Auggie's smile disappears. Pope asks Jax what he wants, and Jax answers: a Pope Partners letter of intent locking down his interest in Charming Heights and the conditions Jax stipulated. Pope tells Jax to relax because the deal is moving forward and the paperwork's already started. Jax figures one more piece of paper won't matter: "You're committing to Charming Heights. I'm committing to handing a brother over to murder. That sounds fair to me." Pope eye-rolls a bit but August volunteers to get on the paperwork for the big whiny biker baby. Then Jax makes arrangements to drop Tig off at a Pope-owned storage garage in Middle River, nearby Charming, so that Pope can get his murder on.