The slow-moving guillotine that’s been hovering over the heads of so many characters in Sons of Anarchy’s final season starts to speed up in “Suits of Woe.” All the lies and betrayals perpetrated by SAMCRO and their kin are coming undone, leaving many significant members stricken with the kind of suffocating guilt that can only be assuaged by confession. As the title of tonight’s episode suggests, wearing disgrace for this long takes a massive toll on one’s strength and sense of purpose.
When it comes to Gemma (Katey Sagal), it was her mind that cracked first. During the opening shot of “Suits of Woe,” she sits at her dinner table talking to an empty chair. The guilt over killing Tara has eroded her confidence as a mother and leader, and her present confusion, while completely deserving, still stings with tragic implications. A bloodthirsty businesswoman, Gemma is one of the show’s most dynamic characters, and watching her fall apart has been difficult.
When Abel (Ryder and Evan Londo) dropped the truth bomb about Gemma murdering Tara (Maggie Siff) at the end of last week’s episode, he not only initiated a countdown to possible matricide, but also confirmed the downfall of his own father. Upon hearing such a devastating revelation, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) decides to figure out whether his son is delusional or not. He begins an investigation that takes him first to Wendy (Drea de Matteo) and then Wayne (Dayton Callie). Both characters reveal even more prescient information that forces Jax to see beyond the surface and toward a reality defined by his worst fears.
Both Wayne and Wendy have played pivotal parts in extending and amplifying Gemma’s lie, despite their levels of culpability. As Jax puts the pieces together during the first few sequences of “Suits of Woe,” director Peter Weller explores the impact of this realization on characters who are finally losing control. This motif comes to fruition when Jax visits Juice (Theo Rossi) in prison, the final stop of his inquiry into Gemma. Here, two sworn brothers turned enemies finally come clean with each other, Juice in his detailed account of Tara’s murder at the hands of Gemma, and Jax with his promise that his one-time friend’s death sentence will be a quick one.
This is devastating news for Juice, who moments before finally drove a shiv into the throat of Henry Lin (Kenneth Choi), an anticlimactic plot turn if there ever was one. Throughout this seventh season of Sons of Anarchy, the focus has often been tied to tangential plot threads simply to pass the time, and this has distracted from the more promising and tense interactions between core characters like Jax and Nero or Gemma and Wayne. “Suits of Woe” is impressive for its disavowal of fatty subplots and insistence on dealing with the burning conflicts with quiet determination. Nearly every one of the critical sequences, whether it’s Juice and Jax’s cellblock chat, or Chucky’s (Michael Ornstein) chivalry toward Gemma when she seems cornered by Happy (David Labrava) and Ratboy (Nico Nicotera), is punctuated with a sense of longing and sadness.
With the end knocking so loudly for Sons of Anarchy, a few mysteries remain. Firstly, how will the greater SOA organization deal with Jax now that it’s been revealed that Jurry (Michael Shamus Wiles) wasn’t the informant (Weller’s conniving and corrupt cop Barosky is confirmed as the guilty rodent). Secondly, who will still be alive to care for Abel and his baby brother? I’m guessing Nero (Jimmy Smits), who seems primed to be the only key character aside from Wayne to escape the finale with their life.
In an episode brimming with tough moments, the most difficult comes when Jax confesses to Nero that despite his mother’s horrible actions, he can’t help but still love her. This moment, along with Jax’s decision to clue in the club about Gemma’s lie and his desire to right all the wrongs that were caused by it, offer some hope that Sons of Anarchy will go out not with blood splatter, but a wave of teary compromise. Don’t hold your breath though: Winter is coming to Charming, and with so many spinning plates finally crashing to the ground, it’s anyone’s guess who gets sliced and who walks away clean.
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