Anyone familiar with the tenacious brutality of August Marks (Billy Brown) knew it was only a matter of time before he punished SAMCRO for all of their extracurricular tomfoolery. Often mentioned but rarely seen, Marks has loomed over this seventh and final season of Sons of Anarchy like a snake waiting for the right moment to strike. In “Greensleeves,” the deceptively badass gangster from Oakland makes up for lost time by hitting Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) where it hurts most: at the center of his inner circle.
Whether one can chalk it up to arrogance or insolence, Jax’s underestimation of Marks remains one of his dumbest moves as president of SAMCRO. All of the time he’s been wasting on low-level thugs and Henry Lin’s (Kenneth Choi) gang has severely crippled the young man’s sense of priority. In the past, Jax respected Marks with the utmost sincerity, but this season has spelled a different scenario altogether. Aside from a foreboding conversation the two men shared in “Playing with Monsters,” Jax has regarded Marks almost like a fly he didn’t care enough to swat.
“Greensleeves” opens mid-action with the ill-fated Juice (Theo Rossi) being menacingly encircled by the SAMCRO welcome wagon on the side of a country road. The initials of Jax’s long-deceased father are etched in chalk on the brittle rock face that flanks their location. One by one, each man pays homage to the memorial, then Juice hops on his chopper and rides away, seemingly on some kind of suicide mission. Seconds later, he’s shooting at the feet of Highway Patrol officers who take him into custody after a short chase down the 580.
It’s quickly revealed that Juice has accepted a final reprieve by Jax to murder Lin on the inside with some help from Arian Brotherhood head psycho Tully (Marilyn Manson). Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter (who played the perpetually incarcerated Otto) has always loved diabolically bloody prison-fight scenes, so Juice will invariably experience a fate worse than death. Still, Juice’s acceptance of the job and Jax’s willingness to condemn a very close friend speaks to the personal nature of revenge that’s been mentioned often this season.
That nearly all of this vengeance has been built on a foundation of lies makes these decisions even more misguided. Having failed to kill Juice, Gemma (Katey Sagal) now fears that he’s told Jax the truth about her murderous past. When Happy (David Labrava) and Ratboy (Nico Nicotera) are tasked with chaperoning her up to the club cabin to help a key witness against Marks kick heroin, she anticipates a bullet to the back of her head. Paranoia like this can’t go unchecked for too long, and Gemma seems on the verge of a complete emotional collapse.
Information and leverage are important factors in “Greensleeves,” which takes its title from a particularly nasty pimp with a penchant for extortion that meets his end on the sharp end of a glass spike. Jax’s master plan also involves blackmail; he plants the dead body of Marks’s main business partner on their company construction site. Director Paris Barclay lends an appropriate amount of tension to the scenes leading up to the moment Jax plans upending his nemesis during a sit-down at a desolate park. Except Marks is two steps ahead, having captured original SAMCRO member Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) a few scenes before, gauging out his eye and having it presented to Jax in a small box with complimentary video. This leaves the core of SAMCRO distraught like we haven’t seen since Opie (Ryan Hurst) was murdered a few seasons before.
While Bobby’s fate is left in the balance, the fact remains that Jax and his leather-clad brethren can no longer deny who has the upper hand. The episode concludes with a vintage Sons of Anarchy montage scored to a haunting rendition of the English folk song “Greensleeves.” Bobby’s screams of terror are somehow drowned out by the calm, sublime melody, but I’m guessing the men of SAMCRO will be spending many sleepless nights wondering exactly when their grand scheme turned to ashes.
For more Sons of Anarchy recaps, click here.