Jax is on a warpath in the final season of Sons of Anarchy, but will he take the MC down with him?
Season premieres have to do a lot of heavy lifting. They have to touch on the “it will change everything!!” events of the last season’s finale as well as set up the conflicts that will run throughout the new “and nothing will be the same!!” season. FX decided to tackle this for season 7 by running the first two episodes of Sons of Anarchy (FX, Tuesdays at 10pm) back to back. And by the end of the two hour premiere, we have a pretty good idea of what’s in store for this last year of the show. As you probably guessed, all hell is going to break loose among the gangs of the fictional central California town of Charming and the interesting development this season is that instead of being the one to minimize the damage, Jax is the one instigating the mayhem.
Jax has spent the entire series so far trying to keep SAMCRO from going entirely to the dark side. There were rules (no selling hard drugs), moral lines (no hurting women…mostly) and above all loyalty. But with the death of his wife at the end of season six’s finale, Jax is a changed man. Not knowing that it was his own mother Gemma who did the deed (thinking she was protecting her son), Jax is on the warpath and he is more ruthless and determined than all the rival gang leaders he has tangled with over the years. And to drive home the point, the premiere opens with him beating a fellow inmate senseless, carving a swastika into his chest and ripping out the guy’s teeth with his bare hands. And that was just the warm up for what he has in mind later.
When he gets released from jail after the feds couldn’t pin Tara’s death on him, he calls a meeting of the motorcycle club and lays it out. He was soft all these years, trying to make up for all the bad things he’d done in the past, but now he considers that selfish and meaningless. With the loss of his wife, he’s not going to lose his club, too. And everyone in his MC needs to be ready to lay down their life or get out now.
Multiple times in this episode we are told that a storm is brewing among all the gangs that control the illegal trade in the area in a loose alliance. Jax’s SAMCRO faces the united front of the Mayans (the browns) and the Asians (the yellows), so he works hard to gain favor with the neo-Nazis (the whites) led by the creepy Marilyn Manson and the Niner’s African-American crew (the blacks) not to mention the other black gang, The Grim Bastards. Where before Jax would work as peacekeeper, now he’s more interested in the role of the war leader. Well, that explains all the skull imagery overlaid on his image on the billboards promoting this season…
Even though Jax is dead-eyed in most of his scenes, he does know what he is becoming, I think. This is why he refuses to see his sons after he gets out of jail. He doesn’t want them to see him like this. And to drive home just what he has become, Jax decides that one of the bodyguards of the Asian gangs was responsible for the death of his wife and tortures him in an extended sequence before killing him gruesomely. Which, honestly, I find ironic given how upset he was about the torture porn ring they broke up self-righteously last season. That prolonged torture and killing session of the unfortunate Asian bodyguard was pretty much the definition of torture porn for the audience, complete with leering MC members enjoying the victim’s agony and muffled sobs. I know the show wanted to show what Jax has become with the death of his wife fueling his rage and it couldn’t be any more clear with this scene.
Jax has an endgame in mind for the club, but it’s not quite clear exactly what that is just yet. He says he is concerned with its survival, but then pursues a personal vendetta that may put him at odds with very dangerous enemies. He hopes to keep the death of the bodyguard quiet (as indicated by having a black gang member who owed him a favor do the actual abduction in case there were witnesses), but what now? How will he ensure SAMCRO’s continued existence in the face of “the coming storm”? Whatever it is, the preview clips of the rest of the season looks like it includes a lot of gunfire and explosions.
The other fascinating character to watch this season is Gemma. Her guilt at killing Jax’s wife for the wrong reasons and seeing the pain that has caused him is tearing her up. Watching Katey Segal struggle with this in almost every scene is mesmerizing. I’m glad they took the time to have her explain how she bears it in her scene with Juice: she does it for her grandkids, so they have a strong woman to look up to as they grow. Justification for her bad behavior? Yes. But she’s always used family as an excuse for her more screwed-up behavior. Jax’s ex-wife Wendy may just be that woman the boys need, though, so Gemma has her hands full with that one.
The other character developments of note in this double episode premiere is that Nero and Gemma look like they are growing closer again and Juice takes Unser captive when the old man finds him hiding out from Jax at Wendy’s after betraying the club last season.
Overall, I thought this premiere did a good job of picking up where the season finale left off and presenting us with new conflicts and twists for the show’s most fascinating characters. Where it goes from here has me intrigued. Whether or not Jax will survive the upcoming gang war brewing or even if the motorcycle club survives is in question. How far will he go to protect the club and what price will he have to pay to make sure it does? The show hasn’t shied away from taking it to the extreme in the past so I have hope that it won’t go for the ambiguous ending a la The Sopranos.[rating=4.0]