If you’ve read my other article, Sons of Anarchy: A Series End Prediction, you’ll have seen my attempts to guess which characters line up with the characters from Hamlet, and even MacBeth.
The series finale was this past Tuesday, and, after taking some time to process the events, I wanted to offer how I saw the chips fall as Jax Teller took his final ride.
First, a quick review; my original character picks were:
Jax as Hamlet, Clay (and potentially Nero) as Claudius, Gemma as Gertrude, Tara (and sometimes Wendy) as Ophelia, Chibs as either Polonius or Horatio (with Bobby another possibility for Polonius), Juice as Laertes, and Marks as Fortinbras.
How wrong I was, in so many ways–and you’ll see how my opinions evolved, if you look back at my updates as the season progressed.
So how did things change? The major dynamic, in so many ways, was the decision to make Gemma into Claudius. Certainly, the seeds were sown early, with the death of Clay and then Tara, but it didn’t become truly obvious to me until Gemma’s body count EXPLODED in this season. Just as Claudius was ultimately responsible for the death of almost everyone in his court, so too did Gemma preside over the slaughter of SAMCRO, and most of the nearby rival gangs. Interestingly, though, Gemma also embodied many of the traits of Lady MacBeth, who pushed her husband to kill the king, and then proceeded to fall apart mentally as a result of her decision. Like Lady MacBeth, Gemma spends a significant amount of time talking to people and things that aren’t there. I would also suggest that Gemma dies by her own hand; yes, Jax pulls the trigger, but it’s her decision to stop running and wait for Jax, and then push him into finishing it for her. Jax is merely the vehicle for her self-destruction.
Surprisingly, it was Uncer that filled the role of Gertrude, as signified by the goblet next to his body (Gertrude dies after drinking from a goblet Claudius has poisoned, intending it for Hamlet). In the play, Gertrude was generally clueless; she never really grasped what was going on, but she loved both Claudius and Hamlet, as she had loved Hamlet’s father. Uncer has always loved Gemma, and loves Jax like a son; unfortunately, his inability to grasp what’s going on, and a stubborn desire to do what he sees as right puts him directly into the line of fire.
Surely, there is no arguing that Tara was anyone but Ophelia. Even her death echoed both the play (where she drowned), and her time as an “old lady.” Gemma drowns her in the kitchen sink, hits her with an iron and stabs her with a fork–indicative of both of their domestic roles.
As it turns out, Chibs was indeed Horatio; a long-standing friend of Hamlet/Jax, he lives to bear word of what has happened, and is left to clean up the mess.
Bobby, in his death, did become the character of Polonius, though it seems a disservice to his character to suggest it, as Polonius was haughty, arrogant, and bumbling; Bobby is none of these things. He was loyal to the end. There is no denying, though, that he died because of Jax’s mistake. In the play, Hamlet stabs Polonius through a curtain, believing it to be Claudius; in SoA, it is Jax’s misreading of what kind of man Marks is that leads to Bobby dying in his arms.
Juice was Laertes, I believe, but the show allowed a resolution that never happened in Hamlet. Laertes and Hamlet were actually friends before Hamlet inadvertently caused Ophelia’s death (by suicide), and mistakenly killed Laertes’ father, Polonius. By the end, Jax and Juice have actually had the opportunity to resolve their differences–as much as that is possible, anyway. In return for Juice’s information, Jax allows him a quick death, at the hands of Tully.
Fortinbras is but a minor character in Hamlet, but Sutter took him to a different level by channeling him through Nero, and having Jax make a very specific request. In the play, Fortinbras is a foreign king come to visit, and he takes word of Hamlet (and everyone else’s) death, in essence ensuring that everyone knows what a hero Hamlet was. In one of the most painful moments of the episode for me (hitting me right in the daddy feels), Jax asks that Nero not hold back, but have Wendy tell the boys that their father was not a good man–he was a criminal and a murderer. He wants only for them to grow up ashamed of him, so that they will never feel the urge to follow in his footsteps. Nero, as a former king (gang leader), steps into the role and carries out Jax’s request.
Let me set aside Hamlet for a moment, though, and talk about some of the things that happened outside the text. First, the performances, particularly from Charlie Hunnam (Jax) and Tommy Flanagan (Chibs), were outstanding. Jax transitions from the angry, vengeful, broken man we’ve known for the entire season, into a calm, peaceful, and loving character that has embraced his eventual fate. Hunnam’s facial expressions alone were remarkable, fully conveying the change that has occurred in Jax’s soul. Chibs has to grapple with the loss of a man close enough to be his son, who is also his president, and his friend; Flanagan managed to simultaneously encapsulate grief, pain, and enduring strength throughout his performance in the finale–it was another great performance from a diverse and under-appreciated actor.
I was deeply intrigued, though not surprised, to see the homeless woman return, and it was great to see her handing over the blanket–tying together Jax’s disastrous career as the president of Redwood Original. Tied to the homeless woman/angel (or so I thought of her) were the bread and wine references. These felt a little heavy handed at times, but certainly got the theme of redemption across; as Jax’s blood flows toward the crows picking at the wine-soaked bread (great connection back to the first episode of the series, BTW), you know that he has successfully atoned for what he has done. This is not to say that he is in any way a good person–as he himself is well aware–he has done what he can, with the tools and knowledge he possesses, to make right what he screwed up. For that, and for freeing the hearts and minds of his sons, he is redeemed.
There has been a lot of controversy over Sutter’s decision to have Jax kill himself, but I truly think it was the only way. While I outspokenly didn’t think he could follow in his father’s footsteps and kill himself, Sutter made it clear that the two actions were not the same: J.T. killed himself out of despair, leaving everyone else to deal with his baggage; Jax did his best to clean his house, and then killed himself to rid his sons of the last tie they had to a life that would destroy them. Maybe a better man would have had more options, but Jax Teller was not a better man. The only thing he could do was meet death with a smile on his face.