Looking for an explanation of the series finale and an analysis of which characters from Hamlet each SoA character lined up with? Come check out my series end analysis!
UPDATE: December 4, 2014 (Originally published December 16, 2013)
The final ride is next week. That’s right: next week. Now that everyone has had a chance to catch up on the penultimate episode (except, perhaps, for those of you viewing through the Playstation Network, which a colleague has been furiously tweeting at for not posting the new episode in a timely way), let’s see how things are playing out.
This was a HUGE episode, with three major deaths: Gemma, Uncer, and Juice. I should have caught the signs FAR sooner, but last night was the first time it really clicked for me that Gemma spent a LOT of time in chapels (particularly at the hospital) during the first few seasons. This was echoed last episode, when Gemma ran back to her father’s parish, and again in this episode when she went to her father’s very religious nursing home, and was mistaken for someone “from the church” by her father. This reflects, quite directly, the scene in which Hamlet plans to kill Claudius, but waits because Claudius is atoning for his sins and would go straight to heaven, regardless of his crimes.
Gemma’s position as Claudius is flavoured by overtones of Lady MacBeth, as well, as she quietly looks to her past and then (in essence) commits suicide via Jax. She knew he would come for her, she accepted it, and she was ready for it. I also liked how Nero’s concern for Jax’s soul echoes, in part, Hamlet’s hesitation in killing Claudio.
Uncer’s death was also illuminating, particularly in the last shot of him, when a goblet lies at his side. At the end of Hamlet, Claudius attempts to poison Hamlet, only to have Gertrude drink of the same cup and die. Uncer, with his general lack of understanding of what’s really going on at times, and with his love for both Gemma and Jax, becomes Gertrude in the end. Props to Kurt Sutter for his skillful, subtle homage.
Juice’s death felt a bit rushed, but I’m honestly glad his suffering is over–and that he got to finish his pie. I still see Juice as a Laertes figure, so it will be interesting to see if the vehicle of his death is somehow echoed in how Jax goes (both Hamlet and Laertes die by the same poisoned sword). I’m not sure I see that coming, though.
There were a few other interesting bits in this episode, outside of the deaths. For one, I found it interesting that the Jax and Wendy end up having sex. This brings things back full circle to the beginning of the narrative. At its heart, Sons of Anarchy is a story about fathers and sons (JT/Jax, Clay/Jax, Nero/Jax, Jax/Abel, and a number of other potentials), so the real start of the story is Abel’s conception–the moment Jax became a father. We didn’t see that, having fast-forwarded a bit to Abel’s birth, but it makes sense from a narrative perspective for the story to return to its beginnings. Why this worries me, though, is how narrative theory affects the possibilities for the series end. There are really only two choices for the end of a story: things are forever changed, or everything returns to status quo. I fear that the return to the beginning of the narrative signals not only the closing of the story (you’ll notice that most good stories somehow circle back to close where they began), but the perpetuation of the cycle from JT/Jax to Jax/Abel. Jax asking Gemma for JT’s manuscript makes me worry for Abels future–though this is counterbalanced a bit by Jax asking Nero to take Wendy and the boys to the farm (please run quickly, you four!).
Lastly, Jax’s limp. Now, this may be nothing; in fact, I understand that Charlie Hunnam broke a toe recently, and that may be all there is to it. It does bear some consideration, though, that Hamlet dies not of a sword through the belly, but of a small poisoned cut…
I can’t wait for next week!
Don’t forget to come back after the series finale to read SONS OF ANARCHY: A SERIES END EXPLAINED
UPDATE: November 20, 2014
Two episodes left!
There have been a ton of GREAT comments here, and I much appreciate each and every one of you that has shared your view of how the finale will go.
It seems that most of you expect Jax to commit suicide. I don’t agree, because I don’t think that’s in him. The most depressing suggestion thus far, I think, is that the cycle will simply repeat, with Abel stepping in Jax’s shoes, Wendy into Gemma’s, etc. While that makes great sense, actually, the optimist in me hopes that we see something else come of this.
I have trouble seeing Jax as a man that commits suicide. Yes, he’s broken–badly broken in this past episode, particularly. He’s also a man to take on responsibility for his actions, though, and I’m not sure that sense of responsibility will allow him to die by his own hand; while he might believe the club better without him, it would also absolve his responsibility to fix what he has broken.
I think this last episode has also been an interesting look at Gemma. There was really no telling what direction she would go once she had lost everything. We’ve seen her broken before (just before/how she met Nero is a good example), but she’s always had Jax and the boys. Now she truly has nothing. I wondered if that wouldn’t lead her to kill herself, like Lady MacBeth, and that felt all but confirmed when she sat at her kitchen table talking to Tara. Now, I’m not so sure. Above all, Gemma is a consummate survivor and master manipulator; still, I don’t feel like even the loss of everything else in her life has been sufficient punishment for what she’s done. I must say, though, that I don’t think it will be Abel pulling a trigger. He may have been the one to get the ball rolling, but he ultimately loves her, and doesn’t seem to have the ability to hate her for taking Tara’s life. At this point, I honestly wonder if it won’t be Uncer pulling the trigger…
One last note: Charlie Hunnam and Theo Rossi were SUPERB in this past episode. Wow.
UPDATE: November 14, 2014
We’re now nearing the end of the season, and I can’t help but look back at what we’ve seen. There have been some great comments on the original post, bringing in some fabulous ideas, such as Gemma surviving to choke on her own guilt (potentially after watching Jax kill himself), or having a direct confrontation between her and Abel. Let me share what I’ve seen.
First, I think it’s worth noting that another Shakespeare play has quite firmly put its foot in the SoA door: Macbeth. Gemma’s scenes of talking to Tara’s ghost echo Lady Macbeth’s troubled visions and sleepwalking after the killing of King Duncan, as she attempts to rationalize and lay to rest her part in the murder. This role works well for Gemma, who has an enormous body count stemming from her actions, and has goaded both Clay and Jax into committing any number of atrocities. It may be worth noting, then, that Lady Macbeth dies by her own hand when she is finally overcome with the guilt of what she’s done. It may be that Kurt Sutter is setting Gemma up for a confrontation with Jax that she will escape from, but lose everything she holds dear; at that point, she may feel she has no other option than suicide.
If we stick with Hamlet, however, it’s interesting to note that Bobby died as a direct result of Jax’s actions, placing him in that key Polonius role. As for poor Nero, he seems so close to finally getting his farm and getting the hell out of charming–kind of like that old cop cliche where they’re killed only days before retirement. Things don’t look good for Nero, in my opinion, which is a damned shame because he’s probably the most honorable character on the show at the moment.
Certainly, I have had to revise my opinion of who will play Fortinbras, coming in at the end to find the ruins of SAMCRO. I had thought August Marks the likely candidate, but that seems somehow unlikely given the events of the last few episodes. Perhaps Lodi or even Alvarez will have to step into those shoes.
One thing is very clear, though: shit is about to hit the fan.
UPDATE: September 12, 2014
So I’ve watched the season premiere now, and had a little bit of time to reflect on it. While it would be a reversal of sexes, it may just be possible that Gemma is actually the Claudius figure. She was effectively behind the murder of JT, whose “ghost ” haunted Jax. She also played a part in the death of Clay. Far from an antagonist, Nero seems to have taken on the role of placator and diplomat, while Gemma has grown only more ruthless, throwing people under the bus at every turn.
The finale, then, would be Jax killing GEMMA, after she accidentally gets Nero killed during a plot to kill Jax. Frankly, given her single-minded focus on her grandchildren, it’s not particularly far fetched to see Gemma going after Jax, nor would it be remotely surprising to see her ruthlessness result in the inadvertent death of Nero.
Little else would really change in this scenario, oddly enough. Juice, I think, is still the prime choice for Laertes, though I’m starting to wonder if maybe Chibs isn’t too dedicated to Jax to serve as Polonius. You know who isn’t, though? Tig.
I’ve loved Sons of Anarchy from the first season. The writing is excellent, the acting is well done, and the characters are engaging. I suppose it helps that I used to ride motorcycle when I was younger, and perhaps that Kim Coates, the exceptionally talented actor who plays Tig, lives only a couple of hours north of the city I live in, but it’s the story that’s held me for six seasons. Now, with only one season left in the series, I’d like to offer my (somewhat) educated opinion on how I see this marvelous story concluding.
SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SOA SEASON 6 FINALE, STOP HERE.
It’s not a big secret that SoA resembles Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In fact, I might argue that any story written about a son whose father is killed and supplanted will be seen that way, solely because Hamlet is so well remembered among Shakespeare’s plays, and is still often taught in high school. However, as the seasons have played out, it has become clear that Kurt Sutter is using Hamlet as inspiration for his own masterpiece, though with his own artistic interpretations bridging the gap between the life of the privileged Prince of Denmark and the son of a biker gang king.
Being a literary nerd, I can’t help but make the connections between Hamlet and SoA, and I thought it might be worth sharing my thoughts on it, for those who may not remember Hamlet as well, or may not have bothered to make the connections themselves.
First, a quick synopsis of Hamlet and its characters is likely in order: Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark; his father, the king, was killed by his uncle, Claudius, who then married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, and took up the crown; Hamlet is visited by his father’s ghost, who reveals the murderous secret; Hamlet then spends the majority of the play agonizing about exacting a perfect revenge on his uncle/step-father.
Hamlet’s love interest is a girl named Ophelia, the daughter of Claudius’ closest advisor, Polonius, and sister of Laertes. Hamlet spurns Ophelia, who commits suicide as a result. He also accidently kills Polonius, thinking it is Claudius lurking behind a curtain.
The climax of the play is dueling scene between Hamlet and Laertes, who is seeking revenge for the deaths of his father and sister. Claudius poisons Laertes’ sword in an attempt to ensure Hamlet’s death, and poisons a cup of wine as backup. Gertrude unexpectedly drinks of the wine and dies. Laertes ends up cutting both Hamlet and himself, and dies of the poison. Hamlet survives long enough to kill Claudius, and then dies as well. Hamlet’s friend Horatio is the only one left standing when Fortinbras, another King, sweeps in and discovers the carnage. Fortinbras ensures that Hamlet’s body gets the respect due a soldier.
So where does SoA fit in? Some pieces are obvious: Jax is Hamlet, Gemma is Gertrude, Tara is Ophelia (though she shares it with Wendy at times), Claudius (at least initially) is Clay—but it is the less obvious pieces that suggest where SoA is going in the 7th and final season.
Season 6 ends with the death of Tara (told you there would be spoilers). While she doesn’t commit suicide quite as directly as Ophelia (who throws herself into a river), it’s pretty clear that it is her own actions that lead to Gemma killing her—even if Gemma was working on flawed information. Props to Kurt Sutter for including drowning in Tara’s death as a nod to Ophelia, and for adding in the very hard to watch “forking” to reflect both the violence in both Gemma and Tara’s lives. Also interesting (though not directly related to Hamlet) are the distinctly domestic tools that Gemma uses to kill Tara, and how they reflect her status as an “old lady” of the club, rather than a member; she uses an iron, dishwater, and a meat fork to take Tara out.
Clay also dies in Season 6, which seems to remove Claudius from the equation; however, I would suggest that Nero takes his place metaphorically, as well as literally. The outcome, according to Shakespeare, would be for Nero to somehow cause Gemma’s death, while trying to kill Jax (either directly, as through the poisoned wine, or indirectly, like the poisoned sword). Jax will then finish Nero off (preferably using the same methods Nero tries to use on him).
Juice seems to be the obvious choice for Laertes, at this point, which suggests Chibs (his father figure) will take on the role of Polonius. This means that Jax will do something to get Chibs killed, and the final battle of the series will come down to Juice and Jax. I also considered the fact that Bobby plays the role of Polonius here, and his near-death from a bullet wound was a metaphorical end, but it just doesn’t fit as nicely. It’s even possible that Clay transitioned from a Claudius figure to a Polonius figure (he was very much a father figure to Juice) before his death, as Nero supplanted him, but the only result of that would be to make Chibs’ death unnecessary. While I would be happy about that, I doubt any of the long-term Redwood members of SAMCRO will see the end of the series, anyway.
That leaves Horatio, who I had hoped would be Opie—I really liked Opie’s character, and Ryan Hurst’s performance of him. He would also have fit well as Hamlet’s long-time friend. As noted above, Chibs’ survival may put him the role of Horatio, as well, but I think the more likely candidate at this point is former-chief Uncer; however, his role as a survivor would be fairly ironic, given his status as a terminal cancer patient.
Finally, there is the role of the body-finder to consider. In Hamlet, Norwegian prince named Fortinbras is the one to find the bodies of the royal family, and give Hamlet’s body the honour he deserves. The most obvious choice for Fortinbras would be a leader of one of the other gangs—be it the Irish, the Mayans, or the 9-ers. The Mayans are a bit dicey, as Nero is now in partnership with them, and any Claudius-related role he plays will influence their behavior. The Irish are severely compromised, given the events of Season 6, making them somewhat unlikely—though an Irish king, or even an Irish SoA member, remains a possibility. I would place my bet on August Marks; while he isn’t exactly the head of the 9-ers, per say, he is clearly in charge of organized crime in Oakland at this point, and a “king” in his own right.
Obviously I can’t say for sure how it’s all going to play out; I’m not sure that anyone except Kurt Sutter really knows, and maybe he hasn’t even figured out every detail yet. I can tell you that I will be waiting impatiently for Season 7, though, and avidly watching every Tuesday until the Prince of Denmark closes his eyes for the last time.
As a final note, I somehow doubt Kurt Sutter will ever end up reading this, but, should a Christmas miracle occur and it does happen, I just want to say how amazing the writing was in the short scene of the series 6 finale, where Jax is sitting against Opie’s gravestone. Wow. Just wow.