‘Sons of Anarchy’ Season 4 Finale Review

Published 3 years ago by

Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman Sons of Anarchy season 4 Sons of Anarchy Season 4 Finale Review

In many respects, season 4 of Sons of Anarchy was an attempt to give the series a clean slate. It was a perfect jumping on point for new viewers. Most importantly, however, the sense of starting over allowed creator Kurt Sutter and his writers a chance to redirect the flow of the series back down the path it had begun with the first season.

The premise was simple: after the motorcycle club has paid its collective debt to society, SAMCRO emerges to a world that has moved on without them. It was an idea that thankfully pulled the focus from season 3‘s crazy, baby-stealing Irishmen, trips to Belfast, and Agent Stahl, and helped consolidate the many subplots of lies, double-dealings and revenge. It also meant viewers were asked to settle once more into the sometimes-overwrought, Shakespearean melodrama involving Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) and his Machiavellian stepfather, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman).

And while that premise made for an intriguing concept for season 4, it also forced the spotlight on that lingering plot thread that has existed since the show began, and the consequences of which SOA has only hinted at. In ‘To Be (Act I),’ it seemed as though Sutter was finally ready to address the issue – particularly where Clay and Gemma (Katey Sagal) were involved in the death of John Teller. While there are some important developments in this direction, the result of ‘To Be (Act II)’ feels as if consequence may have taken a backseat to the perception of progression.

Like the premiere, there is a lot of story to deal with in the season finale, which undoubtedly is why Sutter lobbied so fervently for more time. Ultimately, FX agreed to give Sons an additional hour, which still may not have been enough, as the apprehension surrounding the final moments comes off feeling a bit rushed. ‘To Be (Act II)’ is saddled with the responsibility of wrapping up not only the pending legal hell that is primed to drop on the heads of SAMCRO, but the episode is also asked to deliver the conclusion to Jax’s threat to finally kill Clay.

Perhaps it is the time constraint, or perhaps it is because the story is just too big right now, but given the build-up to this point, both aspects faltered somewhat in delivering a truly powerful climax.

As the Jax and Clay saga leaves the life of a major character hanging in the balance, that conflict arguably takes center stage over everything else. Thereby, it’s easy to understand why the RICO case that would effectively leave SAMCRO and several other criminal organizations in utter ruin is so quickly turned into a plot point for next season. However, it is the way that the storyline – which the viewer was asked all season long to accept as legitimate and pressing – is shuffled off, so it can be dealt with later, that feels like something of a cheat.

To their credit, the creative folks behind Sons of Anarchy do their best to provide a reasonable answer to the lack of efficacy seen in the numerous cases the Sons, Kings or Mayans. However, the crutch that the government and its various arms of law enforcement (from the law in Charming, to the FBI and all the way up the food chain to the Central Intelligence Agency) are, more often than not, battling their own internal bureaucracy and one another, while colluding in some form or another with the very criminal enterprises they are attempting to vanquish, makes the overall narrative of Sons of Anarchy feel as though it is chasing its tail.

Charlie Hunnam Sons of Anarchy season 4 finale FX Sons of Anarchy Season 4 Finale Review

Apparently, no one saw this or the SAMCRO across his chest.

At a certain point the inefficacy of law enforcement becomes as much of a hindrance on the program as the already unbelievable level of violence and illegal activity said inefficacy allows to continue. SAMCRO and several other criminal organizations are constantly running around, creating mayhem that apparently no one sees – which puts Rockmond Dunbar’s Eli Roosevelt in the unenviable position of being the most ineffective law enforcement officer this side of Barney Fife.

And it’s not like these guys are super criminals, or masterminds. Most of the time its one or two competent individuals leading a ragtag group of seemingly half-witted, loose cannons whose sole skill set revolves around a predilection toward violence and the uncanny ability to shrug off beatings, bullet wounds and the eye of the public – despite engaging in nearly every illegal activity dressed in what amounts to be a billboard advertising their allegiance to a certain motorcycle club.

Certainly, Sutter is painting the Sons as modern day outlaws and rebels, but without the presence of a competent adversary to deal with their shenanigans, it all just rings a bit untrue.

Additionally, as the Jax and Clay confrontation looms, the audience is bombarded with a rapid-fire succession of events and decisions made by major characters they later recant to seemingly leave the audience shocked by the turnaround.

Not surprisingly, season 4 relies too heavily on a multitude of eleventh hour reprieves and reveals to get its characters to follow the progression of the storyline. For four seasons now, SOA has been circling the same conclusion of the various conflicts surrounding Jax Teller, namely: Jax vs. Clay, Jax vs. the truth and Jax vs. himself.

sons of anarchy season 3 premierey jax Sons of Anarchy Season 4 Finale Review

All of these are fine avenues to explore, but here one would expect to find large story arcs encompassing the aforementioned themes – each building to an eventual conclusion. Instead, SOA creates a series of tiny climaxes…and then quickly negates them.

Everyone has that friend or family member who announces what major life change he or she is going to undertake months down the road, but when the time comes to deliver, they find some reason not to go through with said plans. Somehow, Sons of Anarchy has become the television equivalent of that person.

All joking aside, the end result of this constant vacillation by the characters and their circumstances is that the audience no longer believes in the effect of any decision or action, because it is immediately overwritten by the character then doing the opposite. And therein lies the major problem with the finale. From the beginning, there was a sense that a resolution was on the horizon, that the characters would have to face tough consequences, but as the season wore on, it became apparent the various plots were simply headed for the mere promise of closure.

Season 4 offered Sons of Anarchy its biggest chance to move forward and tell the tale of what happens – rather than merely suggest the possibilities of what may happen. By the end of ‘To Be (Act II)’ we see some tears, some bloodshed and some jailhouse guitar playing, but, ultimately, this season’s ending just became another promise waiting to be fulfilled.


Sons of Anarchy will return for a fifth season September 2012.

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  1. love the show, it had a great ending that will make some drastic changes to the next season.

  2. I’m sorry but this review is just shocking. This was one of the best episodes of SOA yet. It was fantastic in every way nearly. I’m just glad every other review out there seems to drastically disagree with you on this way. You seem to like putting the show down a bit to much.

    • Great review – massive anticlimax and I think my journey with SOA will end here. I don’t see where else they are going to go – this season promised fundamental changes and it fizzled out with barely a whimper. Worst episode ever, in my opinion.

      • @ Daneil F – I’m not sure why you are glad that other reviews have a positive opinion on this episode. Do you need someone to tell you how great an episode is for you to enjoy it? Your comment seems to be more of a personal attack on Kevin then you actually commenting on what parts of the episode you liked that make you believe this is the best episode yet.

        @ Rob – I don’t think it was the worst episode ever, was it great? I don’t think so, but I still enjoyed it. I thought that whole Cartel/CIA connection out of nowhere was extremely stupid. Whenever that happened it made me feel like the whole season was a complete waist. With that said I believe with the way the season ended it left the show with a whole bunch of angles to move forward with which I am excited to see.

        • Remember when the CIA guys were going to kill Laroy’s entire gang until Jax stopped them? That is what makes them turning out to be CIA not very believable.

          Also – the CIA guys said they were not going to kill Tara but just hold her in a safe location – that is inconsistent with the treatment Laroy’s gang almost got.

          In general – it is difficult to believe they were CIA guys due to the prior acts. That twist seems like it was added later in order to prolong some of the story lines.


          • That’s silly. Just cause they are backed by CIA doesnt mean they won’t kill anyone for no reason. I think they were lying about Tara to cool off Jax, nothing more nothing less.

            • CIA guys would kill an entire gang for no reason? that would have been what – 10 or so dead bodies?

              CIA guys would not want that kind of attention nor want that kind of heat.


              • As I recall the agency was using the one cartel to eradicate the others, So they were like independent contractors. They basically overlooked the cartel crimes as long as they got what they wanted (something we currently do for warlords in 3rd world countries). And actually the CIA has def been known to wreck shop if that’s what it took. I def agree it was kinda a deus ex machina though.

          • Agreed with doug. I thought the same thing. That CIA twist ruined the whole thing for me.

          • Laroy’s gang was working with the rival cartel, and the CIA’s agenda is to just control who has the market and fund an illegal opperation, which CIA has been known to do in the past. As long as they control the players of the game, CIA is happy.

        • Alberto you do realize the entire point of a review don’t you? It’s to inform people and give them a heads up if something is worth watching or not. If all the respected reviewers out there took the same stance that the reviewer has it could potentially hurt the show. So I’m glad that they knew quality when they saw it. Sites like IGN praised it as a near master piece of an episode. That’s good for the show. It has nothing to do with my ability to enjoy it since clearly I enjoyed it before reading any reviews and expressed that I enjoyed it despite this extremely insulting review. I want shows that I love to get good ratings and stick around so I can continue to enjoy them. Sometimes doing that with horrible reviews can be a challenge…. Unless it’s Whitney then some how it survives anyway despite being awful.

      • Then you, my fellow Internet friend, have a very samll mind and little to no imagination. It wasn’t exactly a satisfying ending to a fantastic season.

        But if your looking at it in the way you are, maybe you should go watch cartoons instead of grown up shows. As that seems to be your level of intellect.

        Before you start ranting over why I’ve said this to you, read this carefully.

        You do not seem to understand the overall Story Arc of SOA. Kurt Sutter come out at the end of season 2, that he has an overall story arc that will span 7 seasons. If the studios want more than 7, they need to tell him soon (He has said he needs to know by atleast episode 10 of season 7).

        The whole story is a modern day telling of Hamlet. All the killings, the backstabbing, it’s all there. Nearly every single season of SOA is a chapter taken directly from Hamlet.

      • Where else to go??? Clay must die first of all, and mainly now the prince has the throne and gavel. Next season obviously will show Jax’s young leadership while in too deep with the CIA OP they unknowingly got into, not to mention the IRA’s agenda, Next season could be the last, but hey, a war sparking with the Mayans again could always be a case.

  3. The Season 4 finale was pathetic and for all the reasons so eloquently pointed out in this article. I love this show. But Season 4 just came across as a poorly written story and a one year waste of these characters.

    • Absolutely. It was so anti-climatic.

    • Without a doubt the dumbest, most half-ass “finale” of any show I’ve gotten into. I feel completely cheated. The Mexican cartel is working with the CIA – even have badges? Jacks finally reads The Letters – my God I’m sick of hearing about those letters – learns the truth, then DOESN’T kill Clay? Dr. wife is good with it and suddenly becomes the submissive ol’ lady? I could go on, but why? Frankly this review was, while very accurate, very forgiving. If you liked this BS you either have an amazing ability to suspend reality or you have no clue about it.. The Sons do ave the most kickass conference table and leather chairs, though… Sheesh…

  4. From one Kevin to another I have to say this review was spot on. So much so rather than come up with my own way of explaining my disappointment with last nights finale I will just have them read this review instead.
    Let me add that in no way does this mean that I’m not going to watch SoA anymore and I thought it was so bad that the show couldn’t recover. The finale just fell flat. It seemed like the club in some way was going to face serious consequences for their actions and it just got swept under the rug.

  5. I don’t agree with this article at all. First off now that the cartel are actually CIA and need Samcro makes them unstoppable. I loved how there were so many topics left open and that the end of the eppisode was focused soley on the Sons and Jax. That was total closure. If they had tried to squeeze in the Irish and Cartel meet up or Wendy coming after Abel or the 1-9ers or the crazy DA dudes next move or Opie or Pineys death then it would have been much worse. But leaving all that open and just showing that Jax and Tara are the next coming was outstanding. Not to mention The White Buffalo version of house of the rising sun. All in all a great ending to a great season.

  6. Is it possible that the strong-line had to be modified midstream due to the fact that mid-way through Season 4 FX decided that they were going to add 2 more seasons?

    That would explain the authors contention that Season 4 did not follow through more on story lines.

    I think to an extent that contention has merit, but then again Season 4 ended with Jax holding the gavel – that is very big change that occurred this season. Also Tara has truly accepted her role as the maternal leader of SOA – she has come far this season and went through a lot!

    So the article does not acknowledge the changes that did occur – that seems like that needs to be summed up in an article that reviews the entire Season?


    • Good point about the writers needing to make a different plan due to the addition of more seasons. Whatever the motive, I loved the finale (it’s certainly much better than the season 3 finale with the twist ending that was conjured out of whole cloth). Did the ending feel unsatisfying? Yes, because the season made you want two things: (1) for Jax and Tara to get away; and (2) for Clay to die. But those emotional payoffs would have destroyed the show. (Fine for a series finale, but not if there’s going to be more seasons). In denying those satisfactions, the writers took the show and its characters to an incredibly dark place. Tara has given herself over a way of life she despises. Jax is president, but of what? The bonds of brotherhood and camaraderie among the SOA members are almost entirely gone, replaced by layers of suspicion and distrust. An organization that thrives on freedom from governmental and societal structures (Anarchy isn’t in the name just to sound cool) is now under the thumb of the CIA. Look, ultimately trouble is always the catalyst for compelling storytelling. And there is enough in the finale to fuel new SOA episodes for a long time to come.

    • To me it felt like this was supposed to be the last season then the show got renewed late in the game. The whole thing felt scrambled I still liked the finale. Also nobody seems to consider that the cartel might be lying about being CIA. Even if they are “on the level” would you really not belive that the US government would commit horrible crimes for the “greater good” ie. operation Fast and Furious and God knows what else they are up to.

  7. Did the niners somehow just forget where the SOA clubhouse was? Them not being in this episode at all was stupid

    • The niners were a lie, there was no reason to be in this episode because they didnt actually shoot clay or anything thus theres no reason for them to be there

  8. I couldn’t agree more with the reviewer and Kevin7. As a long time fan, the finale just fell flat. There were a lot of story lines opened up, so that could get interesting. Now that whole CIA twist was nicely done in my opinion. The show never claimed the Cartel was CIA, just that they were backed by the CIA. I think the show tried to sell the twist as an attempt to rid the US from the cartel’s competition and control the flow of drugs/Guns. Gives a whole new meaning to Diplomatic Immunity

  9. Focus on the issue here…the review. Couldn’t agree more. Sutter sold us out to make his cash cows happy. Seasons 1-3 were great television. Season 4 was all about giving FX and some moron viewers what they wanted. I stayed with Sons all season hoping that Sutter would give us some brilliant media. Now I’m sorry I didn’t watch the Victoria’s Secret fashion show when it lined up against Sons last week. Season 4 and it’s finale were an incredible disappointment. I was hoping this show would really mature this year…not take a step backwards to cater to the masses. It seems, now, that Sutter’s best work appears to have been on The Shield…at least that show stayed true to it’s creator’s vision.

  10. I agree with Kevin’s review. Last night’s show WAS very anti-climatic. As a SOA fan, I was disappointed with the show and in particular the way last night was shown.

    First of all, this whole season, every 1hr episode was really 32-33 minutes when you count all the commercial breaks. The way Wendy suddenly reappears and expects to have rights to ‘her’ son, ludicrous. She gave away everything in season 1 (I went back and rewatched to check), plus no judge is going to give her a kid who she’s never seen in over 3 years given her background over Tara, who clearly is the legal guardian of Abel. This whole cartel scenario just hasn’t made sense, they would know SOA doesn’t have the level of ‘support’ they would need PLUS the fact of the MC would have too much heat as they all just got out of prison. I could keep going but if you’ve watched religiously, I think you’ve gotten the gist.

    Lastly, if you really thought Clay would be killed off and that Jax wouldn’t end up as club President and him make wholesale officer changes, well, what have you been watching? My only question was who was going to be new Sgt at Arms, Happy or Chibs and I am glad to see its Chibs, I hope this means more time for him next season, he’s one of my favorites and was sorely overlooked last season considering they were in Northern Ireland and that’s where he ‘got his start’.

    My major hope is FX gets the blasted DVD out sooner than August, 8 1/2 months is TOO long to wait!!

  11. I loved the season finale. I did anticipate the show to move in a certain direction but, at the end of the day, I was quite satisfied with the show.

  12. Great review citizen

  13. I think some of the hand wringing about plot details sort of misses the point. Have the writers crafted an airtight story? Certainly not. But they have managed to create some of the most compelling characters I’ve ever seen on a TV show. Almost every one of the major characters is brutal, cruel, and manipulative in the extreme, but somehow we still root for them. (SOA certainly did not invent the antihero, but the show does it better, and walks closer to the line, than other shows like Breaking Bad and Dexter). This is what makes the show work, not whether the CIA would kill or not kill gang members in cold blood or whether characters who routinely commit public violence could possibly evade law enforcement the way Samcro does. In terms of plot, SOA is a comic book (and I mean that in the best possible way). In terms of characters and themes, the show is as compelling of an action drama as I’ve ever seen.

    • Very good points! And I agree – it’s the characters that make SOA such compelling TV and not the plot development. I read the interview Sutter just did on EW that was posted here, and I’m glad that Sutter seems pumped up and excited to do more seasons. but, for whatever reason, I was underwhelmed by the finale and it seems like better conclusions didn’t happen because Sutter wimped out, or blinked, at the last minute and wanted at all costs to retain Perelman and some other characters for more seasons when clearly he had lead the story to the point where they really had to go.

      At that point, inconsistent plot lines that I had already let go became something that stuck out. I will try to watch SOA next season, but at this point do I really give a s*** about what happens with Clay’s character after he kills Piney and attempts to kill Tara but then is allowed to live? Do I really have sympathy for Opie for letting his girl friend and then father killed but then still take a seat at the table? THe reality is that Sutter pushed things to far in order for to retain sympathy and maximal interest for these characters. What makes Sutter so terrified to take things to the logical conclusion that he himself sets up?


    • Joe always nice to see someone who understands what the show is all about. People who harp on the realistic nature of a show that basically said from episode one that they were not gonna be realistic annoy me. The show is about having compelling and interesting character. It’s about the meaning behind the story not the actual plot it’s self. It’s about the subtext not the CIA killing people. When people take in the characters and the subtext they see how brilliant everything has been crafted.

      Some people also seem to fail to realize that this is a TV show and one that is not ending in season 4. Jax couldn’t run away and Clay couldn’t die yet. Those things simply couldn’t happen it would severely hinder the show in season 5 and these same people would complain they they dropped the ball by killing off Clay and sending Jax away.

      The worst thing though is complaints that nothing has changed. You do realize everything has changed? People are finally seeing who Clay really is. Clay has lost everything his wife, his club and his son. Jax took up the gavel which is a moment that we have been building up to since season 1. Tara has tremendously evolved and is standing behind Jax as the Queen she had to eventually become if she was to stick around. The Club has fallen apart no one trusts one another and a few members have died along the way. Even Jax and his mother have a divide between them now. It was clear to see in the end he was not interacting with her the same. Not only did she beg him to stay, but he seems suspicious of her and untrusting after everything. There has been more change this season than the first three combined and yet some people are complaining there was none?

  14. I wouldn’t say worse episode ever, but it was very predictable, I do agree that it didn’t need that extra 45min to wrap it up, I see it more as a build up for what is to come. Jax wanted out sooo bad, but still showed that SAMCRO runs through his veins, and what is to happen when Jax finds out the real truth about his mother being involved in his fathers death. I know some of you might not agree with this but I see it as an smart move on Shutters part to get SOA renewed for season 6 and I can’t see it going past season 6 as much as I would love to see SOA for the next 6 yrs it wouldn’t do the show any justice dragging it on like that. Back to the finale it was a good ending but not amazing, it could of just ended with Opi shooting Clay, The finally from season 3 is still giving me chills.

    • Yes, I wondering what Opi is up to – he’s still raging; will he finish Clay off or show up at the club meeting in a rage?

  15. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn

    I’m done. First couple seasons were brilliant. This one bored teh sh*t out of me by the third episode. I have not watched it since I watched the finale last night, Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

  16. The first 2 seasons seriously rocked – it was edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff. Season 3, not so much. Chasing a baby around the other side of the world for the good part of Season 3; rather dull. The only upside to that season was that you got to see the SOA international charter in Ireland in operation. Season 4 started off with a hiss and a bang…and I thought fantastic, Sutter is back and this is going to be like Seasons 1 and 2…bring it on…all the episodes were building up to a great finale and then wham, a good kick in the damn guts with a deflating and uninspiring finale. I did wonder how they were going to deal with Jackson leaving and Clay being killed…but that finale was definitely not up to scratch. Maybe they should’ve ended it when Opi shot Clay? Anyway, I’m a huge SOA fan, so I’ll be watching Season 5, but if that doesn’t give me anything to get wet about, then I’ll sadly cut my losses and move on. Happy Holidays from Sydney, Australia

  17. Loved this season, but found the finale disappointing and myself eye rolling more than once. Would Tara really have surrendered her career and her boys to “poisonous” Charming so quickly? Maybe next season Tara & Jax will head up a YMCA fund raiser for at-risk kids, and start forging a straight path for their own. Would Potter really take the time to drop by the town meeting with a bag of sex toys? Being the odd dude that he is, he probably bagged a few of the toys for future kicks now that he’ll have a lot of time on his hands. Would Jax really give himself to the CIA and the cartel, believing that he can straighten things out?

    Still, the acting was great as usual and I’ll watch next season.

  18. Thought the end was terrible.

    As a viewer I wanted a big finale.

    But the writer is loathed to alter his cash cow.

    A shame. Why can’t shows just go out with a bang?

  19. Just a single comment on those who claim that the CIA would not kill a gang of people…WAKE UP! Read some non-fiction and see what the CIA and the US government really did in South America, what was shown on SOA is not really all that unbelievable.

    • The “CIA guys” embedded in the cartel were overtly sadistic and brutal – unrealistically so. To then pass these guys off as “CIA guys” in the finale was awful story telling as it completely reset entire plot lines developed over the entire season. For instance, Potter and his investigation was simply dispatched and the entire investigation – IRRELEVANT and of no consequence. In a period of 2 minutes, it was revealed that cartel guys were “CIA guys” and then Potter is marching to his car with all his stuff in a box – this was terrible story telling!! It also made all the “Juice stuff” completely irrelevant and of no consequence.

      Thanks, but no thanks.


  20. What JD said. Seriously, how can you people rag on the CIA twist when you don’t even understand it?

    The “CIA guys” are Cartel, not agents of the CIA.

  21. Sons of anarchy rules over all other shows

  22. Try watching Good Wife – it will blow your mind. Or Person of Interest.. good luck!


  23. I agree with some of the users here that the SOA Season 4 finale was flawed in the desperate plot twist of having the cartel turn out to be working for the CIA. Instead of keeping the suspense of the dangers of working with an unpredictable and violent drug cartel, the writer killed it by just creating another legal challenge for the SOA that left us saying “ugh” instead of “wow”. Personally I would have loved to see Jax step up to the plate of MC president without being forced by the CIA, that would have been a little less anti-climatic(not to mention more realistic, who ever heard of the CIA getting mixed up in MC’s??) than creating this whole new storyline that no one cares about. But I have to hand it to the writers of SOA that Season 4 was much more intense than previous episodes and it was able to keep us all stuck to our televisions until the finale.

    One other thing for those of you saying that the cartel guys were CIA “confidential informants” rather than CIA assets/agents. Since when do informants get badges?? No offense but I’d review a few episodes!

  24. I am a huge SOA fan and have recruited people to watch this series as I think it is spectacular. First of all, was the finale to season 4 the greatest episode ever? Probably not, but that’s not saying that the show is in ruins. Other series that were on TV for years didn’t always have great episode after great episode, that would be impossible. And as for the whole Clay/Jax drama, they still need that tension in the group in order for the show to work. That is what the show is based on! And for the CIA surprise in the end of season 4, whether is was believable or not, REALLY????? This is a fictional show!!! Who cares if it isn’t real life, the fact that SAMCRO is a motorcycle gang trying to keep Charming from development is kind of out there as well. I watch it because it keeps me entertained and there is a good story with depth. If you want something that is more real life then watch the news.

  25. It’s easy to critique any and every TV show or film in regards to the believability of it’s plot, especially when the storyline involves fictitious outlaws. This is why they call it, “temporary suspension of disbelief”.