It can’t be said that Jax (Charlie Hunnam), Clay (Ron Perlman), and every other guy who’s spent time around Gemma (Katey Sagal), didn’t know precisely what her reaction to the threat of losing her family would be. To their credit, Jax and Clay even took a brief timeout from glaring at and lying to one another to discuss the fact that nobody wants an untethered Gemma running around, drinking up all the banana vodka in Charming and getting her SUV stolen by Joel McHale. It’d just be better for everyone on Sons of Anarchy – the citizens of Charming included – if Gemma always has her family to hold on to.

Of course, Jax’s master plan was to use his mother’s need of family as leverage in acquiring enough evidence on Clay that a handshake with Mr. Mayhem could be arranged. But when Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) jumped the gun on the introduction, Gemma’s little intelligence gathering endeavor went by the wayside, and Jax seemed to slacken a bit in regards to the no contact rule Tara (Maggie Siff) had put into place for her mother-in-law. Ultimately, though, Gemma did what’d been asked of her, so, naturally, it would be more of a forget than forgive situation, and the definitive old lady would soon be back in the Teller house, creepily referring to her grandkids as “My babies,” and intercepting special deliveries so that her plot this season could continue to progress without too much extraneous dialogue.

In ‘J’ai Obtenu Cette,’ Gemma’s tasked with doing the same thing that’s been asked of the character these last few seasons – which is to stir the pot, keep secrets and make everything exponentially more difficult for everyone than it has to be. This time, however, she may have crossed a line (at least that’s what we’re led to believe) after Tara is arrested for her role in the Otto (Kurt Sutter) nurse-killing fiasco. The conflict between the two women leaves the season on a cliffhanger many saw coming, and asks the audience to sit through yet another Gemma vs. Tara scuffle that has become such a repetitive part of the series.

And so, season 5 of Sons of Anarchy ends in familiar fashion: With familial manipulation and moral strife effectively upsetting the scales many had labored so hard to balance this season. On one hand, it’s a predictable ending to a season that had its fair share of ups and downs (the plot sink that was Gemma’s brief circling of the drain; the fact that Wendy and several other plot threads are still around; and the whole Carla (Wanda De Jesus) subplot come to mind as negatives). On the other hand, though, those elements are countered by how well the season told Jax’s transformation from hopeful leader to a brutal, angry and vicious man consumed by his need for revenge.

Oh, and it accomplished this without resorting to a series of out-of-left-field plot twists. Sure, there was the double-crossing and execution of Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau), but that was already a potential outcome from the deal Jax had brokered with the crime lord while in prison – which is a far cry from the Galindo boys suddenly revealing themselves to be CIA operatives. ‘J’ai Obtenu Cette’ – which, if the translation is correct, means, ‘I got this’ – works primarily because much of the plot revolves around characters (well, not Tig) that are given the opportunity to act, instead of being forced into a role by external manipulators like Galindo, the Irish, or whatever.

To be fair, ‘J’ai Obtenu Cette’ was really just cleaning up after the more significant, but perhaps less viscerally exciting events of ‘To Thine Own Self‘ and ‘Darthy.’ Ultimately, its role in the season was to deal with the lingering question of Jax’s loyalty to Pope and to provide hints at where things would be headed come next season. And in that regard, it’s good entertainment.

In the end, Jax’s success was also the success of the show. He has largely rid SAMCRO of the threats stemming from the club’s involvement with guns, drugs, Pope, the RICO case, and now Clay – and he became a frightening, obsessive individual as a result. It’s a compelling direction for the character, but one wonders which of his accomplishments will come back to haunt him. As much as Jax seems to have changed, the story around him hasn’t much. In that regard, the recycling of plot threads still continues. This may be a concern for some, but like the show’s penchant for ending episodes with a montage of the Sons set to sad music, perhaps that’s just another familiar part of the series that makes Sons of Anarchy attractive to so many people.

Despite the cyclical nature of the series, season 5 was largely successful because it didn’t press at an outcome it was unwilling to deliver. Instead, it delivered a strong story about a man all but consumed by thoughts of revenge, who wound up resembling the person he hates the most. There seems to be a gripping storyline waiting to stem from this development that may very well lead into the series’ endgame. It’s a good bet that Clay’s narrative won’t end in prison (if it even gets to that point). If that’s the case, then more familiar faces will likely be back in the picture as well.

Various other items:

  • “Way to commit, Otto.”
  • While August Marks (Billy Brown) doesn’t seem entirely convinced by Jax’s account of the events leading up to Pope’s murder, the question of why he apparently doesn’t care that Tig is still alive seems more troublesome.
  • The subplot of the fighting dog’s rescue from execution being a metaphor for Tig’s arc was perhaps a little too on the nose.
  • The episode went out of its way to describe what a loose cannon and badass Lee Toric (Donal Logue) is, so it looks like we’ll be seeing more of him next season.
  • Speaking of season 6, it looks like Nero (Jimmy Smits) and Diosa International will be around as well.

Sons of Anarchy will return for season 6 in the fall of 2013 on FX.