[This is a review of Sons of Anarchy season 6, episode 13. There will be SPOILERS.]
Because of certain storylines in the past, Sons of Anarchy has developed something of a reputation for building up to a big inevitable moment, only to turn away from it, as if delaying the action would somehow enhance the drama of it all. But season 6 has been different, largely because, over the course of several gratuitously overlong episodes, the trend in the series seems to have shifted toward a desire to hit as many big moments as possible, without really developing a deep sense of why they were inevitable. The result of that has been a season padded with great deal of filler, without enough of it connecting to the climactic character moments for them to carry much weight or purpose beyond the initial rush of shocking violence being perpetrated on a familiar character.
Unlike the sudden death of Clay in 'Aon Rud Persanata,' there was a hint that something unpleasant was going to happen to Tara for much of the season. And while the event was handled in a way that was indeed shocking, and brought Tara's lengthy, quarrelsome, and frequently-aggressive relationship with Gemma to a bloody and gruesome end, it was accompanied by the overwhelming feeling that any sense of tragedy stemming from the event was entirely superficial. That's not to say Tara's murder wasn't tragic; it was, but it was tragic for all the wrong reasons. Rather than have her death really mean something powerful beyond adding to the misery and suffering Jax and the other characters of Sons of Anarchy must seemingly endure, it just wound up being a bit of dramatic irony that highlighted Gemma's too frequent bouts of violence and jumping to conclusions that simply weren't true. Carrying out the death sentence of a major character on the foundation of something as flimsy as that makes the whole thing reek of insincerity, which was only compounded by the feeling that most of the characters had to suddenly drop a few precious IQ points to allow the complicated series of events to play out as they did.
It's difficult to understand why, after treating Juice like Fredo and proclaiming, "You betrayed me," Jax would then let him go out in search of Gemma, who, according to a rather placid Unser, was behaving erratically and had stolen his truck – which was discovered parked outside Jax and Tara's house. But things get even murkier when Roosevelt conveniently leaves Tara in her home, and only reenters after she'd already been murdered, because it didn't occur to her to, you know, scream for help from the local sheriff standing just outside her front door. On the plus side, there was a brief moment when it appeared that, having been given the correct information, Gemma was going to accept responsibility for what she'd done, but all of that was wiped away when Juice decided to kill one of the few remaining likable characters the show had left.
For the most part, much of 'A Mother's Work' hinged on the question of whether or not Tara was going to turn herself in to Tyne Patterson, and rat out her husband and the rest of the MC, in exchange for immunity from a crime she didn't commit. There was some tension in this storyline, but for a series that lives and breathes on twists and explicit acts of violence, there was no way things would go down in such a manner. Tara's death certainly checked the Explicit Acts of Violence box, but the abrupt twist of having Jax suddenly surrender himself – after a season of killing and bartering his way out of trouble with things like the school shooting that started this whole chain of events – lacked the kind of context that would have made his decision feel reasonable or even heroic. Instead, after spending much of his time this season cheating on Tara, having member of SAMCRO follow her around town, or otherwise ignoring her plight, it felt as though Jax suddenly flipped a switch and decided it would be better for everyone that he play the martyr. The trouble is, aside from a few lectures about responsibility from Tyne and Nero, there was nothing in his arc this season that would suggest the transition from killer to willing sacrifice was even remotely in the cards. And considering how much time was spent on introducing plotlines, incidents, and characters that ultimately went nowhere, or had no great meaning, it makes the lack of work done on behalf of Jax's conversion all the more noticeable.
The question at the beginning of the season was: how is Sons of Anarchy going to use the school shooting to make it relevant not only to the season's overall narrative, but also to the welfare of the characters involved? The answer, apparently, is: it isn't. All season long, the show pulled surface-deep discussions out of the school shooting, and that's better than no discussion at all, the incident wound up being a simple plot point designed to get the Sons into a suddenly exigent move away from guns. From a purely plot-driven perspective, the club's desire to pull away from guns made sense, but season 6 never showed much interest in the way of earnestly engaging in a discussion about gun violence outside the rather limited perspective of Jax and the rest of SAMCRO.
Ultimately, the same can be said for a number of plot points and storylines this season. Lee Toric proved to be not only an irritating character, but also one that was quickly abandoned and used primarily to open the door to Otto's exit. Meanwhile, how many are still scratching their heads over what exactly Kim Dickens and Peter Weller's characters were intended to bring to the table? Aside from helping move a few pieces around the board, they ostensibly did nothing. And then there's was the dramatically inert execution of Clay Morrow that only briefly showed a glimmer of meaning something beyond simply saying goodbye to Ron Perlman.
In the end, season 6 wound up being a frustratingly indistinct season that seemed to invite a discussion into the morality of the show's themes and its characters, only to demonstrate a greater preference for heaping sorrow on its protagonist in a search for something profound. Perhaps in its seventh, and potentially final season, all of this death and pain will amount to something carrying great weight, but right now it just feels like despair for the sake of despair.
Sons of Anarchy will continue with season 7 in 2014 on FX.
Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX