Movies & TV / Columns

Sons of Anarchy: Good, Not Great, TV

December 16, 2014 | Posted by Jeremy Lambert

Sons of Anarchy was a good, not great, television show.

Fair or not, TV shows are often judged by their final seasons. Any TV show can get off to a hot start and hook viewers in in the short term with a couple of good seasons, but maintaining that success over the long term with a logical and interesting story is something that few shows are able to pull off.

My two favorite shows of all-time are The Wire and Breaking Bad. Both shows lasted five seasons and kept be entertained throughout the entire run. Both shows also had strong final season that wrapped things up nicely and gave fans a fitting end to the show.

Sons of Anarchy lasted seven seasons. The first season was up and down, but the show really hit a stride in season two before taking a dip in season three and picking back up in season four. Seasons five and six were strong, but that’s when show creator Kurt Sutter really started to go for shock value over story telling. Then there was season seven.

After the season six finale where Gemma killed Tara, it was obvious where they were going in season seven. The big thing would be, “when will Jax find out that his mother killed his wife and when he does find out, what will he do?” It took 11 episodes for Jax to learn the truth and when he finally did, the outcome was what most people predicted: Jax killed Gemma.

The problem wasn’t that it took Jax 11 episodes to find out the truth about his wife’s murder, it was how slow and boring the process was leading up to the truth. For most of its run, Sons of Anarchy was about 40-45 minutes long without commercials. In the final season, every episode was at least an hour long without commercials with some episodes clocking in at over an hour and a half. Sorry, but that’s just too long. It leads to a lot of unnecessary dialogue and pointless scenes that don’t actually help advance the story.

The final season was predictable, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. As mentioned, we all knew that Jax was going to find out the truth about Gemma and Tara and when he did, we all knew that he was going to kill his mom. The problem was Jax’s actions leading up to the big finale.

Throughout the entire series, Jax wanted to be the good guy. He wanted to save the club from the actions of Clay and eventually get out and start a real family. Through various circumstances, he was never able to do so and in the end he turned out to be no better than Clay. Jax was portrayed as the guy we could root for throughout most of the series and then in the final season he became the worst of them all.

In the season finale, Jax killed everyone who wronged him. Guys who tried to start over with their lives were shot in cold blood because that’s who Jax has always been despite his best efforts to change.

So what was the point of seasons 1-6? We were supposed to root for Jax to change how the club did business during those seasons. We were supposed to root for him to overthrow Clay and make something of his life despite his terrible upbringing and surrounding. In the end he turned out to be no better than Clay or Gemma.

I’m fine with the lead character being the anti-hero and someone that lets go of his morals to get what he wants. Breaking Bad executed this perfectly with Walter White. Even Sutter’s other critically acclaimed show The Shield did this well with Vic Mackey. But The Shield was upfront with who Mackey was and rarely strayed from that. Sons of Anarchy lied to me for the majority of its run with Jax.

When it comes to death on TV, Sons of Anarchy might be second to only Game of Thrones. If you cared about any character on Sons, they probably ended up dead by the end of the show. My problem with the deaths on Sons was that they were overdone, especially in the final season. Aside from the death of Opie and Gemma, every other death on the show was telegraphed or felt weak because of how long it took to set up or how pointless it was.

Did Unser really need to die? Once again, this goes back to Jax’s sudden transformation in the final season. Why did he have to kill Unser, the guy who constantly bailed him out of tough situations and looked out for his best interests? I get that he told Unser to leave and he refused because he knew that Jax was about to kill Gemma, but couldn’t Jax just have knocked him out while he took care of Gemma? What was the point of killing him other than “everyone must die”?

Then there’s that final scene.

Jax was going to die. We all knew it, we just didn’t know how it would happen. In the end he committed suicide by driving his bike into an 18-wheeler. It was a fine death although I thought it came off a bit weak. It definitely would’ve had more impact if Jax wasn’t cruising along at 10 MPH on the highway while 500 police vehicles who supposedly wanted to capture him to lock him up were cruising along behind him. It looked like Jax was being given a police escort. Maybe that was Sutter’s intentions. Jax gets escorted by the police to his obvious death, but that sounds even dumber than 500 police vehicles in neutral on the open road.

The true star character on this show was Wendy. She went from being a junkie who everyone hated to turning her life around and connecting with her biological son and Jax’s other son. It looked like she wasn’t long for the show with the overdoses and Jax not wanting her around her son, but she got it all together and ended up being the biggest success story of the show.

Sons of Anarchy was a good show. I don’t think it deserves to be ranked up there with Breaking Bad or The Wire or The Sopranos and I don’t even think it’s the best show in FX history, but it has its place in TV show history.

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Sons of Anarchy, Jeremy Lambert