I for reals can’t stop shaking right now, which isn’t the kind of thing I’m used to after watching Sons of Anarchy. I’m familiar with bemused revulsion, such as when Abel heard Gemma confess to Tara’s murder, or fictional rage, such as when Bobby’s eye got taken out. (And those are just this season.) But “Red Rose” has floored me in quite a few ways. Not the least of which is the particular pile of bodies that fell tonight, and the manner in which Jax coasts through the episode on a cloud of depressed horseshit. So with a heavy heart, we move into it.

”She was the one who loved the flowers.”

That line was uttered by Hal Holbrook, reprising his role as Gemma’s father Nate Maddock. She goes to see him because she knows her time on Earth is limited, as she knows her son better than anyone. I mean, Unser knows Jax, but Unser doesn’t know anything anymore. And neither does Gemma. Because Jax shot both of them to death. Dammit. I was supposed to be a little more graceful with that, but it’s hard. I’m wearing like 17 layers of black right now.

While no one knows where she is for a while – she’s inadvertently ratted out by The System – Gemma goes to say goodbye to Nate, who has Alzheimer’s. While there’s no crystal clear moment of closure for Gemma here, as Nate thinks she’s from the church, he does give her what she needs via drama-free memories of her as a child, before she ruined countless lives. It was a bittersweet scene, inspiring Gemma to revert to mentally reliving her distant past. It gives her comfort that she’s mortally paying for her sins in a place where she once lived a more problem-free life .

The entire deadly ordeal, starting with Gemma looking at old pictures, had to be the most suspenseful sequence I’ve ever witnessed in Sons of Anarchy’s seven seasons, even when split by a commercial. And it’s one that showed off the best of director Paris Barclay’s sense of drama. Morbid as it may be, it is completely unforgettable, as is Katey Sagal’s performance in this entire episode. It has to be weird playing someone who is coming to terms with her child shooting her, and then convincing him to do so. Blam!

And poor Nero never even got to say goodbye…again. He deserved to. Jimmy Smits, giving another “best reactions on TV” performance. I figured Unser was going to die before it was all said and done, and it makes the most sense that it involved Gemma. It was just so disconcerting to have him not actively try and protect her, so that Jax just kills him in colder-than-normal blood. I’m pretty sure I winced audibly.

”It’s my family. It’s my problem.”

Jax has had time to think about his most direct course of action that leads to a better world around him, and that decision was obviously “with tear-stained matricide.” Through this series, Jax moved across the chess board knocking everything out of the way to secure himself a future comfortably near the top, and this season has seen him destroying the chess board to make sure his present is in check. This episode’s actions, beyond Gemma’s head wound, don’t appear to have any thought about the future behind them; he, like Gemma, may be moving into borrowed time territory. But he finally got blood on them ghost-white shoes! So if nothing else, we know that his future will entail changing those shoes.

I would have thought Gemma’s possible death would have taken over the finale, but seeing it happen here switches the focus to Jax’s chances of survival. He doesn’t bother sharing with anyone that he’s off to kill his mother, and though his future with the other charter presidents went relatively well, he also doesn’t share any of that information with his crew. He’s a sinking ship that isn’t letting anyone know that leaks have sprung. The way that Jury’s right-hand-man was looking at Jax makes me think he’s going to get personal next week. But if that schmo ends up being The Guy Who Kills Jax Teller, I’m going to flip my shit. But there are more than enough chances for Jax’s gang-related wheelings and dealings to end him, too. Plus, Nero might come looking for retribution. Or, of course, legit Mr. Mayhem, but that seems almost unlikely. Or does it?

“Just let me finish my pie.”

Juice’s wick also burned up at both ends tonight, after another few rounds of prison rape. I concede that watching his life spiral downward this season has taken away some of the hatred I developed for him over the past few seasons, and that his final scene across the table from Tully was another one of the most tense sequences that I can remember from this show. It’s oddly gratifying that Marilyn Manson-as-a-bigot sealed Juice’s fate. But at least Juice died with SAMCRO’s best interests at heart. Fuck Lin’s goons, and fuck Tully’s goons. I’m fine with staying out of the prison for the entirety of next week’s finale. No one needs to be seen wiping up Juice’s blood from the cafeteria floor.

“Red Rose” was an episode with pacing ups and downs, with the usual amount of gang-turf talk and SAMCRO hustling gluing together the more dramatic family mayhem. It was really two olden-days Sons of Anarchy episodes put into one giant corpse-filled package with some pretty great cameos. Robert Patrick is worried about Jax and Charisma Carpenter questioned Gemma’s relations to Nate. Plus, Michael fucking Chiklis! But nothing will be the same for anyone anymore, except for maybe Milo.

sons of anarchy

R.I.P. Gemma. Your efforts were pure of family-flawed heart.

R.I.P. Wayne. Your efforts were pure AND occasionally virtuous, and also inspired by joints.

R.I.P. Juice. The “P’ stands for “penises in the butt.”

Next week: Jax finds the manuscript and IT ALL ENDS FOR ALL TIME. Saying goodbye to Sons of Anarchy will be harder than saying goodbye to my father. Not when he died, but when he went to the store that one time. Take care.

Stuff That Fell Off the Back of the Bike

“Uh, is it weird being here? The whole Tara thing.”
“Yeah. It’s not just cause of that. I O.D.’d right there. Almost killed my son.” Eesh.

Wendy finally got that sweet sweet Jax Teller dick up inside her again. Does this mean romance AND flies around Gemma’s dead body are in the air?

Fuck yeah, uncredited family man Michael Chiklis giving Gemma a ride with absolutely no hummers involved! The impossible happened!

Unser dropping his key off at Gemma’s, only to try and save her later? That was a nice exit for Unser, sort of.

Homeless alert!

“You know who I am?”
“Jackie Chan.”

Unser never told Gemma that Chuckie loves her. That ASSHOLE.

Power to Tyler for standing up to the unrewarding Jax.

“Enough heat in Oakland to melt an ATF badge.” Great line, Connor, you backstabbing dummy.

“This isn’t about saving Gemma. This is about saving Jax.” Dammit, Nero, you better make it through next week alive. He and Wendy should open a wine store together on his farm.

“It’s been a privilege to wear this President’s patch. Sorry I couldn’t live up to it.” Stop. Gavel time.

Do we think that the bylaw that Jax is talking about will involve allowing all races into SAMCRO, thus getting T.O. and the Bastards in there?

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