”I know messy. It’s what I do best.”

Holy shit, guys. What an ending to possibly my favorite season yet of Sons of Anarchy. Okay, so maybe it’s still too fresh in my mind, but for a show whose last four episodes tacked on an extra twenty minutes-plus without ever overstaying its welcome, this fifth season gave viewers a mountain of plotlines to gnaw on. Of course, it also gave viewers a bafflingly underused Joel McHale and Danny Trejo, but that’s in the recaps. Tonight is about mental celebrations and physical repercussions.

Roll call! Tig? Present. Pope?...Pope? Oh that’s right. Pope is fucking dead. This plot point could have used some refinement, considering how long we’ve waited for Jax’s eventual delivery of Tig to Pope. Instead, Jax threw it together on the fly, and it worked, so I guess I can’t complain. Jax demands Pope grant him a letter of intent, proving his interest in Charming Heights and maintenance contracts for the Sons, because Jax sees Tig as the only thing Pope needs him for now that the coke and weapons deals have been transported. And though Pope isn’t one to obey anyone, his right hand man August says he’ll take care of it. Jax echoes Pope’s earlier advice about not trusting anyone, which is what every character on this show should have tattooed on their foreheads. It’s later decided they will meet at an abandoned storage garage to exchange papers for Tig.

Using a false excuse, Jax brings Tig to the garage, stripping him of his weapons. Once Tig sees Pope and his men exit their vehicles, it’s slightly heartbreaking to watch the full brunt of the realization smack him across the face. The trade is made, and Jax advises them to kill Tig inside to avoid any passersby. My nervousness then subsided, as I realized Jax was then setting his plan in motion. He pulls a secret gun from his bike and goes all Solid Snake on everyone but a shocked Pope, who drops to his hands and knees, wonderfully calling Jax a “stupid cracker bitch” as Jax hands the gun to Tig. “You kill the man that burned your kid alive.” Tig unloads the rest of the bullets into Pope and soon cries like a baby, relieved that Jax’s rat bastard maneuvers weren’t genuine. This all sounds like an impetuous doom-bringing decision, until it’s revealed that Tig used Clay’s gun. I assumed this would end up happening at some point. It’s smart, though not a foolproof move. It’s fine by Sheriff Roosevelt though, who might actually be seeing light at the end of his dark, dark tunnel. Probably just a train coming to run him over, though.

Back to Clay, who has his trip to Ireland set, and Gemma appears set to join him, bags packed and all. His affairs at the clubhouse are all squared away, and he’s cleaned out the house well enough, usually by ordering Juice around like a butler. He forgives Juice for his attempt to use Clay’s legal documents against him, and the flip-floppy Juice tries to warn Clay away from his impending doom, which is soon knocking at the door. Roosevelt and Co. are there to take him away, unless he has some sort of an alibi. All eyes are on the calculating Gemma as she lies and says Clay went out to settle up some accounts before skipping town, but she didn’t think he’d shoot anyone. Roosevelt’s face gives away his expectations for the situation to be more of a hassle.

Before moving on to the ladies of SAMCRO, I simply must bring up Otto’s official statement about the RICO case, which the mysterious Lee Toric watches behind a one-way mirror. Otto’s statement consists of him biting down on his tongue and slamming his chin down into the table, sending the severed tongue flopping onto the table. Otto then runs it between his fingers before throwing it at the mirror near where Lee was standing. “Way to commit, Otto,” Toric says, clearly out of his element. Unser tells Jax that Toric was forced into an early retirement due to a variety of violations involving excessive force and profiling, among other things. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even show up again after Otto donates his organ to the floor, so I have no idea what his hotel room full of pills and guns was supposed to foreshadow. I guess whenever we hear solid news about Donal Logue signing up for the next season, I’ll have my answer.

Otto’s statement is a non-issue, and her positive nerve tests mean she can perform surgery again in six months, so Tara should be free and clear, right? Of course not. First, Wendy approaches her and shocks her with the damage Jax did with his needle. Gemma gets wind of her impending move to the hospital in Oregon, and uses every threat she knows of in demanding that Tara and the boys stay put. I was impressed by Siff’s portrayal of a strong woman beaten by words. She threatens to tell the police that she brought the crucifix with Tara’s explicit intent to have Otto use it on someone, saying if she couldn’t see her grandsons, she’d take comfort in Tara “getting fist-raped until they were well into their twenties.” Harsh. Tara makes a move to grab her, but Gemma slams her in the stomach, casually saying, “Hope you’re not pregnant,” as she walks out the door.

Well fuck Gemma, because Tara fills out all the necessary paperwork needed to make her move. She just has to tell Jax first, and that goes about as well as you’d think. He’s pissed about Wendy, but Tara delivers a monologue about doing what an Old Lady was meant to do, and that she’s taking the boys with her. If he loves them, he’ll follow. But before any resolutions, Roosevelt and Co. get there. While Jax initially assumes it has something to do with Clay, they’re actually there to arrest Tara for conspiracy to commit murder. So who sold her up the river? Was it Gemma, whose face was unreadable in the moment? Was it Toric, who somehow acquired new information? Was it Wendy, who wasn’t aware of anything anyway? It doesn’t matter just yet, because Tara is going to jail. A nice twist of an old plot device.

It looks like Gemma and Nero are in it for the long haul, just two messy people living messy lives. Nero is after Dante, the gangbanger harassing everyone in his area. The Sons join Nero and Navarro in hunting for Dante in an old building where he holds dog fights. Tig has major problems with this cuddly competition, and follows the guy going to put the latest canine loser out of its misery. Once Tig sees the trash cans stuffed with dog corpses, he’s had enough, and demands the guy let the dog go and tell them where Dante is. He does both, and they soon find Dante among others, counting money. A ton of Dante’s crew shows up a minute or two before the Sons’ excess crew gets there. Everyone is being chased by someone else, and the action is fluid. They chase Dante outside, where he tries to hijack a woman’s vehicle. Luckily, the woman had a large dog in there, and so Dante met his someone ironic ending being bitten up by a dog. I don’t actually think he died though. Best thing to come of this? Tig has a new dog now.

The last two points I’ll mention are specific to Jax’s future intentions. I’m sure Jax liked Pope’s bound determinism well enough, but he seems to have taken a keener shine to the subordinate August, going so far as to shake his hand to usher in their new partnership. August is smart and recalls every coincidence that would have led to Jax being behind Pope’s death instead of Clay, and makes it clear that any evidence supporting this will lead to another confrontation. But for now, August is content to tell his people that he wants Clay dead before he can have his hearing. I’m not sure if Jax reads into August’s secondary role as a sign of him being different from Pope, but he seems just as ruthless to me. Just without the forest animal teeth.

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