Sons of Anarchy, Season 7, Episode 11, “Suits of Woe”
Directed by Peter Weller
Written by Kurt Sutter, Mike Daniels, and Peter Elkoff
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm (ET) on FX
For an episode that has so many scenes that could all individually be described as great, this episode continues to not have enough happen in order to properly justify the run time. The majority of the action is important, but letting every scene breathe and take as much time as possible to play out undercuts the levity of the scenes where the drawn out nature of an interaction instills everything with increased emotion. Having a conversation between Gemma and Nero be the same length as one between Althea and Unser, or close to it, attempts to place them on the same level and this doesn’t make any sense. There are few transitional scenes this week, only increasingly long and drawn out exchanges as Gemma’s actions in relation to Tara’s death come into focus and get passed around the club. In an episode where long-awaited fireworks are expected, the sudden refusal to put Jax and Gemma in the same room is a disappointment and one that is not tempered by the prison murder of Lin or the semi-pointless car chase Jax takes part in. Finding the emotional heart of the show again this close to the finale after so many seasons of blood and guts is a good thing, but with over an hour of screen time filled with lots of tell and not a lot of show, the emotional heart isn’t balanced with anything else.
Digging deeper into the emotional moments, many of them are solid payoffs of season-long tensions between characters. Juice didn’t have much to do for the entire first half of the season, but the club’s need for him to carry out their business in jail and the secrets he was tasked with keeping fishtail nicely this week into the best scene of the episode. His heart-to-heart with Jax in prison is gripping in its slow churn towards the truth. Throughout his confession, Juice’s expression is one of a man who knows he is going to die by telling the truth and changes his mind multiple times before committing completely. His commitment and love for the club trumps his will to live, and he can no longer look Jax in the eyes and lie to him after all the club gave him over the years and means to him. It is a performance filled with restraint and regret, which Theo Rossi portrays wonderfully. Charlie Hunnam’s performance here is one of his best in the history of the show. A slow-burn descent into anger, confusion, betrayal, and sadness, it never goes too far towards an overreaction, as so many of Jax’s responses to this kind of information do. It takes a look into his mental state without being too explicit and every time the camera cuts to him as the story plays out, Hunnam refrains from being overwrought while still collapsing into himself as the confirmation of everything he was denying sinks in. A masterclass, and not his only one of the episode; the ending fireside chat with Nero is also great.
Similarly, years of ground laying in Chucky and Gemma’s friendship in the garage doing office work pays off here when he heeds her pleas to let her escape. It is completely believable that she is the one Chucky values most in the club, seeing as everyone else mostly ignores him. If this episode is Gemma’s farewell tour to Charming and all of her relationships there, including a moment with Chucky is an important piece of that. Making amends with Nero doesn’t go quite as smoothly, but it does allow Jimmy Smits and Katey Sagal to act opposite each other at least one more time before the end. Smits’ face goes through a permutation of at least a dozen emotions and thoughts when Nero’s on the phone with Jax. Letting Gemma go is true to their love and relationship, but his clearly conflicted decision doesn’t let her off easy or tie a neat bow on their pairing. Nero does tell the truth when he says he doesn’t know where she is however, as Gemma is at least smart enough to keep her intentions to herself when she flees.
As Gemma heads North at the end of the episode, it is scary to think this may be the last time she interacts with the rest of the club or even the last time she is seen. It seems farfetched, but unless she is going to commune with another branch of the club there is no one who knows her whereabouts or intended end point that could snitch to Jax and the boys. If the final two installments of the series show Jax coming to terms with all the violence he has taken part in or caused and making decisions about his future, this will be just as enthralling as seeing Gemma put on trial by the club for her actions, even if that means no Sagal (doubtful). Jax’s inability to reconcile Gemma’s murder of Tara with the fact that she is his mother weighs heavily and could lead to him finally welcoming with open arms Tara’s wishes for their sons. With only a few hours left before Sons of Anarchy says goodbye for good, it is finally time for Jax to make permanent decisions regarding the club’s future and his family’s safety. After years of wavering between his commitment to his chosen family and his blood relations, the conflict between the two has come to an inescapable fork in the road. The club is on his side in his disgust of Gemma’s actions but if he walks away from everything, their trust in his leadership may waver.