Some of the strongest and most wrenching material in Sons of Anarchy’s history came in the early seasons when Jax was actively, and believably, attempting to reroute the aims of the club towards a direction to match his father’s vision. From Jax sitting on the roof of the club reading the elder Teller’s parting manuscript to his frequent visits to the cemetery to gain strength at the foot of his father and brother’s tombstones, the importance of the club’s overarching goals not only supplied some of the best story arcs but the best Charlie Hunnam performances as well. The pre-credits sequence of this week’s episode, the end of a show that has long overstayed its welcome, mirrors those potent early scenes in interesting ways, allowing Jax to once again revisit his earlier choices as the audience follows along. The burning of his father’s papers isn’t overwrought enough to pull the audience out of the moment, and his gentle placement of his rings on Opie and Tara’s graves is true to character and a genuinely tear-worthy moment. In advance of an assumed mayhem vote by the club, Jax’s goodbyes to the symbols of the ones he loved is an important piece of his final journey and the show nails it.
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.
A couple of seasons ago, Sons of Anarchy closed an episode with Juice jumping from a tree with a chain noose around his neck. As the SoA logo entered the screen, the sound of the tree branch snapping could be heard, removing the cliffhanger of Juice’s fate. When the curtain shuts on “Poenitentia,” we don’t actually see Tig get killed by Pope’s men. “Poenitentia” feels like a major death episode as it plays, echoing Opie’s prison death through Clay’s scenes (Opie’s death was in the third episode from last season).
Sons of Anarchy Season 5, Episode 1: “Sovereign“ Written by Kurt Sutter Directed by Paris Barclay Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is at the gavel, vendettas are all around SAMCRO, the Niners are under the cold, hard reign of promising new villain Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau), and there’s a new …