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Sons of Anarchy: Red Rose

It's the penultimate episode of the series that has entertained and infuriated us for the better part of a decade. Let's see how it measures up.

This is it; the second-to-last episode of "Sons of Anarchy." In many ways (as is pretty much the standard), this felt like the climax, with next week's series finale being more or less the denouement. Juice, Unser and Gemma all died in this episode and all indications are that Jax will be killed by his own club in the finale.

It was a solid episode, not as good as last week's but still very good (albeit bloated by a nearly-two-hour run time). It's good that the show is hitting its stride right at the end, although we'll always wonder how much better it might have been if they'd decided to end it in, say, five seasons.

Ridiculousness for the sake of ridiculousness:

- In the beginning of the episode, Jax suddenly develops a limp. I'm not certain if this is tied to anything that happened in the previous episode, but it isn't really addressed beyond Chibs asking what's up and Jax saying it's fine, but he limps throughout the episode. My guess? GOUT.

- Casual racism of the week: Juice calling two Lin Triad gang members "Jackie Chan." Granted, it was to get a rise out of them, but these little drops of ridiculousness for the sake of ridiculousness mean less and less with each passing scene.

- Juice gets gang raped in prison as payback for murdering Lin. Again, there's really only so much you can pile on Juice at this point, a character that is already broken. And indeed, his reaction to the gang rape is the story here, showing how beaten down and ready to die he is. Just a suggestion here: you told that exact same story in the same episode with Gemma. You didn't need a gang rape to tell that story. (Although Gemma was gang raped in what? Season Two? Jesus, this show.)

- The Magical Homeless Lady appears at the truck stop where Gemma parks for a nap. I don't even remember Magical Homeless Lady's deal at this point, but I know it's never made a lick of sense.

- In the final season of the show, Gemma only meets cameo stars who give her sage advice and become instant BFFs. And each conversation she has with a guest star becomes more and more unrealistic. "We go from kids to cocksucking." This episode was Gemma treading water for 75 minutes before getting to her summation. She also went to visit her father, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. It's a bit that I didn't care about, didn't have any punch beyond rote cliche and didn't need to be in the episode. Especially because at this point, no viewer can or should care about Gemma's guilty conscience, or need for redemption or finding closure. Why should she get all of it when few other characters in the show have? I don't want to cry nepotism. It just seems inconsistent.

- Unser's death seemed like it was mostly done for shock value, but the more I think about it, the more it works. I'll talk about it more later, but for now consider it a double-entry under both "ridiculousness" and "good."

- SAMCRO just killing a bunch of guys during the closing montage. Just gunning down entire rooms full of people. As you do. Hell, at least these mass murders were done under the cover of night for a change. Just to mix it up.

- Jax and Drea de Matteo consummate a season-long almost-tease by getting back together. By which I mean an incredibly gratuitous and graphic sex scene with close-ups of Charlie Hunnam's thrusting buttocks. I'm not complaining about that last part. Fitting we should see the Hunnam cheeks one last time before it's all done.

This show doesn't make any sense:

- I have no idea how old the babysitter is supposed to be. She vacillates between looking like she's 15 and looking like she's 25. I have no idea whether we're supposed to think she's one age or another but it just bothers me sometimes.

- I totally don't remember Robert Patrick being a character that showed up in season 6 but welp I guess here we are. Or here Robert Patrick is, anyway.

- Jax admits to the other charters that he killed Jury based on incorrect information and the other charters are STUNNED. Robert Patrick calls it "out-and-out murder" and is gravely serious about the situation. The redheaded Indian Hills guy says "mayhem has to land," because they're all 12-year-old boys who just got their first Megadeth album and think everything has to be SIKK and filled with BLAKK MAJICKS. But I just got a real kick out of them saying that THIS murder -- the killing of one charter president by another -- is WAY, WAY WORSE than all the literally hundreds of times that the club has committed murders, or worse than presidents killing underling SOA members, or whatever countless murders have happened on the show before.

- Jax just leaves Unser and Gemma's bodies lying around at Gemma's father's house. I get that the house doesn't get a lot of traffic these days, but that seems like the most easily-solved double-homicide in history. Of course, Jax probably isn't terribly worried about his future at this point.

Actually good things:

- The president of the Mayans points out how badly this business with the Lin Triad has hurt everyone involved with Jax and SAMCRO. Just nice of him to state the obvious, since we so rarely hear it.

- Unser looking around Gemma's house before leaving his key on the counter. This, along with him being exasperated and pitying Chucky when he says to tell Gemma he loves her, is a nice coda to the "pathetic Unser" that we've known for the past seven years. He's finally moved beyond all his hangups (mostly) and realizes he's been an idiot. He is finally resolved to be a cop at the end, saying to Gemma, "This is all I have left." ultimately, it was.





- Juice's death, despite all the stringing along and unnecessary torture and torment, was elegant at the end. He was killed by someone who genuinely cared for him (hamfisted as the Marilyn Manson bit was) and making a point to not be killed by the Lin Triad was his final act of loyalty for a group of thugs who never deserved his loyalty. It all ended with one of the most cinematic moments of the final season, him lying on the ground in a pool of his spreading blood as the prison siren faded away, marking the ebbing of his life. Juice, you finally made it. Death was the best thing that happened to you this season, and you were ready.

I'm glad he got to finish his pie.

- Jax and Gemma finally come face-to-face and Jax kills Unser when Unser tries to stand in his way. Jax and Gemma sit down and just have a low-energy, almost mundane conversation. It's perfect. This is an utterly morally bankrupt woman and the son she taught to be the same way. She knows he's there to kill her and she knows Unser, her last true friend, hd to be collateral damage. When Jax breaks down and hesitates with shooting her, Gemma talks him through it. "It's who we are. It's okay." It's only who you are because you made him this way, Gemma. One final twist of the awful, awful knife. The imagery with the blood-spattered roses was, of course, a bit too much, but this final meeting was as pitch-perfect as it could possibly have been. Kudos.

- Nero's nightstand has a framed picture of Gemma smoking. This is AMAZING to me.