Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sons of Anarchy, "The Revelator": To destiny run, or not to destiny run?

Spoilers for the "Sons of Anarchy" season one finale coming up just as soon as I visit an out-of-town bar...
"Time for a change." -Piney
"Yeah." -Jax
Kurt Sutter (who not only wrote the finale but made his directorial debut on it) said in our interview that he wanted "to end this season on an exclamation point and not a question mark," and he clearly accomplished that. Jax, with the realization that Clay and Tig were responsible for Donna's murder, and with the prodding of both Hale and Piney (who, remember, co-founded the club with Jax's dad), has stopped asking "to be or not to be?" He's ready to take action, and based on how he handled the two crises of the finale -- Piney mouthing off at the Niner bar, Tig about to shoot the teenage witness -- he (and Charlie Hunnam, who got a lot more interesting once Jax became less passive) should be ready for it.

Like a lot of epic cable dramas (though not, oddly, "The Shield"), this season played out with the major earth-shattering event in the penultimate episode, while the finale was primarily a time for reflection and setting up the events of next season. And I think it worked really well on that level. Jax took his opportunities to step up (including a cemetery-inappropriate, but otherwise necessary, PDA with Tara), we got further clues that Jax's dad didn't die such an accidental death, and the supporting cast -- particularly Katey Sagal, Ron Pearlman, Kim Coates and newly-promoted regular Ryan Hurst -- got to do some fine work showing their grief and confusion over Donna's death.

The 90-minute length didn't seem to add much in the way of plot, but it did allow for more moments of quiet, powerful reflection, whether it was Clay and Tig at the horse farm, or Gemma helping the arthritic Clay button up his shirt for the funeral, or Opie sadly taking off his son's tie (men in this world don't wear ties), plus the beautiful final sequence of Jax walking around the cemetary, and ultimately stopping by the graves of his brother and father.

As I said in yesterday's column (which included excerpts of the longer Sutter interview that should be right above this post), I've been really impressed by this show's improvement curve over the season. It's not in the class of "The Shield" yet (after that series finale, it's hard to think of many shows that are), but it does feel like a worthy heir.

Some other thoughts on "The Revelator":

• One thing I neglected to ask Kurt about: the homeless girl has now had two prominent but seemingly random scenes the last two weeks, this time swapping her blanket for Jax's hoodie so he could catch some cemetery shut-eye. Given all the show's explicit "Hamlet" love, is she supposed to be the gravedigger? Yorick?

• Line of the night, by Wendy and about Gemma: "You're like Dr. Jekyll and Donna Reed."

• What on earth happened to Tom Everett Scott's career? It's certainly not a bad thing to be appearing on a show of this quality, but he's headlined a bunch of shows, and now he's doing a small role as SAMCRO's attorney? Was "That Thing You Do" really that long ago? (Wow; it was 12 years ago.)

• Stahl's scene in prison with Bobby Elvis was very nicely-played by Ally Walker and Mark Boone Jr., and I thought it was a nice touch that Bobby's hair was gray because he didn't have access to his usual grooming products. ("Say Anything" did a similar beat with John Mahoney's hair when Lloyd visited him in jail.)

• Again, Donna's funeral is probably not the ideal time and place for Jax to be declaring his romantic intentions, but dammit if Hunnam's little nod and smile after the kiss wasn't cool.

What did everybody else think?

19 comments:

Andrew said...

Yeah, Tom Everett Scott now appears to be basically a mid-level TV character actor, which isn't really the worst thing in the world (he's also got a role as the unethical governor on Law & Order).

Chris Littmann said...

I'm a little tired, so I clearly missed the differences in the names on the graves and that they were his father and brother. I think you hit it on the head that the extra 30 minutes gave us more time for a lot of quiet, powerful moments.

I will say that another great example of Jax asserting himself in a real, powerful way was at the hospital with the doctor talking about all the girls he had slept with and how scared she was when he raised his voice. That was a great scene.

Can't wait to see what's in store for next season.

toonsterwu said...

I thought it was a solid finale, although they didn't really show how Jax connected Tig to the killing, other than the basic assumption that Tig is Clay's triggerman.

Will be curious about next season.

Hoosier Paul said...

Had they mentioned previously in the show that Jax had a brother who died, apparently, quite young? If so I missed it.

jim treacher said...

If it was SAMCRO, who else but Tig would have done it? Bobby's in jail. Chibs, maybe. Or that Happy dude. But no, something like that, Clay would've sent his #1 killer.

Jax vs. Tig was the best fight since Adama vs. Tigh. I was really wondering if Jax was going to kill him, but I guess we get to watch this play out. It was nice that Jax figured out a non-lethal solution. Clay is going to have his hands full, because his stepson might be smarter than him. And now he's motivated to act for his real dad.

nfieldr said...

Mrs. nfieldr and I were discussing tonight's episode and she reminded me that when Clay was talking to Gemma that he referred to John T's "book" as the "writings of a grieving and angry man" (or something to that effect). Anyway, got us to thinking about next season and postulating that maybe the death of little Wayne Thomas Teller was the motivation for JT to reevaluate the actions of the Club.

dez said...

I liked how the book reappeared, whole, in the finale. Bodes well for Jax's future, I think.

I'm glad Tig survived into the next season. I'm very curious if Jax will ever clue Opie in and what the consequences of that will be.

The ep was mostly quiet, but quite absorbing. I'm really looking forward to next season!

Jesse said...

Alan -

I'm a big fan of Olivia Burnette, the actress playing the Homeless girl.

It's great to see her on tv again -I don't know if you are familar with her work, but she is an incredible actress.

I am therefore also intrigued by this character!

Hatfield said...

When I came here after finishing the finale last night I was very pleased to see the quote starting the review--in the world of What's Alan Watching? that means a show has arrived. And it really has. Like some of the other people on here I've been into the show much more from the very beginning than Alan was, but that doesn't change the fact that it's gotten better as it's gone along.

Jax (or Charlie Hunnam, I suppose) had his coming out party in this episode, and it was awesome to see. The scene with Tara in the hospital, with Piney and the 49ers boss, and then his scenes with Clay and then the witness and Tig, were all his best stuff so far, and easily equal to the task of showing Jax take that next step toward leadership.

So now a line seems to have been drawn, with Clay and Tig on one side and Jax on the other, with Piney, Opie, Half-Sack and maybe even Juice presumably on Jax's side. Seeing that Hurst is going to be a regular makes me think that he will step in as Jax's second, sort of like Bobby or Tig are to Clay. The thought of all that internal drama has me dying for the next season to start.

Anonymous said...

i didnt see the episode what happened to Oopie?

Hatfield said...

Opie buried his wife and, after feeling really guilty and seeming to question his choice to get back in with the club, grabbed his cut with purpose before riding in the funeral procession. He also saw Jax glaring pointedly at Clay and Tig, but who knows what he took from that.

By the way, I forgot to mention my favorite little touch from the episode: Piney knocking out the 49er with his oxygen tank! I've been waiting all season for that to happen

Hunter said...

just rewatched the episode. the scene where tig says he wants chibs and happy with him, clay says "you ok to do this?" in front of juice. why would tig not be ok? and wouldn't this sound weird to juice and he'd mention it to somebody? (Jax)

Karl Ruben said...

Man, to be at the set for the filming of this episode... that was just one gobsmacking performance after another. I think I have to give my vote to Charlie Hunnam in the hospital with Maggie Siff, although the short scene with Ryan Hurst and Hunnam in the playground was also chilling: the way Opie first gets up almost perfunctorily, to give his friend a hug, and then, for a split second, all his emotions break through the stoic mask. Stellar.

Jax figuring out that Tig performed the hit was a combination of many things. Tig was pretty outspoken when it came to denouncing Opie as a rat. Jax' knowledge of SAMCRO's inner workings makes it obvious to him that Clay wouldn't trust anyone else with a task such as this. Jax might also have noticed Tig leaving the party right after Opie and the family, but didn't put two and two together until he got the info from the 49ers and Hale.

I was glad to see the prospect again, by the way. The way he disarmed Piney was pretty funny.

Mark B said...

I agree with praise for the exceptional writing and acting of this season finale. I am beginning the think the key moment for the story line going forward is when Jax declares “we don’t kill women”, thus saving the life of the child witness. It’s harkens back to the conversation between Jax and Hale when the deputy succumbs to his guilt about his role in the death of Donna and confronts Jax with the assertion “I believe we can both agree this was over the line”.

As Alan has written, the female characters are highly developed and important to the multiple story lines. I see Gemma as the pivot point going forward, balancing the events now set in motion between her son Jax and her husband Clay. For the moment, both law and outlaw want to believe in an ethical line that keeps violence restricted to the males. If, however, women are the equals of men, then is this chivalrous vestige still valid or should the painful and fatal consequences rightfully fall upon all the participants?

Fat Bob said...

The key components which set a great production ahead of the rest of the compettiton are: 1) Judicious infusion of emotion and passion 2) well timed usage of comedy 3) great and well placed music/soundtrack. On all counts SoA excels. I believe the final graveyard segment, with the haunting John the Revelator chorus was masterful. With only the words "Yeah" and "Time for a change" spoken, we had over 3 minutes of the most intense drama you will ever see on TV - bar none -- even The Shield. I applaud Mr. Sutter for his brilliance and the courage of FX for airing this politically incorrect, extremely adult and extremely believable show. My only problem is, what will I now do on Wednesday nights?

Anonymous said...

I love this show. Great watch. Highly entertaining. But some things r bothering me......
1. its the 1-9ers
2. These guys r without a doubt the worst criminal enterprise ever. They don't do operational security (advance work, coverage of all angles, basic professional criminal stuff), they don't wear gloves half the time, they walk around with their guns out constantly.... my favorite was when the 2 convicted felons (ur DNA is on file) had a fistfight INSIDE a ATF safe house they had just broken into. I wonder how much of their DNA they left on the scene? I love this show, but its about criminals, their lives as criminals and if they r criminals for a living, its important to be realistic about it. The other emotional stuff, the characters, most of the writing, etc, I have no problem with, but the sheer unrealistic criminal stuff is distracting.....

ripvanruben said...

Just watched this whole series over the weekend and wow what a great show. Nice slow build to some really intense shit. All credit to my mother, who usually loves Magnum P.I. reruns, got so into this show and badgered me into watching it. Maybe i ought to listen to her more often.

Anonymous said...

My absolute favorite scene of the entire season was Jax waking up in the graveyard in the doorway of a mausoleum which had the name "Patmos" carved in the lintel over his head...and then the song "John the Revelator." Thanks to 12 years of Catholic school, I remembered that John of Patmos is the enigmatic person who is said to have written the Book of Revelation. And isn't a revelator the same thing as a "Teller"? In a show whose trademark is sometimes over the top violence and in-your-face machismo, the subtlety and cleverness of that last scene was really stunning.

Byron Hauck said...

Uh, it's a year late, but here's something I noticed: You can't see the full date on the brother's grave, but you can see that he was born in January 198X. Last episode, Gemma said she'd been watching since 1978, presumably putting Jax's birth in that year. Which to me, is a huge surprise, that Jax's dead brother was YOUNGER than him. Also, Jax's dad's date of death was in 1993, which puts Jax quite a bit older than I was picturing. I had these facts so wrong that I have to think the dates on the grave stones were meant to be surprises that reorder our thinking of the past.