19 January 2015

Pop Culture Roundup: Sons of Anarchy (SPOILER WARNING)

I have had a love/fear relationship with the FX series Sons of Anarchy from the very first episode. On the one hand, the storytelling was incredible: complex emotional issues paired with deeply flawed characters and the sketchy morals that come with running illegal guns, drugs, and other contraband, with the addition of a heavily Shakespearean influence, combined to create a series that was addictive and horrifying all at the same time. On the other hand, the unflinching portrayal of the violence of this life, and the consequences of that violence, would lead to many sleepless nights after bingeing on two, three or even four episodes at a time.

I think what I loved about Sons of Anarchy most was the moral complexity of its entire cast. There were very few characters who were entirely beyond sympathy: Galen O'Shay, the True IRA mob boss; AJ Weston, the Aryan Brotherhood's enforcer, are the only two who immediately come to mind. There were, of course, no saints anywhere to be found: even the most morally upright characters were flawed, sometimes hideously - forced either by circumstance or through their own choices into actions and inactions that simply cannot be defended. Perhaps the closest character to a saint was Chucky Marstein, but even Chucky wound up getting pulled into the muck during this final season.

"Chucky, I think you might have been a saint."
"I accept that."

At some point I'm going to go back and watch the entire series again. There's much that deserves to be re-digested, things I'll only see if I watch it straight through in some sort of condensed format instead of spread over seven years. I was one of the few people who didn't notice the homeless girl until the last episode - I want to think more on who she might be. Knowing the early connection to Hamlet, you knew all along that Jax wasn't going to make it out: the question was, who would be left standing in the end? Unlike many shows that don't end well, I felt like Sons of Anarchy hit what seemed to be the right note in the end - SAMCRO protected, Jax doing what he could to atone for his sins and the sins of his family. But I want to go back and think more about what role Gemma played throughout the series, particularly in the light of what happens when we either will not or can not see our actions through the eyes of others. In her manic quest to keep her self-defined family together, Gemma often became a destructive force that created havoc and brought the plans of Jax and others to ruin, sometimes with deadly consequences. To some extent we are all guilty of Gemma's crime: in our inability to self-reflect and see through the eyes of those around us, we create the very destructive forces we believe we are working against.

So, yeah - when I finally mustered up the courage to watch the final episode this week, it was what I thought it was going to be, with very few surprises, and at the same time, I found my heart hammering away in my chest from the first throttle pull to Jax's final ride. And even though show creator Kurt Sutter chose a final quote from Shakespeare, I thought another would have sufficed:
Now a noble heart is breaking! Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

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