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From the Dark, The Prince Rises

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 1, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 1, 2010 |

When Stahl turned last night and pointed the finger at Jax as the Prince Rat of SAMCRO, I couldn’t have been more furious with the season finale of “Sons of Anarchy.” With only 15 minutes left in the super-sized episode, I didn’t see how they could come back from the rest of the club wanting to murder Jax, as they were all handcuffed and thrown into a van. After the agonizing season two finale, I couldn’t deal with consecutive seasons ending on an unsure note, another to be continued hanging over our heads for another year.

But hell if Kurt Sutter didn’t manage to pull off one hell of a satisfying ending with a twist that no one saw coming. Jax got to have his cake and eat it too, not only turning over Jimmy O to Stahl and receive a sweetheart deal that meant the club would only have to serve 14 months of prison for the church raid, but they got to kill Jimmy O, too. And Chibs, deservedly, got the honor. Opie, meanwhile, got to put a few in the head of Stahl, which was the most satisfying kill of the series. She was a fucking devil woman; I have never wanted to see someone executed as much as I wanted to see Agent Stahl murdered. In the back of the head, bitch.

And we should have known, all along, what Gemma kept reminding us of: Never trust Agent Stahl.

But as ultimately satisfying as the finale was, the reason that no one saw that twist coming was that — narratively — it was illogical. Looking back on the last half of the season, there’s no point where Jax coming clean to the rest of SAMCRO makes sense. If he did it before he made the deal with Stahl — and Clay was in on it the whole time — there are a lot of scenes that don’t make sense in retrospect, not unless Gemma was in the room for all those scenes (and I can’t remember, one way or another). If he did it before the Jimmy O raid, then it seems hard to believe that Clay would have gone along with something that he wasn’t a part of from the beginning. That he — and the rest of the club — would’ve still felt betrayed. This was a major plot point, and one that presumably involved a lot of dialogue between Jax and Clay, and it’s the dynamic between those two that carries this show. I felt we were robbed of that exchange. And at what point did Unser get involved? If they’d been planning this from the beginning, there’s no way they could’ve anticipated Unser’s involvement. He was still fighting for his job when the initial deal was made.

In either respect, as satisfying as the twist was, I also felt a little duped. Unless there’s something I’m missing, Sutter didn’t develop the twist. He just sprung it on us. Was the laugh in the back of the van worth that narrative leap? Maybe. That sense of relief was pretty fucking fantastic, even if Sutter shouldn’t be taking cues from Shyamalan.

Looking back over the course of the season, however, I’m not sure that the finale fully redeemed the rest of what was a semi-lackluster season. It felt a little like “Lost,” where important questions would be posed, and before they could be answered, a polar bear came running out of the jungle to put the answers off another three episodes. It would’ve been a dramatically better season at nine or ten episodes — there simply wasn’t enough to sustain 13 episodes, which necessitated that Sutter develop a lot of other minor subplots — Gemma’s Dad, Salazar, Tig’s beef with Kozik over a dog — that didn’t play with the main plotline particularly well.

But looking ahead, depending on what direction Sutter plans to take, there’s immense potential in season four. I hope that he doesn’t pick it up after the club is released from prison. There’s a lot of “Oz” style dramatics that could take place in there, and with Otto facing the death penalty, I’d love to see how that plays out with Jax and Clay in prison. If I’m not assuming wrongly, Opie, Tigs, Kozick, and Chibbs won’t be in prison, and it’d give those four some much needed screen time since they’ll be left to run the club’s operations. Plus, with Tig and Gemma on the outside, there is that history. A couple of lonely nights, and you never know. Also, there’s a mayor’s election still to be had — Hale hasn’t been elected yet. There’s a lot of potential still remaining there, and I’m still not absolutely certain that Jacob Hale didn’t have some small part in the drive-by shooting that got his brother killed.

And what about Unser? The man has been battling stage 3 cancer for what seems like forever. Is he going to die, or is he somehow going to miraculously kick the cancer? Unser is one of my favorite characters; I’d hate to lose him. But at this point, it’s beginning to seem far-fetched that he’d not only survive that cancer as long as he has, but remain on the job.

And what of the revelation at the end of the episode? Tara now knows that Gemma and Clay had a hand in the death of John Teller. I’d be more excited about that, except that I know that Tara will weigh whether to tell Jax or not over the course of seven excruciating episodes. And while it’s news to Tara, and it will be news to Jax, it’s not exactly a surprising revelation for the rest of us. But it does give us an idea of where next season is heading, and that is back to club politics, which is what Sutter does best.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.