For those of you who have grown accustomed to hearing me bemoan the often excessive, onerous, seemingly endless run time of each "Sons of Anarchy" episode, prepare to be disappointed.
"Suits of Woe" was worth every single second of its 72-minute sprawl, and I promise you no one is paying me to say that.
Nearly free of the needlessly complex scrap for power between the San Joaquin Valley's myriad gang sets, "Suits of Woe" rarely loses sight of the story we've wanted since the beginning of "Sons'" final season.
Finally, Jax knows his mother murdered his wife, and now we get the enjoyable and bleak task of watching him wrestle over what to do with that information.
"Suits of Woe" is a breathless sprint as Jax follows bread crumbs from Abel to Wendy to Unser to Juice, visibly uncomfortable with each piece of the puzzle as he collects it.
It's a pained and powerful performance from Charlie Hunnam, who plays Jax as if he's desperate to find a roadblock between his son's comment about Gemma and the truth of the matter, but instead finds himself more and more unhinged as each piece of the story slides into place.
This all comes to a head in the jailhouse interrogation room as a completely unbridled Jax opens up to Juice, of all people, tearing up at the two roads and two truths he's staring at. Either his son is mentally unstable, or his mother is a murderess. Either way, it's a disaster, and one Jax to some degree deserves.
These jailhouse scenes also serve as a great final act for Juice, who somehow manages to stay true to himself despite resigning himself to death (and some extended sexual torture at the hands of Tully) by being open with Jax. In the end, he goes out doing what's right for the club by eliminating Lin and telling Jax the truth about Tara's murder, while refusing to give any information to Unser and Jarry, one last time refusing to be the "rat" he's been mistakenly labeled as.
Really, the strength of this episode comes from characters unburdening themselves. The show, in an effort to delay the Jax-Gemma clash to its final scenes, has purposely kept everyone except Unser from even sniffing at the truth of Tara's death. But now? There's cathartic scene after cathartic scene for your viewing pleasure, from Unser's long-overdue explosion with Jax, to Nero's simple realization that he doesn't know Gemma at all. Those separate breakdowns, while radically different, are delivered wonderfully by Dayton Callie and Jimmy Smits.
Unser has been waiting to call Jax and the club to account for a really, really long damn time, and Nero has been trying to avoid this realization about Gemma for just as long. Both scenes come across as raw but inevitable, and that's as sad as it is fun to watch.
Speaking of Gemma, unforgiveable as her character has become, she's still going through some relatable pains as Jax finally figures out what she did. In just a few scenes, she's forced to say goodbye to the man she loves, the only home she's ever known and the child that she killed Tara for in a misguided attempt to protect.
And then she goes and confirms her sociopathy by offering J.T.'s ring to Abel, so the little boy has it when "he becomes a member" of SAMCRO. That's a great mother figure, wanting a child to join the club that started the spiral of doom that led to his mother's murder. And does she really expect SAMCRO to be anything but a violent, scarred memory by the time Abel grows up?
Like I said, this episode spends almost zero time away from the Jax-Gemma plot, but the slivers of time it does wander from the A-plot are also well spent. We now know it was Barosky, not Jury, who ratted the club out to the Triad. Meaning Jax whacked a club president for no reason. Meaning Jax might end up dispatched in the same fashion.
This show has been heavy-handed, often, but seeing Jax either forced into exile or killed by the same brotherhood he lived to protect (and ultimately helped destroy) would be a fitting end to the show. To see Jax essentially swallowed up by his own beast.
I've been watching "Sons of Anarchy" for seven years now, and spent most of the recent seasons wondering why I'd been watching "Sons of Anarchy" for seven years now. But if the final installments all play out like "Suits of Woe," the journey just might prove to be worth the destination.