On a tongue-biting, nail-facing, dog-fighting season finale of Sons of Anarchy, the main reaction from this viewer was not one of loud disgust... but rather stunned silence.
Clay is headed to jail. Tara is headed to jail. And Gemma has returned to where she thinks she belongs: alongside the man at the head of the SAMCRO table.
Indeed, "J'ai Obtenu Cette" (French translation: I got this.) concluded with an altered image from the one that ended Sons of Anarchy Season 4, as Gemma stood in the same spot Tara had occupied just one year earlier. A whole lot has gone down since - and with the exception of one rescued pit bull, is anyone in a better place now than they were then?
Jax has gone against every word he writes in those journal entries.
He isn't the bigger man, he isn't taking the club in any new direction, he's no different than the traitor he replaced. Even Jax admitted as much to Bobby this week, just prior to Bobby resigning as VP.
It's been a fascinating, gradual decline of this character, who lost the moral high ground a long time ago. He tried to regain it to an extent here, setting up Clay to take the fall for killing Pope, but that was for purely selfish purposes - and it also required a few leaps in logic.
What if Pope had immediately killed Tig? What if Pope's men had actually searched Jax? What if Clay had never given Juice his gun? And, come on, I'm just a mechanic looking out for his family? Laying it on a bit thick there.
Many pieces, most of which were beyond Jax's control, had to fall exactly right for this plan to work. I don't exactly buy it, but I'll try to ignore those questionable storyline details. Focusing too much on plot can drive a fan crazy for any show, especially one where - for all its chases and bullets and gross-out scenes - really comes down to the characters and how they react to the craziness around them.
So, where do these characters stand heading into Season 6?
As previously mentioned, Clay has been arrested for murder. I don't feel an ounce of sympathy for him, but I do believe that he's a regret-filled, sorrowful shell of his former self. Note his reaction upon hearing the charges, upon learning that both Juice and Gemma turned on him: simple hurt and begrudging acceptance.
He didn't rage, he didn't scream or yell. He seemed resigned to his fate. Of course someone like him wouldn't have a loyal best friend or actually get the girl. He knows that can't be how his story ends.
Tara is in handcuffs. And she was oh so close to getting away! This was a tough one to take. With the babies crying in the background, with Tara having just delivered a winning speech about her role of being strong in Jax's weaker areas, with her quick turn from sullen to stoic... just great stuff all around, from the acting to the unexpected cliffhanger itself.
Gemma is back in charge. This is a woman who has always done what she can to survive, but has she lost any and all sympathy? Turning in the mother of her grandchildren is downright evil. Forget Jax or Nero getting out of the life... what about Gemma? She had her chance here. Her rotten husband was gone, she had a good man by her side, song birds in a cage. And yet that still wasn't enough. She still had the need to be in such control that she took the drastic step of sending Tara to the slammer.
Don't chirp for her, Carl or Carla. She doesn't deserve it.
Juice is off the hook. When it comes to Jax, at least. But it seems impossible to believe that guilt won't continue to eat away at this SAMCRO member, the most innocent and wide-eyed of the bunch. From Roosevelt playing him to Clay jerking him around, poor Juice never knows who to trust or what to do.
Tig has revenge. And a new furry friends! Who would have guessed that the biker whose daughter was recently burned alive would actually find the most salvation by season's end? Tig is a nut job, but what a great character.
Bobby has given himself a demotion. Still the most calm and collected of the group, it's hard to blame him for his reaction to Jax's underhanded machinations. But is a demotion really the right move? You can't affect change from the bottom.
And finally there's Jax, of course. Will Tara's arrest be a wake-up call? Opie's death sent this President spiraling down a dark path, erasing his mission to exit Charming, live a clean life and make his father proud. What even remains of his club? Of his actual family? Both are more divided than ever.
That's where we leave things heading into Season 6. I hope we see more of Nero next year. I'm intrigued by Donal Logue's U.S. Marshal. And, grrrr, I really hate Gemma right about now.
What did everyone else think? Sound off below and give Sons of Anarchy Season 5 a grade: