'Sons of Anarchy' finale: Stuck in the middle

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soa-season-4-finale.jpgIf you were expecting a whole bunch of fireworks in the season finale of "Sons of Anarchy," you might be a little disappointed at the moment.

The only things killed in "To Be, Part 2" were Potter's RICO case and the Charming Heights development. Which means that both the club's primary adversary on the legal side of things -- even if Sheriff Roosevelt is still around next year -- and a perennial thorn in SAMCRO's side, Jacob Hale, are now out of the picture.

That should mean nothing but good for the Sons, right? Sure -- if the SAMCRO we've known over the past four seasons weren't on the verge of falling apart of its own accord.

I still haven't quite decided what to think about the out-of-nowhere revelation that the Galindo cartel is in bed with the CIA. It's entirely within the realm of possibility that the agency would back a cartel in the name of some perceived greater good, but on its own as a dramatic device, the deus ex machina felt a little too easy.

Because that twist came at the early in the episode rather than the end, however, we got to witness the fallout and start to see what it means for the club, for Clay, for Gemma and Tara and especially for Jax. That decision, along with fine performances up and down the cast, went a long way toward making the plot twist work.

(Side note: A hearty thank you to FX for allowing Kurt Sutter and the show an extra hour to finish the season. I can't fathom trying to pack all the story and character points in "To Be" into a single hour, or even a 90-minute episode.)

Yes, SAMCRO essentially being in the CIA/cartel's pocket, and the Irish Kings' refusal to deal with anyone but Clay, is a convenient way to keep everyone in Charming next season. Still, it hardly feels like the show has just hit the reset button: Clay is still alive but is a man without a home, having been stripped of power in the club and pretty well deserted by his wife. Gemma has seemingly lost whatever hold she had on her son. The remaining members of SAMCRO are, at best, not entirely comfortable with the new order Jax is imposing.

And Jax himself? He's stuck, probably even more than he's ever been in the past. He won't let the club die, so he's staying in Charming. In order to keep SAMCRO alive, he has to keep Clay around to keep doing business with the Irish, which will only make leading the club more difficult. And, significantly, Opie didn't show up to back him when he did take the gavel.

It helped quite a bit that we could see the distaste for compromise on Jax's face in another standout performance this season from Charlie Hunnam. Even as Jax has grown more ambivalent about the club and his role in it, he's also become more of a leader -- that's a tough double for an actor to make believable in a character, and Hunnam has managed it awfully well this season.

Maggie Siff has been every bit his equal -- in both parts of the finale, her assumption of the role as the woman in Jax's life has been amazing to watch. (Has there been a more badass two-word line delivery than "He's mine" this season?) The fact that she literally stood behind Jax in the final scene indicates that he'll at least have one person solidly in his corner.

And about that final shot, with Jax and Tara dissolving into the photo of the young John and Gemma: I'm curious to hear what you think of it. Obviously we're meant to see the generational parallel, but it seems to me that however John Teller grew to feel about SAMCRO shortly before his death, at the time the photo was taken he would've been more hopeful about the club. That's definitely not how Jax and his old lady feel today.

It's an intriguing way to end the season, for sure. Whatever outside forces press in on SAMCRO next season (and I'm all for seeing more of Danny Trejo and Benito Martinez), it feels like the club's biggest threat is, by far, the internal battles set up in the last couple episodes. We're still in Charming, with the same cast of characters, but it's not going to be the same old thing. And that's good.

What did you think of the "Sons of Anarchy" finale?
Photo/Video credit: FX