'Sons of Anarchy' Season 5 finale: Just when Jax thinks he's out ...

sons-of-anarchy-s5-finale-jai-obtenu-cette.jpgThis season of "Sons of Anarchy" has been about Jax taking his place at the head of the table, and whether he's ready to take on the burden of leadership, the power it conveys and its attendant headaches. In terms of setting the MC on the course he wants it to follow, the season finale makes a pretty strong case that he is ready.

In the past couple of weeks, Jax has gotten himself and SAMCRO out from under one heavy weight after another, sealing a deal with the cartel (a messy one, granted, but one that, by its absence from the finale, seems to be holding up), maneuvering to get Clay drummed out of the club and securing a steady flow of money via his Charming Heights deal with Damon Pope.

The finale's title, "J'ai Obtenu Cette," roughly translates to "I Got This," and it seems fitting as Jax scratches more and more things off his to-do list. Save Tig and get out from under Pope? Check. Get to Clay without breaking his promise not to hurt him? Check.

PICS: 'Sons of Anarchy' Season 5

But to paraphrase "The Godfather: Part III," just when Jax thinks he's out, something pulls him back in. The one threat he didn't deal with directly -- Tara's involvement in Otto killing the prison nurse -- is the one that sends things crashing down in the episode's final scenes. Tara, who had made her own exit plan, is arrested for conspiracy to commit murder, squashing any plans to get out of Charming.

The question now is, who gave Tara up? At first blush, the money would fall on Lee Toric, who all but told Tara last week that he was on a crusade to avenge his sister's death. He watches Otto literally bite his tongue off* to avoid implicating Tara, so it's not hard to imagine him moving on to his next move and using whatever law-enforcement connections he has to make sure Tara, and by proxy Jax and the MC, go down.

(*Two thoughts on the Otto scene. One, who would have thought that a scene where a guy gets his face smashed into a bucket of nails would be only the second most graphic one of the episode? And two, you have to wonder if Kurt Sutter decided he didn't want to be on camera anymore and wrote himself out.)

But there's another possible player: Gemma. She is dead-set against Tara moving to Oregon with Abel and Thomas, and even flat-out says she would go to the sheriff and lie about Tara saying how Otto intended to use it. As Tara sits in the back of a police cruiser, the camera lingers on Gemma for a moment, and she then gets the last line of the season: "I'm here, baby."

Gemma is also the only other person who knew Tara was bringing Otto the crucifix, and we had already seen her lie to Eli once in the episode, about Clay's whereabouts when Pope was shot. It's a circumstantial case at best, but it's worth pondering during the long months between now and Season 6.

After last season, a good number of fans expressed frustration that "Sons of Anarchy" seemed to be running in place: Between the cartel-CIA reveal and the fact that Clay remained alive, if wounded and out of power, it felt as if the show had contrived a way to keep everyone around for another year. Everyone is still around now too, but it feels different. SAMCRO is in a very different place than it was at the start of the season, for good and ill. Jax has both matured and hardened since taking the gavel. And the final scene hints at new pressures to come next year. That's something to look forward to, without many reservations.

Other thoughts on the Season 5 finale:

- It was hard to believe Jax would end up turning Tig over to Pope, but the way he executed his plan was one of the episode's more thrilling sequences. Jax was smart not to tip Tig off to what was up, even with the risk that Pope wouldn't take his time in pulling the trigger, and he's able to frame Clay for the murder*, thus triggering the bounty for Pope's killer.

(*We never see Juice hand over the gun to Jax, but it's clear from the way Juice acts in later scenes that he had an idea of what was going to happen.)**

(**As a commenter points out below, there is in fact a scene showing Juice stashing the gun in the compartment on Jax's bike. It's right after the credits -- Juice pulls the wrapped-up gun out of a locker at the garage and drops it in the saddlebag. I missed it on first viewing.)

Jax's playing dumb with Marks was just as canny, though you have to wonder if Marks was willing to buy the story because he knows he gets to be in charge now. There was a hint of the two of them having a mutual interest in Pope going down last week, and it wouldn't be unwelcome to see Marks again in Season 6.

- Speaking of guest stars coming back, it's almost impossible to imagine next season without Donal Logue involved in some way. Toric getting Tara to take a fall for his sister's death can't be all of what he wants to accomplish. Less clear, though, is whether Jimmy Smits might be back as Nero. The door certainly seems open for it, and Smits was great with both Charlie Hunnam and Katey Sagal this year. His crew and the MC are pretty deeply entwined at this point, so again, it would be logical to have him back for a least a little while.

- Tara's line just before the cops show up -- "We both know if we stay here, we'll end up like the two people we hate the most" -- now sounds almost like a mission statement for the final seasons of the show. Can she and Jax avoid falling completely into the roles Clay and Gemma have played?

What did you think of the "Sons of Anarchy" season finale? Where do you think it's headed next season?
Photo/Video credit: FX