Is Sons of Anarchy in for a Shakespearean reckoning?

SPOILER ALERT! – Up to Season 7, Episode 1.

Sons of Anarchy - Season 7 - Cast Promotional Photo - Charlie Hunnam-feature

The final season of Sons of Anarchy has projectiled onto screens with characteristic charisma and a destructive force so extreme that not only is half of Charming likely to be obliterated in an apocalyptic bloodbath but, in equal measure, show loyalists face the same violent squall as inspired emotions threaten to consume all sense of sapience. The tone of dramatic irony that pervades the curtain call is so palpable that watching with hand over face, eyes peeping through, is the only way to cope. Gemma killed Tara, Jax doesn’t know. The audience does.

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The shit’s gonna fly.

The question on every devotee’s mind is how, when, where – and who’s going to die? There is a bomb and it is itching to explode, and the reckoning is going to be epic. Will it go down the Shakespeare way? – Death all round? Or are fans in for a surprise?

To date, Kurt Sutter’s modern rendition has been creatively loyal to the bard’s Hamlet. Conniving Claudius Clay has already been felled by his equivocally fiendish step-son, and Tara (dear Ophelia) has had a fork to the head, which ended her tragic life – not quite the death by drowning that Shakespeare imagined in Hamlet but Tara arguably signed her own death warrant when she hooked up with the heir to the SOA throne. Suicide Semantics.

So…

what now?

– Jax goes crazy. Juice pierces ‘The Pres’ with a poisoned blade but is fatally wounded by it himself. Gemma accidentally drinks poisoned wine intended for Jax and dies. But with the additional Sutter-esque blood, bikes, guns, guts and torture?

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In fact, season 7 starts with a big fat question mark above Jax’s sanity; in episode 1 (Black Widower) The Pres, with a calm both chilling and pathological in its purpose, tortures and kills an innocent man with immeasurable brutality. Has Tara’s death pushed Jax over the edge? Has a cloak of madness enveloped our hero and hauled him into an abyss where pulling out teeth with medieval strength and statement is how folks roll? Sutter’s Shakespearean allusion is poignant. Was Hamlet mad? The answer is one of literature’s most hotly debated points but many critics argue that Hamlet’s insanity was mere pretence:

“I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft.”
(III. iv. 187-8.)

Hamlet’s is a “crafty madness” (III. i. 8.).

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” (II. ii.203-4.).

In translation: Jax is not mad, just crafty. Or feigning it? Or perhaps, a better interpretation is ‘temporary insanity’; blind rage – anger driven lunacy?

…uh…Gemma is SO dead.

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Not only will Jax be confronted with his wife’s murderer but the woman who conspired against his father John Teller. Shakespeare’s Hamlet seems to raise more questions about Gertrude than it answers: was she involved with Claudius before the death of her husband? Did she love her husband? Did she know about Claudius’s plan to commit the murder? Did she love Claudius, or did she marry him simply to keep her high station in Denmark? – Exactly the kind of questions Jax will be asking himself if Gemma’s duplicity is brought to light. And not only that but Jax will also face the loss of a mother (arguably a crappy one but a mother nonetheless).

It would almost be unjust for Gemma not to die. Then again, justice is not really a word that could be used to describe the world at large.

But what about Jax? Viewers have invested in the fateful plight of SOA’s conflicted protagonist (and all the characters spewed up by ‘the Sutter genius’). Jax’s end means something. It’s significant. And it has to be true to the tale told.

It’s got to be death.

Bearing in mind that a bullet to the head can be applied both literally and figuratively.

Sons of Anarchy - Season 7 - New Promotional Poster banner

Jax may have his brains blown out in a fierce gangster face-off but perhaps Jackson Teller is fated to an affliction far less fleeting than death-in-four-seconds. As the show has progressed, Jax has come to realise his destiny as an ever-fixed mark, and this awareness has come at a cost – a loss of moral compass. The more Jax’s fate has become an actuality, the more of himself (or at least his ideal self) has fallen to the wayside. Jax is suffering a spiritual, ethical, emotional death – all that will be left is a vacuous existence ironically perpetuated by the same club and brotherhood that have snatched Life from the hands of their born leader. First Opie, then Tara; a sane mother; even John Teller’s diary – anything that was there to save Jax, to keep him accountable, is gone. Every day the stars grab hold of Jackson Teller and shake him around a little (or a lot) and with every passing moment, his essence ebbs away. What would hammer the final nail into Jax’s coffin – the death of Thomas and Able? The destruction of the club? The annihilation of his brothers? Jax left standing with nothing around him…

…what could be worse?

The reason Shakespeare has transcended not only time but cultural evolution is because his plays are, essentially, about people – about emotion, about relationship. The grand themes of life. Kurt Sutter, in Sons of Anarchy, expands on Shakespeare’s attempts at understanding existence – its mystery, its meaning or meaninglessness, its madness. ‘Sons’ is one of those shows that seeps into the soul, burrows into the brain and infiltrates every inkling of what it means to feel, to be human, to such an extent that the faceless shadow of an ‘audience’ is transformed into something more familiar – and that is family. A family that is rooting for an ending that is neither good nor bad, but bona fide in every way possible.

Source: Shakespeare-online.com – “Hamlet’s Antic Disposition”

For some more of RantChick-style SOA insight, you might also like “Sons of Anarchy and Philosophy: Brains Before Bullets” (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)…especially Chapter 15 *wink wink*.

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