The best thing any entertainment can be is self-aware. If the writers know their audience well enough to predict their feelings and reactions, they can do anything. If those writers happen to include Kurt Sutter, then things get really interesting. This week’s instalment of Sons of Anarchy proves that, whether we like it or not.
Sutter has previously developed a style to killing off characters. It’s shocking, it’s bloody and it’s usually set to a soundtrack of husky folk-blues. Knowing the final season of Sons of Anarchy is a big deal for his loyal fans, Sutter (along with co-writers Gladys Rodriguez and Josh Botana) pens Greensleeves with an air of menacing finality. He has characters making meaningful speeches and saying goodbye to loved ones, suggesting that their demise may be only moments away. The fans find the edge of their seats, just as their on-screen heroes enter a dark alleyway, or head to a hastily arranged meeting. This is when Sutter allows one of them to live and abducts the other everyone thought was safe. Between The Shield and the previous six seasons of Sons, we should all really know better.
Luckily, this ever-present threat of heartbreak also brings together some emotional scenes for the actors involved. Katey Sagal’s Gemma, in particular – considering the gravity of her secret – is often seen sweeping the ‘tough mother’ act aside and struggling under the weight of what she’s done. Sagal seems to get somehow tougher and more unstable each week, stealing the spotlight as the real star of the show. Jimmy Smits – starring as her other half and the show’s much-needed morality compass – also shines by turning an OG ex-junkie routine into someone so honest and righteous that it’s impossible not to side with him. In terms of emotional engagement with its characters, Sons of Anarchy is arguably peerless.
Greensleeves is also the first episode in which it feels the production team are no longer preparing for a finale that can only be described as a massacre, because they’re making it really happen. Jax decides to round up his forces and move against August Marks, while still wondering who is informing Lin of his actions. With Jury’s storyline almost forgotten, it’s clear fans can expect something sickening to close that particular arc. Following the current trend of a back-catalogue of characters from various gangs and organisations, Episode 7(the first step into this season’s final half) displays a real progression in the story. Every scene is chilling, every word deathly serious and every second meaningful.
Sons of Anarchy retains its trademark style – leather and blood – and yet continues to shock and awe. Pushing the audience to the limit, Sutter and Barclay’s imagination for violent twists and relationship toils constantly manage to remain unsettling. The brutality is written so precisely that it never grows old. Viewers feel every threat, every punch and every bullet. And, judging by Greensleeves’ upsetting final moments, those threats, punches and bullets aren’t going to stop breaking down the fourth wall any time soon.
Sons of Anarchy Season 7 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription, and on Amazon Prime, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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