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'Sons of Anarchy' grinds to the end: 'Red Rose' review

"Sons of Anarchy" is a drama full of adrenaline with darkly comedic undertones that explores a notorious outlaw motorcycle club's desire to protect its livelihood while ensuring that their simple, sheltered town of Charming, Calif., remains exactly that, charming. Credit: Fox / FX Entertainment TV

"Sons of Anarchy" wraps next week, but these seven long and bloody seasons really ended Tuesday. The full circle we've expected -- the bloody end of it all, along with the nihilism that fills the emptiness of "SOA" -- was finally closed.

So that's it: The death of Gemma, in her father's garden, right back where she started from, stands of roses on both sides, and a gaping head wound that, with Paris Barclay's direction, almost looked like a rose too.

The episode, "Red Rose," was so skillfully directed and edited that there's a temptation to overthink its meaning -- overthinking is never the best policy with "SOA" -- but let's give it a shot, pun intended, anyway...

 ...The blood on Jax's foot, and his slight stumble on the same foot earlier in the episode: Was that perhaps a reference to Oedipus, which -- as every diligent high school student knows -- means "swollen foot," because Oedipus, like Jax himself, was doomed at birth to murder his father and marry his mother?

Jax, instead, murdered his mother, so there was a slight reversal, but he and mom were doomed nonetheless.

Or: Milo -- Michael Chiklis, in a memorable brief cameo that served only to remind viewers about a lost opportunity, of how fantastic it would have been had Chiklis spent more time on this series -- who refers to the scar on Gemma's chest.

That's of course a reference to Gemma's congenital heart defect. But was it also perhaps a bit of foreshadowing, because that same genetic defect was also passed on to Jax and his brother, Thomas, who died early on from the defect?

 If so, foreshadowing what? Now, one must wonder what is going on with that ailing ticker inside Jax (and Abel), and how that will be resolved next week.

Creator Kurt Sutter has long pinned "SOA" on a whole range of classic forebears, from Greek tragedy, to the Bible and even Shakespeare; and Tuesday night, some of those chickens came home to roosteth.

The sins of the father visited upon the son who visits them upon the mother -- who herself was chief instigator of every duplicitous vile deceit that befell the town of Charming and the club called SAMCRO.

Dear evil mother...she wasn't actually just Queen Jocasta, mother of Oedipus, but a composite figure -- part Lady Macbeth, part Clytemnestra, the greatest femme fatale, and wife of Agamemnon -- John Teller -- who has an affair with Aggy's cousin Aegisthus -- Clay Morrow -- and who both then plot to off the husband, which of course they do....

Gemma's dispatch of Tara last season? Just one more wrinkle in the Oedipal tale.

My point is, Gemma's end was foretold, by the gods.

Jax's? We await...but the gods have not been kind.

 Enough with the classics lessons. How about that episode? It was terrific -- one of the best "SOA's" over seven seasons and a forcible reminder that this show has been robbed by the Emmys for years.

Barclay's work last night was flawless, but then so was the effort of every other actor -- Katey Sagal in particular -- who has made this series so memorable: Theo Rossi -- Juice -- who has one final request, "just let me finish my pie."

Or Dayton Callie's Wayne Unser... Callie has been superb over this run, but he saved his best for last, a moment steeped in regret and sadness and melancholy that seemed to speak directly to all the mayhem and horror and above all mindless stupidity that propelled the many plot strands of "SOA." His death was the hardest in "SOA" history, but you knew it was coming too.

What finally to say about "SOA?" I'll get a little more into that next week, but "Red Rose" was also a reminder of why this series has been so maddening -- it was a brilliant episode, in a series that has had a number of those, alongside a number of bloody disasters -- the majority, in fact.

"SOA" is often grindhouse-meets-opera, and it has never been able to achieve a satisfying balance.

Except for Tuesday... Last night, "SOA" finally got it right.

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