Here's how long it takes Tig and Clay's brilliant plan to fall apart: about a day. Maybe less.
At different points during tonight's season finale, "The Revelator," I kept wondering how things would've gone if Tig hadn't screwed up the kill–if he'd held back, or if it really had been Opie in the truck when he pulled the trigger. Hard to say for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that the frame-up would've lasted longer, because the rage wouldn't have been near as fierce. Opie's death would've been a tragedy, but Donna's is a fucking fiasco. When Jax comes in to find Tig about to shoot a seventeen year-old girl in the head, he says it clear as can be: "We don't kill women." There are different kinds of Codes; there's the kind you use to pretend you're better than the rest of the lowlifes, and there's the kind you take on because it makes you better. But the Sons have been losing their way. The vision Jax's father put down in his book has died a slow, hard death in the hands of men like Clay and his enforcers, and Jax has finally decided he's through looking the other way.
I didn't realize "Revelator" was an extended episode till I sat down to watch it, but thankfully, there wasn't a dull moment in the bunch. After the tension of the last couple weeks, this episode marked a change; which isn't to say the suspense was gone, but that for the first time in long while, somebody actually stood up and did something good. I kept waiting for Clay to take a bullet, or maybe Tig, and for a couple of scenes, Piney looked like he was practically diving for the nearest coffin, but nobody died tonight. Worse we got was a brawl–and sweet Jeebus, what a brawl it was.
Mostly, we got to see Jax forced into a corner by the actions of the people he trusts the most, finally getting off the fence and committing to the ideals his old man lived (and died) for. He finds out that the Niners weren't involved in Donna's death, first from Laroy, and then from Hale, who tells him how Stahl set Opie up as a rat. It shows you how thin Clay's plan was all along, because Jax doesn't bother to question Laroy or Hale that much–he knows what went down. It makes too much sense not to be true, and it marks the final goddamn straw.
Though his meeting with Tara probably didn't make things easier. In the best scene the two have had since the death of Kohn, Tara tells Jax she's decided she can't commit to him and his way of life, so she's headed back to Chicago; instead of accepting this (and taking the final steps of accepting Wendy's offer to re-enter his life), Jax gets mad. Tara's the only person in his life he feels he belongs with. Together, the two of them represent a different idea, and a part of the ideal of what John Teller believed the Sons could truly be. Losing her again, at a time when he's gotta be feeling utterly alone, just pushes him further down the path.
The whole time Jax is pinballing across town, Clay's playing damage control. There's a great scene early on when he breaks down in front of Gemma, and she pushes him back up; he tries to hold on to that focus for the rest of the episode, but he's losing his grip. (They've done a great job with his arthritis; it's such an obviously symbolic affliction that they've only needed to show it a few times to get the point across.) Rosen tells the club that the ATF has a witness, and they're arresting Opie for Hefner's murder, so Clay immediately sets about tracking down that witness through some carefully applied pressure on Trammel and Oswald. Once they know the location, Tig, Chibs, and Happy go in the for the kill; Clay says, "No mistakes," and Tig agrees, so clearly, they've learned from the past.
After realizing the truth of things, Jax goes to the clubhouse to give Clay one last chance to defend himself. Gemma meets up with him on the way, and she understands immediately what he knows, and how deeply he knows it; but Clay isn't convinced. Gemma is a survivor–Clay survives, but he doesn't have the same kind of steel she does, and it shows. He wants everything to go back to how it was, and thinks he can talk Jax out of his suspicions. Of course he can't. Jax gives him his chance, Clay lies, and I'd say you can mark that as the point where the split officially begins; the first small cracks in the surface after months of low rumbling.
Jax finds out that the ATF witness is a girl, and he makes it to the safe house just in time to stop Tig from pulling the trigger. The fight that follows was about a satisfying as it gets; Tig is a great character, and Coates has invested him with a lot of depth, but just watching Jax go to town on the bastard was amazing. (Tig: You've just gone beyond the pale, buddy. Jax: "Not yet.") The split grows wider, Jax has turned on his own, and you don't go back on that shit. Not even if you wanted to.
And then there's Donna's funeral. It plays out like the end of a rock video; Jax shows up during the service in a T-shirt in jeans and Tara brings him his Sons jacket; they make out a bit; and then Jax gives the evil eye to Clay and the others. It's a goddamn chasm between him and the others now, and it was awesome to see. This whole season, I'd been thinking we were building up to some massive catastrophe in the final moments, but when "Revelator" ended, I couldn't stop grinning. Still can't, really. The ground has broken, and break is final: on one side, it's Jax trying to bring his father's dream to Charming, with Tara at his side, and hopefully a few others (Piney, for sure, but other than that…). On the other side, it's Clay, Gemma, and Tig fighting to keep that dream dead, with the weight of the charter and all of Clay and Gemma's cunning behind them.
My fellow friends of Sam Crow–it's gonna be beautiful.
—Hadn't seen Half-Sack for a while. His play on Piney to get the gun away was great.
—Whoa, Bobby! Only one scene with Stahl, though. I wonder if having Bobby out of the way is one of the reasons things went bad so quickly. He's probably the biggest peacemaker in the club. (I also wonder what side Bobby will end up on.)
—Gemma: "You are losing control. Just like he did." Watch your back, Clay.
—Was that woman in the cemetery that Jax meets the same woman Gemma saw last week? If so, she may be important.
—It's been a blast, guys. See you next season.