Friday, 12 December 2014

Sons of Anarchy: Endings

About a quarter of the hits on this blog are from one post from about four years ago where I vented about Irish accents on SoA and their location work in Nordor. So I guess, now that SoA is finally over, my page views are just going to tank. 

SoA should have ended about two years ago. If it had a point, the point was the conflict between Jax and Clay and Gemma, and the best they were ever going to get out of that was five seasons. SoA should have hit its crisis in Season Five and destroyed its world, just like Hamlet does in Act 5. I’m not saying that the result would have been perfect; I don’t even know if it would have been any good, but it would have been better than the long drawn out falling apart of Seasons Six and Seven. There comes a point when you’re learned all you can from a crapsack world, and everything after that is “This? Again?"

Art always collides with money. Even low art. Even TV shows. Especially TV shows. They outrun their welcome, because no matter what you wanted to do at the beginning, in the end you’ve got kids at college, cocaine habits, mortgage payments or just the aching knowledge that you’ve got nothing else in the tank and you need the money for coffee and cigarettes. It happened to Lost, it happened to the X-Files,and man, did it ever happen to Sons of Anarchy. And it sometimes seems like the only other possibility is getting yanked before you’ve even told the story, like Twin Peaks or Firefly. Or Rome. Or Deadwood. Man, don’t make me talk about Deadwood.

So let’s talk about endings. The Sopranos ended so abruptly half of America thought their TV sets had broken. Six Feet Under got all kinds of lost along the way, but pulled an ending out of the mess which is, in its own way, truly unbeatable. Dexter, having turned into possibly the stupidest show on TV, found an ending to carry it right over the line into unredeemable, a trick which would be truly impressive if I thought for a moment that it was the plan. Breaking Bad stayed for exactly the right length and pulled off an ending which was both perfectly judged and almost hypnotic in the way in which every loose piece of karma was tucked away where it belonged.

However, there is one show which stands head and shoulders above them all for the sheer punch of its ending. The Shield  was frequently a violent mess that made no sense at all from week to week, but it found the perfect ending as Vic Mackey was stuck in his own personal hell; a meaningless desk job where he could do nothing and be made accountable for every pointless moment of it. By the end of The Shield, the writers could have had Vic torn apart by wolves and the viewers would have said “Well, Vic DID kind of have it coming, and wasn’t it awesome?” Instead they found a punishment which left Vic with nothing. And considering that most of us watching probably had equally meaningless desk jobs, there was a certain karmic backlash for the audience. There we’d been, enjoying the exploits of a truly horrible person, paying our own tawdry dues to the myth of the ubermensch, the bully with the heart of gold, the man who only hurts us because he loves us. And then Shawn Ryan turned it right back on us; there you go. Mackey is one of you now.

Anyone who’s read this far will know where I’m going. Kurt Sutter worked on The Shield, and at one point it looked like he was running a shelter for former cast members down at Teller-Morrow. So when it came to the ending, that was the yardstick he was going to be measured by. Was Jax Teller going to have an ending that would claw the show back to the promise it had at the beginning?

Nope. Jax spends his last day trying to right the wrongs he’s done, mostly by doing a bunch of NEW wrongs, and then splats himself on the front of a truck, just like his old man did twenty years before. And at the wheel of that truck, that delivery system for Jax’s ending; the man who owns the best ending trashy American TV has ever managed. Vic Mackey his own bad self turned up to turn Jax off, and even he couldn’t save it.

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