Sons of Anarchy’ season 7 roars out its 11th episode of the final year, “Suits of Woe,” as Jax learns the truth about Gemma’s role in Tara’s murder, while Juice takes care of club business in prison.

Last week’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’ installment, “Faith and Despondency,” saw Jax seeking revenge against Moses Cartwright for Bobby’s death, while Abel’s continued outbursts at school brought to light a long-feared truth. So how does “Suits of Woe” keep the series rolling toward its inevitable conclusion? Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Sons of Anarchy’ season 7 episode 11, “Suits of Woe”!

Last week saw ‘Sons of Anarchy’ stretching its normally-bloated runtimes beyond the 70 minute mark (before commercials), and through all the PTC-infuriating sex scenes and the curiously-overlooked eyeballs dangling from sockets, it took until the final moments for the babe’s mouth to uncover the secret looming over the so-called “Final Ride” from its very beginning. 70 minutes seemed excessive, even by ‘Sons of Anarchy’ standards, and while “Suits of Woe” laughed in all our collective faces with an odd 73 minutes, I’d argue that tonight’s episode was likely the most deserving yet of its padding.

And yet, when I sat down to connect the narrative dots, I realized that for all its 73 minutes, much of tonight’s story unfolded in a surprisingly linear fashion, with Jax racing from one location to the next, uncovering things piece-by-piece, until Juice finally laid it all out. The leftover runtime was subsequently dedicated to tracking down Gemma, and at least one merry chase. That’s when it hit me that the value to “Suits of Woe” lay not necessarily in its plot progression, but rather in the weight dropped by the uncovering of Gemma’s lies.

We’ve waited all season to see Jax and the others coming to grips with the sheer volume of clusterf—ery that Gemma’s lie wrought, and while I’m sure a stronger edit might have shaved down some of that that 73 minutes, for the first time this season, I found myself wanting to let the story breathe. Lest I forget, “Suits of Woe” also devoted plenty of time to Juice’s prison conflicts, Unser’s shedding club loyalty, and Gemma’s ultimate escape, though from a storytelling standpoint, tonight kept things relatively simple.

Obviously, enough can’t be said for the range of Charlie Hunnam’s work, whose Jax seemed more alive (if in horribly twisted pain) tonight than we’ve seen him all season. Said pain crystallizes in the thought that therapy might further twist Abel, should Jax not at least investigate the boy’s “insane” claims. Hunnam certainly runs through the ringer in the process as well, playing incredulous, livid, horrified, crushed, righteous, forgiving and terrified all at once, and if ever ‘Sons’ was to earn a bit of Emmy recognition, Jax’s tearfully defeated shock at Gemma’s capacity to murder Tara might just put him over the mark.

Not only that, but Jax has proven difficult to rally behind as a protagonist this season; not through the usual anti-hero lens of modern cable dramas, but rather for the fact that we’ve seen his fury misdirected in such a manner as to alienate the audience a bit. The magnitude of Gemma’s actions rightly takes a long time to process, though in the end, I can’t express how refreshing it is to see Jax wholeheartedly taking blame for the carnage caused in Gemma’s wake. He volunteers to face a Mayhem vote at the charter’s hands for his killing Jury, and absolves his brothers of their own complicit acts in the last few weeks.

It’s also somewhat rewarding to see Tig and Chibs starting something of a conscious uncoupling with Jax, considering the manner in which inter-club politics and opinions have been somewhat marginalized this season. It made sense for SAMCRO to rally behind Jax in seeking any and all vengeance after Tara’s murder, but with Jax killing another charter’s president, eyes have opened to the fact that the Tellers have somewhat poisoned the organization, something Jax himself acknowledges in saying that the family he’d been given created nothing but chaos for the family he’d chosen.

Admittedly, we could have done without the 45-minute chess game first.

Similarly awakened to the madness is Unser, who finally gets the indignant authority to stand up to Jax, even if “Suits of Woe” denied us the full impact of Unser learning Gemma’s role in Tara’s death. Juice, on the other hand, provides something of an antithesis to both. He follows Jax’s orders in the blind belief it might earn him redemption, only to have the truth figuratively set him free of any and all concern for the club’s well-being. Theo Rossi does fine work opposite Charlie Hunnam’s revelatory opus as well, and while we’d be hard-pressed to justify Juice’s continued survival through the last few seasons, the character’s ultimately tragic fate might resonate better in re-watching the series down the line.

Given a bit less to do by “Suits of Woe” was Gemma, as despite my unabashed love of Katey Sagal, the ultimate revelation of Gemma’s misdeeds only amplified the same dumbfounded grief and shock we’d seen all season. There wasn’t much surprise in seeing the character run for the hills, or saying one last goodbye to Abel (likely pushing him into the club life as well), though it rang true to see Gemma stopping by her childhood home, and lingering in dreams of motherhood never to be during her goodbye with Nero. I especially enjoyed the brief goodbye with Chucky as well, though the extended goodbye with Nero was a particularly strong example of the old adage that it’s better to show than tell. Seeing the news wash over Nero’s face was a smart way to convey Gemma’s deeds far more truthfully than she ever would, a choice amplified by the episode’s once-again overall* bare soundtrack

*The jazzy car chase was admittedly a little off, but what’s a ‘Sons of Anarchy’ episode without one last random car chase? Now imagine if Jax had happened by a man driving a ’92 Toyota Tercel, rather than a souped-up black Charger.

Of course, two episodes still remain in the series, likely to span upwards of 9 hours if Kurt Sutter has his way, and I’m not sure what to make of the closing shot of Gemma driving towards an unfamiliar destination. There’s still plenty of club business to settle, between Jax making good with the other charters and rebuilding the balance of Niners, Chinese, Mayansm and more, all before the soul-shattering decision Jax faces over his mother’s fate. My gut still tells me that ‘Sons of Anarchy’’s final ride might have been stronger to incorporate Gemma’s lie much earlier in the season, but considering the depth of emotion on display tonight, “Suits of Woe” made for a strong push toward the finish.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Nice juxtaposition to have Gemma at the head of an empty, furnished table at the top of the hour, the space of which seemed to expand infinitely, while Jax wound up at a tiny-makeshift table with his true family. Poor, lonely Gertrude.
  • What do we make of the fact that even Wendy didn't give the full truth of her helping Juice at the motel, and beyond?
  • He explained a bit later, but you'd think Juice would press Lin just a little harder to make sure Barosky was really the rat.
  • "I accept that." Awws.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of road-rashing ‘Sons of Anarchy’ action?  What did you think about “Suits of Woe”? Join us next week for another all-new ‘Sons of Anarchy’ review of season 7's latest, “Red Rose,” and stay tuned as we bring you additional coverage on season 7 from cast and crew!