"I love you Jackson from the deepest, purest part off my heart. You have to do this sweetheart, it's who we are. ... I'm ready." Those are the last words Gemma Teller Morrow says to her son Jax on Sons of Anarchy just before he fatally shots her in a rose garden behind her childhood home. Leaving blood on the petals, the strongest woman on television just left the room.
As FX's motorcycle club soap opera draws to a close after seven years—the final episode airs next Tuesday—fans like myself knew Gemma had to die for murdering Jax's wife Tara, but were we emotionally prepared? Was Jax? That's the beauty of Gemma's character, like Rome's Atia or Scandal's Mellie Grant: even though she's complicated and usually on the wrong side of an argument, her strength, loyalty, maneuvering and general scrappiness was too endearing to ever desert her completely. She was just so good at being awful.
Sons of Anarchy is really about two women—Gemma (played by the fantastic Katey Sagal of Married With Children fame), Tara (played by Maggie Siff)—and their struggle for supremacy and control of Jax. Tara wanted Jax (played by Charlie Hunnam and his wonderful butt) to leave behind the club and live a better life for not only himself but their two children. Gemma, mother hen to not only Jax but also the whole Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club, thinks Tara has betrayed all of her "boys" to the police and (SPOILER ALERT!) brutally stabs her to death with a fork to the skull in season six. As Sagal told People, Gemma had a lot going on that night.
It was out of a perfect storm moment where she thought that her was son was being taken down, the club was being taken down, her boyfriend broke up with her and she was super high. I think that in her right frame of mind, she wouldn't have killed Tara. When she finally came to out of that, she was shocked just as anyone else when she found out that Tara didn't turn anybody in.
Kurt Sutter, Sons creator and Sagal's husband, made no bones about killing off key characters early in the show's run, including himself (he played Otto, the club's prison representative). So when Gemma killed Tara, it was clear that Tuesday's "Red Rose" episode would come. Still, the way Gemma died was masterful and unexpected. As she makes peace with her fate and the concept that her own child will take her life, she's resolute that it's the right thing to do. Tying up loose ends, she tells her grandson Abel and boyfriend Nero (played by the hawt Jimmy Smits) goodbye, visits her father (played by Hal Holbrook) in an Oregon nursing home and returns to her childhood home where she looks through old childhood photos. She's come full circle so when Jax arrives, she's prepared and even welcoming.
After Jax kills Wayne Unser, Gemma's retired cop friend who'd come to save her though she refuses to leave, she asks to go to the rose garden in the backyard. As she's smelling the flowers, Jax almost can't pull the trigger. True to her character, and without looking at him, she coaxes him into doing what must be done, that he's doing the right thing. There's no begging and barely any crying on her part, she's just smelling the flowers and awaiting her bullet.
As the episode's director Paris Barclay concluded on the Sons of Anarchy Afterword on Tuesday night, from killing her first husband to save the club to using her own rape to motivate the Sons, Gemma was "platinum-spined" and the show's strongest character. I miss her already.
Wayne: Let's do this quietly.
Gemma: That ain't my style.