Last ride with 'Sons of Anarchy'
Its female leads were one reason to watch the testosterone-filled motorcycle drama, which ends tonight.
* SONS OF ANARCHY.
10 tonight, FX.
This column contains spoilers for previous episodes of "Sons of Anarchy," including last week's.
MY LOVE-HATE relationship with FX's "Sons of Anarchy" is apparently continuing to the no-doubt bitter end.
Assuming I make it through tonight's series finale, which is expected to clock in at a bit under two hours. ("Anarchy Afterword" will follow the 11:53 a.m. finish and run until 1 a.m., with "Sons" creator Kurt Sutter, star Charlie Hunnam and "surprise" guests.)
I've given up "Sons of Anarchy" more times than I've given up chocolate, but I always come back.
Not because I'm interested in the inner workings of an outlaw motorcycle club in fictional Charming, Calif., but because there aren't many places on television where women get to be this complicated.
"Complicated" only begins to describe Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal) and her late daughter-in-law, Tara Knowles-Teller (Maggie Siff), whom Gemma dispatched with a large fork in last season's haunting finale, but then Hallmark doesn't have a card for that relationship, either.
Sagal, who broke new ground in "Married . . . with Children" as a considerably less-than-perfect sitcom mom, has gotten to go darker - much, much darker - as Gemma, the motorcycle-gang matriarch whose back story was loosely tied to that of Queen Gertrude's in "Hamlet."
This season has been a stomach-churner, as the consequences of Gemma's big lie piled up, one body at a time. And last week, the woman who raised her son Jax (Hunnam) to follow in his father and stepfather's tire tracks, actually insisted that he kill her, because, she said, "It's who we are."
Sagal's had a terrific run as Gemma and the Emmy snubs so far say more about the Emmys than they do about her.
Siff's character progressed (or regressed) over six seasons from Jax's smart ex-girlfriend who returned to their hometown as a pediatric resident and got re-entangled with him to a mother as fiercely protective as Gemma. And a killer, to boot.
Even Drea de Matteo has gotten a twisty journey as Wendy, Jax's drug-addicted first wife and the mother of his older son, who's been pulling her life together and may just end up raising both his sons.
If she survives tonight's finale.
I hope she does, if only because "The Sopranos" already killed de Matteo far too memorably.
Watching a motorcycle-gang drama for the characters who don't ride might seem perverse, but then so does much of what happens on "Sons," which has specialized in creative acts of carnage that often seem unnecessary, even under the harsh rules of the war this leather-clad band of brothers seems to think it's engaged in.
Or at least that's what it's looked like to someone who speed-read through the "War" parts of War and Peace.
I'm not saying that a Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club run by the Mothers of Anarchy would be any less brutal (see Teller, Gemma), but anyone who's seen the woman's house - which, even when her life was at its messiest, seemed not only organized but tasteful - should realize that organized crime in Charming might, under her leadership, have been actually organized.
On Twitter: @elgray