Lent II: Still Joy with Crows*

*with apologies to Tom Robbins.

It is entirely possible that I will never get the final song in Sons of Anarchy out of my head. In many ways it captures the joyful spirit of some hymns (not the dirges that are supposed to be joyful but are too mired in minor keys or, worse, choirs and musicians who insist on the funereal, since that is all that they ever heard, even in joyful compositions. See also Eddie Izzard on the matter.  I’m pretty sure I reference him every Lent).

The finale itself was, of course, entirely telegraphed from the beginning, even if Jax had more agency than it ever felt to me like Hamlet did (or not. The biggest what if the show will always be–what if Jax just didn’t listen to Gemma–either the one in front of him or the one in his head– then? Or then? Or that other time?). I’m going to have to parse that one more, since, however much I knew what was coming…I still watched in horror until I could not watch–I covered my eyes.

It’s not surprising that joy can come in lockstep with horror. That’s part of what Lent is preparing for, isn’t it? However much Easter looks to lift up in joy for believers, it still follows horror. Christological symbolism having been rampant in the show, and nowhere more than in the finale, where Sutter took a sledgehammer approach, I wonder how much Lent I just watched.

Watching the finale on Ash Wednesday may have been weirdly appropriate.

The show makes me want to write–to dig and turn over, which is a pretty nifty thing (oh, look, joy!). I’ve not looked to see what has already been pondered over the years, largely because I didn’t want to trip across spoilers. I’m not sure I totally want to now, because I know I will trip into SOA fanfiction, and as much as I love me some fanfiction, I do not want to go there right now.

Maybe because SOA has a alt-universe fan fiction quality to it? What if Hamlet had been in an MC? Should it have come with an alt-universe warning?

As always with Hamlet tales, I am curious about Horatio. The keeper of the stories. The one who survives to tell the tale to the armies at the gates. In this show, it’s the latter (the armies), that give me pause because those who will be getting the story are not the obvious armies. And that they become the vessels is far more disturbing than the armies at the door (since the obvious armies–the other outlaws–will never, if Jax’s machinations are this time successful, know. Granted, most of the other plots blew up in his face).

But, Hamlet. See, I was (and I hardly claim to be alone here, since it was the point of the show) utterly fascinated by Jax Teller, in the same way that I am utterly fascinated by Hamlet, particularly as imagined by Kevin Kline. I don’t know why, perhaps because Kline played Hamlet in the most joyful way I can recall (if a joy covered in derision). He doesn’t play Hamlet as the deep, oppressive, christian-hymn-solemnity that is so popular among those who wish to be counted as a “great” Shakespearean ACTOR. Or someone in high school. Charlie Hunnam usually didn’t play over-the-top unnecessarily (at least as I read the character). He had far longer to vacillate than poor Hamlet ever did, and boy did he let himself do so, right up until he stopped–which is when (as with Hamlet) everything came apart.

But, still, a twisted joy (relief?) permeates Hamlet. It’s over. It’s finally over. One that Sutter mirrors in Jax as the story winds to a close.

I used to love to teach Hamlet (still would). I would love to pair Hamlet with moments from SOA in class, the way I did with Odyssey and Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Not anything born of particularly unusual insight, but ways of seeing the same stories told in image and music. Even when blood runs across the stage, the death itself hidden from view, the music can insist on something more than mere horror.

Since I made the joke about trying to do this…


Matt Sanders laughing on stage

Matt, Augusta, Nov. 2011


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