Byron Cohen/FX
Mandi Bierly
December 03, 2014 AT 04:56 AM EST

There are episodes of TV that make you cry, and then there are episodes of TV that make you feel as if you’ve been physically wounded. “Red Rose” is the latter.

It lingers and leaves you depressed. Why? Because it’s not just about the body count of Tully stabbing Juice repeatedly in the throat, Jax putting a bullet in Unser’s chest, and Jax shooting Gemma in the head. It’s about those moments beforehand. The exquisite and excruciating buildup of dialogue that will make you tear up when you repeat it: “Just wait until I finish my pie.” “This is all I got left.” “It’s okay. My baby boy. It’s time. I’m ready.”

It’s also, for many, about the realization that Jax is preparing to die—something only 39 percent of readers said they believed would happen by the end of the Dec. 9 series finale, per a poll in last week’s recap. Twenty-five percent expected him to meet Mr. Mayhem; 15 percent expected him to commit suicide on his father’s bike. (We’ll do a another vote later). Sage Nero has told us there’s no recovering from killing your mother (even if she gave you permission?). And killing Unser may be unforgivable (even if Jax begged him to leave?). So is there any hope for Jax at this point? Should there be?

Let’s dig in. (Update: Read our postmortems with Katey Sagalwith Theo Rossi, with Dayton Callie, with episode co-writer Charles Murray, and with director/EP Paris Barclay.)

The day begins: We open with Jax in Marcus’ “office,” putting on his rings. Chibs brings him a fresh shirt, and the audible “ah” in your living room witnessing that small act of brotherhood is broken up by Jax standing and limping. Why is he limping? Will that come back into play?

Alvarez now knows the truth about Tara, but he also knows there’s no take-backs on what Jax has set in motion. We get the update: Nero and Tyler are coming to meet with them, then they’ll take the plan to the Irish. The Sons of Anarchy forum, meanwhile, wants to meet with Jax. And Gemma hasn’t been using her credit cards—she’s still in the wind.

Wendy and Brooke are at Jax’s and don’t know Gemma’s on the run, so they go about the business of raising the boys as usual. Wendy says she somehow feels more at home than ever in the place where Tara died and she OD’d. Unser is alone in Gemma’s kitchen and returns the spare key. It’s the first moment you truly feel the hole that will be left with Gemma gone.

Michael Chiklis sighting: Gemma’s currently parked at a truck stop, sleeping in the car. Who knocks on her door to tell her she’s in a rig zone but a trucker played by The Shield‘s Michael Chiklis. It’s amazing, considering creator Kurt Sutter has always maintained he could never have either Chiklis or Walton Goggins guest on Sons because FX viewers would too closely identify them with their Shield characters. He wrote Venus for Walton, of course, and now this for Chiklis. Gemma moves her car, checks her makeup in the mirror (so we can see the foreboding WARNING sticker on the visor?), and goes back to sleep. Should she really have one window that far down? She should’ve cracked all the windows just a bit.

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The Meet: Tyler and Marcus play nice—the Niners will get more of Lin’s territory and priority when it comes to buying Irish guns from the Mayans. With Nero stepping down, the Triple Twos will prey even harder on Byz-Lat turf. The Byz-Lats number a dozen now and need time to recruit. Oso, the Mayan president in Stockton, offers to step on the Triple Twos in the meantime, but Nero knows there’s a catch: Oso wants the Byz-Lats to move Mayan dope now, too. Nero balks, but it doesn’t matter now. Fiasco is running the show, and he’s in. Oso is antsy about Barosky, and Tyler is worried about the remaining Triads, who’ve been mobilizing—Jax says both those issues will have to wait until the gun one is settled. Immediately you worry that he’s prioritized wrong again.

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NEXT: Another great Jax and Nero scene

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