A few weeks ago, FX series Sons of Anarchy wrapped up their fourth season, setting up the pieces for what promises to be another adrenaline pumping fifth. What’s that? Sons of Anarchy?
Perhaps to those who hear that name and are unfamiliar with the show, you may wonder what sorts of smart, social-political discussion it can throw within the context of its 1-hour time slot. Well, rest assured, the show doesn’t strive quite for those heights, as anarchism involves far too many tangled and complex strings in and of itself.
This is, however, a positive thing.
The opening season dabbles a bit with some philosophical underpinnings, but it manages to do so without too much pretension, and within an unraveling story that only gets better season by season.
The premise of the show involves a motorcycle club stationed in the town of Charming, fictitiously located in northern California. The club is comprised of tough outlaws, headed by club president Clay Morrow, played dominantly by Ron Perlman. His old lady’s name is Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal), perhaps best known for her (hair’s) role as Peggy in the old Married… With Children days (her capability for dramatic acting is unquestionable). Her son, Jax Teller, is played by an English-born actor by the name of Charlie Hunnan.
These three actors play their parts flawlessly, and are complemented by excellent casting, which includes some perfectly colorful individuals, on both sides of the law (political, social, and moral).
One of the main themes of the show involves loyalty to family and to the club, which in itself acts as a loving family, or ruthless gang. The club itself is involved in gun trafficking, and manages to stay afloat despite feuds, compromises, and promises (many times broken) between rival gangs, motorcycle clubs, international gun runners, local law enforcement, and federal agents.
I’ll refrain from recounting or summarizing plot points, as those are easy enough to find if one is interested to do so. Instead, here’s a few things I want to highlight.
Creator of the show, Kurt Sutter, is in top form. He previously worked as executive producer of The Shield, which itself received a bevy of awards and nominations. His work on that show was commended for its depiction of gang life, as well as that of corrupt police officers. This sense of realism is carried over to Sons of Anarchy.
As the setting of the show comes to life, the characters are free to act and react in ways that are often alarming, but usually free of convention. Rash decisions are made and carried out in surprising and alarming ways, and the show manages to catch you off guard. The storytelling is very rarely predictable, and each episode plays out with such urgency that it is nearly impossible to refrain from watching the next one available.
The production values of the show are very high. It is amazing how far television has come in the last decade or so. The quality of the writing, acting, and directing is on par and sometimes far above many of the Hollywood productions that are released to the unsuspecting masses.
There are, conversely, occasional turns where the show is not at its best. But they are very few and far between. Moreover, some of these scenes which seem to be inconsequential or uninteresting end up having huge repercussions in later episodes, so there’s nothing to take for granted. Certain episodes are of such high caliber, that they will leave your heart reeling as you try to recoup from what you’ve just seen.
The final episode of season 2, for example, is one of the most heartbreaking and exhilarating episodes of television in recent history. This is followed up by one of the most intense season openers I’ve seen in years. The latest season also has the culmination of several things that have been brewing, having tragic repercussions for many of the characters.
Several guest cast members are also a welcome addition to the show. Stephen King appears in one of the episodes of the third season. Danny Trejo makes several appearances in season four (that guy is everywhere). The show’s music is hit or miss, but some of the tunes are well chosen. The Black Keys are prominently featured (including in the Pilot episode [do be sure to check out their latest album, El Camino]), along with tunes from Citizen Cope, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other high profile covers.
Surprisingly enough, the show is barely being recognized critically, as its been inexplicably snubbed by the Emmy’s (thus far) throughout all its current seasons. Katey Sagal did win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a dramatic television series, and the show has received several Golden Globe nominations. But that’s little comfort, considering the sometimes goofy nature of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Considering that a show like Breaking Bad is repeatedly nominated for the Emmy Awards (and I happen to love that show), it’s somewhat surprising that Sons of Anarchy stays in the shadows. Dexter has repeatedly been nominated, and while I happen to like that show as well, after 5 seasons, the show has had two excellent seasons at most (the first and fourth), while Sons achieves consistence without growing stale or tired. In any respect, it’s time for a new segment: I’m no expert, but… (you’ll have to watch the clip to get the joke):
All in all, it’s not that big of a deal. Several critics have seen the merit in Sutter’s show, and it was one of the highest rated shows on cable, second only to AMC’s The Walking Dead. I must admit, there may be some that will not like certain aspects of the show. Season 3 has an element which drew certain people away, and the ending of season 4 may not have satisfied all viewers, I seem to think that the series is still on the rise.
Sutter wants to tell his story on a 7-season arc. He is confident in his actors and seems to be intent on carrying on with the high quality he has maintained for the 4 season run.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the first two seasons which are available to stream on Netflix. I happened to purchase the remaining two seasons (digital copies) instead of waiting for DVDs to arrive by mail, but you take your pick. It’ll depend how hooked you are, especially after that season 2 finale.