“Ride into this world all alone. God takes your soul. You’re on your own.
The crow flies straight, a perfect line on the devil’s back until you die.
Gotta look this life in the eye”.
When these guys send a message, they don’t use Western Union. Not only will they blow up your warehouse, but they’ll catch one of your guys and plant a stick of dynamite in his butt cheeks to set off the explosion. That’s the world of the motorcycle club, The Sons Of Anarchy. In the wake of The Shield, FX stays true to form with the latest from that show’s alumni Kurt Sutter. Sons Of Anarchy has a familiar tone and quality to it for fans of that now gone cop drama. There’s a lot of handheld camera stuff, and you have very similar themes.
“Anarchism stands for liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion. Liberation of the human body from the dominion of property. Liberation from the shackles and the restraint of government. It stands for social order based on the grouping of individuals.”
You say potato…
The Sons Of Anarchy are a motorcycle gang that is at least two generations old. They rule over the city of Charming, California with an iron fist. They own the police chief and take pride in being the town’s true protectors. When you’re in trouble, the club takes great pride in the fact that you’ll go to them before the cops. Like a modern day Corleone family, they grant audiences to citizens with troubles and solve them with their own particular brand of justice. You won’t find a Starbucks or Home Depot in Charming. Because of the gang, the town remains a place lost in time, reminiscent of a small rural town from 40 years ago. On the flipside, there are no drug dealers here, and the crime rate is low, unless you count what the club themselves are into. They try and keep the violence away from the Charming city limits. The club must deal with the occasional rival gangs and, of course, the feds.
“Welcome to Charming. Our name says it all.”
While I didn’t find this series as engrossing as it might be intended to feel, I was impressed with the great characters and near perfect casting that brought them to life. In very little time I was able to completely accept these people in these situations. I’ve not had any real exposure to actual bike gangs, but there’s no question that the series feels very authentic. I won’t quibble with the real boys and whatever nitpicks they might have. I do rather enjoy my bones in the unfractured condition they’re in at the moment. It doesn’t really matter to me how authentic the show might be. If it looks right, I’ll buy into that world. Again, it’s characters and actors more than anything that pulls that off.
Jackson “Jax” Teller (Charlie Hunnam): Jax is a second generation member of the club and the current vice president. His dad was killed in action, but Jax is beginning to think there might have been more to his father’s death. He finds a manuscript in his dad’s things. The book is a series of reflections about the club and how the founding member believed they had lost their way. Now Jax wants to try and bring some kind of reform to the club. His mom is now married to the club’s current president and very much involved in the club’s business.
Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman): Clay is a founding member of the club, a group referred to as the “First 9”. He rules the club with an iron fists. He preaches brotherhood and loyalty but won’t think twice before lying to the club about his actions or intentions. He’s aging but doesn’t want to give up his control of the gang.
Gemma (Katey Sagal): Gemma is Jax’s mom. She’s a long way from Peg Bundy. She might be the most manipulative and evil mom since Tony Soprano’s. She’s worried that Jax will learn the truth about his father and try and struggle with Clay over the club’s direction. She manipulates his women and every aspect of his life she can. She’s the kind of gal that smashes a rival’s face in with a skateboard with no remorse at all.
Tig (Kim Coates): Tig is a sociopath through and through. He’s ultra violent and plenty sadistic. He’s, naturally, the sergeant at arms for the club. This is the guy Clay calls upon to do the real nasty work. His overactive sex drive on more than one occasion has put the club in a jam.
Bobby (Mark Boone, Jr.): Bobby’s another founding member and maybe the most loyal to the club. He moonlights as an Elvis impersonator at night clubs and Charming social events. He loves his weed but has a strict “no bud before nine A.M.” rule. He looks the most like a biker here.
Opie (Ryan Hurst): Opie has just gotten back home from a 5 year stay in prison. He’s got a wife and two kids and tries to stay legitimate. Unfortunately, the club is in his blood as well as tattooed all over his back. They all have them. It seems old habits die hard, and Opie’s family will have to pay the price for his lifestyle.
Chief Unser (Dayton Callie): He might be the police chief, but he’s not running anything. He’s dying of cancer, but the club pressures him to stay on the job because his replacement is gung ho out to get the club.
Ernest Darby (Mitch Pileggi): Darby heads a neo-Nazi group that causes the club a few headaches. It’s rather interesting to see FBI Assistant Director Skinner in Nazi tats and riding a Harley.
Juice (Theo Rossi): Juice is a tech wizard, but in everything else he’s a moron.
Piney (William Lucking): Piney is Opie’s dad and another founding member of the club. He attempts to be the calmer voice of reason but doesn’t have the strength to stand up to Clay and Tig. He’s on an oxygen tank, but it doesn’t stop him from smoking.
Agent Stahl: (Ally Walker): She’s the fed trying to take the club out, but she doesn’t have any more morals than they do. She’ll sleep with a cop to get his cooperation and set a club member up to get killed if it serves her purpose.
Chibs (Tommy Flanagan): Chibs is an Irishman with the temper to go along with it. He’s an old member of the club and is their connection to the IRA for guns, which is their main mode of earning a living.
There are a ton of other characters, as this 13 episode season has a rather large and eclectic cast. These include a nice story arc featuring The Shield’s Jay Karnes as a twisted ATF agent.
The show is definitely a cable style show. It’s not for the vulgarity or violence sensitive. These boys play hard and they work hard. I’d say the violence factor is much higher than it was on The Shield. You won’t be wanting for some action. It might not be one of the best shows out there, but it’s got enough adrenalin to get your heart pumping some.
Sons Of Anarchy is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is brought to you via a solid AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The series sports a gritty realism feel, and the high definition release plays well into that feel. Colors are really pretty muted here, but it’s the detail that really shines. Black levels are excellent. In close-ups you can really see the texture and creases in the leather vests. There aren’t any compression artifacts and you’ll get a pretty good 25 mbps average in the compression.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has some solid LFE. You can really hear those bikes roar at times. The music cues live mostly in the rear speakers. The whole thing feels pretty wide. Dialog is perfect. There’s very much a movie quality to the sound here.
There are a few Audio Commentaries on selected episodes.
The Making Of Sons Of Anarchy Season 1: (8:59) HD Most of this is simple interview clips. Everybody offers their own take or philosophy on the series. You get a set tour of the club house, and there’s some conceptual art for the set. There’s a lot of talk about this being a dark comedy, but I don’t really see it.
The Ink: (4:50) HD The cast and tattoo artists talk about how the body art was selected for each character.
The Bikes: (7:08) HD You can’t have a motorcycle gang without bikes. The cast and crew talk about the machines and how they were customized for each character.
Casting Sons Of Anarchy: (14:47) HD There’s plenty of audition footage from most of the actors. Casting director Wendy O’Brien walks us through each character and talks about the original concepts and how the actors worked to redefine the characters.
Deleted Scenes: (35:08) SD There are a whopping 29 scenes in all. Most of it is pretty interesting. We get to learn one of Agent Stahl’s secrets that’s only hinted at in the final episodes. We also learn who has been flushing panties down the toilet.
Anarchy On The Set: (6:55) SD It’s a gag reel but more of a polished contrived piece than the usual flubs and mistakes. There’s an amusing warning about the material. Plenty of F bombs.
I’m a huge fan of Ron Perlman, and he doesn’t disappoint at all here. It’s a little nice to see him without some kind of huge makeup covering his face. I don’t think this is a culture that has really been explored on a television series before. It could only be done on cable, at least with any real justice. It’s a colorful world that is worth a look here in a rather nice Blu-ray high definition release. “Oh, tattoos and chivalry, a delicious combination.”