“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 to 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 pull 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 to 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 to 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.
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 adrenaline to get your heart pumping some.
Highlights of the powerful second season include: the new enemy here is Ethan Zobelle, played wonderfully by Adam Arkin. He and his henchman Weston (Rollins) are white separatists who are moving into Charming. Their front is a cigar store. But they want to take down the Sons because they sell guns to minorities. They kidnap and gang-rape Gemma to get their message across, and this war is going to be quite bloody. Jax is still trying to follow his father’s master plan to bring the club back from the edge of insanity. The power struggle between him and Clay will tear the club apart. The club gets involved in the porn industry when a new porn king named Georgie moves in on the Charming trade. Tom Arnold does a turn as Georgie. Some big truths get let out, leading to some interesting moments in the last few episodes. Some of this goes back to last season and Opie’s dead wife.
The 13 episodes can be found on 3 discs.
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 Audio Commentaries on selected episodes.
Deleted Scenes on select episodes.
Picture In Picture on Season Finale: This is a pretty cool HD-only feature that puts almost the entire crew in a box to your lower left. There they talk about the episode. They do a lot of clowning around and riffing on each other. Very cool.
Gag Reel: (3:57)
The Moral Code Of The Sons Of Anarchy: (20:05) Kurt Sutter starts out by talking about some general biker club traditions. The piece offers some back story on the show’s fictional club.
Sons Of Anarchy Roundtable: (40:29) The cast gathers at a pizza shop to answer questions put by fans from an online invitation by Sutter. I feel real bad for Taylor Sheridan who plays Deputy Hale. He sat there the whole time and never got to say a word.
The show has really found its feet in this second 13 episode season. I’m amazed at how much action and drama they can pack into each 42 minutes. Fans of The Shield will particularly love this show, as it very much has that same feel to it. But be warned. You can’t just join this club from season two. You really have to start at the top if you want to be on the inside. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time, and now both seasons are out, on Blu-ray, no less. Grab your handlebars and open up that throttle. This is going to be a thrilling ride all the way. “Let me make this an easy call for you.”