“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”.
If you’ve already read previous reviews, skip ahead to find out what’s new this season. 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.
“The Boys Are Back…”
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 fist. 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 nightclubs 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.
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.
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.
Season 4 is another solid release from Fox. There are 14 episodes on three discs this season.
The season picks up with the guys getting out of prison. That’s where the third season left them when it ended. If you bought the Blu-rays, and I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have, you saw the bonus vignettes that covered the boys’ time behind bars. Now they’re getting out, but they’re going to find there have been some big changes while they were in stir. The County has replaced Charming PD. Unser is now living “large” in an Airstream RV that could have been a contender for an episode of Hoarders. The new police force is headed by Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Dunbar) he meets the boys in force on their return to Charming to read the riot act. He warns them they can’t even wear their cuts in public.
Roosevelt is the least of the Sons’ troubles. There’s also a new Fed working with the new cops. He’s putting together a RICO investigation and wants not only the Sons Of Anarchy, but other gangs and the IRA contacts the gang has. Lincoln Potter (McKinnon) is a bit of an odd character who is trying to get Juice to flip by threatening to expose his black father to the club. He’s also working on turning Otto (Sutter) by using his wife’s death and the revelation that Bobby was sleeping with her and just may have been the one who killed her. When the club flunks his loyalty test, he’s about to reveal everything he knows. On top of all of this Clay has made a power play and gotten the club involved with a drug cartel that includes muling drugs. The decision splits the club and causes the biggest rift to date in the rank and file. It also proves a costly decision when the deal leads to deaths and more troubles.
The biggest story of the season is the direct result of the club’s visit to Ireland in the previous season. Tara intercepts letters meant for Jax from his father. They reveal some troubling secrets. His dad was trying to get the club out of gun-running and Clay had him killed for it. Both Tara and Gemma know that if Jax reads the letters he’ll turn on Clay. Clay doesn’t want them out either, and he’s so determined that he kills one of the club’s beloved members and even tries to kill Tara.
The season is highlighted by great performances by two big guest stars. Danny Trejo plays Romeo Parada and The Shield’s Benito Martinez is Luis Torres. Both are responsible for getting Clay involved with the cartel. There is another round of The Shield players once again. Of course, it’s to be expected with Kurt Sutter running the show. Rockmond Dunbar does a great job as Eli Roosevelt. He’s obviously conflicted with wanting to bring down the club but bothered by the things he’s been manipulated into doing by Potter. That brings us to Ray McKinnon who plays the eccentric Potter. He appears to be having a lot of fun with the part.
The final episode is a two-parter that leaves us wanting more. It’s highlighted by a version of The House Of The Rising Sun with lyrics changed to reflect Charming (instead of New Orleans) and the motorcycle club.
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 quality is identical to the first two releases.
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. Again, this is the very same audio presentation you heard on the first two releases.
There are Audio Commentaries on selected episodes.
Deleted Scenes on select episodes.
Gag Reel: (2:44)
A Farewell Tribute to that beloved character. I don’t want to spoil it in case you’re waiting for the release to catch season 4.
Fans Of Anarchy: (4:47) Sutter let it be known that if the show increased viewership by 20% he’d invite two fans to the set of the show and to view an episode with him and the cast. This feature shows the winners having a very good time indeed. Pick me, Kurt, next time.
Anarchy At The House Of Blues: (10:20) This feature looks at a benefit concert done at the famous House Of Blues. It features a singing performance by Segal and a performance of the theme.
This season might not have been quite as compelling for me as the trip to Ireland last year. But it was a hell of a season. More importantly, I’ve never been more eager for the next season as I am right now. It seems almost impossible that Clay could crawl out of the mess he’s in with the club. It’s a divided house, and that means there are going to be even more conflicting loyalties to come. Sutter sure knows how to build us up. They do the heavy lifting, “we get the fun stuff”.