Friday, April 17, 2020


The Beloved Spouse™ and I completed watching all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy last weekend. I should have reviewed each season separately; I didn’t. Here’s the Campbell’s version. (Condensed.)

(There are at least the hints of spoilers here.)

Production Values
Outstanding. SOA must have been a high-budget show by FX standards, as the budget for fake blood alone must have run five figures a week. I’m not a vroom-vroom guy by modern standards, but I got into the fishtailing cars and motorcycles darting in between traffic. Full marks.

Generally good. I’ve been a Jimmy Smits fan for years but this was a revelation. His expressions and little mannerisms helped to make Nero the most compelling character in the show for me.

Katey Sagal was very good as Gemma, but the character wore thin after a while, as there are only so many ways to spin Cruella DeVil’s evil sister. By the time she did get to do something with more depth, her acceptance of her fate wasn’t credible. I kept waiting for her to try one more lie. In fairness, that’s not Katey’s fault, it’s the writers’. More on that later.

Dayton Callie maintained the same core of humanity as he did with Charlie Utter in Deadwood, and remained one of the few characters worth rooting for.

Charlie Hunnam was solid as Jax, though he never quite got the hang of the American R at the end of words.

Ron Perlman was born to be Clay. I read several places that they shot much of the pilot with Scott Glenn in the role. I love Scott Glenn—and not just because he’s from Pittsburgh—but Perlman is Clay Morrow.

Uneven. Season One’s dialog lacked life, but as the years moved along the banter and offhand humor between characters improved; maybe Kurt Sutter started watching Justified.

Action was too often a substitute for suspense. Good as the action was, new story lines sprung up and ran their course faster than erections in a whorehouse. Problems that arose ten minutes into an episode resolved themselves by the forty-minute mark, usually in a hail of gunfire.

That brings us to the show’s two greatest failings: timelines and credibility. The Sons—especially Jax—go from mayhem to mayhem at least twice a day. There were time when they stopped off to kill someone on their way to killing someone else. Star Trek doesn’t move people around with transporters any faster. One memorable scene has Jax and the Sons at the marina. Bad guys show up to blow up the boat. The Sons see them. The bad guys split. The Sons give chase, except for Jax and Clay, who still have business at the boat. Next thing we see is Jax leading the pursuit. This is but the most memorable occurrence of a common practice.

What really got me, and finally wore down TBS, is the things that just can’t happen. Twice the Sons are thisclose to going down on a RICO beef based on the testimony of a single witness. RICO cases take years, under the best of circumstances. Trial dates move forward or back to suit the plot. The DA orders around sheriff’s deputies; we never see, or even hear from, the sheriff. All feds are even more vicious and duplicitous than any of the MCs. Or the Taliban, for that matter. About the closest the show gets to actual police procedure is using telephones to speak into. It wore me down after a while.

The weaving of multiple plot thread in Season Seven was outstanding in how they were woven together to credibly solve two problems in one fell swoop. The ending had a certain elegance, as well, though the final chase scene too way too long and the final shot was maudlin. (SOA could have benefitted from a Sopranos ending as Jax raised his arms before driving into the truck.)

There are plenty of other things to talk about in a show that ran seven years. With a few exceptions they’d be more of the same. The show took a detour to Ireland in Season Three and never quite found its way after that. As The Guardian said, “when it existed in its own self-contained Stateside world of dive bars, strip clubs and motorcycle clubhouses, Sons of Anarchy was just fine.” SAMCRO* came back from the auld sod less about mayhem—which is fine—and more about gratuitous bloodletting. The offbeat charm was gone.

I’m not sorry I watched Sons of Anarchy, but I was ready for it to be over and see no need to watch it again. TBS and I started right into to re-watching Justified. The difference between SOA and Justified is that one watches Sons to see what’s going to happen and one watches Justified to enjoy what’s happening.

Three stars of five.

(*--Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals.)

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