Thursday, October 02, 2008

TV Review: Sons of Anarchy

From Futon Critic:

The plot in a nutshell: The small California town of Charming is home to outlaw biker gang SAMCRO, the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original. Anything illegal that happens there has to go through them - guns, drugs, stolen goods, you name it - they must run it or get a piece of it. Founded shortly after the Vietnam War by vets Clarence "Clay" Morrow (Ron Perlman) and the late John Teller, Clay now runs said gang with John's son Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam) at his side. And in the first of many Shakespearean twists, Clay has subsequently married Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal), John's widow and Jax's mom. Jax then is being groomed to eventually take over as president of SAMCRO, however he's starting to undergo a crisis of conscience over the club's less than clandestine operations. It all starts when the Mayans, a rival Mexican gang, robs SAMCRO's weapons depot and burns it to the ground, killing two young women in the process. Even worse for Jax and company, the guns were pre-paid for by the 19ers, an Oakland gang who doesn't take kindly to their shipment going missing; plus the Nords, a white supremacist gang lead by Ernest Darby (Mitch Pileggi), are pressing to move their meth production into Charming.

Jax however has even bigger problems on the home front - his pregnant, ex-wife Wendy (Drea de Matteo) is still hitting the needle, causing their son to be born 10 weeks premature (coupled with a genetic heart defect passed on to all the Tellers); and he's discovered some of John's old journals, writings which tell a different story about why SAMCRO was formed. Along for the ride then are fellow SAMCRO members Robert "Bobby" Munson (Mark Boone, Jr.), who spends his weekends as an Elvis impersonator; Alex "Tig" Trager (Kim Coates), the resident sociopath; Filip "Chibs" Telford (Tommy Flanagan), whose nickname comes from the Scottish slang for blade; Jean Carlos "Juice" Ortiz (Theo Rossi), the intel guy; Piermont "Piney" Winston (William Lucking), the aging consigliere; and Kip "Half-Sack" Epps (Johnny Lewis), a prospect who, well... has half a sack. Can Jax manage to steer the club away from bullets and bloodshed, restoring it to his father's vision? And will Clay - or even Gemma (again, lots of Shakespearean stuff here) - allow him?

What works: Proving that there are still genres yet to be explored on television, "Sons of Anarchy" gives us a window into the surprisingly complex world of motorcycle gangs. It's one that seems to fuse together all the crime paradigms we've seen before - from the rituals involved in joining the club; to the unflinching violence needed to survive; to the nobility of staying true to a lifestyle that is being phased out - into something new. "Anarchy" further succeeds in introducing us to this new world by giving us only enough to get by for the time being but also making sure to promise a much deeper mythology should we stick with it. Using the Jax character as our way in also proves to be a masterful stroke - he's just as intrigued and disgusted by this world as we the audience are. (And an extra kudos to the sure-to-be-the-next-big-thing Charlie Hunnam, whose performance reminds me of the late Heath Ledger.)

The plots then wisely feed off Jax's dilemma - such as in the pilot when he must convince ex-con Opie (Ryan Hurst) to use his demolition skills, much to the horror of Opie's wife (Sprague Grayden) who's futilely trying to keep them on the straight and narrow. Equally as engaging is Katey Sagal as Lady Macbeth herself, Gemma Teller. Watching her beg Clay to hammer out Jax's newfound conscience or literally handing Wendy the tools to kill herself are especially chilling. The writers however are wise enough to counterbalance said actions with a portrait of a woman who knows all too well how harsh the cards life has dealt her are. Also of note: Tayler Sheridan's Deputy Chief David Hale, whose righteous indignation toward SAMCRO is perfectly justified; and Maggie Siff's Tara Knowles, Jax's high school sweetheart who's returned home as a doctor, but hasn't quite forgotten the life she left behind.

Final Analysis:

Okay, so I've let a few episodes go by before writing this review. But, as you can see, the show is a bit more complex than I had bargained for and there really is quite a bit going on and I had to decide if I was bored, or intrigued. Bottom line, I need way more sex to be intrigued with this show. When you star is a gorgeous as Charlie Hunnam is and has an incredibly sexy full size tattoo of the club's jacket motto and logo
(that a certain blogger searched all over the internet for a photo of all morning) on his muscular back, you have to have more sex than there is in the show right now. Charlie's nudity is way underutilized. This is after all a cable tv station and much more could be gotten away with. All they have shown so far is him wearing pants and a naked woman from the side in a photo. Please, how prudish is America? And for this we get a tv rating of MA! Yes, there are sexually suggestive situations and talk, but I want to see skin! But, each week I dutifully tune in with hope that I will see more.

Meanwhile, the plot develops and I try to stay intrigued with that. Sigh. It is difficult. BTW - The acting is great, but I expect that. Katey makes a great biker mom. At least I have some distraction in Charlie. At this point I can only give the series...

*** of five stars.


Stan said...

I agree with your review. The show lacks something for sure. I caught the first episode and last night started to watch, but got called away. The acting is good though. I LMAO when Katey Sagal enters Jax's bedroom and says "it smells like pussy and beer in here". Yeah they really need more sexy scenes in the show. The tatt's are unbeleivable. I wonder if they are real or just makeup?

Sue said...

I am sure they are make up. I feel like they are on the edge of a great show, if only they had that certain something. I think it is sex.