Saturday, 10 December 2016

TV Shows #11 - Part 1

Sons of Anarchy (2008-14)
Developed By: Kurt Sutter Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo, David Labrava, Niko Nicotera

Certificate: 18 Running Time: Typically around 50 minutes per episode but ranges from 39-90 minutes

Much like many of you I'm sure, the list of shows on my watch list is long. Netflix alone features tons but recently removed from that particular list is this one. It's about a motorcycle gang and is well regarded but that was about the extent of my knowledge prior to watching. Fortunately, that was sufficient. The gang (or 'club', as they apparently prefer) is known as SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) and is based in the small fictional Northern Californian town of Charming. There they are involved in various rackets, mostly illegal, but the bulk of their business comes from running guns, supplied by the 'True IRA' based in Belfast and sold to other criminal gangs around the NorCal area. The club was founded in 1967 by John Teller and some of his friends who became know as the 'First 9' but at the start of the show, only club president Clay Morrow (Perlman) and Piney Winstone (Lucking) are left.

Well, out of the First 9, that is - but the club has had many more members over the years and has spawned various other 'charters' as well. At SAMCRO under Clay are Jax Teller (Hunnam), son of the founder and now stepson of its president, sergeant-at-arms Tig (Coates), treasury secretary Bobby (Boone Junior), as well as Chibs (Flanagan), Juice (Ortiz), and Piney's son Opie (Hurst). Also closely associated with the club are Gemma (Sagal), Jax's mum and Clay's wife, Tara (Siff), Jax's girlfriend and doctor at the local hospital, Wayne Unser (Callie), chief of the local police department and friend to the club, and a load of others. Despite the large cast and many simultanous sub-plots that build up over the course of the series though, the show's main character is Jax and he immediately takes centre stage...

Spoiler Alert: I'll try not to reveal any major plot twists or cliffhangers with these posts but they may contain a few spoilers so if you haven't seen them and don't want to know anything, don't read!

Season One (13 episodes)

Things get off to a violent start as we are quickly introduced to the Sons/Mayans rivalry as the latter destroy the gun warehouse used by the former before retribution is swiftly sought. Jax's behaviour is starting to concern his brothers a little though, as he seems less interested and is keen to find less violent solutions to their problems. This might be down to him recently becoming a father but it's more likely to do with the discovery of his own father's journal which details his vision for the club he founded - a vision that is markedly different to the direction it has been taking in recent years. Further complicating things is his old flame Tara who has recently returned to town and who is now working in the local hospital where Jax's newborn son is fighting for his life. Following her back is an obsessive ex-boyfriend who happens to be an ATF agent who is determined to bring SAMCRO down - a mission he is soon joined in by crazy agent June Stahl. It's a superb first season which introduces the characters and history of the club nicely as well as setting several stories in motion, one of which brings the season to a tragic close as Clay and Tig suspect the returning Opie has turned rat. A superb start... 9/10

Season Two (13 episodes)

While Opie is reeling from his loss, Jax continues his efforts to get the club earning legally by investing in the porn business. These and all other issues, however, take a back seat to the biggest problem facing SAMCRO this season which comes in the shape of white separatist group, the League of American Nationalists, which threatens the MC with trouble if they don't stop selling guns to black and Hispanic gangs which of course they have no intention of doing, dismissing the danger posed by Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin), the League's leader, and his gang of thugs. They soon come to regret this, naturally - Gemma and Chibs initially bear the brunt of their 'persuasion' techniques. Agent Stahl also ups her game, attempting to get SAMCRO to give up their IRA connections. As far as Charming goes that's Cameron Hayes and his son Edmond, but who she really wants is Jimmy O, the head of the organisation. Gradually brewing while all this is going on is the growing rift between Clay and Jax who has been questioning pretty much every decision made by his president, and it's this tension that turns an already superb second season into the best yet. Fantastic from beginning to end... 9/10

Season Three (13 episodes)

After the cliffhanger ending of the last season, we unsurprisingly find Jax distraught, unable to focus on his SAMCRO duties, and searching desperately for any clues to Abel's whereabouts. This search takes him and most of his crew to Belfast where we meet SAMBEL, the local Sons charter run by Keith McGee, another of the First 9, as well as the bosses of the 'True IRA'. The trip proves to be an eye-opening experience which, in addition to dealing with Abel's whereabouts, also unearths lots of buried history, particularly involving JT, Jax's father and founder of the Sons, who spent much time there. Back in Charming, meanwhile, Gemma is in hiding following Stahl framing her for Edmond's murder and Tara goes and gets herself kidnapped by Hector Salazar, the idiotic former President of the Calaveras MC. Much of the season takes place in Northern Ireland though, and the change of scenery certainly makes it an interesting season, as do the numerous new characters, but there's also more talky drama than action compared to other seasons too. That's not necessarily a bad thing but I did find this season a bit dull by Sons standards. That said, it does have a fantastic and satisfying finale with ominous portents for the next... 7/10

Season Four (14 episodes)

As most of the SAMCRO crew land back in Charming from prison they find the long-threatened Sheriff's Department has replaced Unser's Charming PD and the lawman on the block, Eli Roosevelt, lays down the law before they even get back to their HQ. They soon find he isn't alone - US Attorney Lincoln Potter is also new in town and attempting to build a RICO case against the MC and their associates. Despite this, Clay increases their involvement in running Irish guns, now to the Galindo Cartel in Mexico while muling cocaine on the way back. The move splits the club and Jax decides to leave once he's earned enough cash. Further fallout from the recent trip to Ireland comes in the form of letters smuggled into Jax's luggage which implicate Clay and Gemma in the death of Jax's father. Unsurprisingly they're keen to get hold of them but Tara finds and hides them first. As if all this wasn't enough, Tig manages to put himself, and the MC accordingly, on the radar of Damon Pope, the most powerful gang boss in Oakland, and not in a good way! So yes, there's a lot going on this season. Ray McKinnon and Danny Trejo are welcome additions to the cast as Potter and Romeo respectively, particularly the former, and the show is almost back to the brilliance of the first couple of seasons... 8/10

Look out for seasons five, six, and seven in the next part of this feature soon! In the meantime, check out this trailer for the first season:


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