Sons of Anarchy -- an early look
You're going to hear a lot of things about FX's new motorcycle club drama Sons of Anarchy. It's different, it's edgy, and it covers a fairly taboo topic that, up to now, hasn't really been addressed in a TV drama.
However, strip away the leather jackets and exhaust fumes and you're looking at something we have seen before: Sons of Anarchy is The Sopranos on Harleys. You've got your powerful crime family, illegal gun smuggling, rival gangs, conspiracy, and for good measure? Drea de Matteo (of Sopranos fame) plays a crank addict. Trade the crank for blow and we've seen that before too.
I've screened the first two episodes and, despite the fact that I love just about everything FX throws at us these days, Sons... just didn't grab me. The show follows the life of Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) as the son of SAMCRO's (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) late co-founder John Teller. Jax is the VP of the club, next to his step-father president (and other co-founder) Clay (Ron Perlman). That's right, two co-founders: one died and the other married the dead guy's wife. That has to become an issue at some point.
The gang smuggles guns while running a legit auto-body shop at the same time. After a confrontation with a rival gang (the Mexican "Mayans"), tension begins to flare as Clay seeks revenge and Jax begins to favor more peaceful (and legal) means of income.
Jax's behavior begins to worry his mother Gemma (Katey Sagal), as she fears that her son may become soft like her late first husband. It's the one mystery surrounding the show; who was John Teller, did he really die the way Gemma says he did, and why are Clay and Gemma so worried that Jax may be too much like him? I assume that answers will present themselves as the series unfolds, but as a plot that's supposed to grab you as a viewer and truly make you wonder "what's going on here," it fails miserably.
The series boasts a huge all-star cast, with over a dozen characters with funny nicknames that will take at least four or five episodes to remember them all. Sagal and de Matteo are especially good in their respective roles but the wild card is definitely Hunnam; he needs to carry this show and, after two episodes, his heart just doesn't seem in it. Perlman on the other hand is great as the heartless (and arthritic) leader.
SOA was created by longtime Shield writer/producer Kurt Sutter (Sagal's husband). Based on that alone, I'm definitely willing to give the whole season a shot before I truly pan it. However, FX's plan of airing both those shows in tandem (Sons of Anarchy premieres next Wed. 9/3 at 10, the night after The Shield premiere) may backfire as Sons... pales in comparison to the new season of the network's signature drama.
Keeping with my Harley metaphors, Sons of Anarchy is a lot like a vintage bike you're close to purchasing. At this point, I've only ridden it twice and I'm going to need a few more test rides before I buy it.