Sons of Anarchy: Pilot (series premiere)
(S01E01) "Just pretend it's carve-your-own steak night at Sizzler." - Jax
FX is taking a fairly big gamble with Sons of Anarchy. With their trademark drama The Shield ending its seven season run this fall and their other two big hits (Damages and Rescue Me) pushed to 2009 because of the WGA Strike, the network is in dire need of some fresh buzz. The one thing they have going for them? Even FX's previous flops (Dirt, Starved, Over There, Thief) were better than a lot of other things on TV and Sons of Anarchy certainly fits that mold. Once the fall season is in full swing, the only network competition will be CSI: NY, as I don't see Lipstick Jungle or Dirty Sexy Money getting in the way. Sons has the potential to do well. It'll just rest on creator Kurt Sutter and how he plans to make the show appealing beyond this pilot episode.
For those that read my Early Look review last week, there's no sense in mincing words: so far, Sons of Anarchy just doesn't do it for me. I've watched this ep a few times now and have already seen next week's installment (don't worry - no spoilers ahead) and I do plan to stick with it because, as I said - it's still better than a lot of other shows out there. However, there needs be some serious tweakage to the story if it's going to go anywhere.
"The Sopranos on Harleys" is the best way to describe Jax Teller and the SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) gang. The key over the span of the series will how well Sutter can develop each individual character the way Chase did with Tony and Company. There are already some little tidbits that make some of the supporting cast unique individuals: Half-Sack and the fact that he has only one testicle or Bobby and his side-job as an Elvis impersonator or Tara and her tattoo. Stuff like makes you want to know more.
As I mentioned in my Early Look, the biggest issue for me is what's shaping up to be the big mystery of the season: Jax's father, John Thomas Teller. While digging through some of his old baby toys for his new son Able, Jax found an old manuscript penned by his late dad entitled "The Life and Death of Sam Crow. How the Sons of Anarchy Lost Their Way." Clearly, something that wasn't supposed to have been found.
We're left to question what his vision for SAMCRO was and why Jax's mother and step-father (Gemma and Clay) are set on keeping it a secret. There needs to be more here to start though. As it is, this doesn't suffice as "the big mystery." A few more crumbs would have helped. Was Clay having an affair with Gemma when John was still alive? Was John working with the government? Did Clay kill John? Did Gemma kill John? Time will tell.
What it sets up is the fight for Jax's soul. Which side will be end up on? If Clay and Gemma have their way, he'll embrace the illegality of the family business. If Jax embraces his fathers wishes, he may stray to the peaceful side. Already, you can see hints of that. He wants to have a family and seems to care about his sick newborn son. The ending with Wendy taking whatever Gemma slipped her will certainly have an effect on Jax. Especially if he realizes his own mother was behind his estranged wife's life-threatening seizure.
Additionally, you can see how Jax values Opie's family responsibilities and it'll interesting to see how his ambiguous past with Tara comes into play. A life with her would definitely be a ticket out of Charming.
More thoughts on the pilot:
If Darby and the Nords are indeed working with the Mayans, then how will SAMCRO compete with that much muscle? I'm thinking they may need to get in bed with the One-Niners (from The Shield!) if they want to hold their turf.
Jax has the SAMCRO insignia tattooed right on his back - crazy.
Even though they have Charming's law enforcement bought and paid for, the hit on the Mayan's warehouse is going to be tough for anyone to cover up. Bodies, fires... people are going to ask questions.
I do like that a ticking clock has sort of been set in place to "fix" Jax. As soon as Clay's arthritis becomes too much to handle, Jax is going to have a lot more influence on how SAMCRO conducts business.
How funny was it when Half-Sack kicked the crap out of the Korean Elvis and the guy kept moaning in his bad Elvis accent?
I'm also looking forward to finding out how Opie got sold out by the gang. How did they screw him over? And why?
Part of the reason I'm willing to stick with this is because of the subject matter. If this were just another broken family drama, I'd be done already. But FX's track record coupled with the unique topic of motorcycle clubs will keep me around for now. What did everyone else think? Does FX have another hit on their hands?