Sons offers more than just Anarchy at second glance
It's a rare occasion that I re-trace my steps and openly admit that I was wrong. Typically, I stick with my gut and I'll fight you until I'm blue in the face. But it takes a big man to recognize the error of his ways and it takes an even bigger one to admit it to others. So here goes...
Initially, I wasn't impressed with Sons of Anarchy. After watching the pilot (twice), I panned it. Nothing special, nothing new. The second episode didn't do much for me either. But I promised I'd stick with it since it was on FX (in today's TV landscape, that counts for something) and after last night's installment (S01E08, "The Pull"), I'm here to say something I didn't agree with eight weeks ago:
FX has done it again.
The build-up has been slow and calculated. The throw-away plots week in and week out haven't always been as good as you would like them to. Child molester at the carnival... really? And sometimes, the whole "we're a biker gang - yeah!" mentality of the SAMCRO crew gets to be a little campy. However, none of that matters when you look beyond it all to the stellar serialized plot and the solid character development that's evolved over these first eight episodes.
Back in September, I made the comparison (as did many other critics) to The Sopranos, mainly because of the large cast, but also because of the organized crime and dysfunctional family aspects. Well trust me - the Sopranos ain't got nothing on the Teller-Morrow clan.
The dynamic between Clay (Ron Perlman), Gemma (Katey Sagal), and Jax (Charlie Hunnam) has reached the point of no return. The three of them are in this mess called "family" so deep that when whatever secrets that Gemma and Clay are hiding about Jax's father finally come out, it's almost assuredly going to change the direction of the show.
With Jax already teetering on the idea of leaving the MC life, it's become a race to see what happens first: Clay or Gemma mess up or Jax finishes his father's manuscript. Both outcomes are sure to lead to some nasty revelations, and I for one, can't wait.
Beyond the familial plot-lines, the minor players in the SAMCRO world have added a wealth of interest to the show. Characters like Half-Sack, Cherry, Bobby, Chibs, Tig, Darby, and Piney have all added wonderful stories to the Charming universe - sometimes good, sometimes sad, and almost always funny. The quality of the supporting cast speaks volumes about the longevity of Sons though. The Teller-Morrow plots can't (and shouldn't) carry the show solely and it's good to know there's safety in numbers.
However, I've found myself drawn to the law, and despite my objections to see Jay Karnes' extremely creepy Agent Kohn go so soon, I look forward to what his murder will bring to the show. His death is sure to raise an alarm with fellow ATF'er Agent Stahl (Ally Walker, NBC's Profiler).
I do want to highlight one superior performance on the show and that's Maggie Siff, as Jax's former love Tara. Her return to Charming is arguably the catalyst for the entire story this season and it's her presence that has aided in what Gemma has noticed as a softer side to her son. Her full intentions are still very much ambiguous, but she's clearly getting what she wants - Kohn is gone for good and she didn't have to do it.
I'll be very surprised if a life with Jax is part of her end game. If she was smart enough to get out of Charming and become a pediatrician, then she's certainly smart enough to take advantage of someone who's still in the game. When push comes to shove, I'm fairly certain that she'll take care of herself before anyone else.
With five more episodes to go this season and a second already planned, it's good to know that any time you've already invested in this season won't go to waste. FX was wise to make that announcement now rather than after the season finale and secure currents fans while picking up new ones. However, they'd also be wise to adjust how they're marketing the show. FX has been using a great plug quote all over the Sons of Anarchy website from The San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman:
"It's the first buzz show to debut. It's about biker gangs. And it's on FX. That's pretty much all you need to know."
Granted, Goodman praised the show from the very beginning, but could FX be doing themselves more of a disservice using that line? I don't think so - talk about selling a show short! After eight episodes of this fine drama, I'm sure that much like I did, Mr. Goodman has changed his tune as well because Sons of Anarchy has so much more you need to know beyond it being just a show about biker gangs on FX.