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December 19, 2014

Sons of Anarchy: Albification (season premiere)

by Danny Gallagher, posted Sep 8th 2009 11:26PM
Clay and Jax on Sons of Anarchy(S02E01) - "I'm not going to swap one outlaw for another one."

How do you turn a group of gruff biker outlaws who deal potent drugs to street trash and hardcore hardware to ruthless killers into a likable group of huggable stud muffins?

That's easy. You make a group of radical white supremacists into their enemies. It's the old "lovable by association" tactic of TV writing. Is the audience not buying your childhood version of Darth Vader? Then throw in a wise-cracking alien that sounds like Pee Wee Herman with Down's Syndrome.

However, in the case of the second season of Sons of Anarchy, it's a pretty sweet power play for a show that already packed more punch than an Absinthe smoothie.

The characters have had a whole season to develop and make their mark, both within the club and with the audience. Now that the viewers know the pieces and the moves that have to make, the game can begin. Except, Kurt Sutter and his gang of scribble jockeys throw in a few more pieces that we haven't seen before, turning this chess game into a bitching round of Operation with a gas powered chainsaw.

The unlikely duo of Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins as Ethan Zobelle and A.J. Weston, the extremely white leaders of a white supremacist movement, make perfect villains for SANCRO. Especially Rollins, who is a scary enough presence when he isn't acting. And this assumption isn't just based on my gut reactions to his freeze-throwing stares and brick wall stances. It's also based on an interview he did with author and journalist Marty Beckerman. The interview lasted 30 seconds and ended with "a wonderfully cheerful comment about #@*&ing my mother." So expect nothing from me but heaps of praise on Rollins and his performance.

Arkin also makes a great villain as the brains to A.J.'s beefheaded braun. He's equally cold and calculating, but in a less callous and confrontational way. He kills Clay with kindness as they make their presence known in Charming, but also keeps no secret about his intentions and beliefs.

He seems almost to be hiding something else, not just from SANCRO and the cops with whom he offers his help to Deputy Chief Hale, but even from A.J. I have a feeling the two might turn on each other and A.J. will probably win since beating a man's head in with the nearest heavy object is more than just a way of life to him. It's his Thursday cardio workout.

Of course, the real focus of the show remains on the club and the bonds between them. Katey Sagal was right. Behind all the bar room brawls and biker beatings lies the heart of a true family with some willing to die to keep it together and others who do what they can to please everyone while trying to worm their way out on their own.

That's probably what makes Gemma's rape scene all the more horrific to watch. It's nowhere near the most graphic thing I've seen on a dramatic series, but it's emotionally hard thanks to A.J.'s indifferent attitude towards the harm he inflicts on her and knowing that Gemma must either tell someone and admit she's weak or keep it bottled up inside her. She also just finished telling Tara not to keep any secrets between her and the club if she wants to stay with Jax, but Gemma knows she can't tell Clay because it would disintegrate the club, their relationship and even their lives.

She has to keep it to herself, but for how long and at what cost? Nothing that dark can stay inside something or someone forever without destroying the thing that's holding it.

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