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October 6, 2015

'Sons of Anarchy' Season 3 Review

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 7th 2010 10:30AM
What it is: The compelling story of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club, the guys you don't want to tick off if you're passing through Charming, Calif. But don't make the mistake of thinking 'Sons of Anarchy' is a one-dimensional chronicle of hardcore bikers. Yes, these guys are tough and volatile, but 'Sons' is also one of the most emotionally nuanced and thoughtful character dramas on television (and it features some terrific female roles).

When it airs: It returns with its third season 10PM ET Tuesday on FX.

When watching 'Sons of Anarchy,' the words "loyalty" and "intensity" frequently come to mind.

'Sons' is set in a world of absolute loyalty: Once a man has committed to an the organization, which is not just a motorcycle club but a way of life, he's part of a brotherhood. The code of the club dictates that everyone sticks together; financially and socially, a man's fate (and that of his loved ones) is tied to the fortunes of the club.

Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) finds comfort in the club's steadfastness in season 3, which opens with him searching for his infant son, Abel. The child was kidnapped by a True IRA gunrunner, but as the search for Abel unfolds, there are still hints of the dilemmas that have defined Jax's journey: Is it possible for him to carve out his own identity in this all-encompassing world? Should he attempt to alter the DNA of the gun-dealing Sons and follow the more idealistic path of his father, Vietnam vet John Teller, who co-founded the organization?

Those issues, as well as Jax's ongoing conflict with club president Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), are on the back burner as season 3 begins, but the show's trademark intensity is not long in surfacing. FX sent the first four episodes of the season for review, and they very much feel like the opening act of a play; threads that start out separate are, by the fourth episode, woven together in a forceful and satisfactory way.

The theme of fractured relationships and tentative alliances looms large in season 3, which has Gemma (Katey Sagal) reconnecting with her father, Nathaniel (Hal Holbrook), who suffers from dementia. As is always the case with this show, there is heartbreaking tenderness amid the brutality, and Sagal excels at showing a wide range of emotional colors.

As for SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original), there are still some local problems the club has to deal with, but Season 3 also introduces a new array of Belfast characters and gives the terrific Titus Welliver prominence as True IRA fixer Jimmy O'Phelan.

Also on the Belfast front, James Cosmo and Paula Malcolmson play a shrewd brother and sister: Father Kellan Ashby is a True IRA power in his own right and Maureen Ashby has deep ties to the local Sons chapter. Watching scenes with Welliver, Cosmo and Malcolmson -- all actors with tremendous presence -- just adds to the buffet of riches supplied by the show's extraordinary core cast. Though it takes a while for the Belfast story line to come into focus, it looks as though the viewer's patience will be rewarded on that front.

An SOA Belfast member talks at one point about the club's distance from the True IRA's inner circle, but that theme of outsider vs. insider surfaces for almost all the characters, regardless of where they live. This is a show about people who try to live with difficult contradictions and who alternately embrace and reject what their close-knit communities have to offer.

Those are the thoughtful underpinnings of 'SOA,' but if you're really just in the mood for a tightly plotted character drama, the show delivers on that score. And if you like to see bikers busting heads, well, 'SOA' has some of the best bone-crunching action in the business.

The bottom line is, if you don't come along for the ride, you're missing out on one of television's most addictive dramas.

Watch it if you loved:
'The Shield,' 'Battlestar Galactica' and 'Deadwood.' Like those shows, 'SOA' is at its best when depicting characters with ambiguous moral agendas and portraying conflicted communities under threat. And it's worth mentioning that 'SOA' creator Kurt Sutter wrote for 'The Shield' for seven seasons; that show's brisk pace and crisp, hard-hitting visual style are much in evidence.

Be aware that:
The show doesn't shy away from violence and the occasional curse word. Come on, they're bikers! Still, though 'SOA' visits some dark places, the serious moments are often punctuated with very effective black humor.

Check back here every Wednesday for my episodic 'Sons of Anarchy' recaps.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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I think Sons of Anarchy is the best show on TV right now and that is why I really feel bad for all Directv customers. Once Directv loses their contract with FOX, they will have to remove all FOX channels and with out FX that means no SOA for their customers. I am just happy to be a DISH Network customer/employee; at least I won’t have to worry myself with forming an angry mob to get my favorite channel back.

October 28 2011 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Debbie M

This show rocks. I love this show, Better then sopranos.

September 16 2010 at 2:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great start to Season 3. Kate Segal was a hoot trying to hotwire the truck and cursing because she needed to pull her glasses out to the see the wires properly.

And another DeadWood alumnus showed up in the Belfast scene. Nice to see Hal Holbrook again too.

September 08 2010 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm so excited that SoA is finally back! It feels like I've been waiting forever...

I'm really looking forward to the IRA storyline and to seeing Gemma interact with her dad. Katey Sagal is so amazing as Gemma.

September 07 2010 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Cannot freakin wait! Best show on T.V., period.

September 07 2010 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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