Okay boys and girls, get ready for the premiere of Sons of Anarchy, season five! This series about a hardcore MC has grown a strong audience in its four seasons on FX. This is particularly true among the biker community, and for good reason, as the series revolves around the mother chapter of fictional Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (known as SAMCRO) who are based in and protect the town of Charming, California. The pace of this show is hectic, and catching up on small details if you’ve missed the previous episodes is not an easy task, but don’t let that sway you away from what has become a favorite of mine. In all honesty, I was prepared to dismiss this as yet another poorly drawn depiction of the outlaw biker lifestyle, full of clichés and one-dimensional character development. I was very wrong. Almost everyone has depth and carefully crafted backgrounds, which is where some new viewers may get stuck at first. Still, there is enough is each information in each new episode to keep the stories flowing and the audience engaged.
Jackson (Jax) Teller is the newly anointed club President, and this season will undoubtedly find conflict for him and his old lady, Tara, a physician and mother of Jax’s second child. He is the son of one of SOA’s founding members, John Teller, and despite a tough to the bone core, Jax plays double duty as the central character and moral compass. His father died in 1993, and it was just last season that we learned that his on-road “accident” was part of a larger plan to keep SAMCRO on its seedy path. He had envisioned a more socially responsible club ethic which would obviously compromise the heavy-handed community control the club now rules, and remove its most lucrative activity — the illegal running of guns through a pipeline that starts with an alliance with the IRA in Ireland and flows to various clubs and mobs here in the US.
Gemma is Jax’s mother, now married to the recently dethroned former SAMCRO president, Clay Morrow. They have been the primary power couple of both club and Charming, with her cunning and his bravado, and Gemma is a female force of nature who has carefully guided her son Jax into and through a life of violence. She was complicit in her first husband’s death, formulated by Clay, and how they cope with life without the power previously exerted as club king and queen will surely be interesting to watch moving forward.
The MC has its hands in several legit business ventures, most notably an auto shop, where many members earn a living and much club business transpires. But gun running is their bread and butter, which pits them both with and against other clubs and gangs. There are the “One-Niners”, an African-American gang to whom SAMCRO sells weapons; the “Mayans”, a rival Mexican MC based in Oakland and headed by Marcus Alvarez; the meth-dealing, white supremacist “Nords”, led by Ernest Darby; the Lin Triad Chinese in San Francisco, and Italian Cacuzza crime syndicate… At one point or another, all these groups are at odds and most be either fought or placated to secure SAMCRO’s position.
More details of precise killings and detailed interaction are available at various on-line fan sites, but the best primer for SOA is simply watching the show. The writing is strong, having all ready devised a basic plot and characters that easily capture attention and move through life with clear intention. Yes, they sometimes wander off central theme as each season struggles to expand original concepts, but there is a consistency of style, and dedication to the MC lifestyle that continues to permeate the series. It is gritty, violent, and photographed with appropriate camera movement. I’m most impressed with the decision to keep these characters, their appearance and lifestyle, honest and dirty. The producers avoid handing us anything on a silver platter, or pretty things up in any form. Ok, maybe they sometimes move too much along that line for shock value, but that’s a better option than treating its viewers as an audience rather than voyeurs, which is how we are meant to approach this very cool offering. Watch it, you’ll be surprised how easily you get sucked in…