Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sons of Anarchy, "Giving Back": And taking back, too

Belated spoilers for the latest "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I serve a few sausages...

Okay, I'm starting to get into it. I think the world is becoming interesting enough on its own to compensate for the fact that I don't feel attached to any of the characters.

And, to be fair, I do feel attached to some of them. Katey Sagal remains terrific as Gemma, here in a more compassionate, less Lady Macbeth mode but still the unquestioned queen of Sam Crow. And I'm really starting to like Opie to the point where I wonder if the show would work better with him as the main character. Ryan Hurst is more believable as a biker than Charlie Hunnam, but beyond that, I find Opie's dilemma more compelling than Jax's.

And to continue being fair, Jax is turning out to be more complex than advertised. He isn't just the pacifist in the violent organization; he's among the most eager to see Kyle's tattoo removed by any means necessary. (Fire or knife? Hell of a choice.) I was wondering why they were spending so much time showing Opie and Jax shirtless in the early going, but it became clear when you saw how much that tattoo means to the members of Sam Crow. Meanwhile, the money launderer with the unfortunate compulsion added a bit of comic relief to a show that hasn't had a whole lot so far.

What did everybody else think? You finding it any more engrossing, or are you still waiting for the series to live up to the setting?


Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this show.

While it was apparent a setup was happening with Kyle, I didn't think it would top what they did to the rapist. But it was just as cringe worthy.

I find Tig to be the most entertaining so far, but that's probably more Kim Coates than his character.

I can't wait to see what happens with Scott (Dutch). I don't think things will end well for him.

pgillan said...

Huh. I just watched this, but thought I was a week behind.

This episode was the first one that didn't have my looking at the clock to see how much time was left, and I think you hit the nail on the head about the world around them getting more interesting, and I think that may have been because it felt like they were finally giving us some insight into what it means to be involved in this gang; what you get out of it when you're in, and what you lose when you're out. They kind of had me fooled with the whole Opie/Kyle storyline, and I thought maybe a good gym-fight really was enough for this guy to start getting back in with the club. Though I saw it coming a little before Kyle did, the scene in the garage with the blowtorch was powerful.

I'm also really starting to like Dutchboy in his new setting.

Anonymous said...

Opie would be a better lead.

Anonymous said...

Did you guys catch what Kyle's little girlfriend said to him when we first saw them? "Put on your sunblock, baby, you know how you burn." And how! Damn, it feels good to be a dirtbag.

Karl Ruben said...

Best episode so far, and I second the Ryan Hurst love. They should bump him up to regular status post haste.

The scene between Opie's wife and Jax - where he tried to get through to her with his concern for his friend - was heartbreaking.

@Alan: I think the dichotomy between Jax' belligerence (which has caused some serious violence at three or four occasions now) and his questioning of Sam Crow's morals definitely is one of the most interesting throughlines in the show so far. I sorta share your doubts about Hunnam's performance, but I also feel it growing on me.

Dan Mac said...

I keep giving Sons of Anarchy a chance, sticking with Ron Perlman and Katey Segal, hoping it'll turn the corner and join the ranks of F/X's other quality original series. This was the first episode where I felt like my patience may be rewarded.

The show's at it's best to me when it's exposing MC mythology, the inner workings and complex emotional dynamics of bikers. The importance of the back tattoo, and the severity of Kyle's punishment (and to a lesser degree, the implications of his excommunication) was the most compelling portrayal yet of what it means to be in one of these clubs.

Jay Karnes is doing solid work, and this was I think the most screen time he's had so far. I'll hang in there now for more of him, as I hope they give his storyline some gas, and get more use out of Maggie Siff, too, who's being criminally under used.

I don't have a problem with Hunnam's performance, per se; I think he's doing good work as an affable golden boy biker. The problem is in how the character's been presented, and what they want his role to be on the show. I think the pilot failed to impress upon us what a profound impact the birth of his son and the coinciding discovery of his father's writings had on Jax's character and sense of identity. In hindsight it's easy to see how becoming a father would change a man's priorities, but I think the pilot and subsequent episodes have failed to connect those dots explicitly enough, and for that I blame the script, and not Hunnam, but your mileage may vary.

It's also hard to believe in the central character's inner conflict, which drives the show, when he's so easy-going. Again, I blame the script for not showing us enough of Jax's angles, particularly establishing his violent side and under which circumstances he'll internally justify biker brutality. I credit this episode for finally doing a better job of that.

Anonymous said...

Late posting on this show, Alan?

I also have to admit that this is the episode that really puts me further into 'this world'. I have enjoyed enough from the previous episodes to compel me to keep watching (unlike "Fringe" where I went running from my TV during episode 3) but this episode pushed me over the hill, squarly into being a "Sons of Anarchy", for however long this show lasts.

I didn't think a show about a California Bikler gang would be the truly worthy replacement of "The Shield", but it is.

I have generally enjoyed Charlie Hunnam and it's interesting to see how much muscle he's added since his days as the British transfer student on "Undeclared"...hardly reconizable.

But I second the crowd here that Ryan Hurst is even more compelling (he was great on TNT's short lived, "Wanted" series) but then again, I am compelled by several of the actors here...Maggie Siff, Katey Sagal, Ron Pearlman and I am especially enjoying Jay Karnes next role (since he's finishing up his 7 years as Dutch on "The Shield") as a potentially creepy FBI agent - I hope they are smart enough to incorporate Dutch into the show even more.

(and interestingly, I think he looks far more serious and even tougher with shorter, gray hair).

I also think the general cast chemistry is very strong, and the Pearlman-Sagal relationship and power is engrossing and they can really do even more with it, down the road.

However, I understand the ratings aren't good so I am worried this show won't get a 2nd year - on storytelling, it deserves a long life.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Late posting on this show, Alan?

Like it said right at the top of the review.

I get to shows when I get to them. Some I get to see in advance and can write up so they post when the episode ends, some I watch live and right about quickly, and some I don't get to either watching or writing about for a while. This was low on the priority list and I didn't watch it until yesterday afternoon.

Anonymous said...

My apologies. I simply missed that you had said that.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of this show. One of the best eps was actually a week before this one, but you never posted anything on it. Keep watching. I think it's going to get better!

Alan Sepinwall said...

One of the best eps was actually a week before this one, but you never posted anything on it.

Yes, I did.

pgillan said...

One of the best eps was actually a week before this one, but you never posted anything on it.

I thought the episode itself was sort of weak, what with the anemic shootouts (did that other gang train with the British durring the Revolutionary War?), the questionable chase sequence, and the over-the-top male empowerment fantasies. However, the whole thing was worth it just for Dutch's reaction at the end of the episode, when he's in his car watching the firefight. After the the shooting stops, he pauses for a beat, then utters "Holy shit!"

Hatfield said...

As I said on the Saturday round-up post, I'm very much enjoying this show. It reminds me of a Chuck Klosterman essay in a way; as you're watching you're not really sure what's going on or why, but by the time it's over you understand what it wants you to. The overall story arc is moving at an almost glacial pace, with the ATF agent/creepy exboyfriend stalker guy taking his sweet time to accomplish anything, but the episodic things that happen every week are interesting, if sometimes a bit haphazard.

Opie is definitely the most interesting character, but that is probably because Hurst is so good. Even still, Jax is fine, and it feels like he's gonna step forward, Lester Freamon-like, to announce his presence with authority. Granted, that approach is not recommended with your main character, but I have (potentially misguided) faith they'll pull it off.

Here's hoping FX gives them the time to do it

Anonymous said...

Such a good show, yet i gotta agree with dan. It seemed impossible to top the rapist punishment. I didnt really see a set up till they started getting him drunk. Keep it comin FX