“Sons of Anarchy” is one of the best shows on television. It’s relentlessly hardcore, but beneath the bikes, bullets, and boobs there is a brain and a heart that few shows will match. The first season set up the major players and loosened the screws of the soon-to-be-crumbling empire that is the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, and the show’s overarching “Hamlet” motif is truly set in motion. With the show’s second season starting Tuesday, September 8th, FX sent over the first 5 episodes of Season 2, and oh man are they good. My spoiler-free preview after the jump.
(Though you can rest assured that there will be no Season 2 spoilers in this preview, I am going to assume you have seen the first season of the show and proceed from there. Any first season “spoilers” I reveal here will be revealed to you in the opening 30-second “Previously on ‘Sons of Anarchy'” montage in the season premiere anyway.)
The season finale left us with the boys of SAMCRO is an increasingly tense position. Bobby is in jail for the murder of a politician, Tig is dealing with the guilt of killing Donna by mistake, while Clay is doing everything he can to make sure only he, Tig, and Gemma know the truth. Jax and Piney confronted the Niners (who Clay blamed for the murder) and are now convinced that they are not responsible for Donna’s death. Jax is suspicious of Clay, and Opie begins to act in ways that lack any evidence of self preservation, despite having two kids at home who just lost their mother. The Sons of Anarchy are in a rough place, and it’s easy to see the beginnings of a thread ready to unravel.
It’s obvious that the events of Season 1 will have implications for Season 2, but the Sons will also be dealing with a new, powerful antagonist that distracts them from their own internal conflicts. Rather than dealing with clumsy street gangs and drug pushers, a white supremacist nationalist group moves into Charming and sets up a legitimate business operation that acts as a front for their criminal endeavors. The season premiere sets up their role in a big way, and sets the tone of Season 2 as much darker and much more intense that the first.
The feud between Clay and Jax is also fleshed out, with Jax wanting the Sons of An
archy to fall in line with his father’s vision, while Clay represents a dying breed of leaders who use brute force to maintain control over their territories. Opie is torn between his loyalty to Jax and his loyalty to the club (and thus its leader). Clay’s age also becomes a factor, and as Jax continually challenges Clay you can see a growing factionalization of the Club that leaves them vulnerable at the worst possible time.
The women of “Sons of Anarchy” are integral to the major conflicts of the new season. In Season 1, Gemma operated based on her own political and social agenda, manipulating relationships to preserve the status quo and to achieve her own vision for the preservation of both her family and the motorcycle club. Season 2 takes Gemma in a whole new direction that forces her to actually rely on others to maintain stability and protect herself and her family from impending doom. Tara and Gemma have a forced partnership that transcends the tensions between them, and this mutual reliance complicates many of the branching relationships that intersect.
This season promises to be everything a second chapter should be: a leaner, meaner season with a greater sense of purpose that comes with experience. The writers (and show creator Kurt Sutter) understand their characters, and they trust the audience to know them as well. I watched the Season 2 episodes back to back, and now I don’t know what I’ll do for 6 weeks waiting for episode 6. If you’re a fan of the show, this season promises to be everything you could hope for and more, and if you’re not a fan, it’s never to late to join in.
“Sons of Anarchy: Season 2″ premiers Tuesday, September 8th at 10pm on FX.