Sons of Anarchy wasted no time throwing itself right back into the action, but was it what we — and the club — needed? Much of Sons of Anarchy‘s premiere felt akin to Boardwalk Empire‘s premiere on Sunday night: It was, aside from a few highlights, overwhelmingly bleak, dour, violent, and without a clear center or direction. As Jax puts it, the table is in pieces, the club is hanging on by a thread, and its members are more fractured than ever, both within themselves and with the rest of the club. The episode was written by series creator Kurt Sutter, and his unmistakable stamp is all over it. To find out whether or not that’s ultimately a good thing, hit the jump.
When “Straw” was screened at the recent TCA conference, critics rightfully were outraged at the final scene of carnage where a young boy pulls out a semi-automatic weapon and obliterates his fellow students that he called bullies in his journal. The boy appeared throughout the episode like a ghost (reminiscent of the homeless girl Jax sometimes seems), watching and observing the meets or passings-by of the club. He’s connected to the club somehow, since Nero’s crew member Arcadia’s (Dave Navarro) old lady is the boy’s mother. Did the gun come from the club? And was the boy influenced by the culture of violence that he witnesses every day?
Sutter’s response was that the violence on the show is always for a purpose, and while this scene might lead to the cyclical question about sons becoming like fathers (is Jax following Clay, or JT? And will his sons be murderous gangsters, too?), I still feel it went too far. It was a meta commentary on shows like Sons of Anarchy‘s portrayal of violence, sure, but even though the shootout wasn’t shown, it didn’t feel like the right forum to show something like this or to open up that particular discussion. Then again, maybe it is and we’ve just been scared to do it.
For the show though, it begs the question: at what price does SAMCRO survive? Opie is dead, Clay and Tara are in jail, Bobby is in the wind, and Tig has a bounty on his head. Maybe that opening scene was prophetic, and in the end only Gemma will survive with Thomas and Abel, while everyone else is either gone or locked up.
There were a few great moments in “Straw” though that harkened back to the show’s best times, like Chibs handling Juice and his betrayal in a personal way, and Tig’s joking one-liners that turned dark in the end, as he tries to process his daughter’s death (that is one heavy storyline the show has not let fade away, to its credit).
But a new madam, a new way for Jax to cheat on Tara who is towing the line for a club she came to abhor … the Boardwalk Empire comparison is revived again here, that for all of their violence, both Boardwalk and Sons of Anarchy now seem to lack a morality that they need to help ground the action. The violence needs to have a personal point to resonate, otherwise it’s just Grand Theft Auto. It doesn’t have to be shocking, it just has to really matter (like the Chibs/Juice scene).
For several seasons, Jax did what he needed to to try and get the club out of drugs and gun running, but his escort business hasn’t so far proved to be the greatest trade off. He’s chasing after legitimacy, but in a way that’s not particularly legit at all, something he can’t see (but that Bobby did).
There needs to be something that anchors the club and acts as a wake-up. Maybe the shoot-out was meant to be it, but the show has always been more successful with its personal relationships than metaphor. Here’s hoping that the club sits down together at the table soon and looks at their future, because for a season premiere “Straw” was full of malaise.
Episode Rating: B
— The best moments of this episode were the little bits of humor thrown in, either visually (like seeing Happy play with Abel) or through dialogue (like the club members asking Bobby how he’s going to cook without an oven). More of this, please.
— Kurt Sutter loves making Otto’s life miserable, and so of course he’s now (after biting his tongue off and stabbing his own eye out, etc) being raped daily.
— “Grandma’s got a gun” – Tig.
— I was not aware of the rule that if you touch a woman’s chest you can no longer call her “ma’am.” Gemma 101 I guess.
— I’m glad Jax has a good relationship with Pope 2.0, but they still will not let that debt with Tig go …
— The inclusion of Iranians seems another way for the show to get quasi-political without cause, but I did enjoy both the schooling about Persia as a country and Nero’s quip about “Zero Dark Shithead” (even though that’s a different people he’s referring to).
— The female-on-female violence has got to end.
— Poor Lyla cannot catch a break.
— Jax sleeping with Colette (another Deadwood alum, Kim Dickens, who played the same kind of role on that show) was too predictable and also disappointing. His old lady is doing everything she can to protect him, even after his club and his family essentially ruined her life (several times). Button it up, Jax.
— Tara went Orange Is the New Black there at the end, didn’t she?
— The ex-Marshall shooting up and doing a naked dance … no thanks.
— Chibs patching up Juice after he beat the crap out of him was sweet, in a very SAMCRO way.