Is it possible for everything to fall apart after you've worked so hard to protect your loved ones? What happens when danger lurked around every corner and bodies start to pile up? That's part of the premise behind the sixth season premiere of "Sons of Anarchy," which left everyone fractured instead of united. The results were still unforgettable, but it felt a little different this time around for all the wrong reasons.
"Sons of Anarchy" followed Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam) as he tried to prevent his motorcycle club, Sons of Anarchy, from falling apart due to various crimes and betrayals. The biggest crime that could either send Jax to prison or get him killed was when he set up his stepfather Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) for a murder that he helped commit. In an effort to seal Clay's fate, Jax used his deceptive mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) and a dishonest SAMCRO member named Juice (Theo Rossi) to get the job done. Unfortunately, Jax was blindsided by his wife Tara's (Maggie Siff) arrest as an accessory to murder to celebrate his victory over Clay's arrest. He had to rely on the club to help him raise his two sons while their mother was in prison. Due to Jax's questionable actions, he lost his close friend/Vice President Bobby Munson (Mark Boone Junior) in the process. Luckily, Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) stepped in and took over as Jax's right hand man, while the always unpredictable Tig (Kim Coates) crossed another line that could get SAMCRO in trouble for the last time. In an effort to find more legal business ventures, Jax partnered up with Gemma's new boyfriend Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits) to help him find a different path that didn't always involve guns. The club will need it as a former government agent (Donal Logue) was watching their every move and pushing all of their buttons. Will the agent be able to break the club or will they do all the work for him?
In terms of questions, the show posed quite a few valuable ones, but the biggest one was whether the violence had gone too far. "Sons of Anarchy" has been known to push major storytelling boundaries in the past by mixing soap opera, Shakespearean tragedy, and dark comedy. The mixing of the three gave viewers the opportunity to laugh even when they felt uncomfortable about the brutality on their screens. To have Logue play the show's newest villain helped a lot, because he appeared to relish his new role as a man with nothing to lose. That made Logue's character all the more dangerous, which can't be said for Perlman's Clay who changed motives as often as he changed his clothes. Lately, the show's modern version of "Hamlet" with motorcycles had packed on one too many cliches, such as Jax's constant struggle with embracing his new role or running for the hills with his family. The writers would be wise to have Hunnam's Jax choose a path sooner rather than later in order to maintain viewers. Hunnam was at his best when Jax was often at his worst, especially when it came to sharp comedic lines. As for the show's extreme violence, the brutality was better served when it had meaning and not for shock value only. When Ryan Hurst's Opie was killed off last season, it left viewers shocked at such an emotional moment because the decision for Opie to sacrifice his life for Hunnam's Jax largely impacted the season for better or worse. The school shooting storyline was brutal to watch because the storyline didn't make sense until it actually happened. On the surface, the story appeared to be going in one direction, until it unexpectedly made an innocent looking kid a vicious killer in the making. It was a shock to see someone so young being corrupted into a world of violence for reasons unknown for the time being. The actor who played the young shooter initially appeared to be a younger version of Hunnam's Jax in flashbacks, until they shared one brief scene together. Hopefully, the show will tie the shooting into the rest of the on-going stories to give it a wider impact to the show as a whole. Sadly, only time will tell if that's the case.
As for breakout performances, the show's female leads led the pack in the season premiere. Sagal and Siff played two very different women who had a lot more in common than they ever expected. Hunnam's Jax was still the show's central character, but the premiere's events left the character a little adrift in his loyalties and his emotions. Hopefully, future episodes will allow Hunnam to truly flex his acting muscles as the often compelling and reckless Jax before movie stardom changes him when "Fifty Shades of Grey" finally hits the big screen sometime next year. Sagal's Gemma was often the driving force of the show's stories as she helped to link Jax's professional and personal lives. Her character could get a response out of anyone by simply breaking someone's nose to prove a point, which Gemma actually did at one point of the season premiere. Sagal embodied Gemma with the right mixture of anger, sadness and glee that her role as mother lion to SAMCRO remained the same after everything that happened. Her most memorable moments came whenever Gemma's back was against the wall and she fought back twice as hard. When Hunnam's Jax accused her of putting his wife in jail, Sagal's Gemma appeared to be stunned and hurt that her son would think so poorly of his mother. She reflected her disappointment in her eyes but she wasn't able to verbalize it, until she broke a young woman's nose for not using better judgment in a situation. Siff, on the other hand, had the challenge of trying to make Tara less of a victim due to her unfortunate circumstances. She gave Tara a sense of sadness and bitterness that wasn't there before now. If the character makes it out prison, viewers could tell that Tara's faith in her family will never be the same again. Her strongest scene came towards the end of the episode when she was forced to commit a brutal act of violence in order to make it through the night in general population. Siff reflected Tara's desperate rage without saying a word and proved that she was more like Jax than she cared to admit. Let's hope that the rest of the season will give Siff and Sagal more of a chance to display their characters' complicated personalities without taking them away from the rest of the cast. They've proven time and again that they were up for the task.
"Sons of Anarchy" premiered on September 10th and airs Tuesdays at 10:00 PM on FX.
Verdict: The cast gives top notch performances, but the show's attention to detail seemed a little strained under the weight of too many plots. The school shooting storyline could also be either the most shocking plot or a sign that it was the beginning of the end.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)