“Sons of Anarchy” shoots its way into a 90 minute season opener (entitled “Straw”) that will shock with new developments but will ultimately not satisfy viewers looking for closure on several holdover fronts. FX made the first three episodes of the new season available for review. While I write what I consider to be out of context teases, remember that one person's tease is another person's very mild spoiler. You've been cautioned.
When we last left Charming, Tara had been arrested for conspiracy of murder due to her unknowingly helping Otto kill his nurse. The nurse had a brother, Lee Toric (Donal Logue) who was introduced last season as a new foe. As a former U.S. Marshall, Toric has access to Tara, Otto and Clay to toy with as he sets up his revenge plan in the new season. Tig was scheduled to be turned over to Pope after Tig had killed Pope’s daughter. Clay had been arrested for the murder of Pope which he didn’t commit but had been framed by Jax, Tig and Juice (with unsolicited help from Gemma who had her own reasons.) Bobby quit as VP of the club. Pope’s number two, August Marks assumed power but ordered a bounty on Clay’s head in prison.
Instead of giving those already tangled unresolved plots a chance to expand organically and breathe, we are given two new big developments in the season premiere that will reverberate into the sixth season. The first comes via Lyla of all people. Lyla has gotten mixed up in a bad scene in Stockton which kicks off us meeting a port boss played by Peter Weller who has directed several episodes as well as an upcoming one. We then meet a madam played by Kim Dickens. Tig’s mental state after losing his daughter in a horrific way last season complicates matters further.
Paris Barclay’s direction of an especially shocking sequence (the culmination of a visual thread that runs through the episode) is masterful. It is some of the best visual direction seen on the series. This sequence sets up the other major complication for SAMCRO. Ending with this shocking mayhem would have given viewers time to breathe, then debate and discuss theories and been an excellent cliffhanger. Too bad Sutter (he wrote tonight’s episode) decides not to end there. We’ve still got the second of two (or three? I lost count) montages to play out and a scene that is delightful eye candy BUT not as enjoyable given what will have just happened a few minutes prior. There’s also way more of Donal Logue’s character in the last act than needed.
However, momentum killing is (cough cough Clay’s extended life in season 5 cough cough) par for the course on this show. It feels as though Sutter is too attached to certain characters/plotlines and also not confident that he has enough going on. It causes this dichotomy of overdue resolutions yet the characters are exhausted on screen with pile on after pile on of things to deal with. Get used to these long episodes as well as FX has decided to let Sutter run however long he wants apparently. Sometimes the confines of television conformity can be a good thing. We are not reaching “Arrested Development” season 4 levels of needing to trim but it should serve as a cautionary tale.
The fallout of this second development will not be extremely clear until next week where we meet CCH Pounder’s San Joaquin County District Attorney character. However, tonight if you ask yourself where a certain item came from, you are on the right track. This plot thread comes via Nero’s cousin Primo’s girlfriend’s…well you get the idea and the nitpick I have with the narrative direction of season six. Lyla and Primo (Dave Navarro) are third and fourth string characters. The plot attached to barely introduced Primo doesn’t even need his connection anyway given where it is going. Where is a story developed via Chibs? Chibs gets stuff to do finally now that Clay is incarcerated and Opie’s gone, but he is still under-utilized over all. Why not give us some stories of Tara’s time in lock-up? We get the hint at one but alas, don’t hold out for it being a big plot point.
12 Details to Watch For:
- Jax’s “President” patch is not the only new patch on his leather cut.
- A new “SGT at Arms” patch adorns the cut of a member hanging out with “Grandma” in Jax’s kitchen in the first few minutes.
- Showrunner/creator Kurt Sutter finds a new way to make the life of near blind and tongue-less Otto (played by Sutter) hell in prison.
- “I can’t let him see me like this.” Yeah, not with that bad wig.
- “She’ll be fine.” I figured out that’s Ima you will see on screen thanks to a visual clue calling back to a prior appearance. Trying to sort out the various blonde whores/porn actresses can be a chore, I had to use a “Sons of Anarchy” wiki.
- Nero’s line “Zero ____ _____”
- Peter Weller’s awesome dry delivery of the line “That’s some ____ _____”
- Kim Dicken’s line that starts “I listen…..”
- Rat Boy’s encounter with Gemma.
- "Uncle Touchy”
- Gemma’s spell over all the men. She is the Queen mum.
- Robin Weigert stepping up with her longest screen time yet as the club’s/Tara’s lawyer Ally Lowen. It is great to see a professional female character that is also not damaged, at least not yet.
I have a question for eagle-eyed viewers: What do Quinn’s patches read? No seriously, I couldn't tell due to the screener’s low res quality, so please tell me. I think one reads “Nomad” as he was a Nomad but I could be wrong. Quinn ties into what Bobby is up to in the first three episodes of the season.
For being a manly soap opera that peaked at prestige drama levels in season two, there is still life in this Shakespearean tale on motorcycles. The narrative threads might not come organically from long term characters but the fallout will definitely keep things complicated for Jax’s presidency of the M.C.
Rating: Solid B.
"Straw" premieres tonight at 10 PM Eastern and runs 90 minutes on FX.
Jacksonville residents can view FX on Comcast, DirecTV, Dish and AT & T Uverse. Check your programming guide for channel numbers and OnDemand availability.