I allowed the whole of Season two to stack up on the Sky+ box before starting it and this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. A soon as I started watching, I couldn’t stop. I would travel home from work planning the optimum arrangement of my evening’s tasks to allow me the maximum viewing time before a house-mate would come home and interrupt my viewing. The first season was great, the second season was absolutely superb.
Wikipedia has a section in the Sons of Anarchy description talking about the similarities with Hamlet and although I don’t get the detailed links (I never studied it at school and ain’t starting now), the show certainly feels Shakespearean in tone. Airing on cable in the US means that the show can take a much more long term structure, relying more on telling a story over the span of the 12 hours, than having a strong start, middle and end to each individual episode. It’s great news if you’re watching on dvd, or can store it up, but I suspect watching weekly would be frustrating and a bit too slow.
Life is a bit more black and white in season 2; the club, law enforcement and the viewers are all united in their hatred for the villains of the piece. Adam Arkin (who I’ve been a fan of since Chicago Hope) plays the leader of a white supremacist group who want to take over Charming, using calmness and intelligence in the face of the club’s more loud and obvious tactics. His calculated violence and manipulation is far worse than anything the club ever does, he knows exactly how to hurt them and how to get them to hurt themselves. It’s terrifying, creepy and fascinating.
The Club meanwhile has its own problems with the simmering issues between Clay and Jax gradually bubbling over. More and more responsibility is pushed onto other members of the extended family to try and smooth the relationship for the sake of the club. Bobby is really interesting as the peacemaker of the group, contrasting with both the hot-headed leaders, and the emotionally collapsing Opie and Tig.
I think the biggest strength of both the show and the club itself however are the female characters. Gemma (Katey Sagal – criminally overlooked for an Emmy nomination) and Tara are instrumental in holding the club together. Gemma learns she can trust Tara with her own secrets, and those of the club and her son, while Tara comes to respect Gemma’s advice and accept that she has power and responsibilities of her own. The way the two characters develop individually and together is amazing; as Jax and Clay grow apart, Tara and Gemma come together. Likewise the Sheriff and his deputy go through a similar journey, each finding a way to fulfil their responsibilities while not breaking their own moral codes – whatever they might be.
Like Mad Men this is a show of quiet beauty and subtle pacing. I really enjoyed watching it, utterly riveted from start to finish – gasping, cheering and laughing along with the characters. But it wasn’t until I came to write this review that I started to fully appreciate how carefully structured the whole season was, how many things balanced each other, how themes were delicately introduced and developed. The plots may be about guns, motorbikes, the porn industry, drug dealing and white supremacy, but the story is about a great deal more, and it’s amazing.
Season 2 has just finished on Bravo, season 3 will start in the US in September. Seasons 1 & 2 are available for £27 quid or Season 2 by itself for 15. (Amazon affiliate links, sorry for the crappy formatting, WordPress doesn’t seem to want to let me do them nicely :(