What I look for and enjoy in television shows are characters and relationships. To me the stories are just ways to put the characters in context, the plots are ways to poke the characters and see what they do. It’s why I’m apathetic about shows that have minimal character development and why I get cross when writers are inconsistent. It’s why I can love shows like Friday Night Lights and Sons of Anarchy despite having no interest or understanding of American Football or motorcycle riding gun runners.
Unfortunately this season Sons of Anarchy was let down by its storyline. The season will go down as “the one where the Sons went to Ireland and took on the IRA”, or less charitably – “the one with way too many bad accents”. The whole thing kicked off with Jax’s son being stolen by the IRA in retaliation for the fact that his mother killed the son of an IRA member. But Gemma didn’t really kill the boy, it was a rogue federal agent who framed her, and the IRA member wasn’t acting on orders and didn’t stay an IRA member for long. Then it got complicated. I really struggled to follow a lot of what was going on with complex family relationships involving the head of the Northern Ireland Sons of Anarchy being married to the sister of an IRA leader, who also had some sort of relationship with Jax’s father… Those aren’t really spoilers, it all happens in the first episode. It was all just a little too much. And the accents were terrible.
Meanwhile the epicness of the storyline completely overwhelmed the usual subtlety of characters and relationships. Too often the characters were being distilled down to one emotion that was driving their decisions and making them act stupid. Gemma, usually the one who thinks out all the long term implications, spends the whole season driven by the sole desire to see her family, even when it jeopardises her freedom which in turn forces the other characters into stupid reactionary choices. One of the things I’ve adored about the previous seasons is the apparent contradiction of these characters – seemingly tough and brutal bikers who are actually thoughtful and caring, forming an extended family with a strict moral code built on love and trust. Gemma’s choices (and some of Jax’s as well) broke or at least stretched that code by making decisions based just on what they want, not what the club needed.
My criticisms of the season are more out of frustration and disappointment than anything else, there was still a lot to love. The humour and heart of the show are still great, even though they both largely came from the excellent supporting cast; each episode still left me wanting to immediately watch the next one. I think this season was a blip rather than an indicator of the show running out of steam. I think the overall plot was a mistake, taking the characters out of their native environment and introducing too many new characters and situations upset the balance. Next season looks set to take a bit of a time jump but have our characters back in Charming, dealing with the usual issues rather than interfering in international politics. I’m looking forward to it.