As with all seasons of Sons of Anarchy, I allowed this one to stock up on the Sky+ box until I could watch the whole lot in a burst, it really does work more as a 13 hour story than as a collection of 1 hour episodes. It’s still as addictive as it’s ever been, I had to force myself to move off the sofa and not watch 5 or 6 episodes back to back.
In my season 3 review I was very critical of the storyline, I didn’t get on board with the IRA and Ireland storyline, and felt many of the ‘heroes’ were acting out of character. Thankfully season 4 is back in Charming and the characters are back to their usual selves, in fact many are revealing their true colours.
Sons of Anarchy has always been about people doing the wrong things for the right reasons – the Sons are all about protecting their town, their families and the extended family of the club. They’re devoted to each other and have a strong code, but they achieve all that through threats, bribes, violence, gun running and murder. This season presents the challenge of what happens when all that comes inside the club, if one member feels the club is threatened by another member. Now who’s on the side of right and who’s not?
Over the course of the season the levels of secrets and machinations build and build and build. The tension for the characters and audience is astronomical by the end of the season. And that’s without even getting into the new deals that the Sons start running which include multiple other clubs, drug cartels and the IRA gun sellers. I’ll be honest, I struggled to keep it all straight and often lost track of who knew what and what outcome each character was working towards.
As always, the police and various representatives of the Law are just as morally dubious as the Sons are. They use dirty tricks, manipulation and ruthlessness, potentially causing as much damage as the Sons are. Everyone this season is plotting and lying to everyone else, trying to find anyone with the moral high ground is nigh on impossible, although the new sheriff gives it a try admirably and finds why it’s such a hard place to stay.
The acting throughout is stunning and yet again criminally completely overlooked by all the awards bodies. Katey Segal is breathtaking as she increasingly desperately tries to manipulate everyone to keep her family together and Maggie Siff’s gradual transformation into the same role is well played. Theo Rossi as Juice came from being a low level background character to having an emotional arc that just about broke my heart. Ron Perlman meanwhile leaves the soft side of Clay behind and commits completely to the menacing and terrifying calculating thug that he apparently has always been.
I love Sons of Anarchy. It’s so powerful and complex, but doesn’t lose sight of characters and what drives them – they’re all just trying to protect their loved ones and they love powerfully and unashamedly. But the series is not easy to watch because you know that it will all end very badly for these people. The way the tension grows through the season is claustrophobic, everything just gets worse and worse and possible escape roads are blocked or just not taken. Everyone is spiralling towards disaster and all they can do is try to slow the descent.
Of course, if that all sounds a little too much, it’s still a very enjoyable action packed series with plenty of guns, explosions, some fast motorbike rides and witty dialogue. The symbolism did get a little heavy handed in the last couple of episodes, but usually it’s all very subtle. Sons of Anarchy is one of those series that is not about what it says on the tin, I’m not saying a show about a motorcycle club would necessarily be a turn off for me (everyone loves fast bikes surely?) but under the leather surface is a stunningly complex and fascinating drama.
You can get most of the seasons on DVD for the complete bargain of a tenner at Amazon