I just finished watching Sons of Anarchy, Season 1 after a strong recommendation from John Bell (Start Your Novel). After watching the pilot episode, I was hooked. I honestly couldn’t stop watching it, and it’s rare for a show like that to come into my life. The last show that had that kind of impact on me was Mad Men. So after finishing it, I thought I would give some of my thoughts about the show so far to further entice people to watch/buy the show. Quick background, stolen from Wikipedia
Sons of Anarchy is an American television drama series created by Kurt Sutter about the lives of a close-knit outlaw motorcycle club operating in Charming, a fictional town in the Central Valley of Northern California. The show centers on protagonist Jackson “Jax” Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the then-Vice President of the club who begins questioning the club and himself.”
People may not recognize the name Kurt Sutter, but he was one of the main writers, producers and directors from The Shield, a dirty cop drama taken place in Los Angeles. That show was highly regarded by critics (and really quite good) and had a good run of seven seasons. My initial impression after finishing the season?
Sons of Anarchy makes The Shield look like Bambi.
The Shield took a lot of risks with their story-telling, the intricate lies between the task force and their superiors, but also between the members. When you watch The Shield, you see the lies unfolding before you, which it makes a little easier to follow with what’s happening. With Sons of Anarchy, they take the lies and story-telling and kick it up a notch. There is a lot that goes unsaid and gets discovered through the first season, and goes unresolved, too.
This slow, mysterious reveal is what hooked me into The Shield, and has me hooked on Sons of Anarchy. With The Shield, it was “What will Vick do next?” With Sons of Anarchy, it’s “What will Jax discover next and have to do?” Apart from the revealing of information and lies, the relationships between the characters are all quite complicated in themselves. Women, so far, play a much larger role in Sons of Anarchy than in The Shield.
In the latter show, we were only shown the relationship between Vick and his wife. In Sons of Anarchy, there are three spousal relationships shown (so far), plus a few father-son relationships. This doesn’t include the intricate relationships going on between the members of the motorcycle club either.
The world of Sons of Anarchy is quite complicated, which is another real draw for me. I like learning about the differences between the various groups, how they handle conflict, what their individual interests are, and the mythology surrounding their history with the Sons of Anarchy club. It would be easy to keep introducing new parties to the storyline and then forgetting about them, but shows like The Shield and Sons of Anarchy are excellent in keeping those threads of stories alive later in the season.
Another bonus for the show is how linear the story-telling is. Each episode picks up where the previous one left off, for the most part, and there is no guessing about how much time has elapsed. It’s made quite clear in various ways throughout the individual episodes. Even after watching the first episode of Season Two (which aired roughly nine months after the first season ended) makes it obvious how much time has passed since the last episode. With the storytelling complicated enough as is, keeping this part of the show simple is something I really appreciate.
I really wish I could get into more detail about the plot lines, the characters, and the action, but I think it would take away from part of the fun of discovering the show yourself. There is plenty of action in the series, and I could almost say with confidence that it is far bloodier of a show than, say, True Blood. The degree of violence in the show is much more gruesome than other show I’ve seen on television, which is absolutely perfect in my mind. A dark show deserves dark moments, not something to be white washed and passed over.
If you enjoyed The Shield (or Shawn Ryan’s other series, The Chicago Code), you’ll really enjoy Sons of Anarchy. If you are at all interested in motorcycle gangs, like the Hells Angels, you will love this show. If you like a show with strong storytelling, not afraid to give you plenty of shocking moments, and don’t mind seeing a lot of blood, this show is definitely for you.