Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sons of Anarchy

While it's not a new show – it first aired in the US in 2008 – I've become a big fan of the tv series Sons of Anarchy, ever since One started airing it earlier this year. I'm now a couple of episodes into the second season.

It's about an 'outlaw' motorcycle club, the Sons of Anarchy – usually referred to as SAMCRO, which is an acronym1 for 'Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original'2, and their activities, most of which are either quasi-legal or blatantly illegal – gun-running, mostly; there are even more nefarious activities such as extortion and murder-for-hire.

The main characters are Clay Morrow, president of the club; vice-president Jax Teller, whose father John was a co-founder of the club; and Gemma Morrow, Clay's wife and Jax's mother. There are an assortment of supporting character: the other members of the club, Jax's doctor girlfriend Tara, various law enforcement personnel, and a wide range of rival motorcycle gangs and other dubious organisations.

So yeah, these aren't good people. In fact, in terms of the number of characters who aren't genuinely bad people number fewer even than those in Deadwood3, and that's saying something.

But it's damn entertaining, and there's some seriously good actors involved – the always-awesome Ron Perlman4 plays Clay, and the immensely multi-talented Katey Sagal is Gemma – if you're even in any doubt about exactly how multi-talented, watch an episode of Futurama in which she voices Leela, and follow that up with an episode of SOA.

What first jumped out at me, though, is that at the heart of it it's basically Hamlet – Jax is Hamlet, Clay is Claudius and Gemma is Gertrude. Considering that – at the point I'm up to at least – it's never been made quite clear Jax's father died, it's not going to surprise me at all that Clay was, like his Shakespearean counterpart, involved. But it's a great dynamic, and one they don't overplay but just let simmer in the background.

The appeal, of course, is – like it was for me with Deadwood, which I wrote about here, and recently watched the last of; and why I also like Dexter5 – the idea of anti-heroes (which these people most certainly are) as protagonists. TV Tropes, of course, has an interesting article on the different kinds of anti-heroes in fiction.

Oh, and Ron Perlman smokes a lot of cigars, hence these two tweets:

It certainly makes for some compelling viewing – and, given that Adam Arkin and the awesome Henry Rollins6 have joined the cast, it's looking like it's only going to get better. How much of it I'll see on One is probably limited; I suspect that the current season – season two – will be the last on free-to-air for a while.

But season 4 has just begun in the US, so there's more to look forward to at some point in the future.

1Rather than an initialisation, since the letters are pronounced as a word – as opposed to, say, RAA.
2I can't, despite some research, work out what the 'Redwood' actually refers to, since the club was formed in a (fictional) town called Charming; perhaps there are lots of Redwood trees in the area.
3There's some crossover of cast; Dayton Callie, who played Charlie Utter in Deadwood is Police Chief Wayne Unser.
4He who was Hellboy.
5Also because we share a certain limited capacity for emotion.
6Musician, spoken word artist, broadcaster, publisher and activist.

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