Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sons of Anarchy: Make Me No Promises

My reaction to the finale of Sons of Anarchy makes me think of politics and how candidates try to manage (and often lower) expectations for performance prior to a debate. How much did we hear that Sarah Palin was sure to have her clock cleaned by Joe Biden, an experienced debater, in the time leading up to the 2008 Vice Presidential debate? Plenty. And when debate time came, Palin didn't implode and we all perceived her performance to be successful because her campaign had lowered our expectations for her performance. Sons of Anarchy has taken the opposite approach to managing expectations: set the bar high and then come in well underneath.

After watching the finale, I've adjusted my expectations downward. And that's okay. I expected SoA to be great. It isn't. But it's still pretty fucking good. I've accepted that the Sons of Anarchy that Kurt Sutter is making is a different show that what I would like it to be. Fundamentally, Sons of Anarchy is a show that won't eliminate characters to advance the story. Kill off all the David Hales and Kozicks of the world that you want but the core cast is untouchable. Given that SoA spent the better part of the season fueling our bloodlust for Clay, it's hard not to feel as if those our expectations were manipulated. Again (See: Season 3 finale switcheroo).

That may come off as overly harsh. I don't mean it to be. From a fan perspective expectations are important because they represent a contract with the show. We agree to watch, to be immersed in the setting, to fall in love with the characters, to suspend disbelief when we need to, to obsess, to analyze, and to count down the days until the next season begin (272 days until September 4, 2012, if you were interested). On the other side, the show and the people who make the show promise to tell good stories, portray their characters in a convincing, compelling, engaging ways, and to hold those characters accountable to the rules in the show's world.

In a lot of ways, I feel like Sons of Anarchy hasn't been holding up its end of the contract. Maybe my expectations are misplaced. Maybe the show sets expectations too high. Regardless, it's time to reevaluate my relationship with the show. Here is my new contract with Sons of Anarchy:

  • I'll keep watching because I am interested in what happens next but I'm not buying any more hype about the broad Shakespearean themes of the show. Those allude to broader artistic ambitions that Sons of Anarchy appears to be uninterested in pursuing. It's a soap. Period. So let's just stop talking about The Bard, the Prince of Denmark, and Lady Macbeth, shall we?
  • I will ignore promises that Sons of Anarchy will do anything other than entertain. Promises that the show will address latent and institutional racism in our society? Promises that the show will explore post-modern themes associated with the nature of SAMCO--is it a club or a gang? Promises that there are consequences for characters and their actions? Pffft. Whatevs. I'm not taking that bait any more. 
  • I will crack jokes about Gemma as a GiLF. 
  • I will mimic Tara's crazy eyes in the mirror when I'm bored.
  • I will enjoy the shots Jax's bare ass.
  • I will cherish any scene with Tig in it. With or without baby oil.
  • I will continue to be on Team Opie
  • I'll appreciate scenes like the closing one of the finale where Tara kneels, Jax is king, and Gemma emotes for dramatic and comedic reasons. 
  • I will expect the late-season Get Out of Jail Free Card.
  • I need to stop threatening to break up with the show. We all know it's an empty promise. Besides, I would miss all my SoA friends too much. 
Okay, what did ya'll think? Do you have a new contract with the show?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sons of Anarchy: Taking Stock of Loose Ends

Sons of Anarchy returns tonight. Wahoo! The post-prison dynamics within the club and within Charming are going to be the focus of Season 4. In advance of the premiere, I've taken stock of some of the loose ends remaining at the end of Season 3. They are in no particular order:

  • How will the information contained in John Teller's letters play out? What's in those letters beyond JT's accusation that Gemma and Clay were his would be murderers? Moreover, how important will those letters be? It may turn out that they're old news to everyone but Tara. 
  • What will become of Fiona and Kerrianne now that Jimmy O is dead? A big move to live with Chibs in Charming?
  • Will Opie find out about Sarah Palin's Lyla's abortion? If so, how will he react? In the Season 3 finale, that man looked like he had a serious case of baby fever.
  • SAMCRO pulled a fast one on Putlova's horrible Russian accent. How will that get resolved? More blood? Perhaps with some treasure? 
  • Are we done with the Irish? Or does the gun deal between SAMCRO and the IRA stand?
  • Who are the people with money behind Jacob Hale that were buying up storefronts on Main Street in Charming?
  • Oswald has been very loyal ot SAMCRO. How long can that last? 
  • Is Tig's mistrust of Koz deeper than a betrayal over a German Shepherd? 
  • How is Clay's arthritis these days?
  • Agent Kohn still hasn't turned up. Yet. 
  • Opie's resolution to stay in SAMCRO after he learned that Clay and Tig killed Donna.  He stayed in with a desire to change the things along with Jax.  Did killing Stalh satisfy Opie's need for revenge? Or will he have have remaining trust issues with Tig and Clay?
  • Luanne's murder.  Who was responsible?  My money's on Georgie Caruso but I'm open to suggestions.     
With all of this in mind, SOA Season 4 sounds like it is full of promise. There are a few early reviews worth reading, including those by Alan SepinwallMaureen Ryan, James Poniewozik

Happing viewing!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sons of Anarchy Season 3 DVDs

In a hail of bullets, here's what I learned, remembered, appreciated and realized after going through a marathon re-watch of the third season of Sons of Anarchy on DVD along with most of the bonus material:
  • I was skeptical but SOA Season 3 does work better when viewed as a marathon. However, prolonged viewing reveals how thin the plot gets in the middle of the season.  So there's that.
  • I fell asleep during an episode and a half (Look, I'm sleep-deprived and that shit got boring) of the Belfast part of the season. I missed  McGee's entire character arc and the Jax/Trinity incest bit.  The result of missing all that? Nothing. Neither of those threads contributed to the overall narrative of the season.  
  • As much as I bitched and moaned about how it felt like the double cross was a cheap trick, I will admit that on my second viewing there were signals that Jax and SAMCRO were scheming together against Stahl. Most obviously when they were getting money from Stahl to pay Putlova in exchange for Jimmy O. But most of the hints and signals were so subtle that you'd only pick up on them if you knew something was afoot.
  • I forgot how much Gemma, Clay, and Jax implied that John Teller was a rat.
  • The dialogue between Jax and Clay about the 50 cuts looking at how Jax will react and having to decide whether Abel is alive or dead is aaahhmmmaaazing. Perfect writing, perfect acting. 
  • Piney keeps cyanide capsules in his pocket just in case and Opie references the pills as his father's "end game." That is something to file away for future reference. 
  • Gemma's time with her dad felt like the writers deciding that she needed something interesting to do.
  • I cared much, much, much less about the plot twists with all of the Irish characters except for Fiona and Maureen.
  • I still can't figure out what Tara's motivation is and I think that's a good thing. 
  • The deleted scene where Jax tells Opie that he's full of hate and anger and is unable to feel the love he has for his son should have stayed in. It would have explained a lot of my frustration with Jax throughout the season. Or maybe it's just me. 
  • I still like Lyla. 
  • I want Gemma and Unser to have their own spinoff (a 30 minute sitcom, naturally) where they fight injustice on the mean streets of Charming. 
  • Margaret, the once heavy metal groupie and now hospital administrator, made some eerie comments about Tara as an uncertain mother-to-be in an unstable environment. It makes me wonder if that's what we'll see in the upcoming season. 
  • I want Calamity Jane's sexy lawyer/punk rock pumps. 
Onward and upward to Season 4!

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Sons of Anarchy Casting: Hassling the Hoff

    David Hasselhoff has been cast to play an aging porn star named Dondo in Season 4 of Sons of Anarchy.  I just... I don't even know. The Hoff?  It could be brilliant. Casting Stephen King as a cleaner last season was incredibly well done but The Hoff causes me to raise an eyebrow. Yes, Kurt Sutter has a deliciously sick sense of humor and I hope that The Hoff will be used as well as King was.

    But the news also makes my brain hurt a little. I'm invested in the characters and their stories and while Sons of Anarchy has always had a certain (highly enjoyable) swagger to its sensibility, stunt casting The Hoff might just be a bridge too far. Would Mad Men or Breaking Bad cast someone like David Hasselhoff? Probably not. If this stunt casting is something viewers can expect for the run of the show, does it change how seriously we should regard the show? Does stunt casting fundamentally change what the show is--a family drama? Or does it cheapen it in some tangible way?

    Unfortunately, I've got more questions than answers. My concern for the show is that peripheral things like casting The Hoff may serve as a distraction from the heart of an otherwise compelling, strong central story.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    They're Baaaaaaack.....

    Can you feel it? That certain something in the air. It's like a drop in the barometric pressure before a hurricane, that spark of of excitement before your intuition tells you something good is about to happen, or that feeling of impending doom after you've eaten your second chili cheese dog with extra onions.  

    Photo from Dominic Pagone's Photostream
    Click the link for more cast pictures from today's shoot.
    Yes, yes, you've guessed it. Production is underway for season four of Sons of Anarchy. How do I know? There are new sets being built. Baby casting is in progress as well as casting for a deputy sheriffDanny Trejo has been cast a Mexican commando badass. There was a table read for episode 401--titled Out. There's a new blog post from Kurt Sutter reminding us that season 4 picks up 14 months after then end of season 3. And last, but certainly not least. the Sons of Anarchy You Tube Channel is up and running.


    Now that we're caught up, let's get down to the really important matter at hand. Charlie Hunnam's hair. It's short. Like Green Street Hooligans short. What do you think?
    Source: The Internets 

    It's certainly better than the Jesus-meets-Kurt-Cobain look that was going on at the end of Season 3. It will help the continuity issues that The Hair creates--see the scene with Father Ashby and Jax in Firinne. But is the short hair really true to Jax's character? Or is this just what the ravages of time, lice, and a stint in the penitentiary do to pretty outlaw biker boys?

    Sound off in the comments section about the hair. I'll be back to regular blogging as things heat up.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    It Still Bothers Me

    All I wanted when the third season of Sons of Anarchy came to a close was for all the characters to be in a relatively decent, safe place. Considering the end of season two, I realized that I was pushing the boundaries of expectations. However, all the characters that I care about were left in a reasonably good, decent, safe place. Yes, I count prison to be decent safe because everything is relative with this show ya'll. But I still wonder how Jax (and presumably SAMCRO) so effectively duped Stahl.

    At my best, the bother and doubt creep in while I'm in the car or standing in line to order lunch. Hmmmm. How did that work because there didn't seem to be a hint of it during the season. Hmmm. Must go home and rewatch tonight. At my worst, I feel like this:

    My concerns in a hail of bullets:
    • How could a man and a MC (Jax and SAMCRO, duh) that had been routinely outmaneuvered and had their asses handed to them the IRA, SAMBEL, Jacob Hale, and an idiot like Salazar been capable enough to outsmart a sociopath like Stahl?
    • When! When did Jax bring SAMCRO into the crooked deal he struck with Stahl? It matters whether it was SAMCRO's idea and they were in on it from the start or Jax brought them in later in the game. It matters. My theory is that SAMCRO was in on it from the beginning because there is no way Jax could have captured Luke and his driver all by his lonesome. 
    • How were there not any real clues to let the audience know what was going on? I can only think of two possible explanations: (1) There weren't and clues; or (2) If there were clues, they were so slight that you'd have to know they were present to know what they meant.  
    • Think of what it means if there weren't any clues. Isn't the audience (yeah, us) at least more trustworthy than Stahl to have some indication of what's coming down the pike? Or are we forever outsiders peering in on SAMCRO's world? That would make the audience not unlike Tara and Gemma but even they got some explanation. 
    Those questions, bothers, and concerns are all I'm left with until September. Oh, and this image which helps nothing:

      Monday, January 17, 2011

      It's About Time!

      Image borrowed from the internets
      Yay! Katey Sagal won the Golden Globe for Best Actress last night! Woooo Hooo! I'm glad to see Sons of Anarchy get some recognition. Didn't Katey look beautiful last night? My 30-something boobs are jealous of her 50-something boobs.