The season 4 premiere of Sons of Anarchy airs this coming Tuesday, Sept. 6, and oh my aching god, I CANNOT WAIT!! The countdown has been on for weeks now and it’s currently T minus 4 days, yo.
1. First and foremost, Katey Sagal. This role was made for her, or she for it. Either way, she IS Gemma Teller. She sells it like few actors are able to sell any character. Once upon a Married with Children, I liked Sagal. Now, I will follow her into the bowels of the earth, will stay loyal to her until the bitter end, my friends. She has won me over. For good. Forever.
2. Nearly every supporting character, including (but not limited to): Bobby, Chibs, Opie, Juice, Piney, Half-Sack (RIP, brother), and Tig…oh, Tig. I remember Kim Coates from The Client. He scared the shit out of me back then (in my defense, I was 12) and I have been nothing but impressed since seeing him again in the SOA pilot. Tig’s story arc from the episode entitled Capybara (season 1) to Service (season 2) is intensely emotional and my chest constricts when I think of the poignant confession at its end. Which is a testament to the writing but also to the impassioned performance Coates gives. If I had may way, he and Sagal would have won Emmy’s and Golden Globes for both seasons 1 and 2 (along with the writers, of course, but more on that in a minute).
3. The constant sequence of suspenseful, enthralling but never overly dramatic action. Too often TV shows cross that line between edgy and ostentatious. It’s a slippery slope, I’m sure, but SOA has yet to get too close. There are unexpected twists and turns galore but they’re always organic to the plot, as opposed to those of the cheap “for-shock-value” variety.
4. The humor- when Tig rolled that G-string-clad woman off of him onto the floor from atop the bar the morning after Bobby’s party (episode: Small Tears), then softly uttered, “I love you” to her once she clunked onto the tile, I popped a blood vessel laughing. Each season is full of these brief but hilarious moments that counteract the heavy storylines and emotional turbulence. My favorite: Juice’s encounter with the homosexual inmate during their stint in jail (episode: Gilead). Thanks to Netflix, I had the pleasure of watching this scene over and over until I knew I hadn’t missed anything from laughing. Well done, Mr. Rossi – you had me rolling.
5. The music, ranging from heavy blues (The Black Keys, bitches) to folk to pop to rock, there’s no shortage of awesome tunes in any of the 39 episodes. At times raucously fun, at others tenderly powerful, the soundtrack to this show perfectly matches its tone. I’ve added several to my ipod immediately following an episode and, upon repeat listening, they still inspire those emotions so acutely felt the first time.
6. The bad guys. I have yet to see a more evil, bile-inducing, remorseless cunt than Agent June Stahl. The vile Ethan Zobelle and his sociopathic side-kick, Weston, also got my blood boiling. But there were none I loved to hate more than Jimmy O’Phelan. In truth, I’m sad that Jimmy met his end in the outstanding finale of season 3. I know it had to be done and I admit my heart swelled for Chibs’ sake. Revenge is sweet, indeed. But Jimmy was just so fun to watch. He made for one ruthless, quietly powerful bad-ass of a villain. And perfectly casted in the ideal Titus Welliver. You, sir, will be missed.
7. The 3 leads: Jax, Gemma and Clay. The parallels to Hamlet aside, the lives of these 3 characters are what keep this series going. Not to undermine the rich supporting characters and their engrossing subplots, but the central plot and the themes it represents revolve entirely around the conflicted son (Jax) of the fallen leader, his strong, manipulative mother (Gemma) and the replacement father and current leader of SAMCRO (Clay). These 3 have exceptional chemistry, so natural in their roles it’s hard to believe they aren’t really a family.
8. The writing. My god, the fucking writing. Kurt Sutter -you genius, you. You had me at the pilot, which immediately took off into a whirlwind of family drama, a long-forgotten manifesto of secrets, a crank-addicted pregnant ex-wife and the return of an old flame. The scenes with Tara and her stalker- so realistic and creepy and intense (and thank god, for once a lunatic stalker is portrayed as a truly unstable, deranged, mentally ill person, as opposed to the over-the-top psycho usually shown on film that rarely (if ever) exists in real life). Which leads to the culmination of the perfectly-paced evolution of Jax and Tara’s relationship. Which leads to the first serious crime Jax ever commits and the inevitable tumultuous aftermath. Everything leading up to and resulting in the shooting of Donna, Agent Stahl and all of her wicked ways, how Opie gracefully shows her mercy (once), making his eventual slaying of that black-hearted bitch all the more poignant. The strategic and heart-wrenching gang-rape of Gemma and how she deals with it which coincides perfectly (no accident, I know) with Jax’s struggle to find harmony in SAMCRO, both intersecting in that most revered episode entitled Balm. This episode deserves an award in itself. The performances (Katey, you COULD NOT BE BETTER), the music (“Mary” by Patty Griffin), the timing and climactic decisions of all – the reactions to what’s revealed, appropriately dramatic but not overly so (a fine line, by the way), the resolution each character must come to. Needless to say, I was blown away. There are so many episodes I love and could gush exorbitantly over but this is tied with NS (the finale of season 3) as the shiniest of examples. This is storytelling at its finest.
There are still many things I want to say but I’m afraid I’ve already overloaded your attention span and for that, I apologize. As fellow passionate consumers of television, I know you’ll understand. 😉