Ridin’ Through This World All Alone

Looking out my window, I see cloudy, near-autumn skies and a few decaying leaves scattered about the lawn and I can’t help but think that fall is nearly here.  It’s my favorite of all seasons for many reasons, one of which is the return of good television.  Case in point: Sons of Anarchy has officially returned to Tuesday night.

The end of season 4 left us disappointed that Clay somehow survived being shot by Opie and sad for Jax (but happy for ourselves) that he had been forced, essentially, to stay in Charming and take Clay’s seat as President of SAMCRO due to the surprise reveal (not terribly surprising) that Danny Trejo is really a CIA agent.  Oh yeah, and Tig killed the daughter of some big shot gun runner, a leader among the 9ers, the gang he believed to be responsible for shooting Clay.  He meant to kill Leroy, the girl’s boyfriend, but hit the wrong person in his blind rage.  A seriously bonehead move.

Okay, so now that we’re all caught up, let’s get back to the matter at hand.  Season 5 opens up with a healing but still frail Clay, now separated from Gemma who seems to be spiraling downward, since the very first scene shows her drunkenly boning a Hispanic pimp, played by none other than the talented and weirdly charming Jimmy Smits.  She’s drinking too much, smoking too much weed and, as always, sparring with Tara, who has opted to put her kids in day care rather than leave them with grandma.  Things between Jax and Opie are tense but not totally ruined and Bobby, now released from jail as part of the negotiation Jax has reached with Trejo’s character, is stepping in as VP since Opie is taking a much-earned break from the club.  Poor Ope, the man has lost damn near his whole family to the club.  I’d have turned my back on them long ago.

Harold Perrineau is another exciting addition to the show as Damon Pope, the man whose daughter Tig killed and one cold, calculating crime lord.  Sutter wasted no time setting him up as a true villain; we’re one episode in and already Pope exacted his revenge on Tig by forcing him to watch as his daughter burned to death trapped in a hole in the earth with a few dead, dismembered bodies.  Like I said, not a minute wasted.

The episode ends with Jax and Chibbs on the lam from charges of murder and Tara smoking a joint while ignoring her crying child.  Me thinks a habit might be in the making.  Opie places a “For Sale” sign on his bike and walks away from SAMCRO while Juice and Happy sit idly by.  Meanwhile, Unser, who has been taking care of Clay’s pet bird and helping Gemma pack his crap and move him out, is beaten to shit by a few unknown men who’ve broken into Gemma’s house, one of whom wears a prosthetic leg.  Hmm.

Yes, the first episode, running an hour and a half in length, has jump-started the season with promises of betrayal, conflict and the usual sex, violence and rock-n-roll.  I’ve read before that Sutter has a 7 season story arc planned for the series and right now, at the start of season 5, I can’t imagine what tricks he has in store.

Unsolved mystery: What’s going on with Otto?  Did he dodge the death penalty for ratting on Bobby?  Only Jax and Bobby (as far as we know) know that he gave Bobby up to the Feds.  Have they turned their backs on him?  Cut him off from SAMCRO?  Hell, is the man still alive?

Body Count = 5: Leroy, Darnell (that poor schmuck who tried to shoot Jax and then took a bullet in the head from the guy who’d instructed him to do so), Tig’s daughter, Dawn, the doctor(?) who’d checked her smoldering remains for signs of life, and Detective Goodman of the Oakland PD.

Favorite line: “Apparently it was a suicide.  Climbed into the trunk and shot himself 10 times.” -Bobby Elvis

See you next week.

~Nikki

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You Could Have Lived The Rest of Your Life In Blissful Ignorance and Died A Happy Pansexual Imp

Some random thoughts and links for your weekend internet-perusing pleasure:

  • I miss Ricky Gervais.  I miss him (like I know him).  I miss the outrageous things he says and his crazy, squealy voice.  I miss him berating Karl and laughing with Stephen.  I miss his adorable little cartoon self and the hilarious conversations between him and Stephen and Karl.  I MISS HIM.
  • Currently reading The Postmortal, which is about a pre-apocalyptic America in which a genetic “cure” for aging has been discovered.  What do you think will lead to the apocalypse: climate change…a pandemic virus…earthquakes and hurricanes…the wrath of God…flesh-eating zombies?  My bet is on flesh-eating zombies.  (More on that later.)
  • Hosting a Halloween party again this year and the theme is: Villains.  Thinking of dressing as Samara (from The Ring).  Who’s your favorite villain?
  • I’ve never felt any desire to go girl-on-girl, but if, suddenly, I did, I would stalk Katey Sagal until she succumbed to my powers of seduction.
  • Zooey Deschanel played the cutest, somewhat flaky but super charming sweetheart of a gal way back in Almost Famous.  And remember her in Elf?  How cute and fun and aloof (a prettier word for flaky?) and oh-so-charming she was!  Oh yeah, then in Yes Man, she was sweet and funny and quirky, albeit a bit breezy, and just the cutest!  Then came (500) Days of Summer, in which she played a slightly unusual, carefree, terribly charming…oh, wait.  That’s right.  She played Zooey Deschanel, the only character Zooey Deschanel seems capable of portraying.  New Girl?  Should just be called Zooey Deschanel.
  • This is pretty much exactly what I expected.
  • If you aren’t watching Happy Endings, here’s a reason to start.  Eliza Coupe is hilarious, but, of course, we already knew that.
  • Boiled denim and rum ham?  Seriously, guys and dolls, how is it that we haven’t talked about this???  My sincerest apologies, mon amies.  More on those crazy Philly cats soon, I promise.
  • Oh, Thursday night, where once you were sad and lonely, now you are whole.  (Well..nearly whole.  I’m talking to you, 30 Rock.)  It doesn’t say anything about me that I’ve longingly missed NBC’s Thursday night line-up, does it?  I didn’t think so.
  • Kudos to Community for starting off the season with some stellar guest appearances, the likes of which include John Goodman and Martin Starr.  That show is slowly winning me over.
  • Confession: I harbor INTENSE feelings for John Goodman.
  • Loving The Office so far this year, even though Robert California broke my heart last night when he said: “There’s something about the underdog that really inspires the unexceptional.”  It wouldn’t hurt if it wasn’t true. 😦

Have an inspiring weekend.

~Nikki

No One’s Gonna Love You More Than I Do (My Love Letter to SOA)

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.

SOA, why do I love you so?  Let me count the ways…er, reasons.

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.

And, finally…

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. 😉

~Nikki

Anarchy In The CA

You know those commercials on the FX network that boast: “FX has the movies!”?  Well, I disagree.  FX does not have the movies.  What they have are some damn superior TV shows.  I freely admit that I watched Nip/Tuck back when it was good (read: before Sean and Christian moved to Hollywood) and anyone who’s seen The Shield cannot deny its insane, sinfully delicious appeal.  I’ve watched Justified since it began and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia may be the most original and ballsy show currently on TV.  You know how I feel about Louie and Wilfred and now, after having watched the first season of Sons of Anarchy in its entirety, I can say I am completely hooked.  FX is kicking serious television ass.

I liked Charlie Hunnam back in the days of Undeclared and my goodness, has he grown up.  He ably carries the lead role of Jackson “Jax” Teller, the VP of the biker gang, Sons of Anarchy, who all but own the town of Charming, CA.  His deceased father helped found the gang, conveniently called a “club” by its members, and his mother, the fantastic Katey Sagal, is now remarried to the club’s President, the always-intimidating Ron Perlman.  Sagal is such a bad-ass, she more than holds her own in a show almost wholly dominated by male roles; she very often steals her scenes.  And Ryan Hurst, the oh-so-sweet captain of the football team in Remember The Titans, shines as Opie, the guy who just can’t tear himself away from the life of crime.

There’s plenty of action for those of you who like a fast-paced storyline and about as much intense, high-emotion drama as I can handle.  Sex, violence and eye candy (for both genders) pop up in every episode but it never feels cheap.  On the contrary, the story demands it.  Not to mention all the killer music.  Any show that regularly showcases tunes by the Black Keys is okay by me.  And the heavy, bluesy sound matches the tone of the series, which I CANNOT WAIT to continue.  Seasons 1 & 2 are now available on Netflix and Season 3 is due out next month.  That gives me just enough time to get all caught up before the start of the 4th and newest season this fall.  I know I’ll be ready.  How about you?

-Nikki