STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
MSRP: $49.98
RUNNING TIME: 594 minutes
• Commentary on select episodes
• The Making of Sons of Anarchy
• The Ink
• The Bikes
• Casting Sons of Anarchy
• Deleted Scenes
• “Anarchy On The Set”–Gag Reel

The Pitch

Grand Theft Auto: Lost and Damned: The TV Series!

The Humans

Created by: Kurt Sutter

Acted by: Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Jr., Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan

The Nutshell

Series focusing on the life and times of a Northern California motorcycle club, the Sons of Anarchy, and the efforts of the club’s President (Perlman), his wife (Sagal), and his vice president/stepson (Hunnam) to keep the club functioning as a business, legitimate or “legitimate”, and as a fraternity.

“Yep, he’s in here, all right. Buried in his shit, just like he said. Which means, somewhere around here….Terry, get animal control down here. Now. Don’t argue with me on this, just do it.”

The Lowdown

Because I’m an optimist, I’m gonna assume that its not for sheer ignorance and lack of imagination on the part of television writers that a scripted show about outlaw bikers has taken this long to find its way to the airwaves. I’m gonna go ahead and guess that its not because such a show couldnt be done, it’s because such a show needs to be done right.

Does that also means one can assume, by nature of the fact that Sons of Anarchy is actually on the air, this is indeed the show television’s been waiting decades for, taking full advantage of everything uniquely epic, intriguing, and American about this subculture?

The short answer: Yes. All of that.

All of that plus a chick getting beat down with a skateboard.

“I’m sorry, honey, but you just aren’t what I expected from your ad. You said ‘tall, statuesque, mature, experienced city girl’ and I look at you and all I see is ‘leathery old chick.'”
“Well, I asked for open-minded, athletic, sensitive, intelligent man. I look at you, I see ‘Hobbit with Down’s Syndrome.’ The internet’s full of fucking surprises, isn’t it? Get off my stoop.”

Sons of Anarchy is kind of a strange, interesting beast of a show. Yeah, it’s definitely “that biker show”, centering around a motorcycle club, and all the debauchery, criminal activity, and surplus testosterone that implies. And don’t get it twisted, anyone looking for bare minimum one guaranteed “Holy Shit” moment per hour will be more than satisfied, either through violence, or the show’s rampant, amazing dark, perverse humor, but as the show goes on, the biker setting is really more of a means to a end. There’s the feeling that this series started with this specific group of characters, clashes of egos, ethics, and occasionally weaponry, and the only reasonable setting to make this story work would be either England during the Dark Ages, or a motorcycle club. And only one of these scenarios allows you to put Mark Boone Jr. in an Elvis costume.

The focus on storytelling first is never more apparent than with the show’s lead, Jackson “Jax” Teller. On the acting side, Charlie Hunnam’s consistently solid as Jax, and easily carries the show’s weight when he needs to. As a character however, from the first episode, he’s the first warning sign that something might be a little off. He’s the VP of this club, presumably because his father was a founding member, and so his mother and stepfather (Perlman and Sagal) can keep him on a short leash. But even under those circumstances, Jax is still far too Gap commercial pretty to believe as someone who would be in that high a position within a motorcycle club, especially a motorcycle club where Kim Coates is a member, and willing to beat, stab, or fuck anything with an oriface that makes a pleasing enough sound. Realistically, it makes no sense. However, the story being told over the course of this season, the course of this series from what it looks like, requires that from him. Hunnam isn’t so much playing the VP of an MC so much as he’s playing modern day Hamlet, with Perlman and Sagal acting as Claudius and Gertrude MacBadass, plotting both to take the club in a direction inconsistent with Jax’s father’s wishes, while being intentionally shady about the particulars of why. As handsome a bastard as Jax is, that prettiness will only last him so long with the way things are headed, and mark my words, this show will see him ruined by the end.

“And then, while Robert Plant watches, I snap Puffy’s beanpole spine in half. And I smile. For the first time in 15 years. Then I wake up.”
“No offense, Jax, but everything about this conversation scares the shit out of me.”
“Dude, ‘Nam was a hell of a war. What do you want me to say?”

That isn’t to say the show glosses over the fact that this is a show about bikers, but the show’s lifeblood is in tiny, expertly unfolded dramas that unfold throughout the series, and the actual day to day of the club is usually naught but an important background player through it all. It’s the glue and the catalyst for both bigger and smaller scale storytelling. It’s the reason a man will go to prison, forsaking his wife and kids. It’s the reason a man will betray his best friends. It’s the shield a small town will put up to protect it against corporate America. It inspires the kind of loyalty that confounds modern law enforcement, where an entire town both loves and loathes them, like the outlaws of old, and forces the men and women working it into terrible corners. There’s an episode late in the season where the ATF, tired of trying to get blood from biker stones, instead goes after the women of the Sons of Anarchy, taken into custody by a female government agent (Ally Walker, whose bitch volume goes up to 11 on this show) threatening to absolutely destroy their families and livelihoods unless they give up SAMCRO’s criminal activities. To be perfectly frank, if there’s any one thing to be mined from the Sopranos comparisons that occasionally get thrown around in reference to this show, its that the ladies of SAMCRO are complex and awesome in a way Carmela Soprano can’t even imagine. These are hard women, as much a part of the club as the guys wearing the patches, who deal physically and emotionally with the lives of their husbands, friends, and lovers, day after day, and never in a passive manner (see: aforementioned skateboard incident). Except for Gemma Teller (a.k.a. Lady MacBadass), their loyalties aren’t assured or clear, and the ATF knows it. We get an entire episode to watch them come to grips. The result’s probably the strongest hour in the set.

Is this the kind of drama being part of a club brings in real life? Maybe. Maybe not. If those documentaries the History Channel keeps showing about the Hells Angels are to be believed, there’s at least more drugs, rape, and cop killing involved.  But even in its dramatized form it’s seriously compelling television. It takes us into a unique, underutilized subsect of American society, and almost effortlessly makes you give a shit about everyone who winds up with more than 30 seconds of screentime. It’s the kind that makes you remember what that square box with the cable hooked into it is capable of. Moreover, its plainly obvious Kurt Sutter is as in love with and fascinated by where he’s taking his characters and vice versa, and the slow burn of this season towards the schism that Jax Teller finds himself in with this club has a knowing smile behind it. And its going to be a fucking blast watching the next chapter unfold.

This is TV done right.

Even with his high standing, it would be another 4 hours of heated debate before the club gave in to Clay’s assertion that, despite the increased revenue, patching over Party Lite wouldn’t irrevocably damage the club’s rep.

The Package

It must be said, this is one of those fortunate accidents where the graininess and flaws of the standard def actually help rather than hurt. There isnt a “clean” shot in this entire set and I seriously believe something would be lost through the clarity of Blu Ray, even with the natural beauty of Northern CA occasionally on display.

As for features, there’s commentary on three episodes. The first is on the Pilot, a rather low-key, but friendly affair with Sagal, Perlman, Hunnam, and Kurt Sutter. It comes off a bit dry and mechanical in spots, but there are bursts of energy in the room, and quite frankly, I could listen to Katey Sagal speaking in her natural low, alluring, dulcet tones all damn day. The second, on “The Pull”, with Sutter, Shield vet Guy Ferland, Hunnam, and Maggie Siff, is a bit looser, but chock full of character insight as well. Sadly, Maggie Siff’s the quiet one in the group. The third is on “The Revelator”, a group affair with Sutter, Perlman, Hunnam, and just about the entire club in one room, which is probably the most entertaining of the three, though a little lighter on the insight than the others.

There’s a couple of Making-Of featurettes, which are earnest, but definitely EPK affairs except for the one about the bikes which is essentially mechanic porn. Anarchy On The Set is a fun little gag reel. There’s a half hour of deleted scenes, most of which are actually excellent little character moments, but they’re also things already hinted at on the full episodes, and are better off as just that: hints. The set’s not packed, but what’s here is worth a look. A preview of Season 2 would’ve been nice, though.

9.0 out of 10