Sons of Anarchy 2, 3 and 4

March 4th, 2013

God bless LoveFilm instant.  As someone who vaguely remembers the appearance of home VHS recorders, the fact that I can now through the medium of my playstation get thousands of hours of quality (and not so quality) recent TV at the touch of the button for nothing (well, the price of a membership, but we were paying for regular DVDs anyway) is actually pretty striking.  While browsing the content available I noticed Sons of Anarchy.  I’d watched the first season a while back and been a little underwhelmed by the whole thing, and my wife was not at all interested in continuing.  But, you know, since there are three seasons there at my fingertips for nothing…

And on balance I’m very pleased I watched it.  The second season is a more focused and consistent affair than the first, with the arrival of plotting neo-nazis in Charming.  The third season is sadly a bit rubbish, with a visit to a somewhat silly version of Ireland and investigation of the club’s IRA connections which allows for some of the most risible Irish accents I think I’ve ever heard on television, and I’ve heard some bad ones.  The fourth season, though, with the club fracturing under the weight of its secrets and the bikers totally out of their depth when dealing with everyone’s go-to South American drug lord Danny Trejo, is dynamite.

Though on balance a fair bit better than Spartacus, it strikes me as not entirely dissimilar in that there’s a lot to admire and some really powerful scenes, but also a fair bit to cringe at, including a good deal of lad’s mag style lowest common denominator splattered about.  I mean, biker gangs are probably pretty macho outfits but I’m not sure the show doesn’t revel in that more than it investigates it.  Katey Sagal is great as Gemma, the machiavellian matriarch of the club, but otherwise the female pickings are pretty slim.  Believability in general is a bit of an issue – there’s a rather unconvincing wild west flavour to crime and law enforcement and I’m not sure all the plot movements make actual logical sense, but I think the technicalities of plot and action are actually a lot less important in Sons of Anarchy than the interplay between the characters and the spiralling webs of cross and double-cross, and there’s always a pace and drive and feeling of impending doom that at its best is highly effective.

I remain just a little unconvinced by Charlie Hunnam in the central role – I don’t think he’s a bad actor, he’s watchable, he’s likable, but I’m just not sure I buy him as a man capable of extremes of violence.  I don’t have that issue with Ron Perlman, however, who’s excellent as ever, and the rest of the central cast are all solid, with large chunks of the supporting players drawn from two of my favourite shows – Deadwood and the Shield (one of the characters is watching the Shield in jail at one point, in fact).  Indeed Kurt Sutter, who created Sons of Anarchy (and turns in a memorable performance as jail-bound disaster Otto), was also closely involved with the Shield.  And is married to Katey Sagal.  Six degrees, and all that…

So second season good, third a little cringey though not without its moments, but things really came together for me in the fourth season as long simmering secrets come to the boil, external pressures build, and it all spills over in a series of really shocking scenes.  Tense, powerful stuff that reminded me a lot of that spectacular last season of the Shield, in which the nested dangers pile up, and up, and up, and leave you wondering how the hell the characters can possibly get out of this.  Answer – a good few of them can’t.  It’s ripping stuff, that last season, and makes me very optimistic for the next….

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on March 4th, 2013.

36 comments so far

  • wonkybowels says:

    not a terrible show if you watch an episode a week. but when you watch a bunch in a row, like on DVD (or however), you end up being beaten down by the brainless repetition of the shows theme……

    i i have to watch Jax promise to do just one last thing and move away and leave it all for the good of his son and his relationship with the girl that’s been (for some reason) an outsider to the MC club, yet involved more intimately than most members, for what….5 seasons now?

    the show peaked when the Sons went to Ireland. after that it’s been one predictable episode with the occasional “damn that’s fucked up” moment since.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Definitely an element of rinse and repeat. But peaked in Ireland? Bloody hell, that felt like a real trough to me…

  • Eh says:

    Awful, awful show. I actually eventually watched 2 and a half seasons of it for my sins. It is the tv equivalent of McDonalds, it sounds like a grubby treat until you have it. Bunch of ladyboys pissing about on bikes and pretending it means something. The a-team shoot outs, the hammy acting, the cringey soap opera plots, those god damn dreadful attempts at northern Irish accents and the American fantasy version of the “Oi ar A”. The INCREDIBLY tired out evil “white supremacist” bollocks in season 2…. God have mercy. It is, in my highly esteemed opinion, utter balls.

  • JamesM says:

    This is a fun show, and at it’s best there’s not much better than it. Trouble is it’s at its best so much less of the time than other dramas: Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, even the Walking Dead. I only really think season 2 matches up to those.

    On Hunnam, I think he is a great actor — especially loved him in Greenstreet Hooligans. Problem is his looks make it much tougher to pull this off…he’s a model amongst a cast of genuinely burly biker looking guys.

  • Chris A says:

    Just checking out your page for the first time Joe on the recommendation of a friend. Loving your books.

    I watch and enjoy the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad and Homeland too James but how can you seriously like Hunnam as an actor in Green Street? What a pile of cack. His cockney accent was terrible. I might be a bit biased having been a West Ham fan since I was 9 and that now being almost 30 years.

    Anyway, as Wonkybowels said I find watching any series back to back too much can ruin the experience. Only The Wire stood up to that when I watched the whole thing in about a week. Might give this a go despite Hunnam though.

  • SgtPluck says:

    Anyone notice Stephen King popping up in Season 3 as a cameo as body disposal expert Bachman (geddit?) That’s one scary looking mo’fo, I’ll tell you. As for the rest of it, it’s a mildly entertaining pot-boiler, but S5 doesn’t really hit many more heights than the previous 4 seasons. With so many other great dramas on right now, I reckon my time with the Sons is about done. Incidentally, saw Hunnam in a feature movie a while back – Deadfall, I think it was called. Not bad, but not great either. I’m unconvinced if he’ll ever make it big on the big screen.

  • enjaip says:

    season 3 was awful – I can only hope it was an intentional parody. I mean at one point a guy blows a shed up with a wile coyote detonator. I also like how a bunch of wanted criminal evade detection when driving around on harleys with the group logo on their backs.
    luckily season 4 and 5 have been a return to form although Gemma is becoming ridiculous.
    Charming also feels like grand theft auto. It appears to be a small town yet has every organised crime gang in the world represented there.

  • Poofighter says:

    Whilst overall I’m a fan of SOA I have to agree season 3 was pretty dire, not only the story line but the fact that they think we can’t tell the difference between Ireland and the US! Season 4 was better and am currently watching season 5, jury’s out on this one so far. Believability will always be an issue, but I don’t have a massive problem with that, I’m not watching it to be informed about biker culture rather to be entertained and to have good, well thought out and acted characters. I must admit that I find Tara the most annoying and ridiculous, the sea change in her character has been laughable, she’s gone from well respected pediatric surgeon to paranoid, scowling biker chick with a penchant for brutal violence, oh and the dodgy clothes and make-up to match! I know she’s the Gemma in waiting, but it’s just so obvious and banal.
    Justified seems to be following a similar route, after a good season 1 and an epic season 2, season 3 left me cold and seemed so contrived, Raylan seemed to loose all his charisma and became almost a bit part. Really hope they can raise their game for season 4.

  • Sword1001 says:

    Gave up half way through season 3 but never really got into it. The dad speaking from the grave stuff was shit, tried to give these criminals an air of nobility and romanticism that just isn’t there in reality. The lady doc falling for the “rebel” motorbiker was turgid stuff best left to chick-flicks

    As Millwall fan, I have to agree with my fruit-throwing, bubble blowing nemesis ChrisA . . . Hunnam’s cockney accent in Green Street was bloody terrible.

  • JamesM says:

    Chris, I’m Australian, so I’m probably cockney accent tone deaf.

  • Brian says:

    They’re not a gang. They’re motorcycle enthusiasts.

  • Ken says:

    I have a love/Hate relationship with the Sons. This show suffers from good plotlines and horrible social interactions. I find myself fast forwarding everytime Jax and Tara sit down for a little talk because it’s all the same emotions.

    The plots are generally good and the seasons generally have a strong start and finish but the middle drags.

    Joe – If you want to check out a couple shows that are GREAT week to week – watch Justified (If you loved the Shield like I did – Walt Goggins is the tits – plus he was my freshman year class president in high school in Smyrna, GA. )

    And watch season one of Newsroom – Might have been the best dramatic season 1 I have ever seen. The Journalistic race to get confirmation on Obama being killed was some of the most intense TV I have ever seen.

  • Ken says:

    Oops I said Obama – hope that wasn’t a freudian slip – meant Osama lol

  • T. Furalv says:

    Dallas. With guns. And massmurder.

  • JenMo says:

    I watched the season 2 premier and hated it…. And then I couldn’t stop watching. It wasn’t something I enjoyed, but it was compelling, and I had to know what was next.

    After S2 I resolved not to get sucked into future seasons. My bf however relates the events of Charming to me with enthusiasm. I’m sure watching the show it still has a compelling draw, but just hearing about the plot and characters, makes the show sound utterly ridiculous.

  • Danny says:

    I gave up on the show. I don’t like the way it portrays women, I don’t like any of the characters….no one grows, no one changes in the slightest.

    It really disappoints me that this is the follow up to The Shield. That show was amazing. Constant tension, and the characters would show just enough humanity make you care on some level. Sons is just…an entire cast of characters always making horrible, stupid decisions and having little to no remorse about any of it.

  • Gary says:

    Hey Joe,

    Have you watched any Dollhouse on lovefilm streaming? Not only is the main protagonist an incredibly hot female, but she kicks quite a bit of arse too. The first episode is merely ok, but all the others that follow are pretty good.

  • Rick says:

    Check out season 5, currently showing on 5 USA (catch up on 5 On Demand) – it’s pretty dark so far. There’s quite a lot of nonsense in it (reasons for keeping Clay around etc.) but always good fun. As for Charlie Hunnam – he’s the only reason the girlfriend watches it, so that explains hie presence…

  • darby says:

    i thought season 3 was ludicrous. season 4 got back on track, and 5 was… pretty good. yeah, it’s a bit over-the-top at times. my biggest beef with charlie hunnam? i want to grab his head and straighten it out.

  • Adam A. says:

    You had an opportunity to catch up on Breaking Bad and you took it to watch this drek? Booooooo!

  • Adam A,
    I’m caught up on Breaking Bad!

    Strange this. I watched the first season of Sons of Anarchy, thought it was a bit lame, and everyone said, no, watch some more, it gets really good! So I watched some more, thought it got pretty good, and everyone says, no, it’s lame!

  • AntMac says:

    My tens cents?.

    You want TEN WHOLE CENTS for all five series of that show?.

    Do. Not. Want. Even for the bargain price of ten cents. Just barely worth what Joe paid for it.

  • LionelNashe says:

    Sons of Anarchy is one of the half dozen shows I watch, but I’d have to rate Spartacus higher for the stunning plot twists. I can’t take Charlie Hunman too seriously either – he swaggers around the place like he’s the coolest teenager in school and nobody has told him that Nirvana was 20 years ago.

  • Buck says:

    3 whole seasons just like that? I think that Joe is the actual subject of this article:,31498/

  • Brother K says:

    They had a similar bikie series (based loosely on real events) in Australia… But with both shows I felt that MaxRochatansky and a black on black v8 interceptor would sort out the lot of them in short order!

  • Frank Fitzpatrick says:

    Quite surprised by the amount of hate to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t anything we haven’t all seen before in the likes of The Wire, The Soprono’s and The Shield, but it is watchable and enjoyable enough.

    Much rather watch Sons of Anarchy than some of the garbage on TV such as the mindless droning of soaps and the inexplicable reality influx.

  • Sword1001 says:

    Did someone just suggest that SOA are in any way comparable to The Wire and The Soprano’s??

    What button do I press to make a hand come out of Frank’s comupter screen and clip him around the head??

  • ColinJ says:

    I watched the first season and while I did enjoy it it took me quite some time to grind through the episodes.

    It’s a good show but it’s not one that really compels me to burn through the episodes. The tone is all over the place. It seems to go too far trying to make SAMCRO look like a bunch of good dudes who get into wacky scrapes every episode, instead of murdering, drug-dealing criminals. I guess I just expected a bit more grit.

    And Charlie Hunnam needs to pull up his pants. He’s a biker, not some sissy homeboy!

  • Frank Fitzpatrick says:


    I’d much rather your computer screen “hand” came nowhere near my head, thank you very much, for I can only guess what it may have been used for previously…

    As for comparing it to The Wire and The Soprano’s, then of course it is comparable. It is from the same crime drama genre. But do not mistake my comparison as placing it on a the same pedestal of television greatness. Merely, Sons of Anarchy is recycling themes seen previously (and much better conveyed) in the before mentioned shows.

  • Sword1001 says:

    In that case you might as well compare SoA to The Bill, as it is also in the “crime drama genre” . . .

  • Mark says:

    Liked the Shield, loved the Wire, never got into Sons of Anarchy, what I would recommend if you are looking for a good boxset is the French Cop series Braquo. 2 seasons, 8 episodes per season of the finest crime drama I’ve had the pleasure too watch, honestly do yourselves a favour, check it out!

  • Markz says:

    Hi Joe. Love the books, or should i say the great cast of characters. Sons was okish until the bit where the got to Ireland. As an irishman i found it insulting and just stopped watching. Check out a new show called Banshee, it’s riddled with cliches but it is gritty and grim and does it well. It’s like the Harrison Ford film Witness crossed with a heist movie, directed by Sam Peckinpah.(Sic)

  • Dennis Rydgren says:

    I had a great dream, I watched the teaser trailer for the upcoming First Law series. A man with heavy scars and a blunt smile in one corner of the mouth is slowly coming into focus from the blackness meanwhile the sound of a great battle is fading, you could hear screams and iron. He sais: You have to be realistic these things. I hate dreams! There is no replay button – I wanted to go 300 on that trailer, that is watch it stupid many times like I did the 300 trailer.

  • Thorrgal says:

    I really liked the last 2 seasons of Son’s of Anarchy…is supposed to be based losely on Hamlet, and I definitelly get that Shakespearean vibe on it. Joe if you liked S4 you will love S5, I hope it changes your mind about Charlie Hunnam’s ability to portray extreme violence

  • Aled says:

    Trust me to fall behind on Abercromblogs just as it once again it catches on to something I too have come to recently enjoy. (Although I found the joy of SAMCRO on Netflix not LoveFilm..Tomato, Tomato.) I had never looked into some of the cast, the creator playing Otto for example..That’s quite interesting to find out, he’s certainly let Otto get written in to a fair few corners over the last four seasons.

    I’d agree with the Charlie Hunnam point, although I like him in Sons, my first outing with him was as the loveable rogue in the hooligan film Green Street. I can’t stop imagining him down a pub, rallying West Ham fans for a scrap when he’s in truth facing down Mexican cartels and racist masses. Ron Perlman is arguably the runaway cast member in this, all gruff and bikery as he can be. Kim Coates too.

    But I digress! I’m about to watch Season Five and hope it carries on with the ups and downs of four, as Season three did indeed have the feel of “This is how America sees another stereotype across the pond”..God forbid they come back to visit some niche English charter.

  • Dawnrazor says:

    I’m in the middle of watching season 5 of SOA, and I have to say the show has got it’s self on track, from the nonsense that was season 3. I just wish that never happened, it was embarrassing for everyone. I’ve been watching this show in weekly instalments, old school style. I’d never re-watch an episode or season, or buy it on DVD for that matter. But I do enjoy it, on a very base level. Kind of like Rescue Me or Calififornication. Worth watching once, don’t really stand up to repeat viewings. The most frustrating thing about SOA for me has to be its fleeting moments of greatness, when you can see that the show could actually be something epic. It’s a bit of a case of enthusiasm out weighing ability… Two more seasons to go apparently.

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