Essay: Ten Questions About ‘Sons of Anarchy’

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FX’s biker drama Sons of Anarchy has two more episodes to go in its fifth season, which has been one of the better ones of its run. It’s exciting and well-acted, if a notch below the likes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad; however, I still look forward to Tuesdays at ten more than I do any of the weekly Sunday shows I watch (The Walking Dead, Treme and Boardwalk Empire.)

‘Sons’ is a good show. I still enjoy it and it still holds my interest. But a few things I’m wondering:

1. Are we supposed to be able to understand the specifics of the crime plots? Tony Soprano’s business model was always pretty straightforward, and the same is true for Walt and Jesse and their meth cooking. On ‘Sons,’ though, it’s all a big ball of confusion.

Creator Kurt Sutter likes to stuff each season with about three seasons worth of plot. So we have the Sons in various business dealings with the Irish, the Mayans, the Chinese, and Harold Perrineau’s group, as well as the drug cartel, the local cops and the DEA, on top of their various fights among themselves. We’re also supposed to keep straight who knows what things at what time.

I have absolutely no idea who the Sons are buying guns from or selling them to, and I haven’t since about Season 3. And they’re selling drugs, and they’re in the porn business…

2. I figure the big things- the Jax/Tara, Jax/Clay, Clay/Gemma and Jax/Gemma relationships- are much more important than any of the specifics of the crime stuff. Does everyone who watches the show feel that way?

3. Speaking of which, why didn’t the show drag its Hamlet allegory (Jax’s discovery that Clay killed his father) all the way out to the end? The show’s forerunner, The Shield, treated its “original sin”- the killing of Terry in the first episode- as something that cast a shadow over the series until its very last moments. Sutter has said he wants to do seven seasons; the Jax/Clay thing has for all intents and purposes been on pause since the end of Season 4.

4. I’ve asked this before, but why don’t the motorcycles matter at all? The characters may be a motorcycle club, but they never talk about the bikes, and they never figure in the plot. Doesn’t that piss off biker-types who watch the show?

5. A couple of seasons ago, the club murdered a DEA agent- a beautiful, female DEA agent- and it was never mentioned again. Isn’t she missing? Wasn’t there an investigation? Wouldn’t Agent Stahl have been a fine candidate for Natalee Holloway-like Missing White Woman fame on Fox News?

6. In last week’s episode, the Chinese arms dealer guy said he could get some “rockets” from “Gaza.” The timing on that one- yikes, right?

7. Has any character who had cancer for the entire run of a series talked about it less, or had it comprise less of his character, than Unser? Before he had chemo in last week’s episode I’d forgotten he was even supposed to be sick. Then again, the same actor’s character on Deadwood was even sadder.

8. Sutter has a reputation- especially if you’ve read his Twitter feed– as being a bit of a hothead, if not a crazy person. But isn’t that true of most showrunners? David Simon never struck me as the most charming guy, and neither did David Milch, David Chase, or Matthew Weiner.

9. What was the point of that Joel McHale guest spot? Or the Ashley Tisdale one? And am I the only one dying for a Sons/Modern Family crossover, to reunite Al and Peg Bundy?

10. This season on Sons Jimmy Smits, the erstwhile Matthew Santos, has become the rare actor to, in one career, play both the president of the United States and a pimp. The only others I can think of are Morgan Freeman (president in “Deep Impact,” pimp in “Street Smart”) and Dan Aykroyd (president in “My Fellow Americans” and pimp in “Doctor Detroit.”) Am I forgetting anyone? Don’t say Gary Oldman; he played a pimp in one movie and a hijacker of the president’s plane in another.

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  • RM

    makes me wonder if you really watch this show….

    • Jes

      AMEN, I was just thinking the same thing.

  • susie

    I LOVE Sons! Its the show I watch regularly. Jax is starting to scare me though, he has “Clay” tendencies that I dont like. I’m scared for Juice and Teg.

  • JC

    I must agree with the above comment. Do you actually watch this show? Its not that c
    complicated at all.
    -SAMCRO buys guns from the True IRA and sell them to a few different California street gangs. Due to the deal with the Cartel, they also are moving large weapons from the same True IRA to the Cartel.
    -They don’t sell drugs. Never have. They are currently being forced to mule(transport) drugs for the Cartel. (major plot point, as thats what Jax has spent the entire season trying to stop)
    -The DEA agent you mention, Agent Stahl, her killing was passed off as a hit by the True IRA, part of the Jimmy O killing. Pretty straightforward.
    -Nobody want to hear these guys discuss how much they love their bikes, as thats pretty obvious without having to mention it.
    -How can you forget that the guy who tokes up his medical herb in more than half his scenes is sick?

    No offense, but maybe, since you write about this for a living, you should pay a little attention?

    • JC

      oh yeah, and they haven’y been in the porn business since Season 2…..

    • Nita

      Thank you for pointing all that out now I don’t have to type all of it. Also we gotta remember only 2 to 2 1/2 Year have passed. This article is written as if the writer believes it’s been 5 years. Unser was in remission at one time. If only for a short time and yes was constantly toking it up and mentioning his medical card.

  • Jaxie

    Obviously this person does not watch the show. ATF agent, not DEA. I could keep going, but SONS is waiting on my DVR now, see ya!

    • Marc Steel

      Please keep going. I’m curious how you think that little mix outweighs the rest of the post making it obvious they don’t watch the show. They certainly know how to write better than you. They also probably know something recorded on the dvr can wait.

  • Taffhamster

    5 For one thing, Stahl’s death – along with that of Jimmy O’Phelan – was pinned on the Irish (Chibs drew a “True IRA” symbol on her car window in blood and other evidence would have led the authorities to that conclusion) so to all intents and purposes, it’s not an unsolved crime.

  • Miss Stasha

    Sutter writes shows where you have to use your brain so if you are just clocking in and out for the episode without really getting into it then it’s no fucking wonder you don’t get the plot points.
    clay is around because the Irish will only deal with him. Without Clay the guns go away and Romeo has made it very clear that can’t happen. So either Jax has to win the Irish over or keep Clay around. There is no in between there.
    Agent Stahls murder was made to look like the Irish and since there was the dead Irish guy with the Glaskow smile cut into his face my guess is that even if they are investigating it they are investigating it through an agency that can do so in Ireland.
    The club is running guns from the Irish to Romeo and muling drugs for Romeo but not selling them.
    My suggestion to you is to sit down and start over from episode 1 and pay attention. Why do they have to talk about Unser’s cancer when he is sitting around smoking medical marijuana with Gemma all the time because he is sick not to mention the poor bastard looks sick as shit as well.
    And do you think bikers sit around and talk endlessly about their bikes? sure when they get a new one, when someone fucks it up, when they change parts in and out but by my count many of the guys have had to replace bikes twice already this season so at this point they probably aren’t too attached to their rides. it takes some time to build up a relationship with your bike.

    p.s. they aren’t in porn they are in the companionator business.

  • Pingback: Questioning ‘Sons’ | Stephen Silver, Writer()

  • Ivan B

    1: Yes, we are supposed to understand it…it’s not that complicated
    2: I would say that the crime and characters is part of the show, you can’t separate it. But in the end it’s a character driven show
    3: I don’t know that he isn’t still using the Hamlet allegory, there are two seasons left after all.
    8: Um…he lives in a trailer because he’s spending all of his cash on treating his cancer. In fact, his cancer was never glossed over, the characters mention it multiple times

    Does the writer watch this show on mute or something?