It’s Wild Card Wednesday again. As I promised last week, we’ll discuss a TV show that “did it right” in terms of making me willing to suspend my disbelief.
[Note: Originally, I was going to talk about two TV shows. Once I started talking about Sons of Anarchy, though, I couldn’t quit.]
If you keep reading past this point, you’re going to read spoilers.
What Makes This Show Cool?
I guess it wouldn’t be enough for me to say I like their tattoos, would it?
The show centers on Jackson “Jax” Teller.
Jax is the son of John Teller–the founder of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club. John Teller died in 1993 after being hit by a semi truck. John is dead when the show starts, but he appears in voice-over during the first few seasons.
Clay Morrow, the club’s vice president, stepped into the role of president. Jax’s mother, Gemma, later married Clay.
Jax grew up in the motorcycle club and knows no other way of life. As an adult, he became Clay’s vice president.
The frame story of Sons of Anarchy is that Jax finds a manuscript written by his father. The manuscript bemoans the direction the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club took–mainly the club’s criminal activity.
Jax begins to question the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, his role in it, and whether he should fight for change.
The Sons of Anarchy sells illegal guns–supplied by the IRA–to other criminals. They spent the previous season muling drugs for a cartel. They use intimidation and murder to achieve their means. They’re the bad guys.
So what’s appealing about bad guys?
They do their own dirty work.
When Jax’s son is kidnapped in Season 2, the Sons spend Season 3 hunting him down. When a crooked ATF agent indirectly causes Opie’s wife’s death, Opie gets revenge.
These guys have a certain freedom to solve their problems that law abiding citizens don’t have. However, they also have limitations. They have to stay one step ahead of the law in order not to go to jail. At the end of Season 3, the Sons do go to jail for fourteen months.
I don’t have a frame of reference for how realistic the show is. If I were to speculate on the unrealistic parts, it would be how honorable this bunch is. They seem so nice–relatively speaking.
The parts I suspect are realistic are both repellant and fascinating.
The Gritty Parts
Example #1: Season 1, Episode 4 “Patch Over”
Jax picks up a girl named Susie. As Susie spends time with Jax, she realizes what it would mean to become part of his world. For one thing, she wouldn’t be exclusively Jax’s woman. She’d be property of the club–and compelled to say yes to any member’s advances.
When Susie gets in the middle of a shoot-out between the Sons and their rivals, the Mayans, she realizes life as a “sweetbutt” is not for her and goes back to her boyfriend.
Example # 2 Become a threat, and we’ll kill you.
In Season 1, an ATF agent purposefully makes it look as thought Opie Winston–a longtime member of the Sons–is an ATF informant. Because of this, he becomes the target of a hit. In a tragic turn of events, Opie’s wife is killed.
In Season 4, Tara–wife of Jax–comes into possession of some letters written by John Teller (Jax’s father, remember?).
The letters implicate Jax’s stepfather–Clay Morrow, club president–in John Teller’s death. They letters also reveal Gemma–Jax’s mother–was involved in the plot to kill John Teller.
These letters cause the death of one club member who finds out about their existence. They also cause a hit to be put out on Tara.
Example # 3 — Season 2, Episode 1
In the first episode of Season 2, Gemma is raped by a white supremacist group to start a war with the Sons of Anarchy. Gemma keeps the rape secret, though, and this plan does not work out the way the white supremacist group planned.
The Hamlet Connection
To me, this is one of the coolest aspects of the show. The series creator, Kurt Sutter has mentioned a parallel with Hamlet.
Throughout the series, Jax questions his identity and his place in the world. In many ways, Jax is like Hamlet. He was raised as royalty (only in a world of outlaws instead of at the king’s court).
This parallel is very visible as Jax learns the truth about this father’s death–his stepfather and mother murdered his father.
It’s hard to sum up what’s great about this show. It’s wonderful for so many different reasons.
It’s an unflinching crime drama. No effort is made to sugar coat the actions of The Sons of Anarchy. They are bad guys.
The characterization is first rate. Characters are developed a little bit at a time. Their actions make sense in light of their character development. Each of the main characters has an arc and changes over the course of the seasons.
And, besides all that, I really like their tattoos.