Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the third season of Sons of Anarchy has come to UK screens. Having aired almost a year ago in the States, the excellent drama ended its second season on a massive cliff-hanger, making the wait almost unbearable. This has lead many fans of the hit show resort to watching the episodes online, while others have patiently waited for the season to reach its way to our shores courtesy of Five US.
Created by Kurt Sutter, one of the lead writers of The Shield, the drama looks at the lives of a Californian motorcycle gang in the fictional town of Charming. In the first two seasons, the gang frequently finds itself on the brink of destruction, with main protagonist Jax (Charlie Hunnam) becoming increasingly uneasy with the brutal and criminal actions of the club. This leads to tension, specifically between Jax and President Clay (Ron Perlman).
In the season two finale, Gemma (Katey Segal) was framed for the murder of Edmond Hayes by Agent Stahl (Ally Walker), the son of IRA terrorist Cameron Hayes (Jamie Mcshane). In retaliation, Cameron broke into Jax’s house, killing Half-Sack (Johnny Lewis) and kidnapping his son Abel. The sons pursue Cameron to the docks, but fail to arrive in time. The final moments of the season depicted a distraught Jax screaming in agony as the boat carrying his son disappeared into the distance.
Season three begins well with the characters still reeling from the events of the previous season. Jax has become vacant and morose, while Gemma is in hiding after being framed by Agent Stahl. There was a nice early moment in which the Sons drove past the boarded up cigar shop of Ethan Zobell (Adam Arkin). We see that the sons are still trying to find the warabouts of Abel, who may or may not be in the country.
The hunt leads them to the boat belonging to the kidnapper. Jax strangely appears to try and assassinate the boat with a silenced pistol, after which the gang pursue two guys fleeing from the dock. One of the shows frequent action sequences followed, in what promises to be a season full of them. Just as important to why the show works are the quieter moments, which this episode also excelled at.
This was especially the case with Gemma’s story line. Despite being wanted for murder, she was unable to comply with lying low, resulting in a great moment in which she attempted to sneak out and steal a nearby car. She is caught by the owner and refusing to go down easily, proceeds to stab the guy in the crotch. This is seen much to the horror of the club members tasked with protecting her. I’m not entirely sure if it was supposed to be such a funny scene, but it was so uncalled for, you couldn’t help but laugh.
Tig (Kim Coates) looking increasingly like a disheveled Robert Shaw in Jaws, agrees to take Gemma to visit her father. Her dad is introduced as a former pastor now suffering from dementia, with the role masterfully played by the wonderful Hal Holbrook. As the pair are reunited, the dementia makes him call out for his deceased wife to come and say hello. It was a moving and well acted moment, certainly one of the highlights of this opening episode. I’m glad that Holbrook’s role is more than a quick cameo, with the season set to further develop the relationship between the pair.
Elsewhere, despite Jax telling Tara (Maggie Siff) to leave him and Charming at the start of the episode, their relationship continues to survive throughout the turmoil. Tara tells Jax that she belongs with him no matter what, and is apparently unable to complete complex surgery otherwise. This scene was a little cringe-worthy in places, but it worked for the most part.
It would be strange for Tara to leave the relationship now after all they’ve been through. I mean she’s not only complicit in the murder of creepy agent Kohn (Jay Karnes), but also made love next to his corpse. She doesn’t exactly strike me as the kind of person who could return to normality without Jax or the Sons in her life.
Then there was the ending….
During the funeral of the murdered Half-sack, Clay and Jax have a quiet moment to discuss why Jax needs to focus and concentrate his efforts into leading the club to find Abel. It’s a brilliant speech and turns out to be well timed. Following an iffy slow-motion effect, the funeral becomes the target of a drive-by shooting by an as yet unknown enemy gang.
Wounding various attendees including a young child, the van swerves towards Deputy Hale (Taylor Sheridan). He shoots at the windshield but is hit by the vehicle and falls underneath the wheels. We are treated to a gruesome close up of his crushed skull just to make it clear that he’s a goner… Thanks guys.
Amongst all this chaos we see Jax slowly but surely losing control; or depending on your point of view, taking it back. He runs over to one of the apprehended shooters, grabs him by the head and begins to slam his skull repeatedly into the road. Again and again and again. Not even the police step in to stop him, presumably in as much open mouthed shock as us watching at home. It was an incredibly brutal ending to the episode, but not without reason. It marked a turning point for Jax, and indeed the season itself to follow.
The episode was thrilling, emotional and shocking in equal measure. I liked how it dealt with the tragedy bringing the club closer together, with Abel’s kidnapping forcing Jax and Clay to put aside their problems. With Jax ready to strike back and the final reveal of his son alive and well in Ireland, I can’t wait to see where the rest of the season is going to take us.
It looks like it’s going to be worth the wait.
Best bit: The bloody and intense ending, featuring the unexpected death of Deputy Chief Hale. His character provided a much needed counterpoint to Sheriff Unser’s allegiance with the Sons. He’ll be missed.
Worst bit: The shots of Jax moping in the shower. He’s in a glass case of emotion.
Quote of the week: “Anything happens to my grandson. Anything. And I promise you I’ll shove a gun up that boney ass of yours, and shoot that black heart out”- Clay getting straight to the point with agent Stahl.
Sons of Anarchy is on Five US every Wednesday at 10.00 pm.