So firstly something of an apology is due. For those following the coverage of Season 3 currently airing in the U.K on Five U.S, you’ll have noticed the reviews being mysteriously absent from the site over the last few weeks. Thanks to Channel 5s scheduling clashing with the U.S premier of the brand new season, the decision was made to focus on the new episodes rather than a season that first aired almost over a year ago.
With that out of the way, so begins our weekly coverage of FX’s brand new season of their superb biker drama – with SAMCRO’s prodigal son Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) planning to finally leave the club for once and for all. A mix of macho action and almost Shakespearian drama, Sons Of Anarchy continues to be an excellent show with gripping storylines and great performances – rivaling anything from other outlets of quality drama like HBO, AMC and Showtime.
Season three ended following a climatic double-cross resulting in the celebratory death of the slimy and manipulative Agent Stahl (Ally Walker), leaving a space to be filled for a new bastard this season. The episodes had focused on the search for Jax’s son Abel – kidnapped by IRA crime-lord Jimmy O’ – making the third season perhaps the most ambitious and exciting yet.
An occasionally convoluted storyline with characters stretched thinly on both sides of the pond, as well as a cheesy ‘oirish’ rendition of the theme tune, led to some declaring it as perhaps weaker than earlier seasons. None the less, Sons Of Anarchy has never been a show to shy away from outrageous storylines, and season three remained gripping from start to finish.
Season four then has a tough job on its hands, but admirably looks to rise to the challenge with a strong opening episode. Fans have plenty to look forward to, with confirmed guest spots from both David Hasslehoff – as a seedy porn producer no less – and Machete’s Danny Trejo. Fans of show creator Kurt Sutter’s previous work on FX classic The Shield will also be pleased to see the show continuing to give its cast members guest spots, with Benito Martinez and David Rees Snell joining the show for its fourth season.
The season began with the crew leaving prison after a year behind bars following the events of season three. A signature opening montage brought us up to speed, including Jax sporting a very dapper short haircut. Elsewhere Abel is already walking around and two steps away from his own mini-Harley, while Charming is being threatened by a redevelopment of luxury apartments from the new mayor, Jacob Hale (Jeff Kober).
It’s early days, but the story arc of this season looks to be on the content of the letters written by John Teller, that were stashed in Jax’s luggage by Maureen Ashby (Paula Malcolmson). Could Clay (Ron Perlman) and Gemma (Katey Sagal) really have something to do with Teller’s death ? If this is the case, it should be interesting to see just how long they can keep the truth hidden from Jax – especially with Tara (Maggie Siff) having already read through what seems like a significant amount of the letters.
It was also a little strange to see Jax proclaiming his desire to break free from SAMCRO and begin a new life with Tara and the kids, but then proceeding to brutally stab a Russian crime lord to death. The moment showed what lengths Jax is willing to go to in order to finish things, wryly remarking “It’s just business” as he plunged the knife in. Much like The Shield, Sons Of Anarchy continues to refuse to shy away from depicting its main characters as vicious criminals, no matter how likable they continue to be.
The return to Charming also brought with it new law enforcement – with the no-nonsense Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar), offering a not so warm welcome in the guise of a roadblock and severe bollocking. It’s good to see that the gap in conflicting law enforcement following the death of David Hale (Taylor Sheridan) in the previous season has been filled with someone for an even bigger dislike of the club, restricting them from wearing their ‘gang’ cuts.
There’s not only Sherriff Eli, but the calm and collected Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon) – a US attorney building a case against the sons which goes deep into prior events including the death of Jimmy O’ and the myriad of illegal arms deals. The unique character and his quiet determination to take down SAMCRO made a great initial impact – I can imagine will prove himself to be a worthy adversary to the club. It’s also great to see another Deadwood cast member joining the show. Get Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant into season five and it’ll be a perfect re-union.
We also got to see the humorously low-key wedding between Opie (Ryan Hurst) and Lyla (Winter Ave Zoli), with Lyla sporting the worlds sluttiest wedding dress – should we expect any less from a pornstar ? Meanwhile, the retired Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie) has become a complete wreck – living out his life in a decrepit RV on the outskirts of town.
I’ve always liked the character, with Dayton Callie doing a superb job of depicting Unser’s difficult split allegiance to both the safety of charming and the criminality of the club. It was upsetting to see him reduced to such a state, and slowly losing himself to cancer – even breaking down in tears to Gemma as she brought him some weed to help deal with his illness.
Out was a strong opening episode for what looks to be a turbulent season for SAMCRO as trouble continues to grow both inside and outside of the club. The investigation being led by Potter and Roosevelt is sure to keep a tight grip on the club, while Jax’s desire to walk away will undoubtedly be met with hostility from other members of the MC.
But it’s the letters from John Teller which promise to drive this season forward, with many secrets sure to be revealed over the coming weeks.
Best Bit: Opie & Lyla’s Wedding, with an after-party that includes the execution of Russian gangsters.
Worst Bit: Otto’s wince inducing ear stabbing – complete with knife twisting and body jerking…. Ouch.
Quote Of The Week: “I promise to treat you as good as my leathers, and ride you as much as my Harley” – Wedding vows, SAMCRO style.
Sons Of Anarchy continues on Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX in the U.S