I missed the FX original series Sons of Anarchy when it originally ran on TV last season. It was my loss, as I discovered when I caught up with in on DVD (one of the genuine perqs of the job). Created by The Shield veteran Kurt Sutter, it has a similar sensibility to that edgy cop drama, but this one is total outlaw culture. The Sons of Anarchy is a motorcycle club that practically runs the desert town of Charming, California in a mix of paternal protectiveness and criminal design. Ron Perlman is club leader Clay, who has twisted the rebel philosophy of the original gang into a criminal enterprise of gun running and other illegal activities for profit, and Charlie Hunnam is his heir apparent Jax Teller, son of the gang’s original leader and Clay’s son-in-law. Jax is a loyal lieutenant and a smart kid, but a chance discovery of his father’s memoirs leads him on a philosophical change of heart at the direction the club has taken what was once an idealistic rebellion against conformity. Which doesn’t sit well with his hell on wheels of a mom (a fierce Katey Sagal), who is now married to both Clay and his criminal enterprise. (“That love’s going to kill me,” Clay mutters with a mix of adoration and resignation.)
The series takes a sharp turn into Hamlet on wheels by the end of the season, but mostly it straddles the line between the idealism of men with a code that is their one and only guide and the selfishness of their lifestyle and the violence and damage they leave in their wake. These men are fiercely protective of their town, but part of that defense is a determination to keep it small and controllable, a home base where outside business is scared to enter and expansion is aggressively discouraged, by blackmail if necessary. “Time for a change,” agrees one grizzled, disillusioned veteran member by season end, disgusted with how the rebel philosophy of the original Sam Crow motorcycle gang has soured since his time. The great cast (including Kim Coates and Mark Boone Junior as fellow members, Deadwood alumnus Dayton Callie as the sheriff in their pocket, Maggie Siff and Drea Matteo), smart writing and raucous, raw stories makes this an addictive show.
Creator Kurt Sutter and stars Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman and Katey Segal reunite for commentary on the Pilot episode. The original pilot was reshot with a revised script and a new character and Sutter points out which scenes came from which shoot, but it’s obvious they arrived cold to the session as the modest insights and reflections quickly settle into barely diverting remembrances of the season’s shoot. Sutter is joined on two other episodes by other members of the cast and crew, including a veritable cast party on the season finale. The featurettes, though professionally done, are not much more incisive or compelling, though it’s always a treat to hear the articulate Ron Perlman discuss any character he plays. Also features deleted scenes from various episodes.
The Season One set comes out in DVD and Blu-ray on August 18. Season Two begins on FX in September.