“Sons of Anarchy” on FX (2008-2012)
Five season, Golden Globe award winning drama about the workings of a motorcycle gang in California. Working class stiffs with incredibly tight bonds with each other as members of “the club” and as an ancillary issue, with their women. In the words of Gemma Teller-Morrow: “You love the man, you learn to love “the club”. Motorcycles serve not so much as the transportation but as the vehicle that explores the limits of fealty and loyalty.
Their roots are much like the original Hells Angels MC whose earliest members came back from Korea bored with civilian life and found a common bond in motorcycling. Looking for “adventure” eventually taking the form of illegal activities bringing tension relieved as intense group bonding. The Sons of Anarchy are similar, wearing “colors” (identifying leather jackets) loudly advertising their bond, scruffiness and attitude. The ultimate expression of male bonding.
They all work in an auto repair shop which hides their money making enterprise; running guns to anyone who’ll purchase them, including those they know will use them for mayhem. However, they draw moral line at drugs and prostitution, endeavors they consider anathema for their town. They work with the town lawmen to keep these entities at bay, and the police look the other way as it pertains to guns.
These guys then get into incredibly complex adventures with various levels of the law and each other. They emerge as classic anti-heros in the Marlon Brando-Lee Marvin mold from “The Wild One” (1953). Alternately mean and self-serving then loving and caring for others in various capacities. Sonny Barger, the original Hell’s Angel President and Maximum Leader is a perfect role model for Clay Morrow.
Hunter Thompson described the Angels to perfection in his 1966 book “Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga”.
“They were a bunch of overgrown adolescents, stuck in their religious
mind-set as a way of life. They defined themselves by their opposition to
any and everything. The strength of their antagonism was the source of
their faith, and like all holy wars, their greatest enemies and their greatest
source of bloodshed was from within, battles against rival factions competing
for bottom of the barrel status”
Murder and mayhem come easy for them if it’s in the best interest of the Club. Revenge and retribution are their stock in trade. The viewer finds him or herself liking and even grudgingly respecting them despite their shortcomings if for no other reason than they’re such an interesting side of an alternative life.
The characters come alive in a hierarchy of texture and subtlety. Reviews have been positive and Katey Segal has won awards for her role just about yearly. The plot line is consistently coherent and interesting. Ally Walker as June Stahl is perfectly smarmy, nasty and vulnerable. The rest of the boys have their characters nailed.
Not for everyone. I give it four brotherly bear hugs.