Sons of Anarchy, season 1

Just finished the first season of the Sons of Anarchy and it was fairly mediocre television. I dig family crime epic vibe that it is going for but there were some missteps along the way and the first season’s overall arc was flat.

“Is this a bad-ass M.C. queen I see before me?”
Katie Seagal in her role as the Lady Macbeth Motorcycle Mama steals the show, without a doubt. The way she protects her clan and attacks anyone she doesn’t think she can outsmart, manipulate or control is fantastic. I like watching her rule over Charming, California with her biker-Claudius (yeah, I know I’m mixing Shakespeare plays here; the show does too), Clay Morrow, head of the gang. They play well off each other.

“Something is rotten in the state of California.”
Jax, Gemma’s son from her first husband is the main character and to my mind, the biggest disappointment. His dead father was one of the founders of the gang with Clay and stepping away from any Hamlet-angst, Jax is fine with Clay and his ma shacking up. Jax’s issues are with his dad’s writings on where the gang should go, communicated to the audience via voice-overs while we watch the motorcycle prince read his dad’s manuscript, smoke and look thoughtful.  When the writing for this voice-over effect work, it neatly accentuates the themes of that episode and when it doesn’t, it sounds like a lame version of the Wonder Years.

At the start of season 1, we see Jax rubbing up against Clay, thinking that the gang should go legit as his father’s writings suggest and at the end of season 1, after all of the shootings, arrests, and hooking up with his first love and bringing his newborn son home, he is right where the fuck he started…thinking that the club needs to change.

This wasn’t a journey or an arc as much as a roundabout. The first season didn’t need to be finished but it does need to lead somewhere; I have to leave with the feeling that all of this shit has changed the characters in some fundamental way, laid their heroic flaws bare and set the stage for what comes next. Instead it felt like not much happened other than his relationship with his teenage flame, the girl who got away from Charming, who almost took him away from the club and the life.

There were other tiny missteps. I didn’t buy the leader of the latino biker gang, the Mayans, seeing his own son killed in order to preserve peace. I wish they had sold that he was that much of a hard man but it felt out of place to me.

I’d love to see the show play out like a Shakespearean tragedy with no one left at the end but the new guy, the prospect, playing the role of Horatio.
If The Wire at its best, was a 10 and this puts the Sorpanos at a 7, Breaking Bad at around an 8 then this is a hard 5 or 6 of 10. Keeping in mind that most TV I try to watch lingers at around a 2.

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