Sons of Anarchy

February 19, 2011

The Sons of Anarchy are a fictional biker gang who make their living as gunrunners. They buy weapons from the IRA and sell them to other gangs, who seem to go through them the way a whore goes through condoms. The Sons style themselves as a motorcycle club and have a clubhouse at the Teller-Morrow automotive repair shop in the bucolic town of Charming, California. They even have their own acronym, SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original), pronounced Sam Crow. The townsfolk call them Sam Crow as if they were one individual, which is about right. Like any gang, they’re a tight-knit group with one set of rules among themselves and another set for the outside world.

Gemma & Clay

Gemma and Clay

Though occasionally a force for good, the Sons are psychopathic ruffians. Hardly an episode goes by without them gunning half a dozen people down. If they walked into the bar where I was sipping my non-alcoholic beer, I’d head for the nearest exit. But not too quickly. I wouldn’t want them to notice me. Yet I can’t seem to get enough of them on screen. I’ve watched every episode of all three seasons at least twice. And I’m hardly alone. The FX series has millions of fans. No doubt it drew thousands of Sopranos fans who had nothing to watch after that series ended.

Sons Of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy

As with The Sopranos, the story centers on a family melodrama. Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), club president, is one of nine founding members of the Sons. Another is John Teller, who died years ago in shadowy circumstances. There are hints that Clay and John’s wife Gemma (Katey Sagal) – now married to Clay – might have been involved in the death. John and Gemma had a son, Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam). Now an adult, Jax finds himself torn between his father’s idealism, as revealed in the journal he left, and the hard pragmatism and ambition of Clay and Gemma. His ambivalence about the club’s criminal enterprises drives much of the conflict within the family. There are echoes of Hamlet, with Jax as the brooding son and Clay as the uncle who has taken his dead brother’s wife. Gemma, however, is no foolish Queen Gertrude. She’s more like Lady Macbeth without the guilt.

Though some argue The Sopranos is superior, I’m more attached to the characters in Sons of Anarchy. Jax is a hunk. A more macho version of Brad Pitt, Hunnam frequently displays his lean, muscular, elaborately tattooed body in the shower and in bed. He talks in a flat, kind of dumb voice and walks with the shuffling swagger of a juvenile delinquent. Somewhere inside me, a sixteen-year-old self is altogether smitten. “He’s so tortured,” the sixteen-year-old sighs. “He’s good at heart, I just know.” I overlook his participation in the torture of a disgraced Son who makes the mistake of flashing his ink in public. Since he failed to black out his tattoo of the gang’s emblem, the Sons remove it for him. They give him a choice: knife or fire. Jax stands hard-faced with the rest of them as the poor fellow’s back is drenched with whiskey then set afire with an acetylene torch. What else could Jax do? Hey, rules are rules.

Jax Teller

Jax

Clay Morrow, the grizzled club president, coldly orders the death of Opie, a brother he believes has turned rat. Opie has been set up by villainous ATF agent June Stahl, but Clay doesn’t know that. When Opie’s wife is killed by mistake, Clay feels – kinda bad, but not bad enough to fess up. The truth would destroy the club. Despite his ruthlessness, Clay loves his brothers and wife fiercely. Though he has plenty of opportunities to fuck other women, he’s rarely unfaithful to Gemma. And he would die, if necessary, defending his brothers. Clay is getting old. The arthritis in his hands makes it more and more difficult for him to ride. When the time comes that he cannot, he’ll no longer be able to lead the Sons. In one episode, Jax must bind his hands to the handle of his motorcycle.

The other Sons – in fact all the show’s characters – are given enough to complexity to make them real. Bobby earns extra cashes for alimony payments by performing as an Elvis impersonator. It’s hard to reconcile the overweight, sequined guy on stage with the hitman who guns down a venal government official. Tigs, the Son who kills Opie’s wife by mistake, is eager to pull the trigger but tortured by guilt afterward. He’s also a repulsive creep who likes to copulate with corpses. Chibs burns for vengeance against the psycho IRA guy who sliced his face from ear to ear and stole his wife and daughter. Wayne Unser, Charming’s chief of police, has been in bed with SAMCRO for decades and at times almost seems like a member of the club. I suspect he’s in love with Gemma. When she’s framed for murder and on the run, he aids her without a moment’s hesitation.

The women on Sons of Anarchy deserve a post to themselves. As do the arch villains who plot the Sons’ destruction. But for now I think I’ll leave off writing about the Sons and watch the first episode of season two again. I’m pretty sure that one shows Jax without his shirt on.

Photos from FanPop

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