Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Review: Sons Of Anarchy – “Out”

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Rating: 73/100

Sons Of Anarchy was not good last year. Let’s get that out of the way right off the bat. Series creator Kurt Sutter will disagree with you, and he’ll disagree with you vehemently. His somewhat childish response to those who weren’t enamored of the show’s approach [1] in its third season was to dismiss them by claiming that they weren’t “getting it” when, in actuality, there really wasn’t anything to “get.” Sutter says his intention was to not be tied down to the same type of storytelling that he employed in the show’s breakthrough second season and, while that’s admirable and while Sutter should be applauded for taking risks, risk taking and execution are two completely different things. The willingness to experiment was there but the execution was not. And that’s OK, but a television showrunner cannot stick his or her head in the sand and completely ignore constructive criticism. That’s just not good practice and, whether he’ll admit it or not, it appears that some of that backlash made its way through to Sutter because in many ways, SOA’s season four premiere, “Out,” is a return to form.

While much of last year was muddled and meandering, SOA managed to regain some of its footing in its finale [2] and it appears that Sutter and company have managed to carry that momentum forward into the fourth year. In fact, the opening montage of the Sons’ release from prison and return home had a triumphant feel that was a strong opening announcement of a potential return to form. Instead of being stationed in far away Belfast being weighted down by a kidnapping storyline that never seemed to have the urgency necessary for that kind of plot, the story is anchored back in the show’s Northern California home base of Charming. Instead of fighting amorphous IRA factions and corrupt priests, the SOA motorcycle gang back doing what they do best – tangling with local law enforcement and combating bureaucrats over their differing visions for their town.

The return to familiar ground has given the series, at least in its premiere, a confidence that seemed to be missing last year. It might be too soon to say that the show’s all the way back to season two form as last year’s premiere was also very strong before faltering not long after, but “Out’s” relative strength is a very encouraging sign. Call it a solid leadoff double. The fear is that a return to familiar ground can also lead to complacency and boredom but hopefully that fear is not realized as the season progresses. As hard as it can be to get behind Sutter, I’m really rooting for SOA to rebound this year and, to that end, “Out” was a step in the right direction.

[1] Particularly professional critics, some of whom he labeled “cunts.” Seriously.
[2] A large part of the show regaining its footing was the decision to finally kill off one of the show’s primary antagonists, Ally Walker’s ATF Agent June Stahl, who had taken a precipitous turn from interesting adversary to cartoon villainy. While killing off a character played by the wife of FX network head John Landgraf couldn’t have been an easy decision, it was absolutely 100% the right one.

Random Thoughts:

  • I, at first, thought that Sutter’s decision to have Otto (played by Sutter himself) slit his own wrists in jail was a meta wink to all of the season three criticism and I felt it was an inventive way for Sutter to make a mea culpa, but alas Otto survives yet again. Should have known that Sutter’s ego was too large to completely eliminate the character.
  • After getting away from it for much of the third season, a return to the Jax/Clay conflict would be a welcome story shift this year and it seems that’s where things may be headed in fairly short order. The closeness between Jax and Clay following their jail stint is going to make the inevitable split all the more powerful.
  • The gentrification of Charming is an interesting color for the series to play this season and having the Sons dump the dead bodies of the Russian arms dealers right in the construction site that’s being headed by the town’s new mayor was a nice “fuck you” to the slimy Mayor Hale.
  • Casting Rockmund Dunbar (Terriers) and Ray McKinnon (Deadwood) as the new sheriff and AUSA respectively was a great move. Dunbar always adds something to any show he’s been a part of (Prison Break, Terriers, The Chicago Code) and there are interesting layers to McKinnon’s character already – his appearance, distrust of people leading to enhanced security at the AUSA’s office are both unique notes for what could have easily been a stock character. Both are wonderful actors who will add to the series’ already talented ensemble.
  • The new haircut for Charlie Hunnam is a nice symbol of Jax’s desire to change and abandon the club so that his sons can have a better life than he’s had. The scene where Jax informs Tara of his plans to leave the club as soon as he can was played very nicely by Hunnam and Maggie Siff.
  • Hey! It’s Ronnie (David Rees Snell) from The Shield as a federal agent. Maybe that ICE promotion went through after all.

Where To Watch: Tuesdays | FX | 10:00 ET


Written by jeremylikestv

September 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm

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