Tag Archives: Sons of Anarchy

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 27-24

20 Feb

Onwards to 27-24. Two shows coming off a rest year, one drama in its last season, and one sci-fi drama.

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here and 31-28 here.

27. Louie – 2013: Not eligible


Louie took me a long while to really sink firstmy teeth into, longer than most. By the end of the two seasons, I more or less recognized its general excellence and groundbreaking features even while I would never quite have ranked it as highly as many TV fans and critics. Still, Louie, by refusing to confine to TV norms, has continued to put out an excellent product. Louie, understandably, took off a year between the third and fourth seasons to take the time to come up with new ideas. Unfortunately, in this past fourth season, the show made its first prolonged missteps. There were strong moments to be found; the mini-movie, “In the Woods” which harkened back to Louie’s childhood was charming, sweet, and affecting, if not groundbreaking, and the episode in which Louie dated an overweight woman, portrayed by Sarah Baker, set the internet afire, stroking up worthy conversations which didn’t necessarily have obvious answers. The second half of the season, though, the Pamela episodes in particular, stopped being charming and instead because occasionally troubling, sometimes unfunny, and for once, what Louie never was: TV. At its absolute worst was a scene in which Louie clearly sexually assaulted Pamela, which the show didn’t seem to get, but that troubling scene aside, dating Pamela brought out Louie’s worst wish-fulfillment wanting-to-love-being-in-love qualities, with Pamela as the demonic manic pixie dream girl. If the show used this to continue to show how poor a match Pamela and Louie were, this would be understandable, but it seemed to keep trying to bring them together against the objections of sense and logic.  Louie has earned enough leeway to continue to be must-see television, but last season it seemed to finally lose a little steam.

26. Sons of Anarchy – 2013: 29

Sons of Anarchy

A member of FX’s breakthrough generation of dramas, alongside Justified, Sons of Anarchy’s last season was fairly emblematic with its entire run, filled with strong points, continually struggling to figure out who its best antagonists are, and dropping the ball occasionally in critical situations. About half of the episodes were really strong and packed with plot which really brought the season into motion, with a powerful sense of forward momentum. The other half felt like filler episodes indicating there was enough plot movement for an 8 episode final season stuffed into 13 episodes. The penultimate episode was the true finale; momentous and moving, though many of the plot developments which occurred had become inevitable, they still packed weight. The actually finale was not bad as much as anticlimactic; everything had been determined the episode before and there were no surprises. The show successfully developed a second wave of strong secondary characters like Wendy and Nero in the second half of the show’s run which led to a late renaissance, but the unrelenting meaningless cycles of violence and two gangs squaring against the others while Sons utter “no more bloodshed” could get tiring and repetitive. Sons of Anarchy’s place in the TV canon may take time to settle, but for now, I’m putting it firmly in the grade B second tier, with shows like Dexter and Battlestar Galactica.

25. Orphan Black – 2013: 20

Orphan Black

I’m going to come right out and say what anybody watching both seasons of Orphan Black is thinking. Orphan Black’s plot is pretty stupid. At best, it feels like a giant MacGuffin for the character interaction between clones which is the beating heart of the show, whuile at worst, it feels like a stuttered descent into science fiction nonsense. The creators have no real plot goal, and simply must dig a deeper and more techno-bio-babble ditch every season to keep going. Why do I keep watching and why is it not ranked lower? Well, in short, Tatiana Maslany, who does an acting job unlike any other in TV. She’s brilliant as every clone and most of the best and most important characters, and when the show is on, it’s extremely fun to watch. Like watching 24 at its best, the lack of ongoing plot coherence matters less because you’re enjoying yourself in the here-and-now. Alison is the obvious hilarious highlight character, but Maslany is a delight whenever on screen, even when just about nothing makes sense around her. Her banter with Felix is a treat, as he is the one non-Maslany character worth caring about in the entire show. Orphan Black definitely risks going off a cliff if it sucks the fun out with meaningless plot, which it hinted out at the end of the last season, but I still believe there’s a path there for its success.

24. Sherlock – 2013: Not eligible


Sherlock is another show, like Orphan Black above, that hinges on the delightful and joyous interaction between the primary characters. Sherlock’s third season was overall not as strong as either of the first two, but the obvious chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and Martin Freeman’s Watson make the show fun even when the plot isn’t, as in the third episode, which promises big things, only to be somewhat disappointing and anticlimactic. Unlike the first two seasons, whose middle episodes were their respective seasons’ weakest, the middle here is the clear winner, as it places even more emphasis than usual on the comedy of the Sherlock-Watson interaction, with the two going on a bachelor party (or stag night, as the Brits call it) for John, bonding, and making wonderful idiots out of themselves. The plotting was not as tight as the first two seasons, but because of Freeman and Cumberbatch if nothing else, I’ll continue to watch Sherlock as long as they make it.

Sons of Anarchy: Lean into the Hate

5 Nov

Sons of Anarchy


Here we are, four episodes away from the series finale of Sons of Anarchy, closing the book on seven seasons of murder, motorcycles, and men of mayhem. At the beginning of the season, I presumed Jax would likely end up dead, as would several other members of the club. At this point, nine episodes later, not only does that prediction still hold true, but I’m straight out rooting for it. I want everybody in the club to die. And that’s okay.

Earlier in the season, I began actively rooting against the club, and that initially made the show difficult to watch; while I’ve enjoyed may shows where I disliked the protagonist, it was tough to root against almost every character at the same time, especially after I hadn’t for most of the run.  Of course, these Sons have been murdering their way through six seasons, and yet, while I have had frequently ambivalent feelings towards them, I wasn’t actively rooting against them despite their continued violence, for, what boils down primarily to three reasons.

First, although they were obviously terrible criminals, there was an even worse antagonist, Clay, to crystallize hate towards. When everyone’s bad, sometimes rooting interests are relative, and Clay was clearly worse than everyone else. Second, there’ has always been this (possibly apocryphical) idea that even though Al Capone was a terrible criminal, his neighbors loved him, because he protected his immediate community. There was initially this idea, that even though in reality Charming seems like the murder capital of California and at times a war zone, there was a veneer that the Sons were always out to support the town, to be pillars of the community in their own bizarre way, and that even though they knew they did bad shit, that the goal was to keep it out of their hometown. Third, Jax, from day one of reading his dad’s notebook, always seemed to have an aspirational plan to take the club and himself to a better place. He was going to get them out of guns, out of drugs, out of violence (merely to porn and prostitution, but, hey, it’s all relative again). And even though this plan seemed to go two steps backward for every three steps forward, there was hope in Jax’s eyes, and his words, and even though the club’s actions always seemed to belie his alleged vision, I wanted to believe him and so I did. And he even showed something positive when he agreed to go to jail to protect Tara, an outcome which would never come to pass.

No more. Not only is there no more vision in action, there’s not even any more talk of vision. With the death of Tara, it was revenge, come hell or high water, with no plan for afterwards, as is obvious to anyone around him. Unfortunately, the fellow members of his club are too loyal to see this or fight it if they do.. Jax seems to know what he’s descended into; even by his own dismal standards, he’s sunk to new lows, killed more, betrayed more. While it’s hard to say he wouldn’t have killed a rival gang member or even an innocent before without thinking twice, he certainly wouldn’t have simply murdered in cold bale a fellow Son without the proper due process as he does to Jury, head of the Indian Hills chapter this season. His own club knows its wrong, and Chibbs, his number two is skeptical, but they follow him to the ends of the Earth on his say so, to their death, likely.

So, I’ve decided to lean in towards the hate, towards the rooting against the club, and towards their eventual deaths or imprisonment. The show was hard to watch when I was rooting for no one, but it’s easier when I’m actively rooting against the Sons. Thus, when Bobby was shot by August Marks, instead of anger, or shock, or despair, I felt gleeful. Perhaps Bobby had done nothing special to ensure his untimely death, but everyone in on Jax’s plan is in way too far now. They all had a chance to get out, but followed their leader down into depths they really can’t come back from.

There are three characters with remaining moral consciences worth saving – Wendy, Unser, and Nero, all of which have naviated the difficult waters of survival and immorality and come out cleaner, relative to the gang, and I hope that at least two of them make it, which I would consider a pretty solid ratio. Everyone else, I’m looking forward to many of them dying in disturbing ways over the course of the next few episodes. Bring it on.


Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 27-25

6 Feb

Ranking the shows, check out the intro page here for what qualifies for the list – 27, 26, and 25 follow.

27.  Sons of Anarchy

Redwood Original

I had never watched this show at all until I powered through it in the spring of 2012, getting really into it through season three, and then beginning to already tire of it in season four, when Clay’s position in the show became too outlandish even by the show’s own standards.  After finally making it through all four seasons, even though I enjoyed the overall experience and am glad I watched it all, I found myself hardly excited when the fifth season began.  I ended up storing episodes on my DV-R and not catching up until a couple weeks after the entire season had finished.  But, catch up eventually I did, and though I think I’m glad I watched it, my interest levels were a lot lower than when I was marathonning it.  The disappointing, and moreover, materially different fourth season, had caused me to check out a little bit from the show.  It’s still worth watching in its slightly lesser form, but I don’t think I’ll ever care as much as I did during a two week period where I was watching an episode or two a night.  At its best, it’s still a joy to watch, and the characters are generally fairly well drawn, particularly main character Jax.  Sons of Anarchy aspires to be a big show like The Sopranos and it doesn’t quite reach those heights for many reasons, but often you can see around the edges where they’re trying.  I’m not sure if this makes me admire the show more for trying or frustrated more because it’s not getting there, but I imagine I’ll keep watching future seasons like I watched this one.

26.  Revenge

A dish best served cold

I frequently vouched for Revenge during its first season, and I wasn’t the only one; within the bounds of a twisted primetime soap – conspiracy drama, it handled itself just about as well as it could be done.  The main character was likeable and the show had just the right amount of intrigue and trashiness which left the viewer waiting to see the next episode.  Unfortunately, Revenge is suffering from a classic second season (and sometimes later) problem with televisions shows that have an explicit or implicit goal bound up in their premise – where do you go from here?  Emily ne Amanda managed to solve her primary initial question of getting to the bottom of what happened to her dad in the first season, and more or less had her finger on the button to deal with the people responsible.  Kudos to the creators for pacing the show in a way that meaningful events actually happened in the first season, but as a reward for their smart pacing, they get to deal with the problem of why and how to keep the show going.  Revenge’s solution was a classic – increase the scope of the show, and in particular, to level up; the people she thought was behind the act were mere pawns working at the hands of a more powerful force which she can currently barely comprehend.  Unfortunately, in Revenge’s case, that takes the show from a fairly tight conspiracy organized around a number of rich socialites, and the drama that involves, to dealing with giant and complex para-governmental organizations with names like “the initiative” which seem to belong in Alias and feel completely out of place in Revenge.  It must make show creators jealous of the Mad Mens and Six Feet Unders and Parenthoods of the world, where  writers can pretty much set up their seasons however they want without a big final mystery to solve or put off.  It’s possible Revenge will get back on it’s game, but I think it’s less likely than not.

25.  Girls


The most controversial show of 2012 worms its way into the rankings at 25.  What this should tell you is that I stand squarely in between the two major Girls camps.  I find the show watchable and enjoy it, but don’t think of it as some amazing breakthrough television program that portrays life in a much realer way than most TV.  I think, and this is important to note, the show got significantly stronger as it went on, and the later episodes seemed to be sharper and tighter.  I don’t really understand the hype over the “realness” of the show; at least in a superficial way, I think the characters are fairly ridiculous, with maybe the exception being Alison Williams’ Marnie, and though I can probably understand the argument a little more as it pertains to some of the subject matter beyond the superficial level, I still don’t think that’s the main selling point of Girls.  I understand the argument against the show that the characters are unlikable, but many a great show has been built on the back of unlikable characters; it’s hard to find a character to unambiguously root for in prior HBO giants The Sopranos or Six Feet Under.  That said, I can enjoy, with the protagonist bias, removing ourselves one step (ie we root for Tony Soprano, because he’s the protagonist, even though in many ways he’s a terrible person), everyone except for Jemima Kirke’s Jessa, who I absolutely can’t stand.  I’m not sure why so many people make a big deal about having to relate to characters to enjoy a show; while it’s certainly a plus, I think there are significantly more shows I watch where I can’t relate to anyone.  Anyway, I pretty much enjoy watching it without thinking it’s the best thing under the sun.  More than anything, I don’t think it’s nearly worthy of the press it receives one way or the other.  We’ll see if Season 2 changes my opinion up or down.

Show of the Day: Sons of Anarchy

12 Jul

I’ve watched Sons of Anarchy over the last couple of months, in drips and drabs and spurts, generally watching a few in a row, and then taking a break between seasons, and it’s probably the biggest TV series backlog project that I’ve taken on in quite a while.  (Downton Abbey, the other series I caught up on earlier this spring was only two seasons, and one of them was especially short).  I temporarily forget the different speed and intensity and blurring together that happens when watching many epsidoes of a show in a row, rather than week to week, year to year.  For that reason, I’ve found people who watch a show marathon-style versus as it airs sometimes come to different conclusions and opinions about series.

I’ve gone back and forth in my opinion of Sons of Anarchy overall.  I’m going to hopefully post another piece or two on the show; this one will be an overview without specific spoilers.  Right now, I feel like SoA is a good show, but not a great show, like the Sopranos, or The Wire, or the Breaking Bads, or Mad Mens of the world.  That’s not really all that much of an insult; those are the very top hour long TV shows of the past fifteen years, and not many shows will match them.  Still, it bears saying.  Sons of Anarchy resides somewhere in the tier of a Boardwalk Empire, or a Friday Night Lights; very good but also flawed enough to prevent them from reaching the pinnacle (I know many people would have my head for not putting Friday Night Lights above these, but that’s a discussion for another day).

Here’s the basic premise.  Main character Jackson Teller (“Jax” for short) is the Vice President and heir apparent of the Charming, California branch of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club.

Pause a second:  It’s interesting to note, that the way I felt about the motorcycle club culture in Sons of Anarchy mirrors the way I felt about Dixie mafia culture watching Justified; they were cultures I couldn’t relate to and had absolutely no idea existed.  This contrasts with, say, east cost Italian mafia culture of Sopranos, which The Godfather and Martin Scorsese basically made the go-to organized crime syndicates, and which often take place in New York or other Northeastern metropolitan areas.

So, Sons of Anarchy is a motorcycle club with branches all over the western United States, but the founding and head branch, nicknamed Samcro, for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original stands in fictional “city” Charming which seems to be having a shit ton of issues for a town of 20,000 people, half the size of the suburban town I’m from.  Charming is in Northern California.  Samcro legitimately operate a mechanic shop, and illegitimately run guns, operate protection rackets, and participate in a number of other profit generating activities, though notably not drugs.  Most of their money comes from their gun trade.  They also run the town, having the sheriff and county police in their pocket, and basically commit crimes openly in the streets with their Sons of Anarchy jackets on with no repercussions.   What’s amazing is that they do all this with only about eight people total in their charter.  But this is how it goes.

Jackson Teller is the son of dead co-founder of the club John Teller, and in the first episode, Jackson finds a manuscript John left him about change he wanted for the club.  His mother, Gemma Teller is now married to the club’s co-founder and current president Clay Morrow.   The central conflict of the show is often between Jax and Clay, and just as often is not.

My quick take early on was to view Sons of Anarchy as an inverse of the Sopranos formula.  Instead of the patriarch, Tony in Sopranos, and Clay in Sons of Anarchy, being the primary character, it as if the heir, which would be, and I’m aware this is extremely loose analogizing, Christopher in Sopranos was the star.  Obviously a lot of things happen over the course of Sopranos that change Christopher and Tony’s relationship, and Jax is already VP when the show begins, higher up than Christopher, but I think as a very basic rubric that approach holds true.  Jax is constantly juggling what’s best for his club and what’s best for his family, as well as how to keep moving the club forward without endangering everything he believe in.

The three main characters are certainly Jax, Clay, and Gemma, but also main cast members are other members of the Sons, and Jax’s high school sweetheart who just moved back to Charming, Tara.  The other Sons include, Seargeant at Arms Tig, an enforcer who is kind of insane, Chibs, a chipper Scotsman who is generally loyal to Jax, Bobby “Elvis” Monson, the overweight long-suffering treasurer, Piney, John Teller’s best friend and Sons co-founder, Opie, Piney’s son and Jax’s best friend, and Juice, the younger Puerto Rican hacker.  The corrupt yet friendly older sheriff named Unser is a fairly important character as is his younger no-nonsense associate who can’t wait to take over and take on SAMCRO. The different members of SAMCRO get occasionally important stories depending on episode, while Clay, Jax, and Gemma have key stories in just about every episode.

There’s your cast of characters and some quick spoiler free information.  More in depth plot discussion will have to wait for future posts.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – Honorable Mentions

2 Aug

Ranking the Shows That I Watch

As you may or may not know/realize, I watch a lot of TV.  34 programs in fact, I’ve watched a season of in the past 12 months.  I’d taken it on myself to rank these shows, starting at 34 to 1.  First, however, a look at:

Shows That Came Close But Didn’t Make the Cut

Some brief mentions to shows that, for various reasons, almost made it but didn’t:

I want to watch these soon, but haven’t yet:

Cool jackets, but is the skeleton a bit much?

Sons of Anarchy – I read almost nothing but good things, Ron Perlman is just about always awesome, and it comes from the creator of the Shield, another extremely buzzworthy show I’ve never seen.  Compared to The Shield, this has fewer seasons, making it much faster to watch, and my motorcycling friend watches it and I’m eager to talk with him about it.

Treme – It’s created by David Simon, and it has Bunk and Lester Freeman from The Wire. Oh, and Anthony Bourdain is responsible for writing the restaurant sequences. Do I really need anything else? It’s actually good that I don’t, because aside from the people and the great reviews, the intrinsic plot doesn’t sound all that interesting, at first glance anyway.  I’m sure I’ll regret saying that when I’ve watched it, though.

Men of a Certain Age – I didn’t know what to make of this show when it debuted on TNT, but since then I’ve read nothing but good reviews, and heard nothing but good things. I appreciate that it seems to be a concept and an age range that hasn’t been explored as much, and I’ve loved Andre Braugher ever since Homicide: Life on the Streets.  (Update:  sadly, it’d been cancelled – still, I’ll watch the two seasons that exist.)

I’ve seen these intermittently but not enough to rank them:

Fry and friends

Futurama – I’ve kept up here and there with the new episodes – the quality isn’t quite high enough to draw me in to watch it week in and week out, but I have enough fondness for the show to turn it on when I see it, and since it’s Comedy Central, repeats are not infrequent.

Family Guy – It’s crazy to believe that this show, which was cancelled for a couple of years, is now going on its tenth season. I can’t say that the show is perfect by any means, but what I can say is, due to its disjointed, flashback, plot-light nature, even a bad episode is likely to have two or three hilarious parts. That said, I watch it just here and there and on repeats.

Louie – Allow me to be the one out of the loop for a minute. I watched a few episodes of this last year. It was all right. There were some funny parts, and some not so funny parts. Yet, everywhere I read, the show was a work of true comic genius. I think he’s a decent comic for sure – but in the biz he seems to be regarded as the best, and not close. I’ll try it again, but maybe it’s just not my thing.

I watched these shows, but they ended just before the arbitrary cut off I made for this list:

Are we having fun yet?

Party Down – I’ll be honest, I really just added this section to give a much-needed shout out to Party Down, possibly my favorite show of the last five years, which has a critical acclaim to ratings ratio of infinite (or more like not computable – since the ratings were 0, and we all know you can’t divide by that). It didn’t help that absolutely nobody has Starz. Nonetheless, if you haven’t seen it, watch it now.  It’s on Netflix streaming and DVD.

24 – I was an early adapter to this show when it started, and it will always have a warm place in my heart, but I was a bit tired of it by the end, and I watched only occasionally. That said, even though I was no longer a regular, I still have good feelings towards it, and don’t think it became so terrible or anything, just a little repetitive and lower down on my priority list.

Lost – I was also just about finished with this show by its last season, but with much different feelings than 24 gave me – anger, confusion, and frustration chief among them. I didn’t even watch most of the last season, constantly meaning to catch up but also constantly realizing I didn’t want to; I finally consented to read Wikipedia entries about the episodes and realized how glad I was that I didn’t watch the season.