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"Sons of Anarchy" -- "Out": Finding the Balance between Might and Right

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 7, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 7, 2011 |

I think that most of us can agree that season three of “Sons of Anarchy” had its moments (a particularly satisfying finale), but overall, it was a misfire. But at least it was an ambitious misfire. Much of the problems with last season can be attributed to Kurt Sutter’s decision to take SAMCRO out of Charming. Sutter simply underestimated the appeal that the city and its characters have. The trip to Ireland to save Abel was an interesting diversion, but it was just that: A diversion, and it should’ve been limited to a two-episode arc and not the majority of season three.

The good news in season four is that, though Sutter ardently denies that there was anything wrong with season three and claims that he’d do the same thing again, he also listened — and perhaps caved — to his fanbase. The broader scale is being pulled back, and the focus again returns to the city of Charming and the Machiavellian machinations inside of SAMCRO.

The new season opens inside of prison; the boys of SAMCRO have been sprung loose 14 months after the events of last year’s finale. On the outside, they’re faced with a new Charming, one now under the control of Eli Roosevelt (“Terriers” Rockmond Dunbar) and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department. Eli is quick to inform SAMCRO that, as a condition of their probation, they are not allowed wear their cuts. That’s not a good way to get on SAMCRO’s good side.

Turns out, Eli’s not interested in getting on their good side, as he’s also joined forces with an Assistant U.S. District Attorney, Lincoln Parker (“Deadwood’s” Ray McKinnon) in an effort to take down the Sons, the IRA Kings and the Russians supplying the guns. By the end of the episode, at Opie’s wedding to Lila, SAMCRO seems to have taken care of the latter themselves, killing ALL the Russians for their role in having Jax shivved in prison. Naturally, SAMCRO keeps the guns for themselves. What SAMCRO doesn’t know, however, is that one of those Russians was an undercover agent.

Meanwhile, while Opie, Piney, Chibs and the gang have kept the club going in the absence of most of the senior members, the city of Charming itself began to gentrify. Clay wants to put a stop to the Charming Heights development, and enrolls his old pal, Sheriff Unser — who is no longer the Sheriff — to help persuade Mayor Hale to bury the development.

The other major development, and the one that looks to provide the season’s propulsion, is Jax’s decision to marry Tara and to get out of SAMCRO for the benefit of his now two sons, Abel and Thomas. He’s biding his time, waiting for Clay’s arthritis to force him to step down, giving Jax the opening he needs to get out of the club. In the meantime, he has to ride out the money-making opportunities so that he can help support Tara and the kids.

Obviously, it’s too early to say if this season will be a return to the glory of Season 2, but based on the opening 90-minute episode, they’re at least on the right track. The focus is where it should be: On Charming, and on the internal struggles of SAMCRO. More promising, at least from my perspective, is that the tone has lightened ever so slightly, a welcome respite from the grim, humorless season three.

Random Thoughts

  • For a guy with cancer, Unser has managed to hang on for a long goddamn time.

  • Jax’s poignant speech to Tara was essentially a “one last job” speech. Has a “one last job” speech ever led to anything good?

  • Is it just me, or did Tara age a lot since last season.

  • Ryan Hurst continues to be the best things about “Sons of Anarchy.” How great were Opie’s vows to Lila? Is Lila done with porn? Did Opie suggest there was another baby on the way for them, too?

  • It’s great to see Rockmond Dunbar find work so quickly after the cancellation of “Terriers.” I think he’s going to be great, but finding a villainous presence to replace Agent Stahl is nigh impossible. That bitch was pure evil. On the other hand, Ray McKinnon effortlessly gives me the heebies.

  • Christ, was there not a better way for Otto to take out the guy that shivved Jax than to slash his own wrists? Way to take one for the team, Otto. Otto’s actions also put a huge dent in Jax’s argument that the Sons are about “greed and fear” instead of brotherhood. Jax, dude! A man just slashed his wrists and nearly bled to death for you. Is there a better way to demonstrate brotherhood?

  • Someone on Twitter, I believe it was Fredo, appropriately remarked that “Sons of Anarchy” musical montages are almost always associated with a death. Last night’s was associated around 10 deaths.