Wanted to share this article from one of the smarter critics out there. I love the way Alan Sepinwall critiques and challenges TV. His reviews aren't just snarky opinions, they're brainstorming sessions where he asks as many questions as he does give answers. This is a guy who fucking loves television and desperately wants it to be/get/stay good. Anyway, he's digging SOA right now, so I know it's easy for me to pat him on the back. Just remember I said all this in case he's trashing me next season. (And yes, there will be a next season. Season three is a big renegotiating year. A lot of two-year contracts are up. FX is getting their financial ducks in a row. I have faith that they will announce the pick up before the end of this season.)
"Sons of Anarchy Finds Another Gear" -- Alan Sepinwall - NJ Star Ledger
There’s been a lot of talk lately about how setting an end date can be a shot in the arm to a drama series. “Lost,” “The Shield” and “Battlestar Galactica” all took major upswings in quality after their creators were allowed to start planning toward a specific finish. When you don’t have to worry about being on the air past a certain date, you can take greater risks, not worry about maintaining the status quo — or, in some cases, about keeping characters alive — and the stakes feel higher, the drama richer.
FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” has somehow reached that higher gear without having the finish line anywhere in sight. It’s in only its second season, one of the most successful scripted shows on cable (it made headlines a few weeks ago for finishing ahead of Jay Leno in the 18-to-49 demographic), and FX no doubt wants to keep it on the air for a long, long time. (The cable channel, which tends to be conservative about renewals, has yet to formally order a third season.)
But “Sons” creator Kurt Sutter (a Jersey guy and former “Shield” writer) doesn’t seem to be worrying about the long-term right now. Conflicts are brewing in the show’s world of bikers and cops and meth dealers that many dramas would be afraid to get to for years, if ever. Each episode feels as if it could end with the characters all drawing their guns and shooting each other (including the ones who are allegedly friends and/or family), and the tension and sense of dread somehow builds week after week after week. It’s one of the best dramas on television (neck and neck with “Mad Men” in many weeks) and seems to get better and better.
I would call tomorrow night’s extra-long episode (it’ll run in a 90-minute time slot, albeit with only 55 minutes of content, so brace yourself for some long commercial breaks) a new creative peak, except that I’ve seen the episode the week after, and in many ways, it’s even more intense.
We’ve reached a point in the season where Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), crown prince of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club, has gotten fed up with the Sons and all the drama around them. He knows that the club’s president (and Jax’s stepfather) Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) tried to have Jax’s best friend, Opie (Ryan Hurst), killed and accidentally murdered Opie’s wife instead, and he has to swallow that information because it would only lead to more violence and heartbreak. So Clay goes unpunished, and Jax’s attempts to wrest control of the club from him have only made things worse — and, to Jax’s disbelief, turned an ignorant Opie into Clay’s closest ally. And this civil war has come at a time when the club is under siege from a group of white separatists (whose leader is played by an ironically cast but quietly effective Adam Arkin) who want to take over the Sons’ gun-running operation.
So as tomorrow’s episode has begun, Jax has decided to cut the cord with the club and “go nomad.” Only matters get even more complicated with the arrival of the club’s former gun supplier from True IRA, Jimmy O (Titus Welliver from “Deadwood”), a vicious man who wants back in with the club and will use a personal hold over club member Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) to get his way.
There’s an epic feel to the proceedings, and that’s even before Jax’s indomitable mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal, who’s been doing Emmy-worthy work all season), hears what her son is planning and tries to stop him.
Now, there’s a reason most TV show-runners don’t go all-in on their storytelling this soon. Sutter is steering all the characters to places from which he might not be able to bring them back, and assuming FX does plan on many more seasons, that could be a big problem.
But right here, right now, “Sons of Anarchy” is 100 percent riveting. Enjoy it now, and worry about later seasons if and when we get there.