Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fun Facts- Sons of Anarchy

John Teller (w/Gemma)
- The original title of Sons of Anarchy was Forever Sam Crow.

- John Teller and "Piney Winston" co-founded SAMCRO in 1967 following their return from the Vietnam War where both men served as paratroopers.

- The first chapter was called "Redwood" because they weren't settled in any one city, but rather cruised the Northern California coast which is referred to as "redwood" country.

- The chapter settled in Charming after Gemma (John's wife at the time) became pregnant with her first son, Jackson. Charming is the town where Gemma grew up.

- John Teller did not think that Charming was an intimdiating chapter name, so he called the chapter the Redwood Originals, hence the SAMCRO handle.

First 9

- Six of the "First 9" members were veterans. There is a separate patch for all members that are part of the "First 9", which Piney and Clay wear in Season One.

- All club members wear vests known as "kuttes", which are jackets with the sleeves cut off.

-  The SOA patch on the back of the kuttes is a Grim Reaper holding a crystal ball with the anarchy "A," and wielding the Reaper's traditional scythe, the handle of which has been replaced by the M16 rifle that the club's founders wielded in Vietnam.

- The "Men of Mayhem" patch on the kuttes is worn by club members who have spilled blood on the club's behalf.

- Members of SAMCRO paint their bikes black and most sport drag bar style handlebars.

- Prospects are not permitted to paint their bikes black until they get "patched in" and officially join the club.

- There are parallel's betweens Sons of Anarchy and Shakespeare's play Hamlet. According to Director Kurt Sutter, "I don't want to overplay that but it's there. It was Jax's father who started the club, so he's the ghost in the action. You wonder what he would have made of the way it turned out. It's not a version of Hamlet but it's definitely influenced by it."

- Speaking of Kurt Sutter, he not only directs the show but also acts as a very important Otto, the SAMCRO remember currently in jail.

Kurt Sutter as "Otto"

Kurt Sutter as.....Kurt Sutter

Monday, April 29, 2013

Season One: Episode 11- "Capybara"

What is a "capybara" and how does it fit into Sons of Anarchy? It's not a SAMCRO term, not a gang term and not even related to Harley Davidsons in any way. In fact, a capybara is the world's largest rodent. This episode combats the trust and loyalty themes that have been prevelant throughout previous episodes, when it is revealed that a "rat" may be within the SAMCRO ranks. After Otto's physical assault on Stahl, the government is now firmly on the tails of SAMCRO and arrests Bobby for the murder of Brennan Hefner (the port worker who Bobby and Opie were sent to murder on behalf of the Irish). The government claims tha they have an "eye witness" who can place Bobby at the scene of the murder. This is one of the first times that you can see the seams start to become unwound with the club. Some of the members of SAMCRO- such as Tig- immediately start pointing fingers. They are trusting the word of a government agent instead of trusting their "brothers" that they have been with for years.What they don't know is that the government DOES have an eye-witness........but it's not a member of the club.

Tig points his finger directly at Opie as the "rat" who got Bobby arrested. Tig reasons that the only members present at the shooting were Bobby, Opie and Jax and that Jax would not put his club in jeopardy as the Vice President.  Additionally, Opie was not able to pull the trigger and murder Hefner and he did not show up to the clubhouse that morning when Bobby was arrested. Viewers find out that Opie and his family was picked up by the governement that morning and were placed in "protective custody." Stahl is framing Opie by paying off his debts and making it appear as if he had struck a deal with the government. This further enhances my comparision between Gemma and Stahl. Just as Gemma would do anything to protect her family, Stahl is apparently willing to do anything to protect her case and her government standing. She does not seem to care that she has seemingly sealed Opie's death by making it seem as if he has betrayed his brothers in the club. Opie is powerless since he is in custody and held for questioning, and his inability to contact the outside world means that he has no way to reach out to Jax or anyone else to inform them of what is happening.

Tig with Clay
Despite her numerous attempts to have Opie "rat" on SAMCRO, he does not turn on his club during his time spent in holding. As such, Stahl is forced to release Opie. The question at that time is whether or not the damage has been done? Will the club trust Opie's story or look at the evidence that is in front of them that might contradict his spoken word. As Opie returns to the clubhouse, he tells everyone the truth and Jax embraces him, clearly believing his friend. Tig is still skeptical and believes that Opie is a "rat" and Clay agrees with him, asking Tig to "take care of it and keep it away from the club." It is now clear that Clay has given his blessing to have Opie murdered.

Clay and Gemma
Clay's decision shows one of the reasons why he and Gemma have a perfect relationship. I've detailed the comparison between Gemma and Stahl, but now Clay has thrown himself into that mix by agreeing to have Opie murdered. Gemma protects her family, Stahl protects her cases and Clay protects his club. He has made a decision on his own that would be scolded by the club if they found out he had agreed to have a brother killed without a "club vote." Clay is doing what he feels is in the best interest of the club, but that is not how SAMCRO works as a brotherhood. His inability to trust Opie- his Vice President's best friend and the son
of another founding member of SAMCRO- also speaks to his paranoia about protecting the club and his place at the head of the table. As I mentioned earlier, the seams appear to be unraveling on this tight knit brotherhood, especially when the President has issued a death warrant for another member. The question is-- will it get carried out? And if not, what will the fallback be (if any) on Clay?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Season One: Episode 10- "Better Half"

The title of this episode- "Better Half"- is fitting considering that the episode revolves around most of the "old ladys" associated with SAMCRO. There has always been the saying that the woman is the "better half" of a relationship, especially in terms of providing support and stability. The question heading into this episode was whether or not that phrase would hold true? We have seen in previous episodes that members of SAMCRO have been willing to go great lengths to protect the club and its members, sometimes sacrificing themselves (Otto) or relationships with their family (Opie) for the benefit of the club's mission and goals. This episode would help prove if in fact behind every good man is an even stronger lady. 

Luann and Gemma
The first "old lady" who is tested this episode is Luann, Otto's wife. Luann runs the CaraCara porn studio, which was busted by government officials and she was taken out in handcuffs. For the purpose of this blog, I want to compare/contrast Luann's actions this episode with Cherry's, who recently became HalfSack's "old lady." Luann has been an "old lady" for many years and has dealt with Otto being in prison for a long period of time due to his arrests from actions with SAMCRO. Rather then seek retribution of hold anger against the club, Luann has dutifully continued to work with SAMCRO and support them whenever possible. While Luann remained in holding at the police station or her most recent arrest at CaraCara, she refused to give up any information related to SAMCRO even when pushed for details. Cherry on the other hand was also arrested, but her arrest was not related to SAMCRO. Cherry had apparently been married in Nevada and left her husband because he was abusive and burned down his house, which left her wanted for arrest. Cherry was much younger than Luann and the audience had the feeling throughout the episode that Cherry was not adequately prepared for the life of SAMCRO and the life that being an "old lady" entailed, even if she did pretend to have a hard exterior. This became even more clear when Jax and Opie were able to break into the police station at night and rescue Luann. Jax and Opie said at the time that they would "come back" for Cherry but Cherry responded that she "knows she would rat and she would make a deal."
Cherry telling Gemma about her past
Cherry did not mean for this to be threatening, as she was simply telling the truth. Cherry did not have the mental make-up of a Gemma or a Luann or even a Tara, and the slightest heat from the police would likely make her spill her guts. Jax and Opie broke her out of prison along with Luann since they couldn't take that risk, especially since they likely knew that Cherry did not have the same fortitude as other "old ladys." Throughout this season we have seen dedication to SAMCRO and seen individuals whose loyalty to the club has been tested- and some have passed and others have failed. It was clear that Luann passed and Cherry did not. 

Luann's loyalty to the club is even more apparent later in the episode. Government officials decide to use Otto as a way to try and get intel on SAMCRO, and so they offer to drop all charges against Luann- past and present- if Otto cooperates. Otto decides to agree, but he wants to see Luann before he signs off on the proposal. SAMCRO decides to allow Luann to visit Otto, where she takes the opportunity to inform him that the
Luann tells Otto about RICO Act
government is trying to bring down the entire club through the "RICO Act." Once again, Luann has risked herself for the benefit of the club. Had she not said this to Otto, he likely would have turned on the club and provided valuable information to the government. Instead, knowing that all of Luanns charges have been dropped as per their agreement, Otto hands Agent Stahl a piece of paper with information from 1999. As she asks him to sign a contract to validate that information, Otto grabs Stahl's head and smashes it into the table repeatedly. Stahl escapes- barely and bloody- but without a signed testimony from Otto. 

Gemma and Agent Stahl
At the conclusion of the episode, viewers got a look at Agent Stahl as a broken woman-- even if it was momentary. The interesting aspect is that her character would seemingly be a perfect compliment to a member of SAMCRO. In essence, she would be a great "old lady." She is smart and cut-throat much like Gemma and has loyalty (in this case to her career) in the same way that Luann has loyalty for Otto and the club. It is certainly a stretch, but I think that one interesting aspect of this SAMCRO vs Stahl rivalry is the fact they would work well together since it's almost like looking into a mirror. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hey...You Look Familiar!

The success of many television shows typically stems from the connection that the audience has with the characters. Even though the characters may be fictional, they can still illicit emotional responses from us as viewers. We can feel their pain, sorrow, grief, and happiness just as if they were real people living next door. With just a few episodes left to review in Season One, I thought it would be fun to put together a blog showing some of the actors in Sons of Anarchy and the roles they played before capturing our attention as members of SAMCRO. Some actors/actresses-such as Katey Segal- are more famous and you may be more familiar with their prior credits (especially since they have already been addressed in this blog). Others will hopefully bring back some memories that may have been stored away from some time... 

Jax (Charlie Hunnam)

 Green Street Hooligans (2005)


Before "joining" SAMCRO in 2008, Hunnam played the role of Pete Dunham in Green Street Hooligans, a cult favorite that tells the story of a recently expelled Harvard student who moves to London and becomes engulfed in the underworld of football (soccer for those in the USA) fanhood. The one thing that both roles have in common: a lot of fighting

Clay (Ron Perlman) 

Hellboy (2004) 



Before becoming a leader and defender for SAMCRO as their President, Perlman stared in 2004's Hellboy about a demon who was rescued from the Nazis and becomes a defender against creatures and forces trying to overtake the world. While it's not as strenuous as possibly defending the world, Charming is still a difficult place to keep in order. 

Opie (Ryan Hurst) 

Remember the Titans (2000)


In 2000, Ryan Hurst played the role of Gary Bertier in Disney's Remember the Titans, which told the true story of racially integrating the football team at T.C. Williams High School in Virgina during the 1970s. Hurt clearly has a knack for playing roles as member of a teams- first as an All-American linebacker and now as a valued asset for SAMCRO.    

Bobby (Mark Boone Junior)  
Batman Begins (2004) 


Mark Boone Junior had had roles in Memento and other films, but he also played a corrupt cop attempting to "protect and serve" Gotham City in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. Boone Junior certainly didn't have to stay far from that role to play Bobby, another character that doesn't mind bending the law. It also looks like the only appearance change he had to make for Sons of Anarchy was growing his beard just a little bit longer. 


Chibs (Tommy Flanagan)

Gladiator (2000) 


Tommy Flanagan played the role of Cicero in Gladiator, which starred Russell Crowe. As Sons of Anarchy viewers, we are used to the scars that are so prevalent on Flanagan's face as he portrays Chibs. It is clear looking back at his previous roles that those scars are not simply the work of a makeup artist, as much as they do help develop his character in a pseudo "bad ass" - whether that be in Ancient Rome or in Charming. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Season One: Episode 9- "Hell Followed"

Following the most dramatic episode of the entire first season, "Hell Followed" focuses on the theme of loyalty both inside SAMCRO and outside of SAMCRO. The episode specifically focuses on the loyalty of three individuals: Tara, Gemma and Clay. 

The questioning of the dedication and loyalty of the first individual mentioned is obvious. Tara, by all accounts, is a respected medical professional with no history of violence despite her prior relationship with Jax when they were younger. Towards the start of this episode, the audience sees Tara stare at herself in the mirror and then break down crying. It is clear that the weight of Kohn's murder is weighing heavily on her, even though she was not the actual person that pulled the trigger. The fact that this break down happened in isolation lends me to believe that Tara is still trying to "fit in" with SAMCRO and show that she is a tough woman that can handle some of the "messiness" that may come with the territory of being associated with the Sons. While she may not have much of an alternative considering her role in Kohn's death, it does appear as though she is attempting to continue her loyalty to Jax and SAMCRO. This is backed up by the fact that Tara still agrees to visit the Sons of Anarchy clubhouse and continue treatment on Cameron Hayes, who was shot last episode in the assassination attempt on Clay. It could have been easy for Tara- especially after the traumatic experience of watching a man be murdered- to run away from SAMCRO immediately after Kohn's murder. This could have been especially easy considering that Jax- while likely heartbroken if she left- would never have let SAMCRO or anyone else hurt Tara for not uniting herself with the club anymore. However, that is not the action that she took. Instead, she almost transformed into a mini version of Gemma, who comes off as one of the strongest women out there despite the various tragedies and difficult times she has lived through (losing her first husband, John Teller, as an example). It will be interesting to see how Kohn's murder continues to shape Tara moving forward. Will she run away from SAMCRO or will she accept her role and become more like Gemma? My bet is on the latter, especially considering how well developed and involved her character has already become with Jax and the rest of the club. 

Bobby shoots the Port Commissioner
The second individual whose loyalty was featured in "Hell Followed" was Opie. Through prior episodes, we know that Opie spent time in prison for actions sanctioned by SAMCRO, and throughout that time he failed to provide law enforcement with any information incriminating the club. Nevertheless, SAMCRO has had some internal questions about Opie's ability to "handle" some of the more violent and cut-throat aspects of the business. Opie himself has gone back-and-forth trying to balance SAMCRO with his family's wishes, who would prefer that he choose to be an "honest" man instead of associating with the club. Despite these hesitations, Opie seems to have made up his mind in "Hell Followed" and wants to prove to the club that he is a committed member of SAMCRO. After Cameron Hayes regains consciousness from his wounds, he asks  SAMCRO to murder a Port Commissioner that is a threat to "blow the whistle" on the IRA and their gun shipments. Opie seizes this instance as an opportunity to gain the club's trust and volunteers- along with Bobby and Jax- to take care of the Port Commissioner. After SAMCRO gains the necessary intelligence, they find the Port Commissioner at a motel where Opie confronts him with a gun. However, Opie pauses and is unable to pull the trigger, forcing Bobby to shoot the victim multiple times in the stomach before the three flee the scene of the crime. The hesitation by Opie shows the lack of confidence that he currently has. It could be due to the fact he's been away from SAMCRO and their "ways" for so long, or it could be the guilt that he is choosing this life even though his wife does not approve. Either way, Opie's face and words are that of a man loyal to SAMCRO, but his actions are not telling the same story. Of course, this is reminiscent of the dilemmas that Jax has found himself in over the last few episodes as well. The question is how will Opie handle these issues moving forward? As loyal as Opie may have been while in prison, SAMCRO is not exactly an organization that thrives on patience, especially with regards to their business ventures and business decisions. 

Unser and Clay

Alvarez (with Clay) brokering a deal
The final individual whose actions focus around loyalty is Clay. Now I know what you are thinking- how can you question the loyalty of the leader of SAMCRO? While Clay's actions may not be the most morally acceptable, and may even make audiences angry because of the way they affect certain members of SAMCRO (i.e. Jax), it is hard to argue that Clay has made any decisions that might hinder the club in its entirety. In "Hell 
Followed", Clay asks Chief Unser to summon Alvarez to the police station, so the head of SAMCRO and the Mayans can have a discussion sans bloodbath. This is obviously an interesting tactic, considering Alvarez recently tried to have Clay assassinated, but it once again proves Clay's willingness and desire to limit the bloodshed in Charming. Once Alvarez is brought into the police station, he is obviously surprised to see his nemesis standing before him. However, the two discuss business and strike a deal that allows the Mayans to purchase weapons from SAMCRO in return for an end of all disputes among all charters of the Sons and Mayans. So, what does this have to do with Clay and loyalty? For one, this agreement with the Mayans breaks any bond that Clay may have established with the One-Niners, who SAMCRO used to sell exclusively too.  Secondly, a decision of this magnitude is typically voted on by all members of SAMCRO. With Clay taking it upon himself to strike this agreement, there is likely to be some backlash and second-guessing from members who would have liked to have been privy to the negotiations. With a club that already has shown signs of fraction among its ranks, specifically with regards to Jax and Clay, it will be interesting to see how this "deal" plays a role (if any) in either repairing or further fracturing the  relationship between the two leaders. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Season One: Episode 8- "The Pull"

With only four episodes left in season one, "The Pull" finally brought to fruition developments in all the story lines that have been dangling along the audience for the past seven episodes: SAMCRO vs the Mayans/Darby, Jax's deveotion to SAMCRO, the health of Jack's baby, and the love triangle of Jax/Tara/Agent Kohn. 

Mayan leader with Darby
This blog has chronicled the battles that have gone out with SAMCRO and the Mayans, from warehouses being torched to weapon distribution, the hatred between the two groups is obvious. In this episode, Darby receives the FBI file from Agent Kohn, who is apparently on his way out of down after his "dustup" with Jax and the Charming sheriffs. The file details the connection between SAMCRO and the IRA, specifically the arrangements regarding transporting weapons to and from Ireland. Darby meets with the Mayans and agrees to hand over this sensitive information in return for one thing: the murder of Clay. Apparently, Darby wants to control Charming and believes that the group would fall apart without its leader. Personally, I don't see Darby's rationale at all. SAMCRO has been around for dozens of years and has motorcycle chapters in various cities and states. How would the murder of one individual- no matter how important that individual may be- affect the larger scale organization? Would the Catholic Church dissolve if anything happened to the Pope? Do companies immediately fold if their CEO changes hands? It seems as if Darby's goals are far-reaching, but then again he is a neo-Nazi who isn't the smartest of the bunch. Plus, can you imagine a guy who looks like this having a real impact- illegal or not- on a city called Charming?

Darby's perfect plan inevitably backfires on him, when the Mayans send out a hit team to murder Clay AND  a hit team to murder Darby. If I could see that one coming- Darby probably should have to, right? Anyway, both murder attempts fail as Darby successfully survives a shooting at his house and Clay survives a shooting at a local bar. The only "casualty" is one of Clay's business partners, Cameron Hayes, who is a representative of the IRA and was present to ensure their business was proceeding as planned. Hayes did not die, although he was shot multiple times in the....ugh.....butt....rear.....backside (whatever you want to call it). These attempted assassinations will clearly be major parts of the plot lines moving forward. In the same way as The Sopranos often had "eye for an eye" moments, it will be impossible for Clay and SAMCRO to sit back after the Mayans (who they clearly knew were behind it) attempted to take out a member of their own. 

While "The Pull" did not provide much information as to HOW Clay plans to exact revenge, the episode did- for the FIRST time- showcase dialogue among SAMCRO members openly questioning Jax's devotion to the club. After the assassination attempt, Jax wanted to ensure that the club was processing all options and being smart about retaliating. While Jax was
Jax and Clay
clearly more level-headed than the others, I suppose its hard to criticize a motorcycle gang for wanting to get revenge quickly and painfully. Along those lines, Tig openly asked Clay if Jax "had the balls to go out for blood" and even Clay himself had to ask Jax if he was "with him." Again, there have been many scenes where Clay, Gemma and even some other members of SAMCRO have reacted quizzically to some of the comments and actions of Jax. However, to actually have Tig share his concerns with Clay, and to have Clay openly question Jax may open a Pandora's Box as we move towards the season finale. The question is will that Pandora's Box also cause dissension in the ranks and possibly create questions about the leadership?  

A smaller story line that I want to touch on is the status of Jax's baby- Abel. Abel had been in the hospital since the beginning episode, but finally came out of the incubation chamber in
Abel out of the incubation chamber
this episode. So, what importance does a baby have on a show about a motorcycle gang? One can argue that Abel is the reason why Jax is having a struggle with this conscience. Has being a father now been the aspect of his life that is pushing him away from the violent nature of other members of SAMCRO? I believe so. Therefore, will Abel now being out of the incubation chamber and actually in his arms make Jax strive to further his beliefs and opinions on the club? 

Finally, another aspect of Jax's "family" saw her situation take an immediate turn. There has been flirtations with Jax and Tara over the last couple episodes that I have detailed on this blog. Tara and Jax used to date before Tara "broke his heart" (according to Gemma), but it still appears as if that spark exists between the two of them. At the conclusion of this episode,
Jax shoots Agent Kohn
Tara returned home when she was confronted in her bedroom by Agent Kohn (I just KNEW he couldn't have left that easily!) who attempts to seduce her. Tara plays along with him because she has no other alternative, until she sees and opening to grab his gun and shoots him in the stomach. Frightened, she calls Jax who shows up at Tara's apartment and notices Kohn on the ground bleeding. Jax explains that Kohn may go to jail for breaking into her apartment, but that he will always follow her. At that point, Kohn looks at Tara and says "Once a biker slut...always a..." before Jax turns and shoots Kohn in the head. As Tara screams at what she witnessed, she embraces Jax and stares into his eyes. The two begin having sex on her bed, with the lifeless body of Agent Kohn laying in a pool of blood on the floor next to them. 

Hold on.....

Two things from this final sequence. The first is that Jax showed his violent side that was often questioned by other members of SAMCRO. In the first episode of the season, Jax struggles to shoot one of the Mayans and only does so as a last resort. In this case, Jax showed confidence and desire to kill the man that was stalking Tara. Secondly, will the last words uttered by Kohn- "Once a biker slut..always a" ring true as the season progresses? Will Tara and Jax get together, especially after their passionate scene at the conclusion of the episode? It is clear that Jax has feelings for Tara, and with Abel out of the incubator chamber, will Jax attempt to complete a family (especially since his ex-wife and Abel's mother has not been seen in the last few episodes)? 

I guess we have to wait and see....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sons of Anarchy: The Video Game?

I want to take a short hiatus from blogging about Season One to focus on other aspects of Sons of Anarchy that exist in popular culture. With a new season on the way, Sons of Anarchy has long been a presence in the clothing industry with various lines of Sons of Anarchy Apparel. However, one article that I read from late last year broaches the idea that Sons of Anarchy could infiltrate another popular market: video games. According to this article , Kurt Sutter is attempting to partner with Rockstar Games to create and produce the video games. To be frank, the tone of the article is not positive and it does not appear likely that a game will hit the market any time soon (if one does hit the market at all). However, the concept of a Sons of Anarchy video game is intriguing, especially considering  that Rockstar is famous for edgy and crime-laden games such as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. I believe that Rockstar's notoriety in the video game field and the Sons of Anarchy brand has an opportunity to be successful partnership. Imagine seeing Jax like this:  

The concept of turning movies or television shows into video games certainly isn't unique. Check out this list of television shows that were adapted into video games. It is certainly a comprehensive list, and some were more successful than others with the transition. I know this is a Sons of Anarchy blog so there likely will be some bias, but what do you think about a possible Sons of Anarchy video game? What are some roadblocks or concerns that you could envision? 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Season One: Episode 7- "Old Bones"

After an intense and action-packed previous episode, it is clear that the FBI will play a prevalent role moving forward. To say that the FBI has been a hassle for SAMCRO would be an understatement. Over the past couple of episodes, Agent Josh Kohn has been looking into the SAMCRO organization while simultaneously stalking Tara, an intense personal relationship that I have touched on in previous blogs. In addition to Agent Kohn, Agent June Stahl has also been heading up an investigation into SAMCRO and their weapons trafficking. However, as intense as the pressure has been from the FBI, "Old Bones" focused more on the past and how past circumstances are forming the present. 

The first story line- and the overriding plot in this episode- focused on the police discovering three skeletons during a routine digging. Immediately it becomes known to the audience that Clay and SAMCRO played a role in how the bodies ended up buried years ago. Clay- the elder statesman- appears to be the only member of the club familiar with the situation, since the other members were either too young or did not rank high enough to be involved in the decisions that resulted in buried bodies. As time progresses, the audience learns that one of the bodies was the father of Lowell, a young man that Clay took under his wing despite his battles with substance abuse. Lowell had been convinced that his father had left him at a younger age, a tale

Lowell asking Clay to kill him
tthat he believed until Clay came forward with the truth after the bodies had been uncovered. Lowell's shock and despair at this news caused him turn back to drugs and alcohol, which had previously derailed his life just as it has his father. The most intense scene of the episode came when Lowell- in a foggy state because of the amount of drugs and alcohol he had- asked Clay to kill him. For a moment, it appeared as though that was the action that Clay was going to take. After all, in previous episodes we have seen Clay show very little mercy to opponents or those that oppose the mission of SAMCRO. In this case, Clay does not kill him. This sequence is important for two reasons. For one, it shows a compassionate side of Clay that the audience had not previously seen. In the past few episodes, it has been Jax who has shown compassion and often went against the orders of Clay to find more peaceful solutions. Secondly, this sequence shows Clay as a father figure. While one could argue a "father-son" relationship between Clay and Jax (especially considering the role that Gemma plays), I do not see the two as having that type of relationship. I believe that there is a mutual respect between the two, but Jax appears to have his own mind and willpower separate from Clay and the club. This is especially true considering the wisdom and knowledge that Jax seems to get from reading the words his father wrote in the memoir. 

The second story line involves Half Sack. He has finally seemed to get back in the "good graces" of Clay and  the club after the "love rectangle" (or more like "revenge rectangle") among himself, Clay, Gemma and Cherry. In "Old Bones", the audience learns that Half Sack is a skilled and technically sound boxer, and so the club plans on having Half Sack "throw a match" so that the club can bet against him and make a profit to offset some of the losses they took selling the automatic weapons to Nate Meineke at a reduced cost. The plan appears to be working perfectly, as Half Sack builds up a reputation in the boxing world as an excellent
Half Sack boxing

ffighter. When the match arrives that Half Sack is expected to lose on purpose, he agrees to do so begrudgingly and only because it benefits the club. However, in the middle of the match Half Sack sees Clay sitting next to Cherry and putting his arm around her and immediately he flies into a rage and destroys his opponent, costing SAMCRO all its investment. The hilarious part about this was that Clay was not seducing Cherry in any way. In fact, he was offering Cherry the opportunity to become Half Sack's "lady" as a way to bury the hatchet from previous instances. By the time that Clay realized what Half Sack must have thought, it was too late. I would like to mention that this is the only situation where "love" between a couple has been shown in Sons of Anarchy. The relationship between Gemma and Clay seems more about status and power than love. My instincts tell me that Jax and Tara may formulate a love story of their own based on the sexual tension exuded in these episodes, but that has not come to fruition yet. The relationship between Half Sack and Cherry appears to genuine and showcases another type of emotion in a show that typically only glorifies violence or crime. 

Hale with Tara
Jax and Tara (with Gemma in background)

The final story line I will touch on is the triangle between Jax, Tara and Agent Kohn. As I mentioned earlier, Kohn had a prior relationship with Tara and has been stalking her in Charming. What the audience learned this episode is that Kohn was not in Charming on an official FBI assignment like we had been led to believe. Rather, Kohn was on vacation from his post and spent the time in Charming violating the privacy of Tara and attempting to gather information on her while simultaneously trying to "win her back." Jax receives word from Tara that Kohn has been following her, and so Jax enlists the help of Sheriff Hale for protecting Tara. This is an interesting move from Jax, considering that SAMCRO has notoriously been known for taking matters into their own hands. Additionally, Hale and Jax are typically on opposite sides of the spectrum, especially considering Hale's partnership with FBI investigating SAMCRO. To me, this reaching out by Jax and the acceptance to help by Hale proves two things: 1) Jax has feelings for Tara and 2) Hale has feelings for Tara. In Jax's case, he was willing to "dance with the devil" to protect a woman that he cares about. In Hale's case, it is obvious from watching the episodes that he cares about Tara. In prior episodes, Hale has been engaged during his conversations with Tara more than he has been when he discusses matters with other characters. Additionally, Hale's motivation to assist Tara and stop Kohn from harassing her is very strong, especially considering how he enlists the FBI to help. Is this a love triangle? Will Tara reciprocate feelings for one of the two? My money is that she ends up with Jax, although we will have to wait and see how the rest of the season plays out! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Season One: Episode 6- "AK-51"

Jax and Piney (background) selling AKs 

One might not think that an episode aptly entitled "AK-51" as a reference to an automatic weapon would focus on moral decisions, but that is exactly what transpired in this episode. At the start of the episode, Jax and Piney are watching two individuals testing out the machine guns. We quickly learn that the elder of the two men is Nate Meineke, an old friend of Piney's who Piney trusts wholeheartedly. Jax and Piney sell the weapons to the two men, despite Jax having reservations due to his unfamiliarity with the two. As you all know from my previous posts, SAMCRO is desperate for finances since the first episode of the season when the warehouse was blown up containing SAMCRO's weapons stash. This had to have undoubtedly
factored into Jax letting the deal progress despite his reservations. One has to wonder if he would have raised more questions had the club been more financial sound. Nevertheless, the deal between the two groups seems to go off without a hitch until word reaches SAMCRO that the weapons were used in a prisoner bailout that resulted in the death of multiple members of law enforcement.

Nate Meineke assisting with prisoner escape

With the situation escalated due to the death of men in uniform, SAMCRO is obviously investigated because of their previous incidents throughout the years. In fact, Clay is taken into custody and held for questioning despite a lack of evidence originally. This scene ones again portrays the brotherhood that was touched on in my last blog. In the same way that Opie did not "give up" Kyle or the other members of SAMCRO, Clay did not mention Jax, Piney or any of the other members during his time in interrogation. This is especially telling considering that Clay had no real involvement with the selling of the weapons to Nate Meineke, as that was a relationship Piney had forged in the past.

As the investigation moved forward, the FBI was able to establish a link between the IRA and oil barrels that were seen in the SAMCRO garage. Remember, SAMCRO has been working feverishly to attain money to keep their connection with IRA open for smuggling weapons in and out of the city. The oil barrels are what SAMCRO had been using to transport the automatic weapons without raising suspicion. An FBI investigation coupled with a weakened cash flow might have been a dagger in the hearts of SAMCRO's business plans, as well as mark an end to fruitful relationship with the IRA. Needing to think quickly before the FBI could attain a search warrant, SAMCRO had to find a way to remove the automatic weapons from their premises so they would not be linked with the murders.  To be honest, the next steps surprised me but I have to give credit for quick thinking. I've heard multiple people say over time to "clean your shit up" or "move your crap" but I didn't think that SAMCRO would take those words of advice so literally. In order to move the guns, they hid them in a sewage tank attached to the back of a truck. While it looked to the naked eye as if the SAMCRO garage was simply getting the sewer system cleaned out, in actuality the club members were hiding guns WITHIN THE ACTUAL sewage. The plan worked as the FBI searched the barrels and were unable to find the guns stashed in them. The worst part of this for SAMCRO may not have been the actual process of hiding the weapons, but the process of retrieving them from the sewage. As this scene was unfolding, I was trying to think of how much money I would need to be paid to dive through a pile of sewage? Thousands? Millions? Or would there be any possessions of mine that I value enough to retain if it meant sifting through gallons of waste? I think at that point it would just be easier (and certainly more hygienic) to purchase new ones! I've written a fair amount about the lengths that SAMCRO goes to protect their club and each other, and I would say that retrieving illegal weapons from a sewage tank is probably one of the higher signs of devotion I could think of.

Gemma attacks Cherry
The other storyline occurring throughout this episode was more personal. As you hopefully remember from an earlier blog, SAMCRO completed a "Patch Over" of another club in a previous episode. During that episode, Clay had slept with a young woman named Cherry to teach Half Sack a lesson after Half Sack was overheard making sexual connotations about Gemma. In this episode, Gemma learns about the affair and becomes irate when Cherry shows up in Charming. After trying to control her emotions as best she could, her feelings overcame her when she saw Cherry walking down the street. Gemma grabbed a skateboard lying on the sidewalk and hit Cherry straight across the face, causing her face to bleed and bruise. This entire interaction is actually quite remarkable for me as a viewer. I don't think anyone watching would blame Gemma for being upset about encountering the woman that slept with her husband. I also think you might be hard pressed to find someone who blames Gemma for acting physically towards her. What stuck out to me about the entire encounter is the rationale that Gemma used. Gemma's exact quote was: "What happens on a run is supposed to stay on a run." In other words, Gemma did not appear to be upset about the fact that her husband actually cheated on her. Instead, she was upset about the fact that Cherry came into "her" hometown after sleeping with Clay and Gemma viewed that as an insult, even though Cherry did not intend it as so. This speaks volumes about the way of life for SAMCRO members and their "ladies" as they are often referred to on the show. For one, the "ladies" must assume that affairs are taken place and seemingly must accept those actions from their men. Secondly, the members of the club must know that their own women know what goes on during some of the trips/missions. One has to wonder if the aura of being associated with SAMCRO or being part of the club as a "lady" is worth the potential emotional abuse. Based on this episode and the episodes before it, it looks like the answer is yes. 

Once SAMCRO was able to escape the wrath of the FBI and their investigation, they had to direct their attention toward Nate Meineke and his group. SAMCRO orchestrated a deal to have Nate purchase the remaining AK automatic weapons, except this time there was a present inside the shipment. After completing the deal and receiving payment, Nate and his crew disappeared and brought the shipment back into their camp. The final scene of the episode was Opie pulling out a trigger that detonated an explosion, with smoke being scene from over the hills. Piney was present for this entire sequenece, which once again demonstrated the importance of the SAMCRO club over all else. Piney- in essence- played a role in murdering a man that he grew up with and considered a "friend." However, the sanctity and safety of SAMCRO was more important than any other bond, even to a longtime compatriot. SAMCRO is a group of brothers, and the blood of the brotherhood is thicker than water

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Season One: Episode 5- "Giving Back"

Coming into this experience as a blogger, I understood that I would be watching a television show that portrays a semblance of violence, a questionable moral compass and perhaps vulgar language. I have to admit that I did not expect to watch an episode or a story line revolving around a chronic masturbator, but that is exactly what happened in "Giving Back." In this episode, SAMCRO was tasked with protecting Chuck Marstein who was responsible for "cooking the books" for another illegal organization. SAMCRO has been hurting financially since the warehouse was burned down, and they were expecting to gain a portion of the "cooked" money from Chuck in return for protecting him against his former organization who wanted him dead. This scenario got me to thinking about the financial implications of the decision to protect this accountant, as well as the financial implications that may have shaped SAMCRO's actions in the previous episodes. What would it be worth to you to seemingly "babysit" this person:

Tony Soprano's Mansion
SAMCRO garage
The interesting aspect of SAMCRO is that the members of the gang do not possess the material items or live the lavish lifestyles that one would expect, especially considering the illegal nature of their "activities" and the risks associated. Take The Sopranos as an example of a crime syndicate that functions in everyday society, just as SAMCRO does. Tony Soprano lives in a sprawling mansion in New Jersey, drives a Cadillac Escalade, and can afford clothes and material items for himself and his family. In contrast, there is not one member from SAMCRO that lives in anything resembling a mansion. While the members of the biker gang are likely not lining up for welfare, there is certainly a clear distinction in how they live their lives compared with the mafia members portrayed in The Sopranos. This surely has to do with the rugged and rough nature of SAMCRO, as well as the identity of the small town of Charming that the biker gang embraces. 

Another storyline in this episode was Gemma's desire to throw a fundraiser to support increased costs for the Charming schools. As mentioned in previous blogs, the show largely revolves around the challenges of SAMCRO as a gang of outlaws in society. Issues such as hiding illegal weapons, fending off police forces and keeping order in the community are typically the focal points of most Sons of Anarchy episodes. In this case, the actions of Gemma showcase the dedication that they group has to the development and maintenance of the community. Now one can always argue the rationale behind such actions. Is Gemma truly attempting to use her standing in the community to make a positive difference for the schools and the city of Charming as a whole? Or is Gemma using this fundraiser as an opportunity to manipulate the feeling that patrons have about SAMCRO and their standing in the community? In essence, is the fundraiser yet another reminder to patrons about how involved SAMCRO is in Charming and how necessary their presence is to ensure peace and harmony in the town? Gemma's act of charity is not the only example of a television character involved in illegal activities trying to create a positive impact in society or "give back" to the community through action. This past spring, we saw the debut of The Following where the main antagonist is a serial killer who worked as a college professor, seemingly to educate the youth of America. Additionally,  one of the highest rated shows on television is Dexter, in which the protagonist actually works for the local police department hunting down those responsible for many of the same crimes he also commits. While these two examples may be stretches compared to Gemma's simple act of throwing a fundraiser, the fact is that many characters use their hobbies or jobs as a way to mask their true intentions. In Gemma's case, the impression that she cares about the city of Charming (whether the impression is truthful or not) can be seen as a disguise or a diversion from what she really cares about- the status of SAMCRO.  

Another plotline from this episode revolves around a man named Kyle and Opie. Opie, who hopefully you all remember from my previous posts is a loyal member of SAMCRO who spent time in prison and reaffirmed his belief in the club when he was released, despite the wishes of his family to follow another path. In this episode, we learn that Kyle was one of the main reasons that Opie ended up in jail. Kyle was a former member of SAMCRO who went on a
Jax, Opie and Kyle
"job" with Opie and acted as the driver for the mission. When the cops showed up at the scene, Kyle drove away and left Opie to take the fall with the law. Because of his actions, Kyle was banished from Charming and his status with SAMCRO was revoked. Throughout the first few episodes of the season, it was clear that all members of SAMCRO took their allegiances to the group very seriously. However, this is one of the first instances where viewers actually SEE how just how serious the commitment is. On one hand, Opie went away to jail for his part in a failed job. He never "ratted out" Kyle or another other members of SAMCRO because of the brotherhood they had formed. On the other hand, the implications of going against SAMCRO was also clear based on how Kyle was treated. In what may have been a momentary lap of judgement or a situation where fear overwhelmed him, Kyle lost everything by leaving Opie at the scene years ago. Kyle was forced to relocate and his family stayed in Charming while Kyle left the town. The group that once gave Kyle everything to live for also took everything away once the feeling of trust had evaporated. In this episode, Kyle was given permission by the club (thanks to a vote) to come back to Charming to see his son play at Gemma's fundraiser. As the show progressed, it actually seemed as if Kyle and the members of SAMCRO were rekindling their old admiration/respect for each other when members of SAMCRO noticed that Kyle still had his tattoo. Each member of SAMCRO has a full tattoo on their back depicting the Sons of Anarchy charter logo:
Jax and his tattoo

Kyle's Tattoo Removal
Since Kyle was no longer part of SAMCRO, he was expected to have it removed. At the conclusion of the episode, despite the seemingly good will shown toward both parties, the members of SAMCRO surrounded Kyle and gave him two options: fire or knife. Those were the two options that Kyle had to have his tattoo removed, and he chose fire. The graphic scene of a man's flesh burning was a reminder of how serious the SAMCRO bond is. It is life or death. It is blood, sweat and tears. And it is the unity that has kept them from breaking under the stress and scrutiny from outside attack.  

P.S. I know what you are all wondering- "But James, what happened with the chronic masturbator?" Don't worry- I didn't forget about him. After SAMCRO protected Chuck, they took him to the restaurant where he allegedly stashed some of the money that he had taken from his previous employers. However, the money that he had stored was counterfeit and of no use to SAMCRO. As such, SAMCRO sold Chuck back to the Chinese Mafia who wanted to ensure their previous masturbator-- errr I mean employer--- wouldn't cause them any more trouble as an informant. Unfortunately for Chuck, his time for his "favorite hobby" appeared to be very limited after he was turned over to the Chinese. 

Wave bye-bye, Chuck!