The sixth season of Sons of Anarchy is hitting tonight, and after the usual crazy twists that show up at the end of every season, you may wonder what yet another take on feints within feints has to offer. No, there aren’t really going to be any spoilers.
Now that we’ve put Clay in prison, an effective death sentence, we’re going to need to find out if Jax’ puppet master efforts are going to backfire. Besides, last season sent more things spinning out of control than ever, and the time to become President of the MC couldn’t be worse.
Spoilers aside, the real question is how does the writing play out, do our new characters continue to engage, and can we really keep this many balls in the air in an engaging way that continues the show’s ability to keep you locked in? The answer, as you may have guessed already, is yes and no.
There’s no question that Kurt Sutter knows how to spin a hell of a yarn, and even if his long arc flights of dazzling fancy aren’t everyone’s favorite part of the show, Jax’ grand machinations that all come together at the end of every season are more fun than most shows have any hope of matching, especially this many seasons in.
But, with the good comes a certain amount of bad, and it isn’t a surprise. It’s just what fans have come to expect, and are fine with putting up with, at least to this point, because if you have to throw in a bit of contrivance once in a while to get the seasonal and episodic payoffs, it’s worth it.
As each season of Sons of Anarchy rolls on, and the show continues to be a hot social media talking point, there are always those notes that stir up some griping, but they aren’t killing strokes, and if everyone keeps talking about it, something has clearly gone right. (Otto’s fairly goofy Tara/Jax screwing-over-ness scheme, stands out as something that had people rolling their eyes last season)
Generally, what people pick on are small notes in what even they consider an otherwise worthy performance, but can it keep going, and as we get ever deeper, are people going to get tired of the same excuses to create the drama dragging us along. As one small example, last season gave us a bit of a struggle – if you listen to fans – with the neverending, “Really, I’m leaving the club,” backdrop and/or the constant ebb and flow of Tara’s leaving/staying position on life.
Through the first few episodes anyway, season six looks like it might be on its most solid footing. A bold statement, perhaps, especially since there are those that propose the series may be slipping slowly into… something, but for my money the show is finally rounding out the sum total of its cast, and putting together actions and motivations that seem to stem more from truth of character as opposed to just what we want them to do in order to eventually get to the clever twist at the end. As good as season five was (about average for the show overall), the closer we got to the end, the more it felt like it was falling apart, going through certain motions that were required of the endgame we’d decided on.
Of course, I don’t know that things aren’t going to play out that way this season as well, but there are some hints to be found within the first few episodes. Mainly, we move away from the somewhat constrictive nature of the specific MC mythos we’ve been holding onto, and we do so in a variety of ways. I realize that doesn’t tell you much, but basically the world is becoming bigger, and we seem to be abandoning the idea that somehow, “what happens in Charming stays in Charming,” especially since none of it made a lot of sense anyway. It didn’t especially hurt the show that much, but there was a certain “comic book” mentality to the way we referred to the outside world, even when people showed up from other countries, or other parts of the state.
Another good play, that kicks out quickly in the new season, is that we’re letting the new/guest characters run free. That hasn’t always been the case, especially considering they have mainly existed to get whacked in the season finale, and/or to facilitate the schemes involved in same. That could still be true actually, but even if it turns out that it is, we’ve figured out much more interesting things to do with them in the meantime. Donal Logue entered the show strongly, but he’s given his head now, and it’s wild. Sure, he’s moving into a realm of narrow-focused lunatic, who is almost an anti-Jax in his way, but it’s a lot of fun.
He’s an impressive guy anyway, with good turns on great shows recently, and he delivers here. Jimmy Smits also continues to deliver, and he jumped straight into the role of one of the show’s better elements. The “uh oh, now I’m back in it,” plot doesn’t work out the way you’d hope, but we needed a better excuse to throw drama at him… I guess.
Finally, Jax is actually becoming complicated, and Chibs (Tommy Flanagan), who is easily the show’s best actor, is getting more time on screen. That’s a strange double whammy, but Jax has never been complicated, even if we want to give him “complex” (which I don’t), and Chibs has been the character you wished were around even more since day one.
Sons of Anarchy might still fall apart, but there is a sense of growth at work, something true of very few shows in their sixth season, and where the MC looks very different year after year, we may get a show that can mature equally now. It is, for good or ill, one of those shows though… at the end of the season, when we get that big smack in the face, we might be rather irritated that we gave it our time, but for now, if you’ve loved it before, you’re in for a new level of appreciation.