Recently it was announced that Jimmy Smits and Donal Logue will be returning to FX’s juggernaut Sons of Anarchy Entering its 6th season this fall, the highest rated show in FX history has an incredibly loyal fan base filled with people who believe it is quality television.
Bringing back Smits and Logue is truly great for the show. Their work last season was a much needed breath of fresh air for a series that’s been stumbling for at least the last year and a half. However, while I loved Smits and Logue, I’m not sure their return will bring me back for another season of sloppy, convoluted writing on a show bloated with unresolved threads and a plethora of unlikable characters.
Let me start with the 4th season finale. The amateur way the writers threw away an entire season’s worth of plot in the first 5 minutes of the episode really stuck with me as I went into season 5. They had spent an entire season building toward this one singular resolution for the major threads of the show, only to piss it away in the cold open. This was the death knell of the series for me.
I did end up liking some of the storylines in season 5, though. Laying Pipe was a truly haunting episode. But the writers write like they have ADHD and the countless plot threads are hard for even me (a seasoned TV viewer) to keep straight. Following a show is a commitment to me and if I can’t say with certainty what exactly SAMCRO is up to, then that is a major writers’ room problem.
By the way, the handful of episodes they burned up with the break-ins in season 5 annoyed me. It was obvious that Clay was behind them, yet it’s presented as a huge shock to us and the characters. How could it not have been him?
Blatantly horrid writing aside, I thought the season 5 finale was good. But it wasn’t great. Ron Perlman’s talent has kept his character alive a season or two too long and the show seems to have a selective memory when it comes to being a Hamlet interpretation. I genuinely enjoyed the fruition of Jax’s plan, though. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be watching season 6 so I’ll have to check with Facebook to find out how Clay escapes death. Again.
There’s also a small aesthetic problem I have with the production in general. It’s the use of CGI blood in lieu of squib packs. I don’t remember it being so blatantly CGI in the past, but starting in season 4 I was highly distracted by it. Nothing can deflate a very intense scene for me like amateur CGI blood. I’m assuming it’s either a cost or time saving measure. Either way, it’s the highest rated show in FX history, loosen the purse strings a little bit for some fake blood and overtime. You wonder why your show is snubbed every award season, Sutter? It’s because your effects look like a college kid just got his first Macbook and skipped the tutorials on Final Cut.
My current disapproval of the show is something that’s been steadily growing out of a season 1 nitpick. Kurt Sutter was a writer for The Shield prior to starting SOA. The Shield is easily one of my top five favorite dramas and one of the best shows of the last 20 or more years.
So imagine my irritation when, from the start, it’s felt like some of the bigger moments of Sons of Anarchy have piggybacked off of better executed plots in The Shield. The season one tragedy involving Opie, Opie’s wife and Tig mirrored (at least circumstantially) a defining moment in The Shield. The only difference is the characters involved in The Shield had multiple seasons’ worth of character development going for them. Another example is Juice and Roosevelt’s situation being similar to Lem and Kavanaugh only it’s lasted twice as long and has no real payoff in sight.
Sons of Anarchy being The Shield‘s “cousin you see a couple times a year at family gatherings” really set it up to fail for me. Anti-heroes were written to perfection on The Shield. You root for the Strike Team but you shouldn’t because they’re greedy and only become more despicable as the series unfolds.
When it comes to Sons of Anarchy, they’re outlaws from the start. It’s hard for me to root for someone when the solution seems simple enough: don’t do illegal shit. This is a double standard that isn’t wholly unfounded considering The Shield had an entire episode devoted to a flashback of the Strike Team becoming corrupt. The cleverly named “Co-Pilot” showed the justification the characters felt they had in cutting some legal corners. Sons doesn’t have that level of characterization nor is it capable of it at a conceptual level.
The show had one sympathetic character and they bashed his head in with a pipe. Now we’ve got no one, except for maybe Juice. But his “I’m half-black and the club is going to murder me” plot went downhill fast. I get the sense the writers were purposely dragging it out as a safety plot. If they caught some writer’s block down the line, they had a big plot just begging to be resolved.
The show has many problems and I’m getting sick of writing about it. The bottom line is that Sons of Anarchy matches The Shield‘s tone and general style to a tee. If you love Sons, you’ll love The Shield. The inverse, sadly, is not the case. Sons of Anarchy is like The Shield if the latter traded in badges for motorcycles and had no redeemable characters. I think I’ll skip season 6.