Sons of Anarchy Review: Getting Schooled

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Sons of Anarchy Season 6 did not start off with a bang.

Instead, "Straw" ended with a bang-bang-bang that will likely be debated and discussed, by supporters and critics, above all else from the episode. So let's start there, shall we?

Kim Dickens on Sons of Anarchy

It's intriguing to think about where this school shooting storyline will go:

The boy that pulled the trigger is the child of a woman who is dating someone in Nero's crew. He got the weapon from SAMCRO. And the club will clearly be drawn into this dire town situation, either tangibly through the authorities or philosophically through a new ambivalence over its gun-running ways.

Think about Jax for a moment. This is a man constantly torn over the direction in which to take his club. Down a more straight and narrow path, akin to the one espoused by his late father? Or a more dangerous one, as pushed for by his incarcerated stepfather when Clay was in charge?

We opened the episode, as is so often the case, with yet another diary entry, with Jax expressing concern for Abel and Thomas, with him offering life advice, focused on their well-being. Jax wants to think of himself as a father first and a President second, but it's impossible for his latter title not to influence the former. So how will he react when he learns that he indirectly supplied the weapon which took the lives of innocent kids?

It's John Teller's worst nightmare come true and it will be impossible for Jax to shed the guilt of the role his club played in this tragedy. What will this mean for his conscience? His actions? SAMCRO's relationship with the Irish and other groups in its circle?

There's clearly a lot of material to mine here. But does that make it acceptable to use a school shooting as a jumping off point for a season? I really don't know, but my first reaction is negative.

Sons of Anarchy isn't The Wire. Viewers haven't been asked to reflect on society and any kind of real-life consequences throughout its run. Kurt Sutter has even said at various points that the violence on his series is often cartoonish, asking viewers to suspend disbelief over how SAMCRO can speed down the highway while firing bullets at its enemy without there being some serious ramifications...

... and now he's asking us to process a storyline centered around a truly horrific act, something that has happened far too often over recent years and which hits as close to home as possible for far too many parents across the country.

Yes, it's realistic. But is Sons of Anarchy the sort of show that aims at realism? That we want to aim at realism? We're invested in these characters and their complicated, well-layered relationships, but we also tune in each week aware that the world in which Jax, Juice and company reside isn't reflective of our own. It's wild and entertaining and violent and just... out there. It's grounded in terrific characters, but they live in a fantasy land.

Now this same show is set to tell a tale based on an eerily life-like event - and while I'll reserve full judgment until seeing where this goes, my gut says this doesn't feel right. It's just seems, for lack of a far better word, icky.

And it also overshadowed what was otherwise a very strong opener. It's unlikely anyone will even be able to focus on the many developments that preceded the shooting, but let's rundown all that went down:

  • Jax mixed business and pleasure. Tara is locked away and Jax most definitely played. The introduction of Kim Dickens as a Madame was handled smoothly and, although she may have come on to him a little too strong, Jax's straying here opens up many storylines doors, from tension with Tara on the personal side to issues with Nero on the business side.
  • Speaking of Nero... What a tremendous additional Jimmy Smits' reluctant gang leader has been. His relationship with Gemma is - dare I say it? - sweet, while you can see his struggle to balance parenthood with criminal activity when he leaves an important meeting to spend time with his son.
  • And speaking of tremendous additions... Donal Logue, everybody! Lee Toric may have some kind of drug problem, but that's nothing compared to the problems he's causing for SAMCRO. He's pressuring Clay to flip. He's putting the squeeze on Tara. He's waking Otto up with inmate anal rape and... yeah. Let's just move on.
  • The past is prologue. Jax is still afraid of what Clay might do and Tig is still being requested as payment for the killing of Damon's Pope daughter. We've been here and we've done this, haven't we? As two of the main takeaways from the premiere, there's a feeling of repetitiveness to these storylines.
  • Acting Tarable. Look out, Gemma. If Tara ever gets out of prison, she's been practicing her left cross and her right hook and your role in her arrest may result in a couple black eyes.

So there are certainly many balls being juggled in the air over Charming, but so much reaction to the premiere will likely center around the school shooting. What did you think of it?


Editor Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (128 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


For those of you who are so upset about the school shooting and say that the show is a fantasy world and that nothing like that happens in real life, what world are you from? Things that happen on the show do happen in real life and stop getting so upset about Jax and his descisions. some of you need to remember its A TELEVISION SHOW and you did not write it or direct it or have anything to do with it so quit your bitching. THE SHOW IS AWESOME, so they kill people, so they cheat on their wives, so they sell drugs and guns, all things that people do all the time and it all comes down to one simple point, they are a family and they do whatever is necessary to protect that family no matter what. and thats the point, some of you need to get a clue and or a life, cuz this show is F!!!ING AMAZING and i love it, besides each year things have to change up or why would you keep watching the same shit over and over, KEEP IT UP SAMCRO and FX your show is one of the best ever cant wait to see more !!!


School shooting was unseen/unsettling but when you pay attention to the news in the "off-season" and Sutter signed C.C.H. Pounder to star as a District Attorney in the know now that the school shooting investigation is going to focus on where the weapon came from AND how the kid came to possess it. I almost bet money that the Club and Nero are going to face some sort of hell over this. Also during the "off-season" I watched 2 interviews on this site, 1 with Paris Barclay and 1 with Ron Perleman and they both talk about how this season is about Clay's redemption....he will play Toric like a violin, he wont rat. The only thing I have to say about Jax is if you want to know why bad sh** keeps happening to you/around you? It's all about choices, and it seems most of the ones you make are wrong. Wife is in jail and the way you find to cope with that and the fact that she dont want to see you is to nail another chick?! C'Mon man.


I like the addition of Peter Weller and Kim Dickens to the cast. Donal Louge is always great (and showing up in great series all over; Copper, Vikings, etc.) Some of the storylines are getting old. I really can't believe they are bringing back the "turn over Tig" storyline. Been there, done that.


John Teller's NIGHTMARE has come true! Thanks to evildoer clay for getting SAMCRO into the gun/drug trades: This is the reason why he KILLED j.t.
Now Jax and the MC can't excape it's coming back ten fold on them what goes around comes around. Nobody'safe.


loved it and the Opie patch! I still miss him :(


Lost respect for Jax. He was on a different level than the others, but now he's right there with them. Going to be hard to appreciate the rest of the season now. With a whore no-less? Tara didn't want to him to see her like that. She wasn't being selfish. It's not a free pass either - nasty Jax, nasty.


Tig drowns a guy in a tub of urine while it splashes all over him, including his SAMCRO jacket, then goes walking around and no one smells any piss? Holding his daughter at the end? I flinched, icky.


Wooo hooo! The show is back and it returned firing on all cylinders. Don't let the school shooting bring you down - it's TV, but good TV at that. Everything has it's place and purpose on this show. Dave Navarro's character will pay with his life for that shooting. After all, the gun left his house while the kid's mother just slept through the child's good-bye kiss. What a show. Between this and Breaking Bad, TV will never be the same.


It's tara's fault jax slept with that woman. He has been trying to be supportive but she keeps shutting him out. The kid kept showing up through the episode but never expected school shooting to go down like that. Actually felt it was appropriate way to push story forward as this will tear jax up. It totally overshadowed the other plot point with the Iranians and their torture porn and Tig drowning one of them in urine. Toric and Gemma together would bring about the apocalypse. They are both so EVIL to the core.


what an opener! we love this show (and i love jax), even with all the violence. but i feel the violence is taking over. a bit over the top last night. i'll continue to watch, i am intrigued, but...

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