It’s almost the Fourth of July—and that means it’s time to declare your independence from subpar television.
When & Where: Episodes available for download at iTunes. New season bows on FX Tuesdays at 10 on Sept. 8.
Premise: The dark, and sometimes darkly comic, misadventures of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original. Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal and Rob Perlman star.
Standout star: This may be a guy-friendly show, filled with lots of violence and explosions. But we agree with TV critic Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel: Sagal’s "ferocious" biker mom, Gemma, owned key parts of season one. She’s ruthless in her attempts to protect her son, but she’s also not afraid to get physical for more personal reasons (if you see Gemma brandishing a skateboard, you better run).
There’s "not a soccer mom out there wishes she couldn’t go a little Gemma on some PTA bitch," says creator/executive producer Kurt Sutter.
The buzz: While some critics were slow to embrace "Sons" when it bowed last September, by the time season one wrapped up, many were downright giddy with enthusiasm for Sutter’s creation. Alan Sepinwall of Newark’s Star-Ledger raved "the show has improved so much that its continued existence is one of the few things making it easier to accept" the end of "The Shield."
"Sons" has been particularly strong among a demographic that’s often elusive to programmers: young men. Season one attracted a cume rating of 1.2 million men 18-34, making it the No. 1 scripted show in basic cable among that group.
"I think ‘SOA’ makes the fantastic seem attainable," Sutter explains. "The sons are real guys, with real jobs, facing real problems — with a different kind of solution — an outlaw solution. Plus, we blow a lot of shit up. Guys like that. I like that. I enjoy large amounts of blood. On the page, and on the screen."
And what about critics who sniped the show started too slowly?
"I’d argue that the later episodes were easier to plug into because by then everyone understood the rules of the world and the serialization was in full motion," Sutter says.
Must-see episode: For Sutter, it’s "The Pull," the episode in which the Aryans try to make an alliance with the Mayans, and the SAMCRO realizes it’s time to go to war.
"It was a big turning point, not only in the season but in the series," Sutter says. "In my mind, it’s the first time Jax kills in cold blood. And he does it for love, not the club. It was especially fun for me blowing Jay Karnes’ brains out to make that moment fly. I love Jay."
What we like: "The Sopranos" and "The Shield" may be gone, but FX has found a worthy heir in this exploration of how far men will go to protect what’s dear to them. The character on "SOA" don’t act the way many Hollywood characters behave — and that’s why the show is so good.
"My goal is to show the truth of [the] outlaw world," Sutter says. "The rush: Harleys, fun, excitement, sex, drugs and power. [And] the inevitable crash: violence, greed, incarceration and death"
So far, so good.
What’s next: In addition to new guest stars Henry Rollins and Adam Arkin, "We pick up season two about a month later," Sutter says. "The emotional ride Jax began in the finale will continue. It won’t be a season of reading his father’s manuscript, it will be a season of trying to put it into action. He and Clay are on a collision course. Sam Crow will become Sam Crow’s worst enemy.
"Plus we’ve got neo-Nazis and porn," Sutter adds. "C’mon, you can’t go wrong with that combination."