It was only fitting that there was a little bit of mayhem at Saturday night’s Hollywood premiere of FX’s hugely successful motorcycle gang drama “Sons of Anarchy,” which launches its seventh and final season on the cable network Tuesday night.
For those not familiar with the intimate details of the gritty series, “Mr. Mayhem” is the code name for what happens to people who cross SAMCRO, after the gang takes a unanimous clubhouse vote on whether said person should meet the Mister, an encounter after which they will not return to this earth.
FX pulled out all the stops for the event, shutting down part of Hollywood Boulevard in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre for a red carpet, adorned on each end by shiny, new Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
A large crowd screamed their appreciation for series stars Charlie Hunnam, Kim Coates, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Theo Rossi, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo and Dayton Callie, along with creator/executive producer Kurt Sutter.
Guest stars Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, Danny Trejo and Lea Michele also aroused fan cheers.
Inside, before you could say, “Jax Teller is back,” the historic theater was filled to the brim with close to 1,000 guests eager to see the next chapter of Sutter’s saga, which though it deals with drug dealers, gun running, corrupt law enforcement and outlaws driven by the seduction of money and power, has often been compared to a Shakespearean tragedy for its examination of familial and marital ties.
The Los Angeles City Fire Marshal was not pleased with the more than capacity crowd that overran the number of available seats, so FX organizers were forced to persuade their colleagues who had already seen the first episode to give up their seats to those who hadn’t.
After a number of announcements and a lengthy period of seat-scrambling, Mr. Mayhem beat a retreat and the way was cleared for FX CEO John Landgraf and Sutter to speak and the program to begin.
Sutter, who in an earlier season played jailed MC member Otto — a devious, violent but somewhat principled bad-ass who met an untimely and gruesome demise — is known for his no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners proclamations about the television industry, and recently published a treatise taking Google to task for stealing creators’ copyrighted material.
So it was surprising to witness the tender side, a man who was so moved in thanking just about all the key crew and cast over the past seven years that he was having trouble holding it together at the podium. When it came time to laud Landgraf and Hunnam, whom he called his own personal sons of anarchy, Sutter choked up several times during a lengthy appreciation of the two men. Full disclosure: From my seat in the first row, across the aisle from Love, I felt myself tearing up as well.
Sutter received a standing ovation after his remarks, to which he responded by shouting, “All of you, sit the fuck down.”
And with that, the curtain rose on the first chapter of the final season, titled “Black Widower.”
For those not caught up with what’s been going on in the fictional town of Charming, Calif., don’t read the following synopsis.
Jax’s physician wife, Tara Knowles, played by Maggie Siff, was brutally murdered with a carving fork by his mother, Gemma (Sagal) in a fit of revengeful but ultimately mistaken rage. San Joaquin County Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) comes into the bloody scene in the Teller family kitchen and is shot twice in the back by Juice (Theo Rossi) as the lawman tries to explain that Tara did not sell out the club. Juice helps Gemma escape from the house. Yet he’s been banished from the club and is in hiding, with Gemma’s help, amid a tense level of trust between the two—both hiding murderous secrets, living a lie with the self-preserving imperative to prevent Jax from ever finding out the truth.
The murder and mayhem has been woven throughout the past seven years with deadly jeopardy and shifting alliances around every turn on the highways and byways of Central and Northern California, from the docks of Oakland to the Teller-Morrow automotive shop to the seemingly bucolic woods outside Charming, where bodies are often buried in the dark of night. Action has also taken place in locales as far-flung as Vancouver and Belfast.
Yet even amid the webs of intrigue, the betrayals of brotherhood and the high-octane brutality, a dark humor is laced throughout, reflecting a blue-collar sensibility rare on television, which clearly resonates with the audience.
It’s the most popular series in FX history, drawing a weekly average of more than 10 million viewers last season. And you can be guaranteed “SOA” will not ride quietly off into the sunset. We don’t want to meet Mr. Mayhem by revealing anything else.
(“Sons of Anarchy” Season 7 premiere airs Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, on FX at 10 p.m. ET/PT.)