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All photos © FX
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
f the new season of “Sons of Anarchy” wasn’t premiering next week, it might seem like Kurt Sutter was making a statement by releasing Season Two on DVD and Blu-ray only a few days after the Emmys. That’s because the motorcycle outlaw drama was unfairly snubbed from the awards show for a second year in a row, and it’s a sore subject for Sutter and his crew, who delivered yet another amazing season filled with captivating stories and award-worthy performances. But when you’re dealing with a show like “Sons of Anarchy,” it’s not surprising that Emmy voters would overlook it. Similarities to “The Sopranos” notwithstanding, “Sons of Anarchy” is a much ballsier series that makes HBO’s critical darling look tame in comparison.
Season Two picks up a few weeks after the death of Donna, and while Clay (Ron Perlman) and Tig (Kim Coates) are still trying to play off the murder as retaliation from the Mayans, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and Piney (William Lucking) know the real truth behind the botched assassination attempt. Piney wants to take action immediately, but Jax warns against such hostility because it would only cause Clay to wreak further havoc on the club. SAMCRO is already in a fractured state, and it’s only made worse by the arrival of Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin), a member of the League of American Nationalists under the guise of a cigar shop owner. Zobelle wants the Sons to stop selling guns to blacks and Latinos, and when Clay refuses, he sends his fellow white supremacists (led by Henry Rollins) to kidnap and rape Gemma (Katey Sagal) – a secret she keeps from Clay and Jax until she’s forced to come clean in order to prevent SAMCRO from imploding.
Meanwhile, Opie (Ryan Hurst) returns from a week-long walkabout ready to completely immersive himself in the club – unknowingly getting closer to the man responsible for the death of his wife – while Tig struggles with the guilt of being the man who pulled the trigger. Agent Stahl (Ally Walker) is also still very much in the picture, and although she’d be more than happy to take down SAMCRO in the process, her first order of business is investigating the gun trade in Charming, including IRA big shot Jimmy O (Titus Welliver), who just so happens to have a history with Chibs (Tommy Flanagan). And in case you thought Donna’s death was shocking enough, one of the Sons' own falls by the end of the season, while several others are seriously injured along the way.
It’s hard to expect anything less from a show where the characters’ actions always have extreme consequences, and Sutter has delivered a sophomore season that not only maintains that mantra throughout, but also raises the stakes considerably. He controls his characters like pieces on a chess board – each move necessary to progressing the story and carefully plotted out with the future of the series in mind. Of course, having such an incredible ensemble cast doesn’t hurt. Jax’s ongoing spat with Clay provided plenty of great scenes between Charlie Hunnam and the cigar-chomping Ron Perlman, while Ryan Hurst continues to impress as one of the show’s hidden gems with a much darker storyline than the first season. Nevertheless, it’s Katey Sagal who deserves the most credit for her emotional performance as the strong-minded matriarch who develops PTSD after being raped by Zobelle’s men. The sheer notion of the talentless January Jones getting an Emmy nomination over Sagal is blasphemy, and it ultimately boils down to one woman being part of an award-winning show, and the other not.
But just like Mr. Sutter, I digress, because while “Sons of Anarchy” may not have the award-winning pedigree of a show like “Mad Men,” it still has a bigger fanbase and similar critical support. That might not mean much to the people who give out awards, but it means a lot to fans like myself, who witness week in and week out why “Sons of Anarchy” is one of the best shows on television. From the midseason entry, “Gilead” – the closest thing to a standalone episode that found the Sons fighting for their lives in prison (and all while the Jax/Clay feud was at its worst) – to the heart-wrenching season finale, “Na Triobloidi,” the show is so addictively entertaining that it’s a wonder it isn’t more popular. And in a world where “The Sopranos” could win as many awards as it did, it feels a little bit like injustice when “Sons of Anarchy” can’t even get nominated.
Special Features: The Blu-ray release features a solid collection of bonus material including three audio commentaries with various cast and crew (on “Albification,” “Balm” and “Na Trioboidi”), over 40 minutes of deleted scenes and a gag reel. There’s also a featurette about the moral code of motorcycle clubs and an enjoyable roundtable with Kurt Sutter and the cast (sans Kim Coates) answering fan-submitted questions.