Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - Season 4

It's a shame last night's final episode of this season of Sons of Anarchy was so disappointing, because up until it aired, they were putting together a very successful and at times amazing season that could have ended up as something really special. Coming off a year when a lot of people were questioning the show, to come this close to bringing it all back in grand style and then failing at the last second is just kind of a tragedy. It's not even a bad episode of television in a vacuum - it's well acted and shot as Sons always is, with some powerful scenes and good humor sprinkled throughout. The problem is what the episode represents as far as the rest of the season is concerned - that is, it reveals that the dramatic moments they've been building toward have all been a lie, and the huge stakes they put up never really existed. This seemed like a season that could really be a game changer for the show, and while a few things happen that will definitely have consequences next year, perhaps significant ones, they really don't come close to matching what the show has been hinting at all along.

It sort of felt like this was a back to basics season, after the much delayed and drawn out visit to Ireland (which I enjoyed) last year caused some people to question the show. It's just the sons in Charming again, trying to stay afloat while making some deals, avoiding trouble with other gangs, and trying not to get caught by the cops. Over the course of fourteen episodes, more and more conflicts pile on, small and large, that threaten to cause the club to collapse under its own weight and take everyone connected down with it. They use the technique very effectively, to the point where you worry that there's actually too many conflicts and they won't be able to satisfyingly resolve them all. And that ends up being the case. In the end, I doubt in the long run this will ever end up being seen as much more than a filler season, and you never want an entire year of effort you put into something to end up feeling like that. I can sort of see what Kurt Sutter and his team were going for in doing this, but in the end they teased some inevitable story beats that they weren't quite prepared to deliver on yet, and the result was a letdown.

The main cast was great as always, and their supporting cast was perhaps better than ever, with lots of recognizable faces joining both sides of the law. The show definitely gets a bit over the top with the sex and violence now and again, with a couple issues this season being firefights that are just too big for me to believe the cops wouldn't get wind of them in time and the very casual way the club members seem to regard violence against women. But the show wouldn't be the same without its edge, and I'd rather they lean too far toward over the top than too far in the other direction, and you can't really say there's another show on TV that pulls off action scenes better. And while they shied away from some big moments, the ones that they did have were pretty darn special. I'm definitely watching next year, because the season was mostly very good and I'm really invested in most of the characters and I know they can do better than this and there are plenty of things I know the show will eventually do that I still want to see. But it's definitely hard to shake that feeling of disappointment.

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