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Sons of Anarchy: Season Four(TV) (2011)
Sons of Anarchy, a dark drama set in Charming, a sheltered community watched over by a renegade motorcycle club intent on protecting the town from the newcomers that threaten it.
For more about Sons of Anarchy: Season Four and the Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray release, see Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on August 30, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ron Perlman, Katey Sagal, Kim Coates, Mark Boone Junior, Charlie Hunnam, Maggie Siff
» See full cast & crew
Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray Review
Secrets, secrets hurt someone.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, August 30, 2012
Last year, I wrote that FX's Sons of Anarchy was "the singular most badass show on television." Despite some heavy competition from AMC's Breaking Bad, I'm still sticking to my guns. Yes, Breaking Bad has the now super villainous, cancer-addled meth cook Walter White—who might be the single most terrifying character on cable—but Sons of Anarchy is straight-up bull-shark testosterone distilled into narrative TV form. You can practically smell the sweat, leather, motor oil, and iron tang of spilled blood wafting from the screen into your living room.
My wife jokes that the show is "male fantasy fulfillment" and "a soap opera for dudes," and I'm not going to argue with that. Part of the show's appeal is that it lets generally mild-mannered folk like myself—who love the idea of tooling around on a massive motorcycle but are too afraid of dying in a head-on collision—to be armchair outlaws once a week, vicariously experiencing the thrills of shootouts and standoffs and high speed chases. But beneath the high-octane, superficial masculinity—the muscles and engines and posturing—Sons of Anarchy more importantly gets at the soul of what it means to "be a man." Loyalty. Protecting those you love. Being true to yourself. Drawing influence from Shakespeare, it's also a dense, twisting family tragedy, a "Hamlet on Harleys" that rides circles around the themes of revenge, ambition, and destiny.
If you've yet to see Sons of Anarchy—and you're even remotely interested in a series about motorcycle-riding arms dealers—do yourself a favor and pick up the first three seasons on Blu-ray (or stream them on Netflix) before daring to watch season four. This isn't the sort of episodic show that you can just jump into; Sons' richly layered backstory and complicated inter-character dynamics practically require you to start from episode one. And if you like your TV with sprawling, overarching narratives, you'll be glad you did. This is a series that rewards attentive fans.
For newcomers, these are the basics: the show follows the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, specifically the "Redwood Original" charter—a.k.a. SAMCRO—which operates out of the fictional northern California town of Charming. It's a small, family-oriented burg, and the Sons want to keep it that way. This doesn't mean SAMCRO is family friendly. The club members see themselves as benevolent outlaws—here to serve and protect the community—but they're also into some seriously illegal, under-the-radar business, like their gun-smuggling agreement with the True Irish Republican Army. The club is led by the grizzled, lantern-jawed Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman)—whose hand-cramping arthritis threatens to keep him off his bike—but the real protagonist is his stepson, Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the princely Hamlet figure in this gasoline-soaked Shakespearean yarn.
The show's fourth season is more focused and impacting than the third, which sent several SAMCRO members to Belfast for the main story while leaving others behind in Charming to deal with comparatively unsatisfying subplots. The gang's together again this time around, and the show is much better for it. The season four premiere opens with the imprisoned Sons being released after serving a 14-month sentence, and the law is immediately back on their tails. Charming's new sheriff, Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar), greets them with a show of force, warning them not to wear their sleeveless leather "cuts" around town, but the more significant—and unseen—threat is antisocial Assistant U.S. Attorney Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon), a "really odd dude" who's secretly building a case against SAMCRO in order to help bring down the True IRA. What immediately gets Clay's goat, though, is Charming Heights, a planned subdivision that threatens to bring "modern luxury" to the sleepy town and—if built—will make a ton of cash for corrupt mayor Jacob Hale (Jeff Kober).
The tagline for this season might as well be "secrets, secrets hurt someone," as there are violent consequences when numerous characters withhold and manipulate the truth. There's "Juice" Ortiz (Theo Rossi), who gets blackmailed by the sheriff into gathering intel, Clay's "old lady," Jemma (Katey Sagal), whose been carrying a burden of guilt for twenty-odd years, and Bobby "Elvis" Munson (Mark Boone Junior), who tells a lie to death-row inmate Otto (show creator Kurt Sutter) that might come back to bite him. The core storyline, though, involves a satchel of letters written by Jax's dead father —possibly murdered S.O.A. co-founder J.T.—the contents of which could potentially upset the power balance inside SAMCRO. Jax's pediatric surgeon girlfriend, Tara (Maggie Siff)—who's pressuring him to get out of the outlaw trade for good—is hiding the letters for fear that they'll only draw Jax deeper into the club, but the insider knowledge she's learned by reading them inevitably puts her in grave danger. Since she has the potential to bring him down, Clay goes gunning for her—not exactly literally—and though he's always been bad to the bone, this season he emerges as something closer to a villain than an anti-hero, particularly after he savagely beats Jemma for questioning his decisions.
She's not the only one doubting his intentions. When Clay agrees to mule cocaine as part of an arms trafficking deal with the Galindo cartel—look out for the legendary Danny Trejo in a multi-episode arc as Mexican mafioso Romeo Parada—it effectively splits the club. The money is good, but the danger is multiplied, with new heat from the rival Los Sonora cartel and increased exposure to Lincoln Potter's investigation. The show definitely lives up to the anarchy of the title this year; the violence is fast and furious, and with bigger guns from the Irish—including assault rifles and rocket- propelled grenade launchers—there are episodes where the Sons seem more like a paramilitary group than a motorcycle gang.
The bloodshed is intense, but the drama is what makes Sons of Anarchy the rolling TV force that it is. Season four highlights the internal strains that are pulling SAMCRO apart, and the multi-layered relationships between the characters are peeled back onion-like, exposing raw grudges and resentments and wariness. It's gripping stuff, with twists galore, and it builds to a frenzy of murders and betrayals, most of which are predicated on miscommunication. My lone gripe with this season—and I'll keep this spoiler free—is that a deus ex machina in the final episode renders much of what we've previously seen moot, dampening what could've been an explosive powder-keg situation. They've gotta save something for season five, I guess.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shot natively on high definition video—using the Panavision Genesis HD camera, to be precise—Sons of Anarchy ports quite easily to Blu-ray, with a digital-to-digital, 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's satisfying in every regard. If you've seen the other seasons on Blu-ray, you know exactly what to expect from the season four set—a sharp, mostly clean presentation that bests broadcast and streaming quality by a country mile, with far fewer compression issues. Most of the time, the picture is very nearly noiseless, although some source noise does pepper the darker nighttime and interior scenes. Clarity is consistently impressive. The worn-in texture of the leather "cuts," the weatherbeaten faces, the scraggly beards, the detailing of weaponry—it's all sharp, without any trace of edge enhancement. The series' gritty but realistic color palette is finely tuned, riding on a foundation of strong blacks and punchy contrast. Highlights can occasionally seem slightly overblown, but this is rare and mostly attributable to the exposure latitude of the Genesis camera. Really, there are no distractions here; for Sons of Anarchy as it was meant to be seen, Blu-ray is definitely your best bet.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sons of Anarchy literally roars onto Blu-ray with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound presentation that's quite beefy for a cable TV show. You might not get the attention to detail or dynamic breadth that you'd get from a full-fledged action film, but the mixes are engaging and more than adequately support the onscreen anarchy. Engines purr with subwoofer accompaniment and bikes criss-cross between audio channels. Gunshots punch through the soundfield from all directions and the big guns—like those grenade launchers—bring suitable sonic shock and awe. Effects frequently occupy the surround speakers, which are also used often for environmental ambience, from quiet clubhouse noise to insects, birds, wind, and other outdoorsy sounds. The action is backed up by a selection of usually hard-edged musical cues, which fill out the space and sound great with volume cranked. Dialogue throughout is always clean and easy to understand. While there are no dubs, the disc does include optional English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Mandarin subtitles.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As far as I'm concerned, Sons of Anarchy is one of the best shows on TV right now, and its fourth season is balls-to-the-wall intense, with all the white-knuckle danger, badass violence, and Shakespearean drama you've come to expect from the series. If you're a longtime fan, this 3-disc Blu-ray set is probably already in your Amazon shopping cart—it features the same great picture and sound as previous seasons, and some great extras—but for newcomers, I'd recommend you start with season one and work your way forward. If you start now and pull a few marathon viewing sessions, you might get caught up in time for the season five premiere on September 11th.
Sons of Anarchy: Other Seasons
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Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sons of Anarchy: Season Four Blu-ray - June 15, 2012
In August, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will bring Sons of Anarchy: Season Four to Blu-ray. The latest installment of FX's popular crime drama finds the titular motorcycle gang dealing with the presence of dangerous new threats - both legal and illegal ...
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