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Sons of Anarchy: Season Two(TV) (2009)
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 Two and the Sons of Anarchy: Season Two Blu-ray release, see Sons of Anarchy: Season Two Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on September 12, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Writers: Kurt Sutter, Nichole Beattie
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Mark Boone Junior, Katey Sagal, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Theo Rossi
» See full cast & crew
Sons of Anarchy: Season Two Blu-ray Review
To buy or not to buy? That is the question.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 12, 2010
The typical angle that critics take on the FX channel's rowdy biker drama Sons of Anarchy is that it's "Hamlet on Harleys." And to be sure, there are numerous—but subtle—references to Shakespeare's tragedy, from characters that are practically one-to-one representations of Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, and Ophelia, to the show's overarching themes of betrayal, loyalty, and revenge. (The lead character, Jax, has yet to give a skull-in-hand soliloquy, but I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually get some kind of contemporary equivalent. Although, given the Sons' predilection toward extreme violence, who knows? Maybe he will hold an actual skull.) To overanalyze the connections is beside the point, as Hamlet really just gives Sons of Anarchy a loose framework, a skeleton that's fleshed out with the meat, gristle, blood, and guts of a modern-day outlaw biker gang. As I was finishing the gripping finale of season two, my wife popped in briefly to proffer her own comparison. "So," she said, "this is basically Sex and the City for dudes." And she's at least partly right. Just as Sex and the City offers a skewed, exaggerated view of what womanhood should be, Sons of Anarchy—by all exterior appearances—is masculinity hyperbolized. But there's more to it than that.
For those of you who missed out on the first season, Sons of Anarchy is about a fictional biker gang—they refer to themselves by the acronym SAMCRO, or, phonetically, Sam Crow—who are the self-appointed protectors of Charming, a sleepy town in rural California. SAMCRO are not what might typically be called good guys. They make their business gunrunning and selling assault rifles to street gangs and drug dealers. They've got local law enforcement deep in their pockets. And, when it's called for, they're capable of being stone cold killers. But they're not exactly bad guys either. They keep drugs and prostitution out of Charming. They look after their own. In short, they're semi-above-the-law anti-heroes who adhere to their own strictly defined moral code. Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), the club's president and our Claudius stand-in, rules the roost, but his tenure is shaky at best, partly because he's getting arthritis in his hands—can't ride, can't rule—but mostly because the vice-prez, his step-son Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), whose father founded the gang, wants to take the Sons in a new direction. The tension between the two is impossibly taut by the season one finale, in which Jax discovers that one of Clay's orders resulted in the accidental murder of a club member's wife.
Season one suffered somewhat from the lack of a central antagonist, but that's remedied here with the introduction of Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin), a sly businessman who leads the League of American Nationalists—a thinly veiled white power organization—and who has designs on driving SAMCRO out of Charming. Zobelle's skinhead thugs, led by a bruiser named Weston (Henry Rollins), send SAMCRO a message by brutally gang-raping Gemma (Katey Sagal) —Clay's wife and Jax's mom—but this is just the opening move in the complex chess game of season two's plot. The Sons get in real trouble when Zobelle edges in on their gun source, an offshoot of the Irish Republican Army, and starts playing the local law enforcement against them. Meanwhile, inside SAMCRO, the rift between Jax and Clay grows ever wider as secrets from season one seep out, forcing some members to jump to one side or the other. With the gunrunning money drying up, SAMCRO, much to Clay's chagrin, begins relying on revenue from one of Jax's ideas, a legitimate porn business. I think we can all see the obvious—it couldn't have hurt ratings to have nearly naked women traipsing through the early episodes of season two—but I'm willing to drop my cynicism since the "adult" storyline is so well-integrated. The whole porn sub-plot, however, does bring up a common misconception that non-viewers may have about Sons of Anarchy, namely, that it's nothing more than exploitive, uber- masculine schlock. Sure, the show seems like it runs on pure bull shark testosterone—guns battles and knife fights, fast bikes and faster women—but at its core, Sons of Anarchy is all about relationships.
And, of course, all relationships are based on motivation—love, jealousy, anger, lust, fondness, resentment, or some complicated amalgam thereof. One of Sons of Anarchy's greatest attributes—and you can definitely say the same for Hamlet—is the way it probes its characters' impulses, the way it navigates complicated emotions. The not-quite-father/son relationship between Clay and Jax is only the beginning. The brotherly affection amongst the Sons is convincing—as is the strict hierarchy within the gang—and Jax's home life with girlfriend Tara (Maggie Siff) is dramatically ripe. (See the scene where Tara, a well-educated doctor, finds out that Jax just murdered a man as part of his club duties.) Surprisingly, the most compelling relationship in the show is the one between Tara and Gemma, who come from completely different worlds but are bound by a shared role as the "old ladies" who hold the club's men together—Tara physically, by stitching them up, and Gemma emotionally, as a kind of den mother to the Sons. A show about a motorcycle gang could easily resort to cardboard cutout characters, but most—most—of Sons of Anarchy's bikers, broads, and bad guys seem more dimensional than cartoonish. (There are a few exceptions, like most of the porn star characters.) Now, I may have focused on feelings and relationships, but viewers hungry for violence and out-and-out insanity won't be disappointed—with massive shootouts, brawling o'plenty, and road-ripping bike action, Sons of Anarchy definitely lives up to its name.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Two Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shot natively using the Panavision Genesis HD video camera, Sons of Anarchy gets a digital-to-digital 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that delivers a crisp, easy-on-the-eyes image. Really, the only flaws to this presentation are the ones inherent in the source material. Since the exposure latitude of digital isn't quite as wide of a spectrum as that of film, you'll notice that some highlights look slightly blown out. You'll also see a distinct spike in digital noise during darker nighttime scenes. Otherwise, this is a slick HD video production that looks even better here—as you'd hope—than it does on television. Clarity is fantastic; anytime there's a close-up you'll be able to count the pores on the actors' faces and even make out the fine texture of the Sons' leather "cuts." The only anomaly I spotted in resolution takes place at the end of the "Fa Guan" episode—as the camera circles around the cast members, the image looks uncharacteristically smeary and soft. It's bizarre, but thankfully brief. The series has a very realistic, life-like color palette that features strong primaries—especially reds—and natural skin tones. Saturation is nicely balanced, collaborating with deep black levels to create a picture with tight contrast and real dimensional presence. Aside from the occasional video noise, there are no real compression-related problems. Looks great!
Sons of Anarchy: Season Two Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I have to give it to Fox for delivering consistently solid audio experiences—lossless, to boot—on all their televisions series. Sons of Anarchy gets a punchy DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround presentation that may not offer the intricate sound design of a theatrical film, but leaves most TV shows in a wake of dust and exhaust. With all of the motorcycles in this series, you can bet there's a lot of throaty LFE rumble, accompanied by deft cross-channel movements as the bikes zip out of frame. The rear channels are frequently filled with quiet environmental ambience—chatter in the clubhouse, the street sounds of Charming, etc.—and when gun battles erupt, explosive shots pop off from every direction, effectively putting you right in the middle of the action. Many of the episodes are punctuated by hard rock tunes, which blast forcefully from all channels with defined bass and growling guitar. There were a few instances when I felt there was too much low-end in the dialogue—giving the voices a heavy, though not quite muffled quality—but never had any trouble understanding what was being said. Overall, the mix is intense and far better than you might expect from a basic cable TV series.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Two Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Like the Blu-ray set for season one, this season two release includes three commentary tracks—one on each disc—all hosted by showrunner Kurt Sutter. On "Albification," Ron Perlman, Adam Arkin, and Guy Ferland drop in for a relaxed chat, and Sutter is joined on "Balm" by Perlman, Katey Sagal, Maggie Siff, Paris Barclay, and Dave Erickson. If there's one must-experience track, it's for the finale, "Na Triobloidi," which features nearly all of the cast members and can optionally be viewed as a picture-in-picture commentary.
The Moral Code of Sons of Anarchy (1080p, 10:33)
Show creator Kurt Sutter and various cast members comment on loyalty, hierarchy, and the rigid set of rules that dominate life for motorcycle gangs in general, and the SOA in particular.
Sons of Anarchy Roundtable (1080p, 40:29)
Kurt Sutter and nearly the entire cast gather at the Happy Endings bar in Los Angeles to have an extensive Q&A session, taking on questions submitted by fans via Facebook and Sutter's blog. If you feel like you know the characters on the show, it's kind of crazy to see how different the actors are from their roles. Oh, and Ron Perlman is wearing, bar none, the most ridiculous button up shirt I've ever seen—a weird multi-colored paisley patchwork that looks like an acid trip in cloth form. Definitely worth watching, and not just for the shirt.
Gag Reel (1080p, 3:57)
A fairly funny montage of flubbed lines, jammed guns, and botched takes.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, approx. 40 min.)
Each disc contains a several scenes that were trimmed for time.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Two Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sons of Anarchy avoids the sophomore slump in season two by delivering a well-told arc that's focused more on the complicated relationships between the characters than mere gratuitous motorcycle gang exploitation. For all its machismo, this is a series with real nuance, thanks to the specificity of showrunner Kurt Sutter's storytelling and the efforts of a cast who bring life—believably—to their complex characters. Fans of the series will definitely want this set sitting on their shelves—it has excellent picture and sound, and a decent array of special features—but for newcomers, Sons of Anarchy season one is an essential prerequisite before proceeding to season two. Recommended.
Sons of Anarchy: Other Seasons
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Sons of Anarchy: Season Two Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sons of Anarchy Season 2 Blu-ray Announced - May 28, 2010
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced Sons of Anarchy: Season Two for Blu-ray release on August 31. From the creative mind of Kurt Sutter (The Shield), this FX original series centers on a notorious outlaw motorcycle club intent on protecting their ...
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