‘Sons of Anarchy’: Not Bad, Just Familiar

Published 12 months ago by

Kim Coates Tommy Flanagan and Charlie Hunnam in Sons of Anarchy Wolfsangel Sons of Anarchy: Not Bad, Just Familiar

“You don’t hate me because I’m bad, you hate me because I’m familiar.”

Clay delivers that line to the soon-to-be-dead Lee Toric, in a typically stoic show of defiance against a foe who will stop at nothing to make sure those he deems responsible for his sister’s death are punished as he sees fit. The line says a lot about Toric and accurately pinpoints the character before he meets his bloody end, but even though ‘Wolfsangel’ is chock full of character deaths and gruesome violence, that last bit about familiarity really seems to stand out.

In fact, this season of Sons of Anarchy has only been remarkable for how familiar the storyline has felt up to this point. What started with a shocking season opener that appeared as though the tough-talking, gun-toting Sons (and by extension, the show itself) were poised to address something as potent and contentious as the topic of gun violence, has now all but shifted back to the more habitual realm of SAMCRO working against the myriad forces out to get them, and/or paying back violence visited upon them with swift retribution.

After the third episode, ‘Poenitenita,’ it was clear that the school shooting had been put on the backburner (if not forgotten about altogether), and the primary concern of the narrative was to illustrate Jax & Co. distancing themselves from the gun and the family of the shooter because, as Toric demonstrated, those elements could easily be linked to the club.

In a way, all of that meant Sons of Anarchy felt as though it was distancing itself from the very topic it had dared to bring up, leaving us to ask: If not this, then what? Especially since this current storyline is setting the table for the series’ supposed conclusion next season, a more developed plotline might have emerged by now – an issue that’s not helped by the fact that every episode so far has been extended between 13-30 minutes).

Timothy V. Murphy and Charlie Hunnam in Sons of Anarchy Wolfsangel Sons of Anarchy: Not Bad, Just Familiar

But the extra time has been used to suggest and hint at things like the scheme Tara and Wendy have going on, and to lead the audience to wonder what stroke of luck will see Tig Trager escape all but certain death after Jax practically gift-wrapped and delivered his “brotha” to August Marks (which, when you consider this was a major plot point of last season, it’s hard not to feel like Sons of Anarchy has been here and done that).

Even the unexpected deaths of characters like Filthy Phil, Otto and the vengeful Lee Toric felt as though they were taken out of the Sons of Anarchy playbook from four seasons ago. And when the show throws in events like the Aryans dragging Unser from his trailer and carving a swastika into his stomach, or Galen taking Jax’s order of “hands off” way too literally, the violence no longer feels particularly shocking or even provocative; it just feels arbitrary and a little tired.

Still, it’s not hard to imagine that the end of Lee Toric is simply the end of the season’s first act – and therefore the beginning the story’s rising action. With the easy wickedness of Toric out of the way, perhaps the season is headed toward a showdown between the MC and CCH Pounder’s DA Tyne Patterson, who may yet find a way to bring the discussion of gun violence back to the MC’s table.

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Sons of Anarchy continues next Tuesday with ‘The Mad King,’ @10pm on FX.

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  1. I love SOA but it seems to be suffering from the same problem that Dexter went through when you extend a show out past where the original story was supposed to go and now just seems like its going through the motions until we reach next year’s finale…
    I guess after Breaking Bad, nothing seems to compare to the exceptional writing on that show and the courage to end it when it needed to be ended…

  2. As someone who has been watching SOA since it first began, I have seen every season to date wait until either its penultimate or final episode to kill its main villain. Kurt Sutter just threw out his own rulebook with this episode and I’ll admit, it caught me by surprise. I’m very excited to see where the rest of this season goes and who exactly the Sons will be up against, whether it’s an old enemy like the Irish Kings or someone new like CCH Pounder’s District Attorney. Personally, I would love to see Ethan Zobelle (who, if you’ll recall, is the only real villain that ever managed to slip away from SAMCRO) return with a vengeance, but that’s a real stretch. Anyway, while this season started with a seemingly predictable and foreseeable plot, it’s just been turned on its head with this episode. And, if you watch the preview for next week’s episode, it looks like the school shooting is about to rear its ugly head and come around to bite the Sons in the hind-quarters.

  3. Bit of a negative review – this was the best ep of the season so far, it had everything! a 9.3/10 on IMDB shows a lot of people agree!

    Great redemption for Otto in the end.

  4. I’ve only seen the first two episodes of season one and gave up after that; it didn’t feel like the show really had any point or something valid to say, as mentioned above, with the likes of Breaking Bad tv shows really need to step up their game and think about the complete story arc!

    • This is a show going no where!Just spinning its wheels in the blood,gore,and porn.

    • It never ceases to amaze me that people who claimed to have stopped watching a show ages ago still feel the need to make comments about the show they are supposedly not watching. Why do you care?

    • This show had great promise but I agree that this show also suffers from the same fate that Dexter did in which it has outlived past its prime. This was an okay episode but this show hasn’t felt the same since season 3/4. I know next season it’s supposed to wrap it all up but I think it’s maybe a couple of seasons too late. It’s become more soap drama than anything else with the constant issues with Gemma and Tara, Jax and Clay, and club going legit vs. not. I will still watch it become I’ve invested this much time in the series but I am also not going to classify it as being in the Breaking Bad/GOT/Spartacus/Boardwalk Empire type of category. Right now it’s in the Dexter category in which it started out strong but has faded over the years.
      Also, can we please get Jax out of those white kicks? I mean, if you’re going for a realistic biker gang type of feel at least make it look like one. Jax having white kicks is like Spiderman wearing red Air Jordon’s are part of his uniform.

  5. Finally….Otto is put out of his misery. Now there’s a guy who really suffered for the cause.

    As for Lee Toric…He really had to go because he was making everyone else look like a bunch of nice guys by comparison. Of all the evil people in all these4 gangs and such….Lee Toric basically made them seem like kids play by comparison. That is of course if you buy into the idea that he could go into a prison and get away with the things he was able to

  6. soa 4 life !!!!!!!!!!

  7. It’s a bummer to say but I’m glad Toric is gone.
    The character seemed interesting at first but once he was revealed to be a hooker killing, drug addict I lost all interest.
    Why couldn’t he just be a bad-a** former Marshal looking for answers for his sisters death and therefore having The Club face some sort of consequences for their actions?
    I’m not someone who thinks everyone on this show needs to die or go to prison but why does every adversary have to be crazy or a villain? Isn’t there anyone in this world who’s just a good person tired of all the drama this club brings to their town?

    Side Note…
    I read today that Toric was supposed to be around for the whole season and possibly the next but Donal Louge was cast in The Vikings and no longer available.

    • Lately that seems to be the way he leaves a show. He was just killed in Copper too…..I think he was in one or two episodes of The Vikings last season towards the end. He was basically the king of all the tribes. Should be an interesting season

    • I have to agree that Toric turned out to be a very unsatisfying villain. His over the top behavior turned what could have been an interesting, formidable foe into a cartoon character whack job. His only redeeming value to the story was allowing Otto to go out in a blaze of glory. R.I.P. Otto.

  8. This review was far too harsh, i actually think this season has been great so far, and the review (which i rarely, if ever criticize, whether it’s for a TV show or movies) of this particular episode was very off. I actually found the death of the prospects to be shocking, and that was in spite of the fact that i KNEW that the Irish had something up their sleeve when Jax said “hands off”.

    You keep referring to them putting the school shooting storyline on the “backburner”, i think you’re missing the point of that storyline, it was used to spur on the movement of the club to remove guns, essentially the last straw when it came to handling guns, so while the actual act of the shooting and it’s fallout might be put to the side until new information is learned in the investigation, the show gained so much in terms of narrative and theme from that one storyline, something I haven’t seen the reviews for this season mention.

    • this episode was really good, cant wait to see when jax catches up to the irish leader…………

  9. Everyone is alowed their own opinion and ivhave watched sons of anarchy for years and i am re watching all of the seasons again and still feeling like i am seeing it for the first time i do not like to hear people or critics downingvon the show so in mybopinionvthe showvis the best show ever written and im sure kurt has more in store for us it always has been a emotional roller coaster ride! So it is based on a outlaw motorcycle club if youcexpected peoplevsitting playing crib discussing whatvisvwrong in the world! Thisvis not realistic watch seventh heaven or cosbyshow to get your weekly lessons for me in my opinion only i like the violence and trouble the club gets into (inmy opinion only i love the show and hope it never ends.

  10. Best episode in a long time, genuinely had me sat, mouth open at a few points. I have the niggling feeling the final season is going to be all out war with the Irish. Cant help but think Jax will only be leaving in a box at the end of it all

    • See i think Kurt Sutter is a MASTER at pacing. Most seasons have been either a slow burn approach, or full throttle, sometimes a mix of both, and i think a lot of people were turned off by the pacing reduction after i believe it was season 4? which was definitely the most chaotic and full throttle season. Ever since then Sutter has taken the slow burn approach, which i personally like, suspense is just building to an all time high in this season, and i also believe season 7 will return to S4′s pacing, because it will be an all out war with the Irish.

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