Netflix UK / Amazon Prime TV review: Sons of Anarchy – Season 1
Chris Bryant | On 12, Apr 2014
With the violence and brutality Kurt Sutter brought to The Shield, darkly comic characters and heart-wrenching plots, Sons of Anarchy might just be one of the best shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) stars as Jackson Teller, the often-half-naked Vice President of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, California chapter; a group of no nonsense bikers who drink and pick fights in Charming. The President, his step-father (a cigar smoking Ron Perlman, no less), leads the club to prosperity via violence and gun running. Upon discovering his dad’s old diary (a thoughtfully-narrated manifesto about anarchism), Jackson begins to question the direction the club is taking, compounded by the fact that it is attracting a lot of negative attention from rival motorcycle clubs, gangs and the law enforcement.
Flanked by his brothers – a recognisable cast that includes Mark Boone Junior, Tommy Flanagan, Kim Coates and The Shield’s alumnus Jay Karnes (playing a stalker to near perfection) – Jackson balances his philosophical struggles with shootouts, parties and grinning like a child.
The first triumph of Sons of Anarchy is the power balance. The writers have created a set of characters that know Clay Morrow (Perlman) is the big gun, but that when his wife (Jackson’s mother) Gemma tells you to jump, she ain’t gonna ask twice. Scheming and loyal, Katey Sagal effortlessly portrays a woman who has murderous members of a biker gang making her coffee whenever she clicks her fingers. As the series progresses, she identifies a challenge in Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff – Mad Men), an old flame of Jackson’s who returns to Charming for unknown reasons. Both women are written excellently and performed even more so, equal parts vulnerable, kind and understanding while holding true in their roles as the toughest of the tough.
The second triumph of Kurt Sutter’s world lands squarely at the balance between comedy and tragedy. It’s never clear whether the members of the gang are going to take any given situation seriously or not – maybe they’ll need balaclavas and silencers, or maybe they’ll just laugh and set everything on fire. (One member is even a part-time Elvis impersonator, while another discusses the virtues of interfering with dead bodies.)
Sons of Anarchy’s endless charm and wit ensures that the subject matter, though tense and important, always comes second to how warming it is to see these people having fun. Sometimes, fun is a shootout. Sometimes, it’s an explosion and a dog attack. But that’s just the Sons way.
You can watch Sons of Anarchy Seasons 1 to 5 online on Netflix, as part of a £8.99 monthly subscription. Sons of Anarchy Seasons 1 to 3 are available to stream on Amazon Prime Instant Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.