Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sons of Anarchy Season 2 review - Nazis speed any plot along

Spoilers for Season 1 and 2 of Sons of Anarchy. 

In Charming, the Sons of Anarchy get competition by the rascist "League of American Nationals", a group of Neonazis committed to drive the Sons out in order to dominate the town and the business themselves. Their leader, a man named Zobelle (Adam Arkin), is outsmarting the Sons at every turn, using his facade as a respectable businessman to force the Sons into open conflict with law enforcement. In the case of a public attack, even corrupt Wayne Uncer couldn't save them. To reinforce the Son's attack, his right-hand-man Weston (Henry Rollins) rape Gemma, hoping to lure the club into an ill-thought retaliation attempt. However, Gemma knows the intent and keeps the attack to herself. 

In the meantime, the rift between Jax and Clay widens. Jay is questioning most of Clay's decisions as he tries to bring the club into more "respectable" business, trying to get a hand in the porn business. However, a botched retaliation attempt against the League brings most club members into prison, where ATF-agent Stahl - stil bent on letting the club rat out the IRA - provokes a fight between Jax and Clay. When the members get out on bail, Jax decides to go Nomad, but Gemma prevents this by making her rape public, temporatily reuniting Jax and Clay. They find out that Zobelle only is in for the money - he works with the Mayans. The club uses this to its advantage...
You can easily exchange Clay with Josiah Bartlett.
The conflict between Jax and Clay, promised in season one's cliffhanger to become the new center plot piece, quickly derails this season into an argument about the right strategy to fight the League of Neonazis. While this opens some possibilities for scenes of baffingly stupid decisions from the club, it is equally baffling to see what little fallout this has. The Sons are committing serious crimes and pretty much everyone and their mom knows it, but somehow, no one's really interested about that. It is not as of yet a problem as there are explanations (the ATF gunning for the IRA and the police being in their pockets), but believabilty is clearly suffering.
Yeah, that seems like standard police work.

It is also problematic that the conflict that was started in season one - just what exactly should the Sons of Anarchy be? - is pushed in the dim background by this, and the arguments revolve around plot obstacles instead of serving character development.The plot is helped along by a tight pacing and construction: the Neonazis provide a clear enemy, even more evil than the rockers, making fronts clear and clashes exciting, giving you someone to root for. It is a cheap trick - the Sons are the bad guys, really, but their enemies are even worse - and since law enforcement is also plainly even more evil than the Sons, you never need to ask uncomfortable questions about who exactly you are rooting for. So far, this more or less works.
And now, Jax-face!

What really is a neat device is to set Opie against Jax. You have to roll with the reason for Jax not telling anyone that he knows Clay violated club rules - some club rules that are never explained - but if you just forget that the whole plot wouldn't exist if those purposedly best friends would just talk with each other, it makes for some compelling drama. Gemma being caught between conflicting loyalties and trying to mend fences is also very nice.
Have to like her, right?

However, overall, the second season falls short of the first one. The enemy the club gets in the Neonazis is channeling attention for viewer and club alike, but it costs the show its exploration-of-the-club-angle. Suddenly, all the biker life, their everyday routine vanishes completely and the plot developments suck up all screen time. Also, two seasons in, we still don't really know most of the characters.
Looking at you, Juice.

The final cliffhanger also seems a bit too much on the contreived side: the abduction of Jax's son to Belfast for no real reason other than to essentially restart the whole series smacks of sheer laziness in script writing. Only literal seconds after the Nazis have been defeated, the club gets a new common enemy in the rogue (?) IRA members, melting them together again and therefore recreating the setup of season 1. This sets a dangerous precedent for future seasons.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome T.V series. JAx teller performed as well, Teller fans want to get this leather vest to here:-