This review contains major spoilers if you haven’t yet seen the episode.
Like many, I’ve found the nine month wait since the end of Sons Of Anarchy season two a long wait, but heck, it’s great to finally have the show back. It’s a program that’s often overlooked when people talk about their favourite show on TV. Yet, it’s difficult to see why: a Shakespearean-influenced show about a badass, bearded, heavily tattooed gun-running biker gang is always going to be standing tall next to Mad Men and Breaking Bad in my book. If you haven’t watched Sons Of Anarchy yet, I recommend grabbing the first two seasons as soon as possible.
Season three picks up where we left off at the end of season two, with Gemma on the run, framed for murder. Also, Half-Sack is dead, and Abel has been kidnapped by Irish gun-runner Jimmy.
The finale of season two was captivating and infuriating in the same breath. Captivating because it was truly the kind of television that raises your pulse, and infuriating because it ended on a huge cliffhanger. After investing so long in the big payoff, it felt a little unfair to leave the audience hanging for the next nine months.
Saying that, the finale set up the introduction to season three perfectly. We open with an overwrought Jax attempting to push Tara away, Gemma is on the lam in Oregon, and Jimmy is nowhere to be seen.
While there’s no denying that Charlie Hunnam’s portrayal of a heartbroken Jax is pretty solid, it also seems a little out of character. Granted, his eight-month-old son has just been kidnapped, but Jax has always been portrayed as a man of action, and to see him moping around rather than doing all he can to find his son seems a little unusual.
The Hamlet-influenced conflict between Jax and Clay seems to have been pushed to the wayside a little since Gemma revealed that she was raped in season two and, naturally, Abel’s kidnapping put it completely to bed for the time being. But it’s still a relief to actually see Jax and Clay work together. The tension is clearly still there a little, and it’s somewhat apparent towards the end of the episode at Half-Sack’s wake. It would be pretty surprising if the conflict doesn’t return later in the season.
Gemma seems to be really struggling with being away from her family and from the club. Despite being told that there’s an APB out for her in five states, she still continually attempts to escape the motel where she is staying, at one point stabbing a man in the groin when caught attempting to hotwire his car.
This seems a little out of character from the Gemma that we saw in the early episodes, but a lot has changed since then. It also feels a little like Tara is filling in Gemma’s role as the mother to the gang. There is even a point where she tells Agent Stoll to “stay away from my family”. This seems to have been a long time coming and ties in with Clay telling Tara that her involvement with Jax and SAMCRO is important.
The sexual tension between Gemma and Tig is still apparent as well. If you’ll remember, the two of them had a fumble in season two and throughout the latest episode, it seemed that whenever Tig touched Gemma, his hand would linger over her for a long time.
A new member of the cast is Hal Holbrook, who portrays Gemma’s father. Gemma’s father is a retired reverend, now suffering from dementia and unaware that his wife, Rose, has passed away. The scene when Gemma and her father meet is pretty brutal, as her father continually shouts for Rosie to come and see Gemma.
It’s scenes like this one, though, where Sons Of Anarchy really prevails. It may be about bikers and beatdowns, but the characters are the strongest part of the show and every actor in the cast really pulls their weight and makes their character feel real. Especially so here.
Aside from a misunderstanding with a rival gang and a chase round the town, which ends with no casualties, in the first twenty minutes, this opening episode felt like it was going to be one of the more ‘talky’ episodes with little action. But then the ending rolls in like an unwelcome biker gang and beats you with a chain.
At the end of Half-Sack’s wake, when the mourners are leaving, a van drives by and masked men open fire. The Charming Police attempt to shoot at the driver who, in an attempt to escape, strikes Officer Hale with the vehicle, leaving him for dead. One of the gunmen falls from the car, and is promptly subdued by the police.
It is here that Jax seems to snap out of his melancholy, when he sees a child who has been shot in the stomach. This prompts him to walk over to his handcuffed assailant, and smash his head off the ground repeatedly, until he’s stopped by Clay and a few of the other SAMCRO members. It appears that in the final seconds, a female police officer is pointing a gun at Jax, so he may be in jail in the next episode.
So, there we have it. Sons Of Anarchy is back and is as serious as ever.
I do think it’s a real shame that they killed off Hale, as he was one of the few characters in the show that had a conscience, and was working for the good of the town, rather than his own selfish needs. Regardless, the opening episode is a great set up for the rest of the season.
In the last few minutes of the episode we see Jimmy take Abel into a house in Belfast, which was shot on location and, apparently, the city of Belfast will feature prominently this season, so it’ll be interesting to see where that goes next. I know I’ll be looking forward to every Tuesday for the rest of the year.