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DVD Review

DVD cover

Sons of Anarchy
Complete Season One


Starring: Ron Perlman, Katey Sagal and Charlie Hunnam
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 22 February 2010

Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller (Charlie Hunnam) has come to a crossroads in his life. Following the example of his late father he has become second in command of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original (SAMCRO, sometimes referred to as Sam Crow), but the birth of his first child and the discovery of his father’s journal makes him reassess what he is doing with his life, selling illegal firearms and engaging in turf wars with rival clubs...

Sons of Anarchy (2008) is another series which continues to show that the States still makes some of the best television around. The show was created by Kurt Sutter and the success of the drama secured a second and third season. Although the weight of the story starts with the tragedy in Jax’s family the show soon finds its feet in exploring the lives and morality of the motorcycle culture.

The gang are headed by Club President Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), one of the founding members and friend of Jax’s dead father, so friendly that following his unfortunate death Clay not only took his place as President but also married his widow, Gemma (Katey Sagal). If the bones of the plot sound familiar, the makers have deliberately used the bare structure of Shakespeare’s Hamlet on which to hang the story. The more observant will spot the occasional reference to the play. Add some of the family ties and divisions which are normally the staple of Mafia shows and what you have is a show which gets your attention from the opening shots and refuses to let go.

The gang live in the northern Californian town of Charming, run by a sheriff which accommodates the gang as they keep trouble away, but in the first episodes trouble comes anyway when a rival gang blows up SAMCRO’s weapons depot. These strands, the slow realisation that Jax’s father never wanted the club to be anything other than an alternative, outlaw, way of life and the increasing violence which embroils the club are what drive the narrative in the first season.

What could have been a bunch of long haired druggies riding around on bikes is expanded by making the characters multi-dimensional, at times in the furtherance of the club's business the members can be capable or extreme violence, but to those in their families they are shown to show genuine care and compassion.

Although the story centres on the Teller-Morrow family, this is an ensemble piece with the supporting characters being fleshed out and given their own screen time. During the day most of the gang have legitimate jobs at Clay's autoshop, but most of the gangs money is made by importing guns from the IRA to sell on to drugs gangs. This creates both allies and enemies. A significant rival gang is the white supremacists NORDS who want to move their drug trade into Charming, led by Ernest Darby, other allegiances are far more mobile, including their relationship with the Mayans.

The show uses this multi facetted background to weave a tale of good versus evil; however in Charming these lines are not so easily drawn. In one way the club can be shown to have lost its original ideal, but they are also, though their own criminal activities, the only group best placed to keep drugs and violence out of their home town, little wonder then that the local sheriff collaborates with the gang.

The DVD set contains the whole of the first season - thirteen episodes - as well as a number of small extras, including commentaries on a number of the shows. The set has a wonderful anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, coupled with a great 5.1 mix. There are stand-out performances from Ron Perlman and especially Katey Sagal as Gemma, a woman who is willing to do almost anything to hold onto power, although this season does not address the matter, her performance convinced me that she could well have been complicit in her own husband’s death.

It’s another great show which follows in the success of the Sopranos and The Shield, well presented with some really great acting. The only weakness in the set is the lack of any really meaty extras. What there are, in the main, are too short.


Charles Packer

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