'Sons of Anarchy' Season 5 Review: Wow. What a Payoff

Though incredibly addicting as always (I tore through all 13 episodes in three sittings), after just a few hours into the fifth season of creator Kurt Sutter’s “Sons of Anarchy,” I was starting to become annoyed. Although you expect all kinds of violence and sex in the ongoing tales of a gun and drug-running motorcycle club (MC), it was starting to feel nihilistic, pointless, and over-the top. Instead of being a character drama driven by an over-arching theme, the story felt driven instead by overstuffed plotting that was more chaotic than richly complicated.

Brother, am I glad I hung in there.


The latest SOA season to arrive on Bluray opens where season four left off: Clay (the magnificent Ron Perlman) and his lies and unbridled greed have tied SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original) up in legal, lethal, and personal knots. The CIA is holding a RICO charge over the club, a brutal and frighteningly powerful drug kingpin is out for blood, and “Jax” Teller (Charlie Hunnam) might have taken the club presidency from his stepfather Clay, but it is a club with more fault lines than Southern California.

Like a parrot, Jax is constantly forced to reassure that “I can fix this,” because every time he turns around there is a new complication: a new danger to his club or family that usually involves an impossible choice. Though not at all surprising, many of those complications come from Jax’s mother Gemma (the incredible Katey Sagal); the MC’s Machiavellian queen, keeper of secrets, and chief antagonist to Jax’s “old lady,” Tara (or anyone else who dares stand in her way). 

A wonderful addition to the fifth season is Jimmy Smits as Nero; a sleazy, charming, whip-smart pimp whose affair with Gemma pulls him deeper into the MC’s personal and professional drama. Smits’ transformation from the cops and lawyers that made him a star to this street-wise “companionator” should win him an Emmy. It was an inspired piece of casting for a cast that sorely  needed a breath of fresh air.

As I said above, the first 6 or so episodes are addicting but empty — like a guilty, pulpy, formulaic  pleasure that probably played better with a week off in-between, as opposed to a big viewing gulp or two. There is no question, though, that you keep watching because you just have to know what happens next. The other main attraction are fascinating characters and the incredible actors who bring them to life.

By the middle of the season, however,  the disparate pieces Sutter’s been creating finally come together. The man had a plan, and when the last scene of the last episode arrived I was so blown away I felt like I owed Sutter an apology for daring to even privately doubt him.

Sons of Anarchy Season Five is available at Amazon, and the sixth season premieres on FX Tuesday, September 10, at 10PM.