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'Sons of Anarchy: Season Three': SAMCRO Takes Belfast

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Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010
Sons of Anarchy took a trip to Ireland this season for a biker version of Banged Up Abroad.

Sons of Anarchy

Season 3
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal,Ron Perlman, Maggie Siff
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 10pm

(FX; US: 30 Nov 2010)

Sons of Anarchy is a family drama. Well, it’s a dysfunctional family drama where the family is a California motorcycle club and their business is gun running. Like many families, the Sons share meals, celebrate births and mourn deaths. They also shoot people, drink a lot and party with strippers and porn stars.

This season they take a family vacation to Ireland to visit S.O.A.—Belfast edition. We know it’s Ireland because everyone speaks with a really thick Irish accent and the Irish version of the clubhouse looks like the one in their hometown of Charming, only with overcast skies. Also, what would a trip to Ireland be without the IRA and a morally bankrupt priest? Both make strong appearances in season three as the M/C searches for the son of one of the Sons—Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller’s (Charlie Hunnam) kidnapped baby Abel.

Sadly, the search for Abel is the least interesting thing about the season. It takes too much time, involves what feels like never ending exposition, and is a gimmick you expect to see in daytime television. The inclusion of the IRA is equally cliché. Why not also add a subplot about small men and their pot of gold?

The revelation that Jax has a Irish half-sister is only intriguing when it looks as if they’re about to commit incest. Jimmy O’Phelan (Titus Welliver), the (Irish) villain of the story is as one-dimensional as his ability to consistently escape tricky situations. I kept expecting him to show up in scenes twirling a dark mustache and doing a dastardly laugh.

What’s more interesting this season is the brief exploration of the relationship between Jax’s mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) and her ailing father. On the run from a corrupt federal agent who frames her for murder, Gemma returns home to find a once defiant and strong-willed man weakened by early stage dementia. Their reconciliation and her anguish at having to commit him to a nursing home provides a much needed balance for the character, who is too often defined as: “I am biker mama. Hear me roar.”

Season three also revisits Jax’s self-doubt as Abel’s kidnapping leads him to again question his purpose and role in the M/C. When he finally learns the location of his son, he discovers that Abel has been adopted by a young couple. He follows them through an outdoor market where they are the picture of a happy family. He never confronts them and in this selfless act, he releases his son from a troubled future. It’s a surprising and heartbreaking scene.

So it was disappointing when the perfect young couple is brutally murdered by the dastardly O’Phelan who takes Abel to ensure his escape out of Belfast and the IRA’s clutches. Abel however, is safely returned and Jax suddenly decides that he’s “done listening to dead men.” By this he means the ghost of his father, (whose regrets about founding the club haunt him) and not presumably, the ghosts of the men he has murdered. 

Jax, however, is not the only murderer this season. His girlfriend Dr. Tara (Maggie Siff) turns to the dark side when she is kidnapped by a member of the rival Mayan motorcycle club. Held hostage by the biker and his girlfriend, she completely forgets that doctor oath about “do no harm” and cuts the woman’s throat. Unlike her captor, Tara survives the ordeal, is reunited with Jax, and tells him she is pregnant with his child.

With Jax and Tara’s relationship returned to the status quo, he focuses on settling the score with O’Phelan. This involves double crossing some Russian criminals and the corrupt federal agent who framed Gemma. O’Phelan meets a grisly end. The agent is also killed but not before she signs a deal to clear Gemma and guarantee the M/C a brief stay in prison for previous criminal charges.

It’s all murder, mayhem and very little consequences—at least not for the Tellers. This is frustrating for a series that has shown potential for exploring deeper themes. If Sons of Anarchy wants to maintain its edge, it needs to spend less time on poor attempts at foreign intrigue and more time on the inner life of the characters who have lost their moral compass. Jax, in particular, is a character whose struggle against his birthright makes Sons of Anarchy intriguing television. Yet, this season, his self-reflection too easily gives way to deluded self-acceptance.

I guess if he can’t escape SAMCRO, at least he escapes Belfast. Must be the luck of the Irish.

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