TV

The Resurrection of the Romantic Criminal in 'Sons of Anarchy'

Viewers who were disappointed by the shaky storyline in season four of Sons of Anarchy still have time to tune in as the new season gets under way. In a departure from past seasons, creator Kurt Sutter has chosen to minimize the 20 twists-and-turns per episode formula that he favors.


Sons of Anarchy

Airtime: Tuesdays, 10 pm
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman
Subtitle: Season 5, Episode 5 "Orca Shrugged"
Network: FX
Air date: 2012-10-09
Amazon

"When I look at my day, I realize that most of it is spent cleaning up the damage of the day before… all I have is distraction. And remorse." Jax Teller's moody voiceovers and Emma Goldmanesque sentiments have become an anchor for Sons of Anarchy. The fifth season of the popular biker drama has been heavy with the gloominess that Jax voices as episode five, "Orca Shrugged", kicks off.

Despite heady promises to boycott the drama after the graphic death of fan favorite Opie in episode three, the show's viewership jumped by roughly half-a-million households for episodes four and five. No doubt this is thanks to the irresistible pull of romantic criminal extraordinaire Jax Teller and his gang of lovable -- if not always ethical -- biker brothers.

Viewers who were disappointed by the shaky storyline in season four still have time to tune in as the new season gets under way. In a departure from past seasons, creator Kurt Sutter has chosen to minimize the 20 twists-and-turns per episode formula that he favors. A string of home invasions presents the show's only real mystery. The SAMCRO boys are trying to figure out who's behind the invasions, but Sutter has let the viewers in on the big secret.

Faithful viewers will recall that the same device was used in season three, when the TV audience knew that Jax's son was in Northern Ireland well before he did. Thankfully this season's dirty little secret hasn't ruined the show's overall sense of suspense as did the disclosure in season three.

While Sutter and crew are working hard to resurrect the romantic criminal par excellence in the new season, viewers are presented with contradictions that just can't be dismissed. Viewers are increasingly forced to adopt cognitive dissonance as a means of loving a central character who they would be scared of in real life. Fans also face a shifting nexus of emotions created by the sudden personality change of Tara, the new old lady supreme. But perhaps the most stunning contradiction was teased out at the end of "Orca Shrugged" when Sheriff Eli Roosevelt's wife was shot during a home invasion.

The episode ended -- as Sutter favors -- with a great deal left up in the air. It's not at all clear if Rita Roosevelt will live to see the next episode, yet fans who flood onto the show's social networking profiles to dish about the episodes immediately after they air have said nary a word about Rita. It seems a particularly troubling contradiction given that thousands of fans wrote rambling comments about the death of Opie. Though a well-loved character, Opie was hardly innocent of all wrongdoing. Sutter deserves praise for presenting bikers at their baddest, though he might be accused of offsetting shocking violence with his overall storytelling style.

Has Sons of Anarchy created an unwarranted sympathy with men who are sometimes mercilessly violent at the cost of a character who has generally been kind, just and well received? That remains to be seen. Viewers who continue to tune into season five will no doubt be treated to a full host of contradictions.

If past seasons are any indication, viewers are also in for heart-wrenching realizations about how they navigate and respond to those contradictions. Despite what might be called problematic characterizations, Sons of Anarchy continues to provide viewers with plenty of opportunities to analyze how images of criminality in the media at large are changing.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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