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TV Series Review

Something's rotten in the town of Charming—and it ain't the apricots.

Charming's a pretty place, snuggled as it is in the heart of California's ag-country. And while it's not exactly on a list of California's must-see destinations, it certainly has a lot of orchards and ranches and gangs and—

Yes, there are seemingly scads of gangs in and around Charming, chief among them the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club's Redwood Original chapter. Founded in 1967 by a handful of Vietnam vets, the Sons of Anarchy (known as SAMCRO) pretty much rule this town from the seats of their custom bikes. The original members are a little long in the tooth by now—one totes around a canister of oxygen, and others should sport tattoos that read "born to wheeze"—but if someone would dare suggest that perhaps they should trade their rides for rockers, they'd tell you in no uncertain terms to mind your elders.

And then they might shoot you.

Yes, SAMCRO's that type of motorcycle gang. You won't find boomer-aged dentists who bought a hog on a lark here. And not one of the members, to my knowledge, totes a teddy bear on the back of his bike. When they defend the locals from outside baddies, it's only to make sure nobody horns in on their own brand of badness. And they're getting badder by the day.

For that, SAMCRO can in part thank Clay Morrow, the club's one-time president. He was instrumental in turning the Sons of Anarchy into a shady-but-lucrative crime syndicate—selling guns, mostly, but branching out into drug distribution too. Sam's dead now. And while Jax—Clay's nephew, heir and killer—initially hoped to steer the gang in a better, cleaner direction, he's pretty much given up on that already. Indeed, if Clay carried his guys into the gray underworld, Jax sometimes feels like he's inexorably riding into the heart of darkness, all the while dealing with and double-crossing other gangs as ruthless and conniving as his. Oh, and if a lawman who can't be bought wanders into town—a rarity, to be sure—SAMCRO will readily deal with that problem as well.

Despite its hog-wild and hardscrabble trappings, Sons of Anarchy has a literary backbone: It's based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. And while the Bard's influence on the show seemingly ended when Jax cut down Clay, we're unquestionably looking at a tragedy still unfurling—one bathed in blood. It wouldn't surprise me much to learn that during the finale the entire character list dies after getting poisoned in the ear. Of course, FX would presumably favor a bloodier end—so as to somehow one-up the bloody beginning and middle. Because this is, frankly, one of television's most barbaric offerings.

In Sons of Anarchy, when murder is "just" business, it's awful. And when it's personal, it's even worse. "I'm amazed sometimes at the level of violence we get away with on my show," says creator Kurt Sutter. Indeed, blood and brain matter routinely splatter across walls and floors. And rarely do we see consequence. We've witnessed lots of television programming that amplifies and elevates gore to uncomfortable levels. But has any show ever been quite so cavalier about it? So remorseless?

For SAMCRO, the decision to participate in the drug trade is something of an ethical dilemma for its members. But the killing of rivals? Or for personal revenge? That's no moral quandary. Wrong is to get caught, not to do the dirty and drastic deed in the first place.

Charming? The town may be. The show is definitely not.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

SonsofAnarchy: 9-9-2014
SonsofAnarchy: 9-13-2011



Readability Age Range



Charlie Hunnam as Jackson 'Jax' Teller; Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller Morrow; Ron Perlman as Clarence 'Clay' Morrow; Maggie Siff as Tara Knowles; Kim Coates as Alex 'Tig' Trager; Mark Boone Junior as Robert Munson; Ryan Hurst as Harry 'Opie' Winston; Dayton Callie as Chief Wayne Unser; Jimmy Smits as Nero Padilla; Drea de Matteo as Wendy Teller






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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