I've been so excited about tonight's Sons of Anarchy season premiere, I managed to completely forget that I was more than a little underwhelmed by the season 5 finale. In fact, I declared at the time that I was "mad at Jax, mad at Gemma, and mostly disgusted with Tara," and felt that I was left with virtually no reason to anticipate season 6. Fast-forward nine months and my goldfish brain is like, OH MY GOD IS IT ON YET IS IT ON YET OH MY GOD.
Well, forget my grumpiness about last December's finale, let's discuss tonight's premiere SoA episode, titled "Straw." We'd been warned it was going to be rough, but was it really as upsetting as some early critics claimed?
Short answer: definitely not for the first 85 minutes.
There were a lot of plot advancements in tonight's show: Tara's in prison where she refuses to let Jax see her (possibly because her hair looks like ASS, where's Orange Is the New Black's Sophia to work a weave when you need her?), Jax and the gang are fighting with Persians Iranians over their torture porn business, Gemma's playing up her loving grandma act while steadfastly refusing to acknowledge her role in putting Clay in jail, former US Marshal Lee Toric is making life super shitty for everyone, Tig drowns a guy in a bathtub full of piss, Chibs beats the living hell out of Juice then tenderly cares for his wounds, Peter Weller shows up in order to make us all marvel at how long it's been since Robocop was released, and we get a mighty fine look at Jax's rear view as he vigorously cheats on his wife (here's a little taste, Fifty Shades of Grey fans!).
(Also, there are now THREE Deadwood alums on SoA. Unser, of course, who was Charlie Utter; the madame Colette, who was head whore Joanie Stubbs, and SAMCRO's attorney Ally Lowen, totally unrecognizable from her amazing character Calamity Jane.)
The big twist came at the end, at the hands of the young boy we kept getting glances of throughout the episode. The boy sits in front of his Catholic school as the church bells ring, rolls up his sleeves to reveal cutting scars on his left arm, then pulls out a gun and walks inside where we're mercifully spared the visuals of the massacre that happens next.
It was grim, but not exactly unexpected, since show creator Kurt Sutter had previously revealed why he chose to include a school shooting in the premiere:
I've wanted to do that story for about three years. Obviously, I knew that it would be somewhat controversial, but I feel like, as much as I wouldn't do something because it was controversial, I'm also not going to do something because it's controversial. (...) The events that happen in the premiere are really the catalyst for the third act of this morality play that we're doing.
Personally, tonight's episode didn't really do it for me on a number of levels. I'm weary of Jax's inherent crappiness, which has long crossed the line from anti-hero to just plain asshole territory. I wish they wouldn't always include a big corny fight scene and a sad music montage. I cannot deal with Tara's hair.
As for the school shooting, I'm not outraged by it. But neither was I blown away or enormously moved. That scene felt ... well, I don't know if exploitive is the right word, but it felt like a gratuitous attempt at a big HOLY SHIT moment that fell short. I'm unclear how this will all tie back to SAMCRO (was the boy's mother Dave Navarro's old lady?), but this subject deserved nuanced storytelling. Instead, it got an episode mostly brushed with shallow strokes -- the masterful depth of earlier Sons of Anarchy seasons was nowhere to be found.
What did you think of tonight's premiere?
Image via FX