Wednesday, October 1, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

‘Sons of Anarchy’s’ drive to shock viewers rides into trouble

decicco column sig

By
From page B1 | October 19, 2012 |

“Not a lot of gray in this life, sweetheart,” said Katey Sagal’s Gemma Teller Morrow in a recent episode of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.” “Extremes become average.”

It was a self-aware moment for a show on which a Northern California motorcycle club dabbles frequently in rape, murder, arson, physical assault, gun running, drug trafficking and Irish accents.

I’ve watched through Tuesday’s most recent episode, so those who prefer the element of surprise should take this as a cue to get on their bike and ride on out.

What keeps this show from being among the upper echelon of shows on television for me – a class I currently reserve for the likes of “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” – also is the thing that makes it FX’s most-watched program to date.

“Sons of Anarchy” splays itself out as pulp, a piece that is willing to make concessions on realism in order to heighten the drama and macabre details of its story.

The idea that the fictitious town of Charming – which would seem to be within comfortable riding distance of Rio Vista – could support such a side car of trouble on a regular basis requires an unbelievable suspension of belief.

We’re six episodes into this season and we’ve already watched such ghastly things as the daughter of a Son burned alive, one of its members beaten to death with a lead pipe and a prison guard bludgeoned to death with a musical snow globe.

In the same episode that Gemma told the club president’s wife, Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff), about how extremes become average, SOA enlisted a transgendered prostitute (“Justified’s” Walton Goggins in an unforgettable surprise appearance) to help blackmail a city council member.

What’s shocking about these things, after five seasons, is how expected they are.

I’m not complaining about the violence or shock value themselves. A common descriptor for the show is “gritty,” which could be considered a linguistic codeword for “bloody.” I shudder to think how the show’s body count goes.

My beef is that when violence, action and shock are on display on a weekly basis, the blunt force trauma of beating someone to death with a musical snow globe loses some of its impact.

This gripe is like ordering chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a scoop of chocolate ice cream and complaining that there’s too much chocolate, but when that’s all that’s on the menu, it loses its flavor as time goes on.

Many consider the show’s second season to be its best, but I consider it the weakest because it was too pulp and tried to pack in too much – Gemma’s rape at the hands of a neo-Nazi group, kidnapped babies, porn studio rivalries, gang wars, car bombs, prison beatings, murdering innocents, bike chases and a frayed leadership stemming from the accidental death of a club member’s wife.

The accidental death was the first wife of Harry “Opie” Winston (Ryan Hurst). No family has felt the show’s commitment to brutality more than the Winstons, killing off, in order, Opie’s first wife, Donna (Sprague Grayden), Opie’s father, Piney (William Lucking) and, most recently, Opie himself.

Opie was dispatched as his club brothers watched via a brutal beating with a lead pipe inside prison walls as retribution for the death of a rival gang member. It was a signature moment for the show, yet, simultaneously, it felt like a waste of a great character.

On a show that bumps off people on a weekly basis, Opie became just another tally in “Sons of Anarchy’s” body count. In a more dignified manner than others – at least viewers saw the club mourn his death and the show feels the loss of his presence.

Viewers eventually start to expect the unexpected, so the big reveal at the end of the most recent episode – that its former president is secretly behind a rash of Charming home invasions and the accidental slaying of a sheriff’s pregnant wife – was a shock only to those who don’t pay attention.

It’s that type of reliance on death and destruction that is SOA’s signature and its greatest appeal, making it high-octane and a never-ending action movie. But it’s also its weakness, no matter how many concessions to a pulp-writing style a person is willing to make.

When the goal of every episode is to shock viewers, even the show admits, pushing to those extremes becomes as average as a motorcycle ride to the store.

To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco is the editor of the Tailwind and writes the pop culture blog/column For Those About to Rock. Before joining the DR staff in July 2007, DeCicco (pronounced Deh-CEE-Coh) worked at The Union in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colo. A 2004 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, DeCicco spends his free time attending concerts, listening to music, going to movies, traveling and hiking.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • JoLeeOctober 23, 2012 - 10:20 am

    I have to agree that the shock value on the show is becoming the average. Right out of the gate of this season there was carnage and it didn’t slow down until Opie was being buried. Then it picked right up where it left off, had that hilarious moment with Walt Goggins, and killed more people. I love this show even though I start each episode with the question “who are they going to kill this week?” I’ve got my Hopper timers set to record the show so when I’m at work I know it will be there when I get home. I kind of feel like the death of the prison guard’s wife was wasted and that Carla’s demise was a little strange. Why give her a story arc if she’s only going to die a few episodes later? My DISH co-worker thinks that this is just another look at how Gemma takes to ruining people’s lives and putting them in situations that are less than ideal. I think it’s a great point.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Middle school students put school candidates on the hot seat

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Suisun City candidates get lively in 2nd council forum

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Solano focuses on rail safety

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
 
Booz and Brewz benefit for the Blue Star Moms

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Police search for missing man

By Glen Faison | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Salvation Army gears up for annual Red Kettle campaign

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

Blessing of the animals slated Sunday

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Travis airman killed in motorcycle accident

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A5

 
Caltrans cancels nighttime Highway 37 closures

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Theaters primed for bevy of new movies

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

Fairfield police log: Sept. 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9, 2 Comments

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Sept. 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9, 2 Comments

Fairfield police log: Sept. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9, 2 Comments

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
FBI announces reward for Vacaville bank robber

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A10

American Legion seeks Korean War veterans for award

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Third Annual Ride to Defeat Diabetes is Sunday

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

4-H Achievement Night honors county members

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A10

 
Measure A committee plans weekend precinct walk

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A10

.

US / World

Forest areas reopen after huge fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Hong Kong leader refuses to meet with protesters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Secret Service chief on hot seat for WH breach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Afghan pact signed amid questions on Iraq pullout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Oklahoma man charged with murder in beheading

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Luck, instinct determined fates of volcano hikers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Government confirms first case of Ebola in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Mayor of suburban Los Angeles city killed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

Crash, suspicious device lead to 101 closure in LA

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Gov. Brown governor vetoes ethics bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 5 Comments

Police on manhunt find pipe bombs in woods

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
California becomes first state to ban plastic bags

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

Bay Area looks to expand overnight transit options

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Gov. Jerry Brown signs California gun restriction

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 12 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Oct. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Oct. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes: Oct. 1, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

One simple slicing trick to bake a beautiful tart

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B6

 
A speedy, kitchen sink approach to pumpkin bread

By J.M. Hirsch | From Page: B6

The flavor of fall – pumpkin pie in a cinnamon bun

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

 
Morgan: ‘Can’t believe’ Walmart blaming him

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

 
Royals beat A’s 9-8 in 12 in AL wild-card thriller

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Local report: Rodriguez volleyball team downs Armijo

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Pirates’ Volquez looks to continue revival against Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Raiders make Tony Sparano interim coach after firing Allen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
FCC will consider petition to ban ‘Redskins’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Training camp essential for NBA’s new head coaches like Warriors’ Kerr

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
No. 14 Stanford trying to jolt stagnant offense

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NC State coach apologizes for fake injury remarks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NFL says Abdullah should not have been penalized

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NFL has laundry list of verboten celebrations

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Government: NFL TV ‘blackout’ rule unsportsmanlike

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Olympian Michael Phelps apologizes for DUI arrest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Gravely injured Giants fan sues Dodgers again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 1 Comment

Ex 49ers RB James agrees to terms with Dolphins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
49ers’ Wilhoite filling the injury void at linebacker

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Business

EU says Apple gets illegal tax benefits in Ireland

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Could a merger follow the PayPal-eBay split?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

.

Obituaries

John ‘Bo’ M. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
David Earl Butenhoff-Forristall

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Marte Abad Lubag

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Clara May Clift Triplett

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

.

Comics

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

.

Breast Cancer Awareness 2014

Breast cancer in younger women

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA2

Talking with your doctor

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA3

Breast cancer myths

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA4

Diet linked to cancer

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA9

Giving emotional support

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA10

After the treatment

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA12

Join the fight: Get involved

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA15