Friday, August 29, 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

1 critical after 2 shot at Fairfield bus stop

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A1, 16 Comments | Gallery

 
Dare Devil Chaos Coaster set for Six Flags debut in 2015

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Vallejo festival will celebrate Wilderness Act anniversary

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Hood-Courtland: Small towns boast interesting facts

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1

Vallejo Symphony launches new season Sept. 21

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Opponents: State water plan will destroy Delta

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

New role for symphony conductor begins next year

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Prolific pears rule Courtland area

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
No plea as Vacaville homicide suspect appears in court

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Vacaville man convicted of fifth DUI

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 7 Comments

 
Suisun police plan holiday weekend checkpoint

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
Solano continues to deal with earthquake

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
 
Bunting earns praise for role in paint case

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A8

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A8

Weather for Aug. 29, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B14

 
.

US / World

Mom won’t be charged in school confrontation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California Supreme Court pick confirmed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Feds to resume leasing for fracking in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

High school buddies followed similar path to jihad

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Drugs killed Oklahoma inmate in troubled execution

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Suit claims police brutality at Ferguson protests

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
Flight diverts to Boston over reclined-seat upset

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

Testimony wraps up in former Va. governor trial

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Q&A: Few laws govern children at shooting range

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Gun tourism grows in popularity in recent years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Obama sets no timeline for action on immigration

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

4 killed in New Mexico crash of medical flight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
US rebukes Oklahoma for ditching school standards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Obama rules out US military action in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
UN Security Council meets on Ukraine crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Russian columns enter Ukraine; leader urges calm

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
UN: Ebola disease caseload could reach 20,000

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Attempt to call missing jet may alter search area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

 
Europe seeks role in postwar Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

UN: Armed group detains 43 peacekeepers in Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
A look at the Islamic State militants in Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Jihadists kill dozens of captured Syrian soldiers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
.

Opinion

How about keeping our ISIS plan secret?

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 18 Comments

 
Question of the week: Is US policy on hostages correct?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
What should the US do about the Islamic State?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

More ways to help stop bullies

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Aug. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Aug. 29, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

How do I deal with my overweight cousin who smells like cat urine?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B13, 1 Comment

 
Horoscopes: Aug. 29, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B13

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Aug. 29-Sept. 4

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: ‘As Above’ so-so

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Review: Ex-007 actor spying again in ‘Nov. Man’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Review: The case against binge-watching TV

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Entertainment calendar: Aug. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
Jolie, Pitt wed privately at chateau in France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
.

Sports

Record-setting Petit leads Giants past Rockies 4-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Borland returns pick for TD, 49ers beat Texans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Carr’s 3 TDs lead Raiders past Seahawks 41-31

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Prep football preview: Rio Vista looks to get back to playoffs

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Angels rally in 10th for 4-3 win over Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
USC coach accepts some blame in Shaw situation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Williams overcomes 3 early double-faults to win at U.S. Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Mickelson in a bind with 4 straight playoff events

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Weakened US team aims for world basketball title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Rise in flags makes NFL defenders wary of contact

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

After Rice, NFL increases domestic violence bans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Local youngster will play baseball on national stage

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B9, 1 Comment | Gallery

Week Zero prep football capsules

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
Signups for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

Stewart returning to competition after fatal crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

 
Sports on TV/Local sports for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B11

This date in sports history for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Power looks for elusive IndyCar title at Fontana

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

.

Business

M235i revives classic BMW memories

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

 
Abercrombie name to shrink from clothing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Survey: Americans’ pessimism on economy has grown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Apple to unveil next products at Sept. 9 event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.1 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Obama touts revised economic growth numbers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

US economy grew at brisk 4.2 pct. rate in Q2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Ukraine conflict weighs on markets; Retailers fall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

Frank W. Moy Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Gary Allen Person

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Lois C. Clark

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13