Photo: Prashant Gupta / FX

Anarchy Spoke In Class Today

With a school shooting bringing SAMCRO's chickens home to roost, how Sons-y is the sixth-season premiere of FX's orgy of violence?

I quit Sons of Anarchy midway through Season 5 for a reason. The unrelenting grimness began to feel oppressive, and the more awful acts perpetrated by the protagonists of the show made it harder and harder to care whether they'd be caught/killed as the show went on. Tig's (Kim Coates) daughter got burned alive by Mercutio from Romeo + Juliet. Jax killed Mercutio with Clay's gun in order to get him sent to prison (and hopefully killed there) because Jax found out Clay (Ron Perlman) killed his dad. Juice was forced to turn rat and nearly hung himself. It all got to be too much, this need to escalate the "realistic" violence and awfulness, as if the show was suddenly an endurance test for cable dramas.

But one thing that Kurt Sutter's show was always fairly rigorous about was the ambivalence of the club when it came to running guns. The decision to partner with the IRA for gun-running purposes got the Sons out of a jam, but it was treated as a sea change within the club. This sometimes felt strange on a show where immolation and self-inflicted tongue-removal were features set-pieces, but whatever moral center remained within SAMCRO -- and Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) specifically -- it was in the idea that running guns made them a very different kind of club.

For as much as the sixth-season premiere, "Straw," feels like it's exploiting the sensationalism of a school shooting -- and it certainly does, as we follow this otherwise unremarkable towheaded grade-schooler around town, seemingly for no reason but to build up the dread of what will become of him, only to see him pull out an automatic weapon from his backpack, enter his school, and unleash screaming terror that we only hear from outside the blood-spattered windows -- I have to give it to Sutter and company for following through on the consequences of the club's actions. If you're going to do a school-shooting storyline -- and honestly, nobody is saying you HAVE to, Glee -- shining a spotlight on the men who have flooded their home community that they claim to care so much about with guns would be as good an angle as you could possibly go for.

Of course, all this meditation on responsibility and fallout will have to wait for the rest of the season. We've also got plenty of classic Sons elements -- sex, violence, Gemma (Katey Sagal) busting the nose of some dumb whore -- to more than fulfill the usual show requirements.

Sons-y Element Present?
Gemma Is Not One To Fuck With Sure, Gemma is feeling a lot of guilt over her part in getting Clay sent up the river. And yes, she's trying to make a go of it with Nero (Jimmy Smits), going to visit his kid with him as something of a family. But she's far from gone soft, as we see when she confronts club lawyer Ally Lowen (Robin Weigert), who told Jax that Tara (Maggie Siff) believes Gemma set her up and is responsible for her being in prison. Gemma doesn't get physical (this time), but she makes no bones about the retribution that will come to Lowen if she doesn't start realizing which side her bread is buttered on.
Gemma Is Also Super-Cool After Ratboy (Nik Nicotera) addresses her as "ma'am," Gemma calmly takes his hand and puts it on her chest. "Now you've had your hand on my tits," she says. "Call me Gemma."
Beatdowns As Emotional Catharsis Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) has a hard time welcoming Juice (Theo Rossi) back into the fold after all of the kid's rattiness over the past couple seasons. Cue the ritualistic face-punching! Juice stands there and takes the beating from his very best friend, and by episode's end, Chibs is dressing Juicy's wounds like a good leather daddy. Meanwhile, Tig drowns a Persian torture-pornographer in a bathtub full of pee because the guy made the mistake of mentioning his daughter. Some people who had to watch their offspring get burned alive in front of them are so touchy.
Clay Could Give Cockroaches A Few Pointers With His Survival Instincts The idea in getting Clay sent to prison is that the Pope loyalists in there would kill him once and for all. Which is why, seconds before being released into Gen Pop, Clay decides to take the deal offered to him by Toric (Donal Logue) and turn rat on SAMCRO.
Featured Guest Star Turns Out To Be A Ruthless Foe Not yet, but I've seen Peter Weller show up on enough shows and movies lately to know he's not to be trusted as crooked cop Barosky. I can't imagine he's going to just sit around Stockton and let Jax and Nero do business for long without trying to take advantage.
Law Enforcement Acts More Criminally Than The Criminals Lee Toric is still kicking around, still looking to avenge his sister's death by taking down every last SAMCRO member. He's already arranged for Otto (Kurt Sutter) to be ass-raped every morning by his fellow inmates. He's leaning on Tara and Clay to cut deals. He's also shooting heroin in his hotel room and then nakedly humping the bedroom mirrors, so he's doing just fine, really.
Lines Of Propriety Are Crossed Because Kurt Sutter Don't Give A Fuck Sensational school shooting in the wake of Sandy Hook? Check. Systematic raping of a character Sutter himself plays? Yep. Drowning a guy in a bathtub full of pee? Oh yeah. This ain't your auntie's disgusting motorcycle gang drama, squares!
Bobby Is Sad After turning his back on Jax and removing his VP patch (that honor now goes to Chibs), Bobby (Mark Boone Jr.) is walking the earth, doodling on maps of Nevada, seemingly considering starting his own offshoot chapter of the Sons. Poor Bobby.
Tara Doesn't Just Leave Toric offers her WitSec protection for her and the boys, which Tara turns down flat. You can sympathize with not wanting to turn rat, especially when she's imprisoned for a crime she didn't exactly commit (or didn't commit knowing it would result in murder), but once again the promise of a life far from Charming passes her by.
Casual Misogyny Of The Sons Made To Look Less Awful By Comparison Sure, Chibs calls one girl a "gash," and Jax throws in a "stupid whore" for good measure, and Gemma just bashes the poor girl's face in, all for getting Lyla (Winter Ave Zoli) mixed up in an Iranian torture-porn ring. But, you know, they're still way better than the Iranian torture-pornographers!
Number Of Deadwood Alums Surpasses Two The introduction of Kim Dickens as Colette, a -- much like her Deadwood character, in fact -- classy madam, brings the total up to three, along with Weigert as the lawyer and Dayton Callie as poor, ashen, glorified babysitter Wayne Unser.
Jax Cheats On Tara/Thin Excuse Is Made For Charlie Hunnam's Ass On Display It was only a matter of time before Colette lured Jax's sweet bum into bed. Lucky for her he got the call that Tara doesn't want him to attend her hearing while he was still at the cat-house. Bonus points to Colette, too, for employing a laundry basket in her dance of seduction.
Number Of The O.C. Alums Surpasses One Not yet, but we got Anna herself, Samaire Armstrong, playing Dave Navarro's old lady and mother of the kid who shot up the school. Fingers crossed for Peter Gallagher as a kindly attorney at some point.
Chickens Coming Home To Roost Oh yeah.
12 / 14
Final Score
Sons Of Anarchy
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