Get your motor running and head out on the highway for the heavy metal thunder of the Sons of Anarchy
, the biker gang--er, motorcycle club
, or MC--from Charming, California, whose members rank among television's more unlikely heroes. Fans of the FX series already know that the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original Chapter (better known as SAMCRO, or simply Sam Crow), are a fairly unsavory bunch engaged in any number of criminal activities; the fact that they specialize in illegal gun running doesn't stop them from also dabbling in pornography, drugs, murder, assault, and various other nefarious pursuits, all of which are on display throughout the 13 episodes (on three discs, plus bonus features) comprising this second season. But that sort of thing didn't stop anyone from caring about the gangsters in The Godfather
, and while no one is suggesting that creator Kurt Sutter's show is on that level (then again, what is?), he too has imbued his characters with enough individual nuance, along with a consistent moral code, to make for very compelling viewing.
As the season opens, the MC is still reeling from the death of member Opie Winston's wife, which we and everyone except Opie (Ryan Hurst) himself knows was the Sons' own doing--a fact that President Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) is at pains to conceal from him. That in turn puts Clay at odds with his son-in-law, Vice President Jax Teller (Brad Pitt look-alike Charlie Hunnam); this conflict becomes one of season 2's major ongoing themes, as Jax is torn between his loyalty to his "brothers" and a nagging conscience that keeps pushing him toward the straight and narrow (like Michael Corleone, Jax finds that his promise to his "civilian" girlfriend, a doctor played by Maggie Siff, to make the Sons legit is easier made than kept). Elsewhere, the MC must contend with the arrival of the League of American Nationalists (LOAN), a white separatist group headed by Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin) and his menacing enforcer (a well-cast Henry Rollins), who intend to run SAMCRO out of Charming; their brutal assault in the first episode on Gemma (Katey Sagal, who once again turns in perhaps the show's strongest performance), Jax's mother and Clay's wife, is part of the season's other principal story line.
As before, the Sons also grapple with a variety of other bikers and criminal groups, not to mention the frequent attention of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Sons of Anarchy doesn't exactly glorify these violent, misogynist, debauched guys, but it does remind us while they are criminals, they're also people with spouses, children, health problems, jobs (sort of), and other quotidian concerns--not like us, to say the least, but worthy of our attention. Bonus material includes a brief but well-done behind-the-scenes featurette and a "roundtable discussion" in which the cast answers questions submitted by viewers. --Sam Graham