Who do you root for when everyone's a scumbag? That's the essential problem and fascination with Sons of Anarchy
, the FX series about a murderous motorcycle gang that runs rampant in a dusty town called Charming.
The answer, I suppose, is that you don't take sides. You just watch with morbid curiosity.
As the second season opens, the SOA can be found firing automatic weapons at paper targets. That's as benign as they get. Clay (Ron Perlman), Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and the rest of the gang will soon be running guns, providing protection for a pornographer, killing an innocent man and firebombing a house where meth is being cooked not to protect the town but because it cut into their own drug-dealing business.
In the first season, the Sons' biggest impediment was the feds. This year it's the euphemistically named League of American Nationalists neo-Nazis led by Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin) and AJ Weston (Henry Rollins). They're enraged that "black radicals are in power in this country," and they want to stop the Sons from selling weapons to Black and Hispanic street gangs. In other words, they're "trying to keep scumbags from arming other scumbags," Weston tells the Charming police, who now have to choose which evil group to support.
That turf battle will dominate this season.
TV's given us a fair share of psychopaths and reprobates in the last several years Tony Soprano and his crew, homicidal police officer Dexter Morgan (Dexter
), the prisoners in Oz
, corrupt cop Vic Mackey on The Shield
. Each of those shows, though, had a moral center. But on Sons of Anarchy
, even Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff), a doctor and Jax's love interest, isn't fazed when Jax tells her they committed cold-blooded murder.
It's a little jarring to sit back and watch a show where everyone is either evil or at least an enabler.
So why tune in? Great performances, particularly by Katey Sagal as Gemma, the matriarch of the Sons, who's involved in a particularly brutal scene in the second episode this season, Mark Boone as Bobby, the Elvis-impersonating biker, and the ever-menacing Rollins. And compelling writing that keeps you intrigued even when you despise what the characters do.
In the end, Sons of Anarchy
is like watching the Super Bowl when you hate both teams. You wish they could both lose, but you want to see the outcome.