Sons of Anarchy: Season 1 review (DVD)

Biker culture is not something that interests me – at all – and so a show dedicated to a club of tough, Harley-riding SOBs wouldn't usually catch my attention. I most likely would never have bothered myself to take a look at the show had the opportunity not arisen to review it, and being that I live in a digital TV-free home, it's not like I could have stumbled upon this treasure chest like I did with Medium a few years ago. But still, I very much struck gold with Sons of Anarchy.

Fox's Sons of Anarchy is a present day retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet, set in the destructive, chaotic, irony-seeping-out-your-eyeballs-named town of Charming, a fictional part of California (I guess the name also quite aptly reflects the whole state, “Charming California”). The Sons of Anarchy themselves are an original outlaw club of motorcycle enthusiasts who deal in drugs and guns. They also go by the interesting nickname Sam Crow, a product of the acronym SAMCRO, which stands for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original.

Led by Clay (Ron Perlman), the hierarchy-structured Sons are a brotherhood of bad guys bound by each other – all they know is how to be a rogue in a town where a number of feuding gangs roam, from the neo-Nazi Nords to the Mexican Mayans. Clay is married to a super-bitch who may as well be crowned the queen of manipulation, as well as one of the most entertaining and unpredictable characters in the show. Her deceased ex-husband was a former member of SAMCRO and, although he is never once seen in the series, his presence and voice are felt throughout as his son Jax (fellow Brit Charlie Hunnam) reads his journals about life in the club through the episodes, which fuels a fire inside him that tests his loyalty to his friends and his lifestyle as a Son of Anarchy, although it is a fire oyxgenised by the birth of a baby boy by his heroin-addict wife. Yes, things are pretty complicated in the club, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Deals gone bad, robberies, crooked cops, gunfights, backstabbing, torture, life and death are all massive parts of the show and they gel rather brilliantly to create an exciting, hard-as-nails and original drama that commands your attention. It's got the relentless bad attitude of prime US cable television and likens itself to The Sopranos with its family-driven, anti-heroic story of blood-stained revenge and expansion. Sons of Anarchy's astonishingly well-written, darkly humorous first season is like the Hell's Angels in hell: a ruckus ride of mayhem, rebellion and fiery violence with a razor-sharp edge. I loved it.

EXTRAS ★★★ Cast and crew audio commentaries on four episodes, a 10-minute making of feature, featurettes on the bikes and insignias of the Sons of Anarchy, 29 deleted and extended scenes, gag reel, a feature on the casting of the show, and direct DVD-ROM links to the Fox UK and Fox International websites.Read my review of Season 2 on Blu-ray

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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