• Sons Of Anarchy: Season Four


    Released By: 20th Century Fox
    Released On: 08/28/2012
    Director: Peter Weller, Paris Barclay, Various
    Cast: Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Maggie Siff, Dayton Callie, Danny Trejo
    Purchase From Amazon

    Warning: This Review May Contain Some Mild Spoilers

    The Series:

    Season Four of the hugely popular FX television show Sons of Anarchy finds the boys from SAMCRO being released from prison after a 14-month stay. Not wanting to waste any time in getting the club back up and running financially, President Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) uses his arms connections with the IRA to set up a major weapons deal with a Mexican drug cartel, led by Romeo Parada (Danny Trejo). While the benefits of the deal include a massive cash payoff and a truce with the rival Mayans gang, Clay’s agreement to mule the cartel’s cocaine back into California causes some of the club members to lose faith in Clay’s leadership. While his step-son and club VP Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) backs the decision, he makes it clear to Clay that he’s only doing so to buy his own release from the club, so that he can move his family away from the cycle of club-related violence.

    As if the in-fighting wasn’t enough, there are also a couple of new lawmen in town; hardass Sherriff Roosevelt has taken over the responsibility of keeping the peace from the recently deceased Deputy Hale, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon) has enough knowledge of the club to put them away for a very long time, thanks to the RICO statute. A few ghosts from past murders also show up to complicate matters, and a bid by the newly-appointed Mayor to bulldoze a large section of Charming to put in high-income properties threatens to destroy the Sons’ hometown.

    As they get more involved with the cartel, Clay and the rest of the Sons realize that they’re in way over their heads as their associates start turning up dead, missing body parts. With so many rival gangs and other serious criminals involved, trust and alliances quickly dissipate, resulting in blackmail and murder. With Clay determined to stick to the deal with the cartel, it becomes apparent that there may be no one left standing to reap the benefits at the end.

    Sons of Anarchy Season Four marks a real return to the quality writing that made the show such a hit in its first season, especially after a disappointing third season. Kurt Sutter definitely steps it up in this instalment, giving characters previously glossed over (such as Otto, the imprisoned SAMCRO member) much more depth, as well as developing relationships between characters that are a lot deeper than most of what can be seen in current television productions. Of course, a wickedly strong cast doesn’t hurt, and seasoned professionals such as Perlman, Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Dayton Callie, and Canada’s own Kim Coates bring Sutter’s scenes and dialogue to life with an intensity and realism that has made the show popular even with real-life motorcycle clubs; Sonny Barger, founder of the Oakland Hells Angels (who also shows up in Season Four as Lenny The Pimp) says, “We watch it every week. It's a nice show and it seems like everyone likes it.” The only real downside to the cast are the over-the-top mannerisms of Ray McKinnon, who seems to be reprising his crazy preacher role from Deadwood, but even he can be overlooked in light of the strength of the rest of the cast. And if that’ s not enough incentive to watch the show, cameos from Tom Arnold and David Hasselhoff (as a porn director!) make it that much more worthwhile.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Fox brings Sons of Anarchy Season Four to blu-ray in a three-disc set that includes all thirteen episodes. Presented in their original television presentation aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the show looks amazing with startling clarity and a complete lack of any visual issues. The colours look great as well, with solid blacks and detail. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is above and beyond what one would expect from a television show, with extensive use of the surrounds and subwoofer. Music is perfectly balanced in the rear speakers, and dialogue and soundtrack are mixed well, with coherent dialogue and no audio glitches.

    The extras for the set start on Disc One, with just over twelve minutes of Deleted Scenes from those episodes. Most of the clips are very short, and unfortunately don’t really have a context placed in this format, without titles or commentary, they just seem to be random bits of scenes that don’t need to be shown.

    A commentary for the first episode, “Out” features Writer Kurt Sutter, Director Paris Barclay, and cast members Charlie Hunnam (Jax) and Ron Perlman (Clay). Although there are some long gaps in the conversation, the commentary is still enjoyable and full of details on the characters and locations of the shoot.

    Disc Two starts off with eight minutes of Deleted Scenes, fairly similar to the content of Disc One, and seem to be equally as irrelevant.

    Episode 10, “Hands”, features two commentaries; one with Kurt Sutter and cast members Katey Sagal (Gemma) and Maggie Siff (Tara), and another with the Director of that episode, Peter Weller. Although the commentary with Sutter and the cast talks about the importance of the episode and Kurt’s writing techniques, Mr. Robocop himself’s commentary basically consists of him describing what’s happening on the screen.

    Disc Three contains the majority of the special features, starting off with another set of Deleted Scenes, these running about three and-a-half minutes.

    Up next is a three minute Gag Reel, which features the actors flubbing their lines and breaking character, which is pretty amusing.

    Farewell Piney is a seven minute tribute to William Lucking, who plays the wise, older cofounder of the MC. Lucking and the other actors as well as Sutter discuss Piney’s character and his impact on the show.

    Fans of Anarchy is a five minute piece featuring a fan contest put on by Sutter, in which two fans win the chance to meet the stars of the show and attend a Q&A session.

    Anarchy At The House of Blues is a ten minute look at a fundraiser at the House of Blues for noted composer John O’Brien, and features Katey Sagal performing Bird On A Wire with Curtis Stigers and The Forest Rangers, who also play the theme song from Sons of Anarchy, “This Life”.

    Two commentaries can also be found on the third disc. On, “To Be: Act 1”, Kurt Sutter, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Mark Boone Jr., Kim Coates, Dayton Callie, etc etc etc, attempt to talk about the show, but instead get bogged down in making fun of each other and cracking jokes about Deadwood. Even though there’s not much technical information shared, the commentary is worth a listen just for the humour.

    The same group can also be found on the commentary for, “To Be: Act 2”, but this one is much more coherent, and features some solid discussion about the characters in the episode.

    Though it’s not really an extra feature, Fox has included a feature called “Season View”, which allows the viewer to watch the episodes sequentially with no breaks. When the first disc ends, a screen comes up prompting the insertion of the second disc, which holds until the second disc is inserted and play resumes.

    The Final Word:

    Sons of Anarchy is one of the best shows to hit television in a long while, and Season Four is a good sign that Sutter and co. still have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. Fox has done a great job with this release, a worthy addition to the previous season’s releases.