Virtually No Spoilers
The premiere screening and party for “Sons of Anarchy” season 7 at the (Grauman) TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood and Avalon Hollywood September 6th was emotional.
John Solberg, PR chieftain introduced John Landgraf who acknowledged that FX’s strength as a network today was largely built upon the success of “Sons of Anarchy” and the work of showrunner Kurt Sutter, whose series wove classic Shakespearean literary themes with modern story laced with noir humor to offset levels of violence and gore that would have made Sam Peckinpah flinch.
Landgraf then brought up Sutter, whose sincere praise to cast and crew was underscored by his own reveals, his mythology exposed. Sutter was raised by women, his dad mostly not present as an influence, sharing his lifelong need for brotherhood and being drawn to this story after a fateful lunch with Art and John Linson (EPs of the series) eight years ago which set the entire SOA Wehrmacht in motion.
Sutter noted that FX was the only logical place where he felt comfortable to work as a showrunner after one night of “watching 528 channels of drek.” The speech got everyone “in the feels” as they say and when it came time to close, it was hard for him to even finish his words, bookending Charlie Hunnam, his “Son of Anarchy” and Landgraf, who bet on him and his creative vision, both men taking him to places of love, frustration, anger and respect that only family can. Many people in the audience were weeping.
The end of any series is tough for fans, for people who work on the series and for the network family that springs up around it to protect and promote it. It’s a village of many interlaced cogs of highly talented folks who all do something valuable and needed.
First and most importantly to the creatives for getting up and dreaming up the big story and then finding the right actors to breathe life into it. To the crew for interpreting the creatives’ ideas and then efficiently making it happen in a tangible setting that allows the actors to fully immerse themselves in their roles. To the fans for showing the fuck up to support it and sending that validation energy back to the creatives.
The network execs too for the always under-appreciated art of packaging, marketing and PR promoting it to a wide variety of outlets – from a wide swath of media who interpret all of this work to end users to disseminate and build anticipation and keep this circle of money making love growing until the cycle ends, which is where we are, until season 7 or whatever comes afterwards is on the shelves, the cast, crew and network people long gone on to other projects.
The first three episodes were screened by me, and fans who are following know that the dogs of war are coming to Charming. There are no illusions of SAMCRO becoming a legit, lofty idealistic MC anymore. Tara’s (Maggie Siff) murder and the cover up by Gemma guarantee that the lies will see the wrong people unjustly be slaughtered in ways you have never seen before. You will be angry for the people who are wrongly taking the fall for Gemma’s crimes.
In a series where women are regularly labeled gashes, cunts, whores, bitches, old ladies, porn stars and croweaters, the Alpha and Omega of SOA is, was and always will be Gemma Teller, played by Katey Sagal, who I hope this year is given her due by perpetually lazy Emmy voters. Her villainous conniving role was groundbreaking in its scope. Make no mistake, she IS a villain, and her Gemma takes anything Joan Collins did as the evil Alexis on “Dynasty” in the 1980s and multiplies it by 100,000.
Ain’t no one like Gemma. Sagal, who shames actresses half her age in the looks department, will be getting an overdue star on the Hollywood walk of fame. She brings a world weariness and subtlety to a character that is so psychologically damaged and dangerous, you don’t realize just how awful she is until you step back and assess what you just witnessed. In total, her actions have condemned her son Jax (Hunnam) to a life of stone cold butchery on levels that will blanch the seasoned viewers.
Jimmy Smits is riveting as Nero, an interlocutor between the brown and white world of the MCs, and he delivers line after line that is powerful, funny, poignant and can act the pants off of most people. He was a brilliant addition to this cast. Smits and Peter Weller (Charles Barosky) own the frames they are in when the camera points their way. Both actors, like Charlie Hunnam, Kim Coates and Mark Boone Junior all vibrate on such a high level that they elevate the whole production. Adam Arkin did this too in Season 2 as corporate white supremacist Ethan Zobelle.
Kim Coates’ Tig blazes just like his eyes in season 7 (*we screened up to episode 3, so we hope he lasts long enough to at least have a reunion of sorts with the coming Walt Goggins/Venus teased moment leaked). Tig is the Rodney Dangerfield of SAMCRO. Like Rodney, he gets no respect from other MC members and a lot of lip, but he slays them all with his profane comebacks and always gets the last word. His acting is always fierce and on point, with hilarious scenes with Rat (Nick Nicotero) to look for, along with a wheelchair bound black MC member who mouths off a bit too much.
Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) too has a lot of screen-time in the first three episodes, and like Tig, he is a senior adviser to Jax and really vets just about everything going down. He’s always entertaining to watch and still a bit hard to understand, for me anyway. Mark Boone Junior’s Bobby is the one character I personally would have liked to have seen developed out more over the course of the series, as Boone is a powerhouse actor and I felt he was underserved in the overall story. My opinion, call me the c-word if you disagree, I don’t care.
Dayton Callie’s Unser, my Jiminy Cricket of the series who I have always adored, is surviving and will be factored heavily into this run. CCH Pounder’s D.A. character Tyne Patterson is doing her darnedest to pull a Godfather III and pull him back in and cleave him to Annabeth Gish’s character (Jarry) who replaced the murdered Roosevelt. Teaser alert: Watch the sexual energy between the new sheriff Althea Jarry and our Chibs. Pounder also has an Emmy moment with Jax (Charlie Hunnam) in the premiere as she makes him understand the mistake he’s making by not cooperating with her, so watch for it.
The comic relief comes in odd moments from David LaBrava’s Happy, who turns on his psycho moments just when you need them, and of course Michael Ornstein’s Chucky, who is Gemma’s shadow of sorts.
A moment for the fallen of note. I tip my hat to William Lucking (Piney), Ron Perlman (Clay), Maggie Siff (Tara), Ryan Hurst (Opie), Ally Walker (Agent June Stahl) and even Sutter (Otto), characters that left a mark on me and who I savored every performance. Very few women get to turn in powerful stretches of acting or moments on SOA, and Walker was riveting as Agent Stahl. Someone find that woman a great series where she can turn that badass energy on again.
For the crafts, the costume department headed by Kelli Jones, makeup headed by Tracey Anderson, editing, post-production, directing, stunts, script supervision and the entire camera department were fantastic, plus casting led by Wendy O’Brien and music supervision of Bob Thiele Jr. all were on point and superb. The music sold the story in many ways and for that Thiele’s work was invaluable to this entire effort.
The series begins on FX September 9 at 10 PM.