Sons of Anarchy: Season Two

(2009) *** 1/2 Unrated
583 min. FX. Cast: Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal.

/content/films/3856/1.jpgIf you thought the first season of Sons of Anarchy was tough-minded, Season Two will shake you to the core. Creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter steps up his game—and crafts Emmy-worthy material for his wife Katey Sagal—in a sophomore season that gives the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club worthy adversaries from without even as it continues to battle dissention from within. The League Of American Nationalists, a group of white-power separatists, have come to town with the intent of driving out SAMCRO; one of their first salvos is the brutal assault and gang rape of the Sons' "queen" Gemma Teller Morrow (Sagal), an event with season-spanning consequences. Meanwhile, Gemma's son Jax (Charlie Hunnam) continues to spar with club president Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) over the direction of the club; Jax wants to move toward his late father's vision of legitimacy, while Clay remains devoted to criminal enterprise.

The series gets a jolt of energy from the addition of recurring special guest star Adam Arkin (Chicago Hope) as Ethan Zobelle, the white-power leader who proclaims himself "the salvation of Charming" and maintains a veneer of respectability by opening a cigar shop on main street. Henry Rollins (Lost Highway), Tom Arnold (True Lies) and Titus Welliver (Lost) are among the other familiar faces who repeatedly stir up trouble over the course of the second season's thirteen episodes. Sutter certainly doesn't neglect the large cast of characters established in the show's first season. The gang's all here: "Piney" Winston (William Lucking), Opie (Ryan Hurst), Bobby (Mark Boone Junior), "Tig" (Kim Coates), "Chibs" (Tommy Flanagan), "Juice" (Theo Rossi), and prospect "Half Sack" (Johnny Lewis), who plans to become "Sack" (don't ask). Police Chief Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie of Deadwood) is still dancing awkwardly with Deputy Chief David Hale (Taylor Sheridan) over the treatment of Sam Crow. Ally Walker, Mitch Pileggi, Tom Everett Scott, and Glenn Plummer all make return appearances, as well.

Gemma's rape upsets the delicate balance of her marriage to Clay, especially since she is adamant about not letting the terrorists win by letting the club know what happened. The club has enough drama as it is, with Opie out for blood in answer to the murder of his wife, little knowing that two of his fellow riders are responsible for her death. Sutter engineers a few surprising plot twists, including the death of at least one series regular and the surprising imprisonment of at least one other (no fair saying who runs afoul of the Reaper or the law). Through it all, Jax's girlfriend Tara (Maggie Siff) must decide if she's "all in" to the lifestyle afforded to the girlfriend of a gang member, which—as she discovers—has its perks. The season culminates in a showdown between SAMCRO and LOAN that also entangles ex-IRA members and old enemies the Mayans. The finale establishes a major new plotline through the season's sole unconvincing plot twist, one that lets down the sterling Walker but ensures plenty more focus on Gemma and the cancer-ridden Unser. That rare misstep aside, Sons of Anarchy is on a roll as it races into Season Three.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 8/31/2010

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Fox does right by Sons of Anarchy once again in a beaut of a Blu-ray set for Season Two. Thanks in part to the crisp HD photography, the transfers pop with life-like dimension, richly saturated color, and impressive density of detail and texture. get ready for rumbling from the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixes, which maximize the source audio and make good use of surround channels to put viewers in the middle of the clubhouse or on the road with SAMCRO.

Three key episodes get audio commentaries: "Albification" with executive producer/writer Kurt Sutter, Ron Perlman, Adam Arkin and director Guy Ferland; "Balm" with Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Maggie Siff, Paris Barclay, and Dave Erickson; and "Na Triobloidi" with Sutter, Perlman, Hunnam, Sagal, Siff, Theo Rossi, Mark Boone Jr., Tommy Flanagan, Bill Lucking, Dayton Callie and Taylor Sheridan. The last also comes as a Picture-in-Picture video commentary. These are all engaging tracks with no dead air; fans will definitely want to give them a listen (and the last one a look).

Disc One serves up six "Deleted Scenes" (13:55, HD), Disc Two features five "Deleted Scenes" (20:05, HD); and Disc Three includes two "Deleted Scenes" (6:07, HD). Disc Three hosts the rest of the set's bonus features, including a "Gag Reel" (3:57, HD) and the featurette "The Moral Code of Sons of Anarchy" (10:33, HD), in which Sutter, Perlman, Hunnam, Sagal, Boone Jr., Callie and Sheridan discuss the black, white, and gray of the biker code. Best-of-set honors go to "Sons of Anarchy Roundtable" (40:29, HD), a freewheeling gathering of nearly the whole cast, to whom Sutter puts questions gathered from fans on the internet. Participants include Perlman, Hunnam, Sagal, Siff, Rossi, Flanagan, Callie, Sheridan, Boone, Ryan Hurst, and Lucking.

One can hardly ask for more than Fox delivers in the Blu-ray edition of Sons of Anarchy: Season Two.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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