All I want for Christmas is ‘Sons of Anarchy’ to be more like ‘Breaking Bad’
Note: The following post contains spoilers for both season four of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and season four of ‘Breaking Bad.’ You’ve been warned.
‘Sons of Anarchy’ has so much potential, but sometimes I think it’s wasted. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show and I will defend it to the grave, but at the end of a season, especially one as good as this one, you need to have something happen.
I understand Kurt Sutter had to set up the next three seasons (and he did it very well), but in order to do that he had to keep Clay alive and keep Otto and Juice’s betrayals a secret for another season. Yes, I’m certain he’s got plans for these things to come to light in the future, but at the end of a season you should have some sort of closure for at least some of your storylines.
The RICO story took up an awful lot of screen time to have nothing happen. I mean Juice tried to kill himself because of this situation, and I felt a little disappointed that the CIA showed up and it was all put off until another time. Some people might see this as Sutter painting himself into a corner with no way out, but from what I’ve read in interviews, Sutter is a maniacal genius and I don’t think he does anything he doesn’t want to do. I
think know his plan all along was to have the CIA interrupt the RICO case. And I’m certain he knows there are going to be some consequences down the line because of this. But all season we were building up to a moment that never came to fruition. I think a lot of people (myself included) were upset because there were no resolutions to any of these stories (except, perhaps, Charming Heights).
I know the point of the season was to get Jax to a place where he would finally take the presidency from Clay’s arthritic hands, but now it seems that’s all that happened. I get this was a middle chapter to a much longer story, but you have to give your viewers something. I mean, Piney’s death is still unknown to everyone but Clay, Jax, Tara, Opie, Gemma and Unser (and the man who cremated him). It’s things like this that make me frustrated with this show.
Maybe I’ve come to expect too much from my shows over the years, but once you’ve seen shows go to the places that ‘Breaking Bad’ does every season, it’s hard not to want it from other shows that have just as much potential. Vince Gilligan and his writers on ‘Breaking Bad’ push their characters to the limits, they break them, they have them contemplate and do terrible things. They follow through season after season. And as a viewer you sit there thinking, “There’s no way they are going to do that.” And then they do it. I love Sons, but I haven’t seen this happen yet during the four seasons the show has been on.
This past season of ‘Breaking Bad’ Walt poisoned the child of Jesse’s girlfriend in order to manipulate Jesse, his surrogate son, into helping him kill drug lord Gus Fring. And he did it in a masterfully acted scene between Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul that is sure to win those two men their next Emmys. And then, in one of the greatest reveals in all of television history, he killed Gus using a bell that was connected to a bomb on Tio Salamanca’s wheelchair. Gus walked out of Salamanca’s room at a nursing home, straightened his tie, and then the camera panned around and you saw through his eye socket that half his brain was blown out. This is the kind of stuff that happens on ‘Breaking Bad’ that I wished happened on Sons of Anarchy.
That is not to say I wanted Jax to strap a bomb to Clay’s chest or anything (that’d be more of Opie’s style – though, with Opie’s penchant for revenge, I imagine he’d have liked to blow a hole in Clay’s chest with a shotgun to mimic Piney’s death), but I really do think the show would have benefited from Clay’s death. If you’re going to promise to do something, do it. Don’t wait around for a season or two before you do it. That’s what makes viewers angry and resentful. Follow through on what you’ve promised.
I read several interviews with Kurt Sutter after the finale aired and he said it was always his plan to keep Clay alive, to have Jax’s anger constantly simmering there under the surface, knowing all the terrible things Clay is guilty of doing. And yes, I’m sure there is going to be a phenomenal story there in the coming season, but I still feel cheated that Clay lived to see season five when it seemed that the entire season was about how much Clay needed and deserved to die. Twice this season we were “promised” an imminent death for major characters and they didn’t happen. I’m happy the branch broke and that Juice lived, but that’s my own personal opinion because Juice has been my favorite character since he wound up in a diaper with a sign stapled to his chest that read, “Slightly retarded child. Please adopt me.” I love Juice, and Theo Rossi did a fantastic job this season with Juice’s storyline, but Clay’s death should have happened. If it had, I have no doubt that instead of complaining in this piece, I’d be praising Sutter and the show for its boldness, for its willingness to deliver on what it promises in a timely manner.
I guess what I’m saying is this: Although I’m already biting at the bit for season five to start to see the next chapter in the story, I’m just a little disappointed that we didn’t get any sort of resolution in this season. We didn’t even get the satisfaction of the Club finding out that Piney is dead. It’s like they built up the tension on all of these fronts only to press pause and say that it will all be dealt with at a later date. I guess it was almost like a cliffhanger, but without being a real cliffhanger (something the show doesn’t really do, season two finale excluded). I still think it was a great season as a whole, definitely better than last season, but it seemed to fall short. It made it to here, but it really should have made it to here.
If you were to look at this as simply the first half of a season, it’s phenomenal. I was on the edge of my seat, heartbeat pounding in my ears, usually before the “previously on” segment was even over. But it wasn’t half of a season; it was one season that actually needed two or three seasons to be able to tell the story it wanted. And I know that’s the point. There are chapters to this very long tale, but to have none of your threads tied up is hard for me to swallow. If Kurt wanted to guarantee that his viewership would return for season five, then congratulations, sir, you’ve got us all hooked. This season did its job of making me want next season to happen right now, but at the same time I can’t help but think that it could have been better, and that’s what kills me. It was good, but it could have been great. I have no doubt Sutter will make good on all these storylines in future seasons, but it’s just hard to watch 14 episodes and then have to wait nine months to see how any of the stories turn out.
So to the people who thought my thoughts on the finale were misplaced, they weren’t. I understand this season was necessary to set up the future seasons with Jax as president and Tara as the Old Lady in charge, and I understand that these stories (Otto, Juice, Potter, etc) will eventually all be tied up. But I just want this show to fire on all cylinders all the time. I want it to be great. I want it to deliver when you think it’s going to deliver. I understand Sutter’s storytelling and I understand why the season ended the way it did, I just wish there had been more.