Over the course of the first three seasons, Sons Of Anarchy, in its own way, kind of suffered from the same kind of moral stasis that has affected Nurse Jackie, in that the characters just seem to go about their lives without really experiencing any repercussions for their actions. Samcro's schemes always seem to work out for the best. Jax always ends up back at home with Tara and the kids. All is right with the world.
Even when it isn't true on a week-to-week basis, things work out across entire seasons; think about that ill-advised third season, in which the Sons headed to Belfast to make deals and get Jax's son back (though most fans try to pretend that season never actually happened). At the beginning of Season 4, we're (almost) back to business as usual.
(Warning: Spoilers from the first episode of Sons Of Anarchy's fifth season follow.)
This weird kind of equilibrium, where every storyline eventually gets back to its happy medium, is part of the reason that Season 4 - and the first episode of Season 5, which aired last night (TV3, 9.30pm) - was so satisfying: The season ended in turmoil for the club and its members.
The chaos continued into last night's season premiere. Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is feeling the effects of his decaying friendship with Opie, the cartel deal which has trapped the club, and is still wrestling control of club from Clay (Ron Perlman), who ends up surprisingly revealing the truth about Piney's death, and his own shooting, at a club meet. Gemma (Katey Sagal) has spiralled out of control in the wake of her split from Clay, falling in with local pimp Nero (hey, it's Jimmy Smits!). Tara (Maggie Siff) is more troubled than ever by the gang lifestyle.
The most heart-breaking scene of the episode went to Tig (Kim Coates), who watched his own daughter burned alive by vicious One-Niners leader Damon Pope (season-long guest Harold "Waaaaaaalt" Perrineau) in retaliation for Tig having killed Pope's daughter out of loyalty to Clay, believing that Pope was the one responsible for Clay's shooting. The harrowing episode ends with Jax, Chibs and Tig forced to hide from the cops.
It was a great start to the season, and indicative of the growth of Sons creators Kurt Sutter's writing, and of his show. I know Sutter likes to claim that the show is little more than a pulpy soap opera, but he has actually created an engaging, unique serial drama - one of the best on television right now, in fact.
The show is better for that serialisation, to be honest. These are interesting characters, involved in interesting storylines. As a viewer, I want to see depth and growth, I want to see the situation for the characters change over time. And Sons is doing that as well as anybody right now.
So, a great start to the fifth season: I'm excited that the Sons are up against a villain who is willing to strike at the heart of the club (and word on this season is that Damon Pope doesn't let up), but the internal strife is what I'm really interested in - luckily, it seems we'll have plenty of that, too. I'm excited.
Did you watch the first episode of Sons Of Anarchy, Season 5, last night? What did you think? And remember, if you've already seen ahead, NO SPOILERS.