Roses, lakes 'n' bikies: three reviews in one
The last week saw several heavy-hitting dramas finish for the year - New Zealand-based shows The Blue Rose and Top of the Lake both finished last Monday, and Sons of Anarchy wrapped things up on Wednesday night. I didn't get to any of these shows last week, but I have a few thoughts right after these formalities ...
(Warning: spoilers from The Blue Rose, Top of the Lake and Sons of Anarchy follow.)
It's been a rough few months for The Blue Rose: the show started as one of the centrepieces of TV3's new season, but underwhelming ratings quickly saw it moved to 9.30pm, where it dropped off the ratings map even further (I actually wondered aloud why it had rated so badly, here; it certainly didn't perform as well as it deserved).
Blog on the Tracks' Simon Sweetman wrote a pretty good review for his personal blog, and I agree with much of what he said. On a production level, the show was great: it looked stunning, there was a good cast in place, and Karl Steven's soundtrack created a great vibe for the show.
But on a story level, the show didn't quite hold up. Little side missions distracted from an intriguing story about the death of Rose, and the reveal - that co-worker Charlie had accidentally knocked her off a pier - felt like a letdown*. I normally love the work of James Griffin and Rachel Lang, but I don't think this show spent enough time getting into the characters and how the death of Rose affected them. I would've much rather spent time exploring the emotion of the situation, of grief and loss, than watching the gang get revenge on a car salesman.
Top of the Lake ended much the same way: Jane Campion's vision of the deep south was arrestingly beautiful at times, and the legendary director got the most out of her cast - Peter Mullan was brilliant as Matt, the corrupt patriarch of the Mitcham family, and Elisabeth Moss' inconsistent accent didn't deter from a powerful performance.
But, again, the ending was a letdown. I mean, it makes sense in the scheme of things; all the way back in the first episode, Tui explained that she didn't know who fathered her baby, and what we saw in Al's basement fits with that notion.
But there were too many red herrings and distractions that took us away from the real appeal of the show: Robin. She was the most interesting character on the show, and some elements - notably, the commune led by GJ (Holly Hunter) - distracted from that or appeared to be included for no real reason other than shock for shock's sake. Again, I would've preferred to spend more time exploring the character of Robin than any of the other cast.
The finale of Sons of Anarchy was a different story though, a game-changing hour-plus of television that puts the show in an interesting place going into its sixth (and seventh) seasons.
Sure, Tara (Maggie Siff) got arrested for her part in Otto's nurse attack, but perhaps the biggest shocker of that final episode was Jax (Charlie Hunnam) executing a brutal takedown of Pope's organisation, leaving Tig (Kim Coates) to finish off leader Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau), while framing Clay (Ron Perlman) - an act which gave Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) the justice he required for his wife's death, but which has left the entire club in disarray, forcing Bobby(Mark Boone Junior) to quit and leaving the rest of the Sons asking some big questions of their leader.
I loved the final image of the season, with Gemma (Katey Sagal) standing behind her son at a dinner table, a subversive throwback to the final scene of Season 4 where Tara was standing behind Jax at the club table. And I can't wait to see what happens next. The relationships built with Nero (Jimmy Smits) and Pope's right-hand man August (Billy Brown), as well as Jax's contrasting priorities - one moment, he's promising Tara that getting out of Charming is his plan, and the next he's telling Bobby that perhaps he isn't any different from those who led the club before - will be thrilling to watch play out.
A phenomenal episode of Sons, easily its best season-closer yet, and the best finale of the three aired last week.
Did you watch the finales of The Blue Rose, Top of the Lake or Sons of Anarchy? What did you think? What was your favourite? And are you looking forward to the (potential) next seasons of any of these series?
(*) My fiancée guessed Charlie during the first episode.