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'Sons of Anarchy': Making a case for TV violence
Early this season, the daughter of a SAMCRO member was burned alive while he was forced to watch the horrid killing helplessly.
And just last week, Big Otto, a SAMCRO member who's on death row, viciously stabbed to death a prison nurse with his contraband crucifix. But however shocking, this scene had a sound dramatic purpose. Like other violence on "Sons," it propelled the narrative in yet-to-be-seen ways. An act of complex retribution against Jax, Otto's scheme was as diabolical as it was depraved, and it will fuel future plot twists. Nothing on "Sons" takes place in isolation.
The recurring character Otto is played by Kurt Sutter, whose more prominent roles on "Sons" are as its creator, writer and executive producer (and who, by the way, is married to Katey Sagal).
Sutter says the initial concept for "Sons" was aimed at exploring "what a family dynamic looks like in a subculture that has its own set of rules, its own governing body, its own lifestyle — yet faces some of the same daily challenges we all do."
Jax seems intent on eventually escaping this criminal life with his longsuffering wife (Maggie Siff) and their two sons.
"I see an end," Jax told her last week.
But Sutter doesn't see an end to "Sons" for at least two more seasons, which surely means more struggle and bloodshed for Jax and company.
That's good news for the series' audience, which has grown steadily season by season, currently averaging 6.6 million viewers weekly.
"There's a pulp quality to my show that allows me to push the boundary and tell some bigger-than-life stories," Sutter says. "But what grounds the story is that we see the ramifications of the bad things the characters do. That creates a sense of karmic responsibility for what we're putting out there. It doesn't feel so much like, 'Oh, there's just violence for violence's sake, or sex for sex's sake.' Viewers understand how it fits into the bigger picture."
Part of the bigger picture is that, however engaging these ruffians may be — you just can't help rooting for Jax and his confederates, no matter how brutish their behavior — there's no glamourizing the lives they lead.
"The irony of this outlaw culture is that it's supposed to be all about breaking the rules and being free," says Sutter — yet the Sons are stricken by their own code of conduct. They remain trapped, on high alert and under constant threat. "It's not a life I would want to live," Sutter says with a laugh.
But it's a life that's fascinating to watch. For violence this raw and bracing, yet full of dramatic consequences, I've got just one thing to say about "Sons of Anarchy" every week: Hit me again!
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier