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    Oct 2001
    Fredericksburg, VA

    BLU-RAY REVIEW: FX's Sons of Anarchy Season Five

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    There's no better drama on TV today than FX's violent, character-driven masterpiece Sons of Anarchy. Considering all of the amazing network and cable programing being made today, there's nothing I'd rather watch than the crew from SAMCRO knuckle up and throw down as they defend their club and its honor...even if the threat comes from within. So, with the changing of the guard at the end of SOA Season Four, SOA Season Five jumps into welcome territory with new characters, new conflicts and tragic changes to the show.

    The series' appeal is nearly impossible to explain in a single paragraph, though - suffice to say - the Sons of Anarchy story, as previously mentioned by show runner and creator Kurt Sutter, closely follows the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet. We watch members of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club from Charming, California struggle with the consequences of their past actions as Jackson "Jax" Teller, the son of the club's first President and founding member, struggles to bring his crew back to life and out of danger. Of course, as an outlaw club making money gun running, the SAMCRO (which stands for Sons of Anarch Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) have - in past seasons - faced off against other biker clubs, white supremacists, the real IRA, and even the Mexican drug cartel. Thus, external conflict is nothing new to them. However, it's the internal conflict that's the real killer as the wide variety of personalities within the club present unique back stories which provides plenty of character drama, style, and mood. And now, with Sons of Anarchy Season Five available on Blu-ray and DVD, fans can catch up just in time for the sixth season, which begins Tuesday, September 10.

    With Clay (Ron Perlman) out as Club Pres and step-son Jax (Charlie Hunnam) in as the club's Pres, Season Five immediately started off forcing members to pick and choose sides. Of course, viewers know Clay is villainous and mischievous, unwilling to allow control to slip from his grasp so there's no surprise he hires a number of Nomad members of the club to make Jax look the fool. What's best for the club and what's best for club members often puts individuals at odds with their own conscience and SOA Season Five saw plenty of inner turmoil throughout. We watched Jax's trusted friend Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) serve as VP, trying to play mediator between the factions. Season Five also finds Jax's best friend Opie (Ryan Hurst) continuing to struggle with his father's murder at the hands of Clay and what's best for him as he's forced to make a decision that'll resonate for years to come. Yet nothing plays a bigger part in Season Five than the introduction of West Coast drug kingpin Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau) and the ongoing RICO case against the club.

    Season Four found SOA Sergeant at Arms Tig (Kim Coates) seek false retaliation at another biker, instead killing Pope's daughter by accident. Thus, Pope seeks retaliation and none of it's good. And with Pope's power and money, nothing is off-limits. Pope's introduction as a new enemy adds a level of intensity the likes of which the show has become known for and it is Pope's orders which ultimate bring about the death of one of the show's most valued and favorite Sons in the season's third episode. Likewise, the RICO case the Feds continue to hold over the club's head finds Jax's wife Tara (Maggie Siff) working towards helping SOA member Otto, serving life in prison, recant his testimony to prevent the entire club from doing jail time (something they're all too familiar with). Of course, Tara's actions lead to the murder of an innocent prison nurse whose brother, a former Federal Marshall, takes case with the club. This of course leads to even more problems for Charming's favorite Sons.

    Maybe one of the most welcome additions to SOA Season Five is Jimmy Smit's character Nero, a former gangster who - oddly enough - falls for Clay's ex and Jax's mom, Gemma (Katey Sagel). Throughout the season, Nero provides a distraction and support for Gemma while at the same time a mentor for Jax as he struggles with his new role as club President. While he's constantly offered the opportunity to betray the club and the Sons' actions put him in direct opposition with his goals, Nero remains loyal and honest. In fact, it's Nero's integrity which - at times - provides the club with its lone glimpse of hope. All this said, SOA Season Five ends as it must - with both Clay and Tara in the hands of the law (one rightly, one falsely), Gemma at her son's side and the club's future still undetermined.

    The Blu-ray presentation of SOA Season Five is gorgeous with clean, tight lines and bold colors throughout the 1080p picture. Likewise, series' English DTS-HD 5.1 Audio delivers plenty of audio ambiance. Besides an excellent soundtrack, the 5.1 audio delivers from all channels as explosions rock, bullets ricochet and motorcycle pipes roar. Special features here - aimed primarily at die-hard fans - include commentary and deleted scenes from specific episodes as well as short featurettes including a gag reel, "Opie Winston," about one of the season's most heart-breaking moments; "Kurt Sutter: Creating Anarchy," which discusses with the show runner how the show's made and the 19-minute "Fan Concert at the Club House," which shows what happens when a bunch of show fans get to visit the set and enjoy a concert.

    It has been mentioned Sons of Anarchy will conclude after its seventh season, which means the sixth season, which begins Tuesday, September 10, is vital in helping the story progress as it nears its end. Not to be missed, Sons of Anarchy is just as good - if not better - than the best television you've ever seen. If you're not currently watching Sons of Anarchy, you should be. It's well worth watching from the beginning and Seasons One to Season Four are available on Netflix, Season Five is available now on Blu-ray and DVD and Season Six begins this Tuesday, September 10, only on FX.

    - Jess C. Horsley

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