Sons of Anarchy: Season Two (Blu-ray)
Directed by Guy Ferland et al
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 583 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 69.99
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Review Date: August 29, 2010
One of the surprise hits of the 2008-2009 television season was FX’s gritty Sons of Anarchy, and the show became even more popular during its second season. Sons of Anarchy presents its motorcycle club as a tight-knit autocracy with its major interest not in drugs or prostitution as many gangs have notoriety in the headlines for trading in but rather in gun running and weapons supplying for any groups with the cash to make it worth their while. The show features a strong cast of reliable character actors, and after a so-so first season, really found its story-telling karma in season two. It’s a brutal, violent, and unforgiving world being portrayed in this rough and tumble drama, and the production does not back down from the mayhem: everything from ritual murders to gang rape, street warfare, car bombings, and beatdowns between the various motorcycle clubs and street gangs inhabiting the town of Charming, California.
The Sons of Anarchy, Samcro chapter, is led by longtime number one "Clay" Morrow (Ron Perlman). Stepson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam) is the club’s number two man, Teller being the son of the club’s founder. Other main men in the chapter’s mix are sergeant at arms "Tig" Trager (Kim Coates), Clay’s right hand man recently paroled from prison "Bobby" Munson (Mark Boone Jr.), and prospective member "Half-Sack" Epps (Johnny Lewis). Clay’s wife and Jax’s mother, an all purpose den mother/troubleshooter for the gang, is Gemma Morrow (Katey Sagal). Last season Jax became involved with young doctor Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) who’s attempting to reconcile her commitment to save lives with the club members’ vendetta of death to those who oppose them (Jax even confesses to Tara that he killed someone to even a score).
The club has conflicts both internal and external during this second season. Clay and Jax’s rivalry spirals to out-of-control dimensions during the season with several of Clay’s decisions blowing up in the club’s face while Jax’s instincts (and his desire to legitimize the club’s activities eventually) proving to be right more often than not, much to Clay’s consternation. With the mistaken murder of Opie’s (Ryan Hurst) wife by Tig in the first season finale and Jax's sitting on that secret for most of the season, the undercurrent of tension builds to almost unbearable levels making dramatic encounters especially heated and memorable. And den mother Gemma is gang raped in the season’s second episode by a new crew in town, a secret hell she keeps to herself but one which insidiously adds to the tensions inside the Sons organization.
But the club’s bigger problems are external. New ATF agent June Stahl (Ally Walker) is trying every method she can think of to wheedle her way into the consciousness of one of the club members; ostensibly she wants to bring down the IRA who are the major gun suppliers for the Sons, but, of course, she eventually wants to be able to bring the club to its knees as well. For that, however, she’s got to stand in line to the club’s biggest nemesis during season two, the white supremacist League of American Nationalists. With deep, deep pockets, a mask of respectability while dealing in crack production and distribution, and headed by the business-like acumen of Ethan Zabelle (Adam Arkin) who keeps local deputy chief Unser (Taylor Sheridan) apprised of all of the Sons’ gang activities while hiding his own, the League always manages to be one step ahead of the Sons thwarting every effort of sabotage and managing to play on the inside animosity of the club’s membership in order to split it up and make it even less effective.
The drama is much better plotted and paced this season than during its freshman stand, and the actors have really embraced these outlaw roles and run with them to great effect. Not only is the action level ratcheted up this season, but personal interactions between club members and romantic relationships beginning to flower amid all the chaos of the club’s internal combustion keep interest levels high and turn this serialized drama into something akin to real art, a terrific achievement given the subject matter and the raw, real way the violence is represented on the screen. The show is not for those with weak stomachs.
Here are the thirteen episodes contained on three discs in the second season set. Names in parentheses refer to the commentators for that episode.
1 – Albification (creator Kurt Sutter, director Guy Ferland, Ron Perlman, Adam Arkin)
2 – Small Tears
3 – Fix
4 – Eureka
5 – Smite
6 – Falx Cerebri
7 – Gilead
8 – Potlach
9 – Fa Guan
10 – Balm (Kurt Sutter, Ron Perlman, Katey Segal, Charlie Hunnam, Maggie Siff, director Paris Barclay, writer David Erickson)
11 – Service
12 – The Culling
13 – Na Trioblóidí (Kurt Sutter, Ron Perlman, Katey Segal, Charlie Hunnam, Maggie Siff, Theo Rossi, Mark Boone, Tommy Flanagan, Bill Lucking, Dayton Callie, Taylor Sheridan)
The program’s widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. The program’s content may be gritty, but the video presentation is sharp and solid with an excellent dimensional look and much detail in the grain of the leather vests, skin textures, hair, and other clothing fabrics. It’s not a wildly colorful show, but skin tones are accurately realized, and blacks reach deep levels of richness. A touch of aliasing is briefly noticeable in a couple of episodes, but it’s not a major problem. Each episode has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does feature discrete effects from time to time panning across and through the soundstage, but the blend isn’t quite as transparent as the best lossless audio tracks. Music is also piped through the front and rear channels immersing the viewer in the rock music soundtrack. Explosions and gunfire get more than adequate depth in the LFE channel while dialogue comes through loud and clear in the center channel.
The audio commentaries for select episodes (see names above in the episode listing) are more back patting paeans to each other’s good work than informative discussions on the making of the series. The discussions are much more under control than they were in last season’s commentary tracks, but only real fans will be interested in what the speakers have to say. The commentary for the season finale offers the option of either audio or video PiP commentary.
The deleted scenes have been spread over the three discs in the set. There are 14 scenes running 14 minutes on disc one, 13 scenes running 20 ¼ minutes on disc two, and 4 scenes running 6 ¼ minutes on disc three. All are in 1080p.
The gag reel for season two runs 4 minutes in 1080p.
“The Moral Code of Sons of Anarchy” goes into the background history of how many motorcycle clubs got started by veterans, the specific history of the Samcro chapter, the rules of the organization, and a summary of the plots of seasons one and two. It runs 10 ½ minutes in 1080p.
“Sons of Anarchy Roundtable” finds almost all of the principal cast (apart from the absent Kim Coates) answering a series of questions submitted by fans after the second season had been shown. There are both serious and silly answers to some of the questions, but the 40 ½ minutes seems a trifle overextended because the actors are not notably comfortable speaking extemporaneously. It’s in 1080p.
There are 1080p trailers for Justified, The A-Team, Fox’s TV drama series, Archer, and Predators.
4/5 (not an average)
A show much improved in its second season, Sons of Anarchy is a rough and tumble look at the world of outlaw bikers, but the characters are really interesting and the human interaction is imminently addictive. The Blu-ray set features excellent video and audio quality and hosts some fan-flavored bonus features that help make the set one I can recommend.