Sons of Anarchy: Season 3 (Blu-ray)
Directed by Billy Gierhart et al
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 588 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 69.99
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Review Date: August 30, 2011
Sons of Anarchy presents its motorcycle club as a tight-knit autocracy with its major interest not in drugs or prostitution as many groups 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. 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.
Sons of Anarchy finshed out its second season with a compelling double cliffhanger involving the kidnapping of club vice-president Jax’s (Charlie Hunnam) infant son Abel by an Irish rebel (Jamie McShane) who has (unknown to the club) spirited him away to Belfast and the frame up of Jax’s mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) in a murder by the vindictive, devious ATF agent June Stahl (Ally Walker). These two storylines, Jax’s deperate search for his son and Gemma’s banishment from Charming (which allows for several harrowing episodes reconnecting with her father (Hal Holbrook) who’s in the early stages of dementia) until her name can be cleared. But the club has other worries, primarily money problems from the economy, a mayoral candidate (Jeff Kober) who’s not keen on the club’s activities, and both Irish and Mexican gangs who draw focus away from the club’s primary businesses. The last half of the season takes most of the club members to Belfast where a series of encounters with both the IRA and members of the Northern Ireland branch of Sons of Anarchy who are double-dealing their original charter brethren keep tensions high and action fast-paced.
Actors have really stepped up to the plate this season and hit homer after homer. Charlie Hunnam is now front and center as the star of the show with an excellent American accent and running the gamut of emotions throughout the season. Katey Sagal won the Golden Globe this year for her work during the season, and it was a well deserved acknowledgement of her power and prowess as the unbridled den mother to the bikers. Maggie Siff also delivers throughout the season in very intense sequences where she must not only emote but also physically act, and she’s transforming before our eyes into Gemma, Jr. As for guest stars, the show has them, everything from a small walk-on for Stephen King as a “cleaner” to Titus Welliver amazing as always as the rebellious Irish crook Jimmy whose manhunt becomes one of the central focuses of the season. Ally Walker is also resplendently repellant as the duplicitous ATF agent.
Here are the thirteen episodes contained on three discs in the third season set. Names in parentheses refer to the commentators for that episode.
1 – So (creator Kurt Sutter, writers Dave Erickson, Chris Collins, Reginaq Corrado, Liz Sagal, Marco Ramirez)
2 – Oiled
3 – Caregiver
4 – Home
5 – Turning and Turning
6 – The Push
7 – Widening Gyre
8 – Lochan Mor
9 – Turas
10 – Firinne (Kurt Sutter, Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Maggie Siff, Tommy Flanagan)
11 – Bainne
12 – June Wedding
13 – NS (Kurt Sutter, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Theo Ross, Ryan Hurst, Dayton Callie)
The program’s 1.78:1 widescreen television aspect ratio is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. As dark and gritty as the storytelling is, the video quality couldn’t be sharper or more detailed. There are outstanding amounts of details to be seen here: in hair, clothes, the grain of the leather vests, and every scar and bit of ink the bikers sport. Color is realistically hued (the greens of “Ireland” are not overdone), and flesh tones are completely natural. In a sequence or two when low light conditions prevail, the image gets a bit digital in appearance, but it’s a minor inconsistency. Episodes have been divided into varying chapters depending on the length of the episode but generally they run 12 or 13 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 and not enough is done with discreet effects apart from the motorcycles coming and going through the soundstage. Music is also piped through the front and rear channels immersing the viewer in the rock and pop 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.
There are three audio commentaries (see above for participants). The creator and writer track on the season premiere is the best one as they discuss characters and storylines seriously and without much joking around. The two actor commentaries start and stop and contain much joking (and profanity: make sure the kids have gone to bed).
There are three extended episodes which offer the viewer the chance to watch the broadcast version or the longer (usually by about five minutes) extended cut. They are Episodes 1, 11, and 12.
Unless otherwise noted, all featurettes are presented in 1080p.
The deleted scenes have been spread over the three discs in the set. There are eight scenes running 10 ½ minutes on disc one, twelve scenes running 14 ¼ minutes on disc two, and two scenes running 3 ¼ minutes on disc three.
“The Future Begins Now” offers four scenes from Season Four which detail the fourteen months the club spends in prison. They may be watched individually or in a 9 ¾-minute grouping.
“Writers’ Roundtable” finds creator Kurt Sutter introducing the viewer to the show’s writing staff, and then they answer a series of questions submitted to him via Twitter. The feature runs 18 ¼ minutes.
“Bike Customizer” is a 15 ¾-minute look at a special Bobber motorcycle built for an auction. The two builders take us through the various steps to getting to the finished product including finding parts, the engine, the frame, the paint and chrome, the detailing, the actual assembly, and the test drive.
“Directing the Finale” has creator Kurt Sutter discussing his aims for directing this season’s finale episode, the third finale he’s helmed. The 5 ½-minute piece finds him discussing his process and techniques for each individual actor as well as scouting locations and blocking action.
“‘NS’ Table Read with the Cast” is exactly what it seems to be: the table read of the season finale that runs 44 minutes (and includes PiP shots from the episode when the stage directions are being read).
The Season Three gag reel runs 3 minutes.
“The Fox Movie Channel Presents the World Premiere of Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy” offers red carpet interviews with Kurt Sutter and the stars of the show as they walk the red carpet to the third season premiere and speak with Travis Smiley. It runs 5 ¼ minutes in 480i.
The set is BD-Live ready and features excerpts from Comic Con 2011 featuring creator Kurt Sutter and stars Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, and Ron Perlman. It runs 5 minutes.
The disc includes promo trailers for FX series, Fox series, and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.
4/5 (not an average)
Compelling drama with a decided edge and bite (what other series kills off three regularly recurring characters during a season?), Sons of Anarchy: Season 3 stepped up its game and scored big this season. Fans of the show will be extremely pleased in the quality of the episode presentations and with the generous selection of bonus features on hand. Recommended!