The Televangelist: 'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Ep. 1

The only thing one should fear more than outlaw bikers: land developers


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I was a latecomer to this series, catching up with the first two seasons on DVD just as Season Three revved up last year. The appeal of "Sons" in my own viewing life is uncertain to me - I do not know how I have come to so vehemently love and be moved by a violent gang of gritty criminals, but I have relished every twist and turn the show has taken. I have fallen in love with Charming, SAMCRO and the world of the Sons, which is about as far removed from my own life as fantasy starring unicorns and dragons. And somehow I find myself desperately wanting to be cast as Tig's Old Lady.

I'm also unsure how such an engaging show has flown under the radar of mass appeal. It is not without its flaws: the female characters, particularly Tara, have suffered from uneven writing - you are either Gemma or you are nobody. (I'm hoping, given what I've seen so far of this season, that Tara finds her own way out of Gemma's shadow). Then there was the trip to Belfast … an unwieldy set of episodes that ended, thankfully, with a fantastic Season Three finale. The Real IRA connection is an important one within the Sons organization, and I understand the motivation to head to Belfast in order to help uncover certain truths about the club's past, as well as to confirm an alliance with RIRA and the club's gunrunning that has been a motivator and shadow over previous seasons. But it also took us far, far away from the heart of why we watch. Still, few shows run without complaint, and my nitpicking of "Sons" shouldn't detract from the fact that it is, at the end of the day, a fresh and fantastic incarnation of the Wild West, and the gunslinging outlaws who run it.

The premiere of this new season was one of the most satisfying I may have ever seen in a series. We are introduced to two new foes for SAMCRO: Assistant U.S. Attorney Lincoln Potter, a chain smoking, long-haired and charmingly off-kilter personality (played by Georgia native Ray MicKinnon) who is already a welcomed relief from crazed, obsessive, sharp-breath-intaker Agent Stahl. Linc immediately brings Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar - what a name!), a San Joaquin County Sheriff for whom Charming is a new jurisdiction, into the fold. He reveals to Eli a kind of war room that will remind fans of "The Wire" of Season 2, where boards were filled with not only players and associates within the Baltimore-based Barksdale organization, but also reaching out to "The Greek," and other international drug traders. So too have Linc and his alphabetical soup team (the FBI, ATF) put together a comprehensive map of SAMCRO and their alliances with RIRA and the Russians. Unlike in the past, the Sons are not the end game here - they just happen to be a helpful local connection in bagging much bigger bad guys. Linc shares with Eli that they have a plant high within the Russian's organization that will help bring down the whole house of cards. But "Sons" being what it is, the premiere gives us an unexpected bloodbath (a "Red Wedding," anyone?) that takes out all of the Russians, including the FBI's man, and presumably moves the club up from being a mere player in the game to a major target.