Case Number 22236

SONS OF ANARCHY: SEASON THREE (BLU-RAY)

Fox // 2010 // 588 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 8th, 2011

The Charge

On the Devil's back until you die.

Opening Statement

Sons of Anarchy is one of the best shows on television. It's first two seasons were shockingly good. You should watch them. And you should probably watch this one too.

Facts of the Case

Here's the spoiler-lite rundown of where we stand. In the small town of Charming, California, the Sons of Anarchy rule. This fearsome outlaw motorcycle club, led by Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman, Hellboy), has its leather-clad hands in all manner of shady activity, from gun-running for the IRA to settling beefs with rival biker gangs to the occasional forced castration of pedophiles. By Clay's side is his wife, Gemma (Katey Sagal, Futurama), the club's matriarch and the fierce protector of the family secrets.

Season Three begins with a desperate mission to retrieve a loved one, a hunt that will take the club into the guts of the IRA in Belfast and the crosshairs of the ever-vigilant ATF. And, as always, at the center of the hurricane is the club's heir-apparent, Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam, Nicholas Nickleby), ever in conflict between loyalty and legacy.

The Evidence

I was getting discouraged. As episode four came to a close I arrived at the sad realization that maybe, just maybe, the best years of Sons of Anarchy were behind it. Ever since I back-filled my viewing experience of the show by ripping through the last two sets in record time, Sons has inhabited my TV Top Five. It's relentless pace, fascinating backdrop and memorable characters made the seasons fly by with the speed of a custom Fatboy. And so it was with great eagerness that I tore into the third chapter of the Jackson-Teller saga.

But something was wrong. The show just felt off. The narrative was grinding its gears. Plotlines would repeat and the infamous reveals that followed each show were repetitive and milquetoast. This creative rut was especially surprising given the monster cliffhanger that Season Two wrapped on. For the show to pitch and stall out of the gate like this was deeply, deeply concerning. I reckon that you would feel the same, no matter how deep your love for this show abides. Fair warning then: the first third of the season will be a bumpy ride.

Yet I bring good tidings! Because from episode five on, Sons of Anarchy: Season Three regains its old form and rockets forward with the twists and shocks and general narrative badassness that we've all come accustomed to from the Reaper. Once the boys land in Ireland (as signified by a handy blue lens filter!) the groove is regained and the writers hit that zone that carries them to my favorite finale of the series so far and quite possibly one of my favorite last scenes of any show.

I suppose I'm at the point of the review where at least a molecule of spoiler would be required, but I must resist. If you haven't seen any of this yet -- or, God forbid, you have yet to fire up the first two seasons! -- I would be performing a grand disservice by revealing who gets whacked, betrayed, sold to the highest bidder, knocked up, engaged, stabbed in the head, buried up to their chin in the middle of the desert, run over by a van, gutted in the bathroom, dropped off a building, set on fire, tortured with pliers, strung up on a meat hook and screwed over by the Russians. I wouldn't dare.

Just know that creator/showrunner Kurt Sutter did precisely what he needed to do; he wrapped up some stuff while blowing the door wide open for the future of the series. The battle for Jax's soul is still very much in question and thanks to some tantalizing bits of exposition, it appears we're heading for somewhat of nuclear firestorm next season. Where this show specifically goes I have no idea, but I do know this much: I won't doubt you again.

High-end Blu-ray set all around. Aside from a brief amount of grain and visual imperfection in one episode, the 1.78:1, AVC-encoded high definition transfer is golden. The resolution pops, from the sand-blasted dust of Charming to the icy-cool drizzle of Belfast. Color saturation is strong throughout and the clarity brings out every detail, from Ron Perlman's immaculate, grizzled face to the gearhead porn of the bikes. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track pushes out the sound in grand fashion; those exhaust pipes shook my walls. Extras are copious and, best of all, worth watching: episode commentary, the full cast read-through of the finale, four bonus scenes that bridge into Season Four, featurettes on Sutter's direction of the finale and the real-world motorcycle customization, deleted scenes and a gag reel. The only disposable extra is a low-res, standard-issue promo on the Season Three premiere.

Closing Statement

Sons of Anarchy: Season Three's sluggish start is dispensed with a third of the way through, giving way to some seriously harrowing, white-knuckle stuff, culminating in a finale for the ages. The Blu-rays are how you want to watch it all unfold.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. Gotta live this life until you die.

Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 90
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 588 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Gag Reel

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1124373/combined

* Official Site
http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/originals/soa/