Fox // 2012 // 895 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // September 20th, 2013
"There's an old saying: That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I don't believe that. I think the things that try to kill you make you angry and sad. Strength comes from the good things -- your family, your friends, the satisfaction of hard work. Those are the things that will keep you whole. Those are the things to hold onto when you're broken."
Crooks are big business on TV these days. Mobsters, meth dealers, and murderers abound, yet few shows boast the number and variety of felonies found on the FX biker drama Sons of Anarchy. The series began as the Shakespeare-by-Harley tale of the young VP of a California motorcycle club and his struggle between following the wishes in his dead father's diary and throwing in with his ruthless stepfather. As the story developed from one season to the next, Sons grew in size and scope. The expansion that threatened to unravel the third season was pulled back in the fourth, which turned the focus back to the family conflict that kicked off the series.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Five picks up with the revelations and upheaval of the previous season finale. Everything is in flux, and the aftershocks from Season Four loom large through all 13 episodes of this Blu-ray set, hitting shelves in time for fans to catch up before the insanity of Season Six begins.
At the end of Season Four, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) took the gavel from Clay (Ron Perlman) in a bloody coup that left SAMCRO in shambles. As lies and secrets eat away from within, the battle has spilled beyond the clubhouse, thanks to the accidental murder of a mob boss's daughter, a series of home invasions targeting people close to the club, and the looming specter of a RICO investigation.
For a show that has never played it safe, Sons of Anarchy's fifth season is the craziest yet. While the action stays close to home, the reach of the club and the mayhem adds up to a thrilling mess. Things spills over from last season, as Jax and Tara's plans to leave are undermined by revelations about Clay's treason and the secret deal Teller is forced into by the CIA to keep the Mexican cartel awash in Irish guns. And that's all before the first frame rolls.
The two big wrinkles added in Season Five are the home invasion mystery -- not the B-plot it first seems -- and the fallout from Tig's (Kim Coates) hit and run murder of a woman who turns out the be the daughter of Oakland crime boss Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau). Pope's vengeance comes swiftly, and with dire consequences.
I can't think of a TV season in recent memory with a higher body count than Sons of Anarchy: Season Five. No spoilers here, but be prepared for a bloody eleven and a half hours. About halfway through the season I yelled at my television, "Stop killing people!" Sons of Anarchy did not listen.
The season is also notable for its guest stars. Besides Perrineau, who does a fine job despite looking a little too young to be a mob boss, Season Five introduces Jimmy Smits as Nero, a former gang leader who runs a high class escort service and has a thing for Gemma (Katey Sagal). Smits is a reason to watch any TV show he guests on. He's one of the best things about this season, playing off Jax as father figure, partner, and cautionary tale. Other guest stars include Danny Trejo, Chuck Zito, Donal Logue, and a one-shot appearance by friend of the show Joel McHale.
Some fans might feel let down by the sprawl and lack of focus on the club activities that set Sons of Anarchy apart from other crime dramas, but Season Five is exciting. Where there are a few frustrating developments there's very little wasted screentime, and none of the wheel-spinning that hurt the first half of Season Three. As in Season Four, the finale ends with some big things up in the air, ready to fall with a crash in the sixth season. Sons of Anarchy isn't the same show it was in the first couple of seasons, but that's not a bad thing.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Five (Blu-ray) continues the high-def excellence of previous sets. The 1.78:1/1080p Blu-ray transfer is sharp, showing each beard hair and scuffed leather jacket, with strong details even in dirty corners and night scenes. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track delivers a thundering surround experience that's crisp and balanced. The mix kicks in especially hard during the action scenes and the show's trademark music montages. This year's soundtrack includes cover renditions of "Sympathy for the Devil," "The Passenger," and "Higher Ground" -- a memorable collection of tunes, even if it doesn't reach the heights of songs like "Hey Hey, My My," "John the Revelator," or "House of the Rising Sun" from seasons past.
In addition to a handy "Season Mode" that minimizes loading screens and automatically plays extended versions of certain episodes, Sons of Anarchy: Season Five comes with a couple of audio commentaries, about 15 minutes of deleted scenes, a gag reel, and the featurettes "Kurt Sutter: Creating Anarchy" (3:41), "Opie Winston" (6:48), and the nearly 20 minute "Fan Concert at the Club House."
Five seasons in, Sons of Anarchy is still going strong. Show creator Kurt Sutter has made it tough for himself going forward. I don't know how he'll manage the fallout from this explosive season but I can't wait to find out.
I'm not crossing these guys. Not Guilty!
Review content copyright © 2013 Erich Asperschlager; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 895 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Episodes
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site