Greatness leads to expectations. The first season of Sons of Anarchy was quite good, introducing a group of characters and a community in a way that mixed the complex with the basic. Which is to say that these bikers were more than just thugs, but they also kicked ass. The second season of Sons of Anarchy was great, taking both the complexity and the basics farther than we could have hoped while proving to the world, if not to the Emmy voters, that Katey Sagal is an amazing actress.
And so, expectations. We wanted Season Three to be as much better than Season Two as that season was to Season One. It’s a tribute to Kurt Sutter and his team that such expectations didn’t seem outrageous, just as it’s a tribute to note that there were times during Season Three when it did indeed meet our exaggerated expectations.
But the truth is, Season Two is still the one great season thus far. This season, we got to see more great acting (Charlie Hunnam does not seem like anyone’s first choice to play the central figure of a conflicted, violent biker, but Season Three was his the way Season Two was Sagal’s). We got to learn more about the backstory of the Sons. And there was never an episode where I wished I wasn’t watching.
Finally, Season Three’s finish leaves the door open for a fascinating Season Four.
Grades? I gave Season One a “B” (which I would with hindsight raise to a B+) and gave Season Two an “A.” Season Three gets a “B+” because it comes with the hindsight already attached.
You can count me as one viewer, though, who was extremely frustrated about one of the big reveals in the finale. Sons of Anarchy is a smart show, and it has a smart audience. We don’t need to be coddled. I understand Kurt Sutter’s “mantra in the writers room is -- What is the audience expecting and then let's never do that.” I’m good with that … I don’t blame him for not wanting to repeat himself, and I like that he didn’t just rest of the laurels from Season Two. But … here come the spoilers … when we find out that the club has been in on Jax’s plan all along, we are insulted. Sutter played us, the way that Jax and the Sons played Agent Stahl. She deserved it; we didn’t. Put aside the logistics of how/when Jax’s plot was revealed to the Sons … by not letting the audience in on the secret, Sutter made us feel for Jax in a false manner. What if the club finds out, what will happen if he is exposed as a rat, what anguish must he feel going through this … all of those questions, which lent depth to the drama throughout the season, are shown to be tricks, with the audience as the dupes. A great show leads to great expectations … one of those expectations is that we aren’t treated like idiots.
But I wouldn’t be complaining if I didn’t have high expectations, and I look forward to Season Four.