The final season of Sons of Anarchy kicked off this week with a bloody episode, record ratings, and the promise of more bodies dropping. I am a obviously fan of Sons of Anarchy, but I feel like I am fair to the show when it’s both good and bad, and the comments on the recaps seem to bear that out, since they vacillate between, “YOU SUCK, ROWLES. Why are you always so far up this show’s ass?!” and “YOU SUCK, ROWLES. Why are you always so negative? Just sit back and enjoy the show. God! ROWLES’D.”
The series has had some great seasons (1,2, and 6) and some not very good seasons (3, 4). However, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Sons of Anarchy is not “one of the best shows on TV anymore,” as Gawker’s new TV outlet did this week, because I have never considered Sons to be one of the “best” shows on TV. But like The Walking Dead, it’s a intermittently great and mostly entertaining show that I really dig. Suits is not a “great” show, either, but I will watch it before I watch a “great” show like The Bridge every single time, because I am weak, and Donna makes me feel funny in my funny places.
But there was one thing that bugged me about the piece, and it’s the criticism of the show’s ‘stunt casting’:
To put it into TV layman’s terms, it’s like it’s 1998 all over again, and Sons of Anarchy is Will & Grace. Going into this season, the buzz isn’t the character arcs or how the show will stick to its mission statement, whatever that even is anymore. It’s all about which celebrity’s showing up next, the way it has been for the past couple of seasons. Whether it’s Marilyn Manson (he was fine), Lea Michele, Courtney Love, Joel McHale, Ashley Tisdale, or Walton Goggins in drag, that’s the story, not the story.
I mean, first of all, Will & Grace had huge feature film stars appear in episodes, and those episodes were heavily advertised with promos featuring the A-list star, and the plotlines in those episodes centered on that special guest star. This is completely different from Sons of Anarchy because most of the actors are “familiar” but not that famous. And nobody watched the Joel McHale episode or the Ashley Tisdale episode or even this week’s Marilyn Manson episode because those stars were in it. They watched those episodes because they already watch Sons of Anarchy, and it’s kind of cool to see someone with whom we are familiar in a incredibly unfamiliar setting.
Moreover, these episodes do not revolve around the guest stars. The actors have bit parts that have already been written for the most part, and Sutter just brings in a familiar face — instead of a glorified extra — to take on the role. Marilyn Manson had one scene this week. He was good in it. But the episode wasn’t about him. Likewise, I don’t even remember now if Malcolm Jamal Warner had a line in this week’s episode, but it was cool to see him in a motorcycle gang. THEO!
Likewise, the Gawker piece also singled out Walton Goggins in drag as “stunt casting” and WAIT A SECOND, BACK THE F**K UP. That’s not “stunt” casting. That’s perfect casting. That’s a situation in which a character was created who brought an entirely new dynamic to the show, who added doses of both humor and poignancy, and who helped considerably to add new dimension to Tig’s character. The fact that Goggins is the star of a series that gets one-third of the ratings of Sons of Anarchy does not make it stunt casting. The fact that Walton Goggins was perfect in that role made it great casting.
And the “mission statement, whatever that is” on Sons of Anarchy is fairly obvious. Kurt Sutter is a lot of things, but he is not a subtle man. It’s Hamlet. It’s how power breeds corruption. It’s about the satisfaction and destruction of revenge. And it’s about history repeating itself. It’s Shakespeare, but it’s not exactly Shakespeare, if you know what I mean.