How much drama can a fictional Northern California town ruled by a motorcycle gang believably endure?
The producers of FX’s top-rated series, “Sons of Anarchy,” push the limits in the show’s overwrought third-season premiere episode, running Tuesday night at 10 p.m.
Never mind creator/executive producer Kurt Sutter’s recent social-media-fueled outrage about his show’s lack of Emmy attention. The season three premiere has the gun-running boys of Samcro revving their bikes for what turns out to be some pretty big leaps of viewer imagination — or at least a good run at the shark tank.
In short, there’s just too much going on here.
In terms of storylines, last year’s finale redlined on melodrama, with (you know the spoiler drill, so stop here if you want) an Irish gangster running off with Jax’s (Charlie Hunnam) infant son,Jax’s mom Gemma (Katey Sagal) getting framed for murder, and the, er, club fending off a band of white supremacists … a frankely disappointing lot, punctuated by Henry Rollins, who ended up being scared by their own swastikas.
Season three kicks off not only with last year’s cliff-hangers to deal with, but tries to get deep into the relationship gearbox between Jax and his doctor girlfriend Tara (Maggie Siff).
And not only is Jax going off his rocker these days about his son, the writers also had to deal with the collective club grief over season two casualty the Prospect (Johnny Lewis), who was stabbed to death by the Irish kidnapping thug in the finale.
Throw in a drive-by shooting at the Prospect’s funeral, the town sheriff's potentially fatal accident, and a somewhat pointless visit by fugitive Gemma to her dementia-stricken, previously estranged father (Hal Holbrook), and you begin to understand that it’s not the show’s dark, gritty tone that turns Emmy voters off.
Sure, this show is an intriguing look at a bad-ass subculture, but in terms of good ol' high-end cable-drama nuance and layered complexity, it ain’t in the same punching class as “Mad Men."
Then again, the "Sons" audience isn't necessarily an AMC audience … or an HBO audience, so criticizing the show on those merits can seem irrelevant, at least for most of the show's ample hardcore followers.
Audience-wise, any narrative challenges so far haven’t stopped the oft-profane Sutter from having the last word (or middle finger, as it might be).
Indeed, “Sons” has plenty of ratings momentum going into Tuesday night, with last year’s finale averaging a series-high 4.3 million viewers.
So like a good hog, too loud might end up working for "Sons."