One of the most satisfying things about old-fashioned storytelling — basically from the campfire until the current postmodern age – was the way that stories embraced cause and effect. If a character did evil, he or she paid for it somehow. If a character did good, there would be a reward, either physical or psychological.
Things didn’t always turn out just how perfect karma would dictate they would, but there was a sense that characters could never entirely escape the consequences of their actions.
For five seasons now, the outlaw motorcycle club of FX’s drama “Sons of Anarchy” — returning for its sixth and penultimate season on Tuesday, Sept. 10 — has smuggled guns, sold drugs, murdered and been murdered, and dealt in both prostitution and pornography.
There have been major and minor consequences along the way, but this year, a horrific event beyond the club’s direct control threatens the very underpinnings of its existence.
“It is, in my opinion, a catalyst, the divine act that sends us into the final act of our show. … We will see the dominoes tumbling all season as a result of this and the impact that it has on the club.”
Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), son of one of the club’s original founders, John Teller, has assumed the presidency of the Sons after the ouster and imprisonment of his stepfather, former president Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), for one murder he didn’t actually commit.
As introspective as his late father, Jax has internalized the idealism of John’s original plan for the club. Now a father of two sons himself, Jax envisions them growing up outside of the shadow of the club’s criminal enterprises.
Unfortunately, his wife, Tara (Maggie Siff), is on her way to jail, wrongly accused of participating in the murder of a nurse by imprisoned club member Otto (played by Sutter). She had wanted to take the boys (only one of whom is her own child) and flee, to force Jax to abandon the club. A chance for that may come again, but with a steep price.
Meanwhile, Jax’s mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal, Sutter’s wife), has moved on from husband Clay to a semi-permanent relationship with Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits), a gangster who is also owner of an escort agency.
“The Gemma we’re going to see in Season 6,” says Sagal, “she’s in a new family situation, but it never really strays far for her. Her intention is always to keep her family together. It always has been, and I’d like to say that she is somewhat wiser.
“She was very … I’m not going to say ‘manipulated,’ but she was, by her son at the end of Season 5 in terms of maneuvering that piece with Clay, which I think she ultimately felt needed to be done, for the good of the all.
“Her whole thing is about the good of the whole.”
In the world of his motorcycle club, Jax is a king. But in the outside world, with limited formal education and few marketable legal job skills — aside from being a mechanic — he’s just another blue-collar guy. But it’s a dynamic the British-born Hunnam understands.
“I come from an area where these type of complexities were available to me to witness,” says Hunnam. “I grew up in an area where, if a man wanted to escape the tedious minutiae of life and just the working-class struggle of making just enough money and working in a factory and being slammed by The Man all the time, then they had to go out and take some risks.
“There were always consequences to doing that, and it didn’t make them bad men. My father was a guy who took a lot of risks in his life and paid the consequences, and it corrupted the relationship he had with his family. So there were dynamics that I have been raised with and understood and felt, really, really excited about having the opportunity to understand more deeply through playing them myself.”
Despite the shattering events of the premiere, Sutter hopes the audience will trust him and hang in.
“You can point to any gratuitous violent act or anything you perceive to be gratuitous or sensational on this show,” says Sutter, “and I will list for you the cataclysmic karma and the cause and reaction of all of those things, and what they did to a character either emotionally and, more often than not, physically and legally as well.
“Nothing happens in a vacuum, and I’ve been true to that. This premiere will not be any different, in the impact that it has and how we use it to tell stories.”