Sons of Anarchy is an American television drama series created by Kurt Sutter about the lives of a close-knit outlaw motorcycle club operating in Charming, a fictional town in Northern California. The show centers on protagonist Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam), a young member of the club who begins questioning the club and himself. Sons of Anarchy premiered on September 3, 2008 on cable network FX. Its second season debuted on September 8, 2009.
The show's first season averaged 5.4 million viewers weekly making it the network's most successful show since Rescue Me.
The Sons of Anarchy is an outlaw motorcycle club with many charters in the United States. The Charming local is the original founding chapter of the Sons of Anarchy.
The Charming charter is based out of a clubhouse adjacent to the Teller-Morrow auto mechanic shop. Led by Clay Morrow, the club protects and controls Charming through close community relationships, bribery and violent intimidation. The full name of the motorcycle club is Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original; on occasion, the show will abbreviate it as SOA, though more frequently the club is referred to as SAMCRO (an acronym of Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original) or Sam Crow. This nickname is also reflected in the original title of the show, Forever Sam Crow.
The club's leathers also refer to "Men of Mayhem," Jax has worn a hat that says "Reaper Crew," and their logo is a grim reaper wielding an M-16 with a bloody scythe blade and holding a crystal ball with the anarchy "A". Another symbol of the club is the crow. (At least two female characters affiliated with the club have crow tattoos.) As for the motorcycles, the Sons mostly ride customized Harley-Davidson Dynas.
Club members have "day jobs" in local industries, most of them working at Clay's auto repair shop, but they primarily make money by illegally importing weapons and selling them to drug gangs in the East Bay, along with protection runs for local businesses by protecting valuable truck shipments from hijacking.
SAMCRO keeps meth traffickers out of Charming, which puts them at odds with the meth-distributing white supremacist "Nords" gang, the Nordics, headed by Ernest Darby. Unlike their rivals, the Sons are relatively diverse and inclusionist, openly rejecting the Nords' white supremacy. The SOA also have to deal with a rival Oakland-based MC, the "Mayans" led by Marcus Alvarez, who control the neighboring territory of northern Nevada. Other groups in SAMCRO's orbit include the San Francisco-based Chinese American mafia Lin Triad, led by Henry Lin, the Italian American Cacuzza crime family, the True IRA of Ireland, which supplies them with illegal Russian-made guns, the One-Niners, an African American street gang (who also appeared on The Shield, thus possibly putting the two in the same fictional universe) to whom SAMCRO sell weapons, and various affiliates in the state prison system, where many members of the club have been incarcerated at one time or another.
The club operates out of a clubhouse attached to the Teller-Morrow auto shop. The clubhouse includes a living area (where Jax, at one point, camped out after leaving his house to ex-wife Wendy following their divorce), a bar, a pool table and an elaborate conference table made of redwood that has a reaper logo carved into the top. The club also owns a secluded cabin in the woods and formerly had a warehouse outside of town where they assembled the illegal weapons. They start the series looking for a new warehouse space, and end the first season with most of their finances tied up in building a new one.
John Teller and Piermont "Piney" Winston co-founded SAMCRO in 1967 following their return from service as paratroopers during the Vietnam War. Six of the "Redwood Original 9" members were vets; Clay Morrow was the youngest of the original members. Following John's death in 1993, his widow Gemma married Clay.
John and Gemma's surviving son Jax (another son, Tommy, died in childhood of the "family flaw", a congenital heart defect) is second in the club's line of succession after co-founder and sitting president Clay. Jax is recently divorced from Wendy, the mother of his son Abel, who is born 10 weeks premature as a result of his mother's crank addiction. Jax is also connected to Tara, a doctor at St. Thomas Hospital. The two were high school sweethearts.
Production of the new season began on April 23, 2009; Season two premiered on Tuesday, September 8 at 10 p.m. WST. According to Kurt Sutter, "This season is all about internal alliances. For me, the big antagonist this season is just a catalyst to ignite the deep, primal conflicts within the club. Lives will be threatened, sides will be taken and SAMCRO will become the biggest threat to the SAMCRO."
The season opens with a new threat in the form of white separatists (in premiere episode they say they are not supremacists) called the League Of American Nationalists (L.O.A.N. for short) descending upon the town of Charming. Led by businessman Ethan Zobelle and backed by Zobelle's enforcer, A.J. Weston, the two seek to drive the Sons of Anarchy from the town of Charming, on behalf of a group of wealthy would be developers(one of them Deputy Chief Hale's brother) looking to expand the town beyond the sort of "Small Town USA" status kept by SAMCRO, to an investment opportunity of strip malls and condos. The duo make their intentions known when they walk into the garage and tell Clay that he is done "selling guns to color". Zobelle then arranges for the kidnapping and gang-rape of Gemma Teller by Weston and two other men, as a warning to the group. We see later that it was Zobelle's own daughter who sets Gemma up when she pulls behind Gemma's car in her mini-van and pretends to be a mother in distress. However, Gemma’s rape does not have the effect that Zobelle and Weston were hoping for, as Gemma does not reveal to Clay what happened. Instead, the only ones who know the truth are Chief Unser (who found Gemma after she was raped), Tara (who treated her injuries), and later, Deputy Chief Hale. Because of this, L.O.A.N. resorts to other methods to rid Charming of SAMCRO. Very few of L.O.A.N.’s attempts involve a direct assault on the club. Instead, Zobelle and crew seem to look for ways to provoke SAMCRO into destroying themselves.
The animosity between Gemma and Tara has cooled and even turned into a bit of respect for each other. This is largely due to Tara’s help with Abel and with Gemma after her rape. Elsewhere, Tara and Jax move towards rekindling their relationship even as Gemma tacitly gives Tara her blessing by telling the doctor to demand complete honesty from Jax in order to ensure that their relationship can survive Jax's dual loyalty towards Tara and the club. Unfortunately, while Jax and Tara grow closer, Gemma and Clay’s relationship struggles and Gemma struggles with the after affects of her rape which is complicated by the fact that Clay knows nothing about it.
From prison, Otto Delaney reaches out to SAMCRO, asking them to help his wife, Luann, and her porn studio after a raid from law enforcement and intimidation from a rival pornographer, Georgie Caruso, threaten her business. Jax proposes that SAMCRO become partners in Luann’s studio and offer protection to her and her performers, a move he hopes will raise money for the club legitimately while they re-build their other revenue streams.
Opie, struggling to deal with Donna’s death, throws himself fully into the MC and, consequently, becomes increasingly distant from his children. Opie’s relationship with Jax also becomes strained as Opie, who is unaware of Clay’s role in Donna’s death, becomes increasingly loyal to Clay and distant from Jax. Later on, Opie becomes involved with Lyla, one of Luann’s performers, who is, herself, a single mother. This development is not met well by some involved with SAMCRO, particularly Tara, who do not think that Opie’s children need to be around a pornstar.
Fueled by SAMCRO’s role in Donna’s death, the rift between Clay and Jax continues to grow, with Jax challenging most of the decisions that Clay makes. This has repercussions throughout the whole club. Tig, Happy, and Opie remain steadfastly loyal to Clay, while Piney, Chibs, and Bobby begin to side more and more with Jax. Clay warns Jax that if Jax does not drop the subject of Donna’s death, Clay will kill him. When a L.O.A.N. car bomb nearly kills Chibs, Clay demands the SAMCRO retaliate immediately. This was L.O.A.N.’s intention, and several members of the MC, including Clay, Jax, Bobby, and Tig, are arrested in a botched attempt to attack Ethan Zobelle. While in jail, Agent Stahl from the ATF returns in an attempt to get SAMCRO to rat out their IRA connections. Although they don’t give up the IRA, Stahl succeeds in provoking Clay and Jax into a physical confrontation in jail. Out on bail, the divisions in the club only get worse, with the members at each other’s throats over everything and everybody doubting one another’s loyalty. Further complicating matters is SAMCRO’s suspicion (later confirmed) that their IRA contacts are starting to sell guns to L.O.A.N. instead of the MC and increasing pressure from the Mayans, who are receiving free guns from L.O.A.N. in order to wage war on the Sons of Anarchy. When Luann is later murdered, presumably by rival porn producer Georgie Caruso, Clay holds Jax personally responsible. The tension between Jax and Clay reached a breaking point when the porn studio burned down shortly after Clay announced that he wanted SAMCRO out of the porn business. Jax initially believed that Clay had the place torched (it was actually L.O.A.N.) and announced that he was going to "go nomad", which meant that while he'd still be a member of the Sons Of Anarchy, he would no longer be a part of any particular chapter of the club. Most of the SAMCRO members were upset with Jax's decision but ultimately voted in favor of him going nomad. After the vote, Gemma had Jax and Clay sit down in her home and revealed that Zobelle's people had raped her.
The family drama is loosely based on Shakespeare's Hamlet; indeed, star Ron Perlman has said, "I'm sure they’re going to stick to the structure of Hamlet all the way to the end" of the series. Clay is based on the role of King Claudius and Gemma as a Gertrude figure. Jax stands in for Prince Hamlet himself. Jax's reflective questioning of the SOA culture, brought on by the birth of his son, references Hamlet's melancholy over the death of the king. Additionally, Jax "communicates" with his dead father by way of his late father's unpublished journal/manuscript; Hamlet, of course, literally communicates with the ghost of his father. The drama and characterizations are also enhanced by drawing on Macbeth, another Shakespeare tragedy. Katey Sagal's Gertrude-like Gemma resembles Lady Macbeth because—while it is never entirely clear from Hamlet how complicit Queen Gertrude is in the murder of Hamlet's father—it is obvious that Gemma has willingly participated in the cover-up of the death and may even have encouraged Clay in his treachery. Creator Sutter has said of the Shakespeare element, "I don't want to overplay that but it's there. It was Jax's father who started the club, so he's the ghost in the action. You wonder what he would have made of the way it turned out. It's not a version of Hamlet but it's definitely influenced by it."
In the 9th episode of season 2, Clay makes a possible reference to Hamlet when he states, "I'll handle the little prince."