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Like a gangster
December 10, 2012 - April Diodato
Two of the best shows on television, “Boardwalk Empire” and “Sons of Anarchy,” recently concluded for the season. Now that I've had a chance to watch both and mull over the finales, I realized how much the two series, and the two protagonists, have in common.
Nucky Thompson of “Boardwalk Empire” and Jax Teller of “Sons of Anarchy” are both at the top of their respective food chains. They're gangsters with plenty of powerful enemies (so many that it's difficult to keep track – that's an issue that I've had with both shows at times). They're both deeply conflicted characters, and trouble in their professional lives has had grave consequences for their families. Both are married with two children at home. Their wives are focused, goal-oriented, driven and dedicated to their pursuits, and aren't afraid to scheme and manipulate to get what they want. As a result of the overwhelmingly negative effect that their husbands' criminal dealings have had on their lives, they both have decided that they want out.
Of course, there are plenty of differences between the two shows – most importantly, one is on an upswing, while the other is on the decline.
After a frustrating, disjointed sophomore season, I was thrilled with season three of “Boardwalk Empire.” The death of Jimmy Dormandy in the second season's finale had me ready to give up on the show altogether, which was really disappointing after the show's spectacular start. After season three, though, Jimmy's death didn't seem to matter; I was actually happy that he was gone. There were twists around every corner -- many developments that I didn't see coming – and so many explosive moments; it was the highlight of my Sundays. It would be difficult to single out what was the most jaw-dropping scene of the season – there was the death of newly-blonde Billie Kent after Gyp Rosetti blew up the boardwalk; any of the brutal batterings that Rosetti was responsible for, sometimes for a perceived profanation; Van Alden's epic departure from his career as an iron salesman; concussed Nucky's ill-conceived business meeting; a “special delivery” that thwarted Margaret's romantic plan to abscond with Owen Sleater (the arrival Mr. Sleater's lifeless body certainly put a damper on things) … the list goes on and on.
Now that Al Capone and Nucky have joined forces, I might prefer sleeping through the interim period Rip Van Winkle-style until the fourth season starts. The anticipation is already killing me. I'm also plagued by the suspicion that I might be as deranged as Rosetti, since his reasoning behind most of his murderous intentions makes perfect sense to me. When Nucky advises him not to take things personally – which propels Rosetti into a rampage on many occasions – on Rosetti replies, “Everyone’s a person, though, right? So how else could they take it?” Right?!
On to “Sons of Anarchy.” Season four was the best yet, but many developments in season five have left me wondering, how much longer can this show go on? As much as I've loved it, I would now prefer it if the show runners would set an end date, the way they did with “Breaking Bad.” SAMCRO can't last forever; the club has imploded since the show's beginning. There aren't very many members, and even though there have been some new (questionable) additions along the way, how many have been killed off or departed so far? Currently resting in peace are our favorite “Prospect,” played by the late Johnny Lewis; Piney, Opie, the corrupt Nomads; there isn't physically much left of Otto at this point, and Juice is better off dead. Clay's out, Bobby is over it. Aside from that, there's Jax, Tig and Chibs, and the other members are so inconsequential, I haven't bothered to learn their names.
There are a lot of things grating on my nerves. Tara can go from talented, smart, self-assured surgeon to utterly clueless in mere moments. With her hand finally on the mend and a full recovery in sight, why did Tara keep beating the tar out of people with her broken wing? The mother of all hard-partying old ladies, Gemma seemed comparatively sober when she had her accident – it felt like a bit of a stretch, simply to push the plot in another direction. Why would Tara tell Gemma about her plan to take the boys to Oregon or her quest to find the cross for Otto when she obviously knows that she can't be trusted? I mean, it's Gemma. She knows what she's dealing with. When Tara made the equally insane decision to choose Wendy as the potential guardian for her sons, it was briefly mentioned that Tara doesn't have any family. Why don't we know more about her life after five seasons? Why are there so many meaningless side characters when we could be spending more time delving into the intricacies of this show's outstanding supporting cast?
I'm not saying that the season was all bad; there was more than enough intrigue to keep me coming back. It would have been nearly impossible to top, or even match, season four. It just needs to address some of these issues. I also really wish that they didn't start referring to killing someone as “meeting Mr. Mayhem.” That's apparently what their nickname for SAMCRO's Grim Reaper mascot. To me, it sounds like a sophomoric term that one might find in a children's story about a poor little reaper who doesn't fit in among all of the other soul collectors because he likes to wear mismatched sneakers with silly shoelaces, or something, and then he realizes that he's OK just the way he is. I find “Mr. Mayhem” to be so comical, I actually could not contain my hysterics when that term was dropped during a very serious discussion at the table about Clay's fate. This should not be happening!
I've done some reading about the show's sixth season, and it doesn't appear to be its last. I hope that “Sons” will find its footing again. Perhaps give Tig and Chibs something to do, give Tara a clue, or throw in some more scantily-clad shots of Jax. Couldn't hurt.