Tag Archives: Sons of Anarchy

5 Awesome Uses of Songs in TV Shows

This may seem like a random subject to write about, but the use of music in TV shows is something I really notice.  Consistently good song choices can elevate a show dramatically and make scenes stay with you after the episode ends.  These are the examples that come to mind:

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Full of Grace” by Sarah McLachlan

Buffy had many wonderful song choices over the years – “Wild Horses,” “Goodbye to You,” “A Prayer for Saint Francis” – but none of them hit me so hard as “Full of Grace” at the end of “Becoming, Part II.”  When Buffy stabs Angel and sends him to hell right after he regains his soul, hearing McLachlan’s haunting voice is like a second punch to the gut.  As Sarah Michelle Gellar’s expressive face just crumples, we cannot help but fall apart as we hear, “The winter here’s cold…and bitter…and chills us to the bone.”  The song continues to the end of the episode, leaving us hanging as Buffy abandons Sunnydale.  Season 2 is beautiful television for many reasons, and this sequence is one of them.  I couldn’t find a good YouTube video of the scene, so here’s a picture to give you an idea:

 

Alias – “No Man’s Woman” by Sinead O’Connor

Alias was an awesome show for many reasons, but its primary asset was its protagonist, Sydney Bristow.  Sydney was a kickass spy chick played by the fabulous and athletic Jennifer Garner.  In the very first episode, “Truth Be Told,” J.J. Abrams uses Sinead O’Connor’s “No Man’s Woman” to give the climactic sequence some punch.  Both the rhythm and the lyrics go perfectly with the message of the scene: Sydney will not be bossed around by anyone.  She will kick ass and take names in her own way, and Sloane (and the audience) can take it or leave it.

 

Nip/Tuck – “Natasha” by Rufus Wainwright

Like many people, I have some problems with Ryan Murphy as a showrunner (regarding Glee in particular).  Nip/Tuck was a bit of a mess, but it was consistently entertaining and provocative.  One of the most remarkable elements of the show was the use of music.  Every episode, Christian and Sean would go to work on a patient, and whatever song they had in the CD player always contributed an ironic commentary to the proceedings. This sequence, however, is the most profoundly moving one in the show.  Christian (Julian McMahon) is a mess of a person, consistently treating women like crap and therefore unable to have healthy relationships with anyone.  In the episode entitled “Natasha Charles,” however, he meets a beautiful blind woman named….guess…Natasha (Rebecca Gayheart).  When they sleep together, she makes him close his eyes, and her ability to treasure him without actually seeing him makes it the most intimate encounter he has over the course of the show (and he has many).  He treats her terribly later on, of course, because Christian is nothing if not self-destructive, but this scene is the most vulnerable he ever allows himself to be.  Rufus Wainwright’s gorgeous “Natasha” not only fits the scene due to its name, but it also gives it a lyrical, intimate beauty that makes it seem almost like a dream.  This is probably the most sublime moment of Christian’s life, and the floating melody of the song makes that quite apparent.

 

The O.C. – “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap

You can’t really write about music in TV shows without including The O.C.  When the show was at its peak in seasons 1 and 2, it brought bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Wilco to the forefront of teen music culture.  It was a teen soap, but it was very well made.  The most memorable musical moment (sorry for the alliteration) was when Marissa shot Trey to the haunting tune of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek.”  Although this scene was later parodied to hilarious effect on SNL, the timing of the music and dramatic resonance of the scene gave everyone chills.   Discussion of Marissa shooting Trey was all over my high school the next day, and a huge part of that was the song.

 

Sons of Anarchy – the whole series

I have to include Sons of Anarchy here, but I can’t pick just one song!  I bought the soundtrack, “Songs of Anarchy,” a few days ago, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop.  The show uses heavy metal for background noise most of the time, but when they really want to emphasize a sequence or montage, we get beautiful and haunting folk covers.  Between Audra Mae’s cover of “Forever Young,” Curtis Stiger’s “John the Revelator,” Joshua James’s “Coal War” and The White Buffalo’s “House of the Rising Sun,” there are so many moments in the series that are made memorable by their music.   No clips available on YouTube, but here are “Forever Young” and “House of the Rising Sun”:

 

Well, that’s my list.  What are your favorite song sequences?

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“Tell Me You Love Me”: Sons of Anarchy Ep. 4.13

I haven’t made a practice of doing single episode reviews, but last night’s episode of Sons of Anarchy was so fantastic I just had to write about it.  “To Be, Act One” was the first half of the season four finale, and man did it bring everything full circle.

Written by showrunner Kurt Sutter and Chris Collins, the episode is largely made up of two-person scenes. We have Jax and Tara, then Gemma and Tara, then Jax and Gemma, the tension building in each confrontation, until the three of them finally come together to hash it out.  The elegance of this structure does a lot to streamline the story and hone in on the relationships between these three characters, and all three actors do an amazing job.

In the end, Tara emerges as the real power player, having surpassed Gemma in both machinations and possessiveness.  When she says to Jax and Gemma in turn, “Tell me you love me,” it is more of a challenge than a plea.  Maggie Siff has been phenomenal this season, and we can feel the rage emanating off of Tara throughout the episode.  When she pulls out a syringe and details her plan to kill Clay, the look on Katey Sagal’s face is fantastic – she’s looking at Tara like she’s never seen her before.  Indeed, we are seeing a whole new Tara here.  Her eyes have become cold and empty.  When she tells Gemma, “[I’m doing] Everything you taught me….He’s MINE,” we can only join Gemma in gaping at the monster she has created.

As a counterpoint to all the Jax-Tara-Gemma intrigue, we have Tig’s much simpler desire to rebuild his friendship with Clay.  When did Tig become the sweetest character on this show?!  His love for both Gemma and Clay is beautiful, and Kim Coates’s face is so wonderfully expressive.  When he goes to Clay’s bedside and apologizes, his “I love you” is the only emotional one in the episode.  It’s all the more heartbreaking because we know Clay doesn’t deserve Tig’s love.  This season is just cutting to the bone at every turn.

Finally, I loved how much “To Be, Act One” brought us back to the pilot.  Gemma looks at pictures from the same “John misc.” box where Jax found JT’s manuscript in the first place.  Jax is just as hopeful and misguided now as he was then, but the stakes are even higher.  Then, in the most chilling echo, when Tara pulls out that syringe, we are reminded of when Gemma gave Wendy a needle to OD with.  Tara has become what she never wanted to be: Gemma 2.0.

“To Be, Act One” was an amazing episode all around.  I can’t wait for “To Be, Act Two.”  What am I going to do without Sons of Anarchy in the spring?!

 

Favorite comedic moments:  The image of the prospect sitting at Jax’s kitchen table eating cereal from a salad bowl was just marvelous.  Then, in the next scene, he was feeding the baby!  I think he’s the new Half-Sack.

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9 Things I Love About “Sons of Anarchy”

So, I recently watched the whole run of FX’s Sons of Anarchy, and I’m kind of obsessed.  I started watching primarily because I like Charlie Hunnam (2002 Nicholas Nickleby anyone?), but I quickly got sucked into the story of SAMCRO and the people of Charming, CA.  Here are 9 reasons I love this show:

1. The beautiful credits sequence where the characters’ ink morphs into the titles. I couldn’t find a good clip of it on YouTube, but this is one of the final images:

2. Charlie Hunnam.  The man is gorgeous and a fantastic, sensitive actor who makes Jax’s frequent fits of conscience very convincing.

I mean, come on....

3. Three-dimensional female characters. Television has definitely outstripped film in creating ample, meaty roles for women, and this show is no exception.  I was worried that the show’s subject matter would make it male-centric and misogynistic, but boy was I wrong.  Gemma and Tara are two incredibly complex women who develop in new and surprising ways as the show goes on.  Neither of these women takes any shit from their men, and the powerful actresses definitely hold their own in a sea of testosterone.  Even the smaller female characters are well-developed.  The hospital administrator initially seems like a cartoonish nemesis for Tara, but we gradually learn more about her and her motivations and she becomes an intriguing, sympathetic character with her own story to be told.

4. Katey Sagal.  Her Golden Globe win (and the fact that she voices Leela on Futurama) made me want to watch the show in the first place, and it’s totally worth it.  As the matriarch of SAMCRO, Sagal owns the screen every scene she’s in.  Whether she’s worrying about her encroaching menopause or swaggering around barking orders at the men in leather, she is one of the emotional centers of the show and a force to be reckoned with onscreen.  Also, you’ve got to love a show that admits that a woman in her fifties can still be sexy.  In so much film and television, an older woman is considered asexual and has no capacity for desire at all – the portrayal of Gemma completely flouts that, making this show far more feminist than it would seem.

5. There’s a character named Half-Sack because one of his testicles was blown off in Iraq.  How can you not love that?

Did I mention he's also awkward and adorable?

6. Hey!  It’s Gerry Bertier from Remember the Titans!!

Remember the Titans

Sons of Anarchy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. A varied and honest approach to abortion.  Again, for a show about a biker gang, Sons of Anarchy displays some serious interest in portraying women’s issues honestly.  Both Tara and Lyla consider abortions for different reasons, and not once is it treated as an abomination or a crime.  I’m not going to spoil things by going into detail about their two cases, but suffice it to say that the show treats them both with subtlety and sensitivity.  In a era where even discussing abortion on television is a big deal (see: Friday Night Lights), this show’s decision to take the time to examine this choice in detail is significant.

8. Dudes in leather.  Why watch a show about a biker gang if you don’t like to watch people ride around in leather on Harleys?  The id strikes again.

SAMCRO rides

9. Jax and Tara.  This couple is simply lovely.  Their slow build over the course of the first season and subsequent dips and roadblocks never feel anything but real.  When Jax has his periodic fits of guilt and tries to push her away, Tara always fights back, and he in turn is never afraid to call her on her bullshit.  At this point in the show, they have a lovely little family, and I hope their relationship continues to develop in interesting ways.

Well, those are only a few of the reasons I love Sons of Anarchy!  I hope this gets new people to watch (seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix).

Update: Douglas McGrath’s Nicholas Nickleby (2002), starring Charlie Hunnam, is now on Netflix Instant.  Definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it! It’s the first thing I ever saw him in, and he’s excellent.

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