THE SHOW "Sons of Anarchy"
WHEN | WHERE Tuesday at 10 p.m. on FX
WHAT IT'S ABOUT As the sixth season begins, SAMCRO (the motorcycle club) is in disarray. Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) and Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) are in jail; treacherous Gemma Morrow (Katey Sagal) is watching over Tara's kids, and Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam) is club president and trying to make sense of the chaos he has inherited.
MY SAY At the end of Tuesday night's opener, a boy -- probably 12 or 13 -- calmly removes a high-caliber semiautomatic from his backpack, then walks into his school and opens fire. You don't see the slaughter (that's what imagination is for), but you do hear the shots in rapid succession, the bursts of light on the windows from the muzzle, a teacher screaming, "Oh my God." Kids are killed. That is obvious.
With the first anniversary of the Newtown shootings three months away, the horror of that day remains fresh, but until tonight, TV has mostly pretended nothing ever happened. The on-screen mayhem continues. So, why of all shows, is "SOA" the one to break the embargo? I'd like to think it's to confront that monkey on its back. "SOA," typically among TV's bloodiest hours, has long been implicated in America's culture of violence -- that images, as well as actions, may have real-world consequences. Asked about the opening episode at the recent press tour, creator Kurt Sutter said, "There is a lot of blood and guts in my show, [but] nothing is done gratuitously." In this instance, it eventually becomes clear the kid got the gun from SAMCRO, which speaks to the larger paradox that Jax has long puzzled over: Can he be a good father to his kids yet also a murdering thug? (Amazing that we know the answer, but he doesn't.)
How to gauge "SOA" this or any season is tough. The acting is first-rate, and so is the writing, but the violence is appalling, and not just appalling, but creatively appalling. Tuesday night's hour is pretty much what you'd expect, but I'd also like to think that this genuinely smart show, which wraps next season, is offering a larger moral: That no one and nothing exist in a vacuum. Not even TV shows.
GRADE (for fans only) B+. Everyone else, proceed with caution, or avoid.