Of Sons, Psychopaths and Series - Debbie Bennett

Andy and I are currently binge-watching Netflix. That’s a strange 21st century expression – binge-watching. Watching a series to excess, gorging ourselves, although to be fair, sometimes it’s only an episode a night and we might even a skip a few nights if we are out and about. We’re season 5 now, of apparently 7 seasons and I have no idea where we are going or what might happen.

I generally find American and/or digital series boring. Season 1 is OK, but then season 2 is more of the same and it starts to drag as even the writers look like they’ve run out of ideas and lost interest. Plot-lines are regurgitated, strung out for effect until the viewer (well this viewer anyway) doesn’t really care what happens any more, so long as something does. It’s a bit like Brexit, really, isn’t it?

But this series has the both of us hooked. Every time things settle down, it kicks off in a new direction and we don’t see it coming. There have been several WTF moments, several times when we’ve had to watch the next ten minutes of a new episode just to see where it’s going now. None of the characters is particularly likeable, and most of them seem to be psychopaths, whores or both! None of them is particularly attractive either. And yet it’s addictive viewing.

So what are we watching? Our guilty secret. Sons of Anarchy. Which can best be described to the uninitiated as a cheesy US biker soap – but it’s surprising how many people will admit to watching it, or have sat through all 7 seasons! The title is somewhat ironic, given the rigid structure of this motorcycle gang, where every decision is brought to the table and a natty little gavel banged down to ratify a group decision – I’ve seen school kids more anarchic than this lot, although their tendency to butcher all and sundry is alarming; the body-count per episode is high and bloody. This is 15-rated, for God’s sake, and I watched somebody face-plant a bowl of nails last night, just before (or it might have been after) a guy bit out his own tongue out very viscerally up-front on camera. And I thought the Americans were conservative about such things! But we love it. So did Stephen King apparently – so much so he has a cameo role in one of the early seasons. I knew I recognised him from somewhere.

What is it with soap though?  What keeps us coming back for more? Are series books the same? I know with my crime series, I stopped at 6 as I genuinely felt there was nowhere else I could take my characters without rehashing the same plots. I guess police procedurals at least have the steadfast DS or DI with his/her trusty sidekick solving the next impossible crime – but I get bored reading them, so I don’t think I could write one. I’m more into whydunnits and will-they-survive-its, so maybe that’s why Sons appeals to me so much as I’m fascinated by the twisted mentality of these guys and girls and what they will do to justify their actions to themselves and others…

Coming to the end of season 5 now. No spoilers please!


Jan Needle said…
Spoiler alert. The butler did it!
AliB said…
Hiya - I've never written a series and haven't read many (yes even Rebus got formulaic). However I do learn a lot (I tell myself!) from watching telly, particularly drama series and have been known to shout SUBPLOT and suchlike from the sofa. I also learn from the reactions of Mr B who goes mental every time you get ten minutes in and the message comes up '24 hours earlier' - though things like this can be done on the page with more finesse, IMO!
Umberto Tosi said…
We binged them all as well. Sons of Anarchy's secret, I believe, is that series-maker Kur Sutter and the other writers followed Shakespeare with a dash of Greek tragedy and "The Wild One" California low-life topping thrown in. The main narrative arc is Hamlet with hogs, lending an epic element, with young protagonist Jax pursuing the truth about his father no matter the tragic consequence (if that's not a spoiler, I hope.) There are so many twists and subplots that it's nearly impossible to spoil.
Debbie Bennett said…
Oh ans the music is pretty awesome too. Just discovered the soundtracks online.

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