The ongoing project known as Sons of Anarchy continues apace. Now in its fifth season, SOA, created by Kurt Sutter, is a feat of filmed mass hypnosis, convincing a large viewership that unkempt, violent, hog-straddling, gun-running whore enjoyers are sympathetic enough to inspire intense devotion. And by gum, Sutter has managed to inspire award-deserving performances by Katey Sagal, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Dayton Callie.
The first three form the essential tragic trio of SOA: Sagal's Gemma Teller Morrow is mother to Hunnam's new SAMCRO (the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original) president Jax Teller and currently estranged wife to Perlman's ex-president Clay Morrow (after Clay put a beating on Gemma from which a lesser soul would have expired).
The season gets a jolt of fresh energy with the introduction of Jimmy Smits' Nero Padilla, a pimp excuse me, a delightfully self-described ''companionator.... I'm all about the love.'' You have to enjoy a procurer of prostitutes who talks like this, especially since, compared with nearly everyone in SAMCRO, Nero comes off as fastidiously virtuous. Smits, whose guest arc on Dexter in 2008 fizzled due to poor writing, positively glows on SOA. Sutter and his staff really know how to write for this charming lawbreaker who's so smooth, he seduces then proceeds to protect and fawn over Gemma, who's not usually susceptible to such blandishments.
SOA is pretty straightforward in its appeal: SAMCRO members fight with one another but band together to beat up anyone who threatens the club. In this, it's like your family, if your family rode motorcycles, did recreational drugs, and indulged in the favors of women whom, in an earlier era, we might have called ''loose.''
The other prominent new guest star this season is Lost's Harold Perrineau. His Damon Pope is a gangster whose daughter was run over and killed by SAMCRO stalwart Tig Trager (the ferocious Kim Coates). Based on the first two episodes, Perrineau's character isn't as fully formed as Smits', but the former does a wise thing on a show as majestically melodramatic as SOA: He lowers his voice and assiduously underacts, which only makes you want to listen to and watch him more closely. And paying close attention to SOA's array of outlaws makes the series an even more richly detailed portrait of self-righteous villainy. A-