Everyone knows that Sons of Anarchy is Hamlet in a motorcycle jacket. Gemma (Katey Sagal) is Gertrude, the queen bee whose son is weirdly obsessed with her sex life. Clay (Ron Perlman) is Claudius, who murdered the last kingpin, hooked up with the queen, and grabbed a seat at the head of the table. And Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is Hamlet, the vengeance-crazed brooder who loves wearing black and slowly drives his old lady mad in this case, Tara (Maggie Siff). But the important parallels are subtler. What separates Hamlet and SOA from other revenge dramas is that the action we're most anticipating (say, the murder of Claudius/Clay) keeps getting postponed while our hero determines if he's certain about what he's doing. In Hamlet, that creates real psychological depth; on SOA, it's frustrating. We're supposed to see Jax as a born leader, but his toughest decisions are often made for him. Just ask the ghost of Opie: He died because Jax couldn't pick a brother from the SAMCRO bike mob to sacrifice.
All of this should be changing in the sixth season, which opens with Clay and Tara behind bars and big, bad Pope dead, giving Jax free rein over SAMCRO. Still partnered with Nero (Jimmy Smits), Jax wants to give up guns and drugs to focus on his one legal empire porn with help from an ex-cop (Peter Weller) and a very flirtatious escort (Kim Dickens). The problem? An Iranian gang is trying to force the women into torture porn. (SOA is running out of ethnic groups to vilify.) Lee (Donal Logue) is still bent on taking SAMCRO down as payback for his sister's death. And raising the kids without Tara around is taking its toll on Jax. ''It's getting more and more difficult to be a leader,'' he admits, ''when my decisions are those a father has to make.''
At this point, Jax is so wishy-washy, it's hard not to root for the bad guys, especially since Lee has become the show's most entertaining villain. SOA always wrenches great comedy from gross-out violence, and Logue masters that art, killing innocents with slapstick timing and using his enemies' teeth to crack open beer bottles. He even helps justify the season premiere's ending, which is so ridiculous you have to laugh. Later, that scene triggers more action from Lee than Jax has seen in a while. As some Danish guy once said, this might be madness, but there is method in't. B