I have often joked that my nickname should be “Mr. Timing” after walking away from a stable job that paid well and offered full benefits to open our family’s pizza restaurant at the same time our national and local economies began taking simultaneous nose dives, making it all but impossible for new, small businesses to survive. By the grace of God, we were able to not only survive, but to increase (moderately) and sell the business for slightly more than we paid for it before all was said and done.
True to my Mr. Timing nickname, in my last column I pondered “Where are they now?” and declared that the motorcycle-building Tuetel family from the cable television series “ American Chopper: The Series” “…managed to not only smolder, but appear to be rekindling” - all but declaring the family unit to be on the rise to relevance once again. Immediately following that column going to print my father e-mailed me a press release announcing the series would be cancelled after 10 years. The show will finish this season’s run with the four-way bike build-off finale mentioned in my previous column between the two Tuetels, Jesse James, and the guys from “ Big and Loud” in December.
One biker show that – at the risk of giving it the kiss of death – isn’t going anywhere for two more seasons, is the top-rated FX series “ Sons of Anarchy” that chronicles the life and times of the fictional Sons of Anarchy outlaw, motorcycle club. Now in its fifth season, the cable network has committed to at least two more years of the high-octane drama starring Ron Perlman from “ Hellboy,” Katey Sagal, aka Peg Bundy from “ Married With Children” (who is married in real-life to the show’s creator who also plays the imprisoned club rat Otto); and English-born heartthrob and Kurt Cobain doppelganger Charlie Hunnam. This season has been particularly intense as the writers have upped the ante and the violence. So far this season, one of the show’s main characters, Opie, who was my favorite Son, was beaten to death in county jail with a steel pipe in front of three of his club brothers; one of those three watched his daughter being burned alive in retaliation for a double-murder the club committed; and, the aforementioned Otto brutally stabbed a nurse to death with the metal crucifix at the end of a string of rosary beads.
The death of Opie has triggered more than one impromptu conversation with other fans of the show, including one where a guy enlightened me to the popular theory that the show is a modern day parallel of William Shakespeare’s “ Hamlet.” A little research unearthed a quote by creator Sutter admitting that, while the show isn’t a new version of Hamlet, “…it’s definitely influenced by it.” You may find it hard to believe that I am not an expert at Shakespearean literature, but it is true. Harkening to my high school days, I turned to good ol’ fashioned Cliffs Notes to refresh my memory.
After taking a closer look I have to agree the show is undeniably similar to the play. Hamlet is a prince. Jackson “Jax” Teller is the club’s Vice President. (Both titles indicating they are second-in-command to their fathers’ domains.) Both are plagued by family secrets and betrayals surrounding the suspicious murders of their ruling fathers at the hands of their “uncles.” In the case of King Hamlet it was literally Prince Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius who killed the patriarch, married his brother’s wife (the queen) making him the new king. Jax’s father John Teller was killed by his motorcycle club “brother” Clay Morrow, who married Teller’s wife and assumed the role of club President. The conniving matriarch Gemma Teller’s character resembles Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude in that they are both torn between their love for their sons and the dirty little secrets shared with their new husbands. In the Shakespearean work, Hamlet’s father appears to him as a ghost revealing his own murder. In “ Sons,” Jax’s dad speaks from the grave through a manuscript that Jax discovers. In the manifesto his father ultimately leads Jax to the discovery that Clay is his killer. Other comparisons can be made likening the aforementioned Opie to Hamlet’s best friend Horatio, or possibly Laertes who loses his family in the crossfire between Hamlet and Claudius; and Jax’s wife Tara who suffers her own losses and contemplates her own existence, as did Hamlet’s wife Ophelia. Much like Hamlet’s family ruled its kingdom in Denmark, the motorcycle club controls and protects the small California town of Charming. Curiously, one of the rival outlaw clubs in the show is named the Nords. The Kingdom of Nords represents ancient Norway. Hamlet’s family ruled Denmark and was rivals with Norway. There is even a character in “ Sons” named Romeo, presumably in homage to another of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes. Both “ Hamlet” and “ Sons of Anarchy” are full of violence, suspicion, deception, seething rage, overwhelming grief, blood-thirsty revenge, and bitter tragedy making each compelling in their own right and in their own time.
When I first heard that “Sons” was intentionally slated to run for a total of seven seasons I wondered how and why such a specific, limited time frame could be decided upon. How could the show’s writers and producers foresee an end point to the show so far in advance? I have to wonder now if they know what is to come ahead of time because they really are following “ Hamlet’s” outline. Let me just say this: If they are, things are not going to end well for anyone in Charming.
Four hundred- year-old spoiler alert! In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” everybody dies in the end.