FX's 'Sons of Anarchy' is a grim but well-acted series

Sons of Anarchy is a show that has built up viewership in its first two seasons.

The FX drama, whose third season starts Friday, focuses on an outlaw motorcycle club that operates in the fictional Northern California town of Charming, irony intended. It full name is Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original, and members refer to it as SAMCRO or Sam Crow.

The club — operating within and outside the law — keeps its own kind of justice. One of its members, Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the club's vice president and the son of one of the club's founders, is beginning to wonder whether things are getting a bit rotten in Charming.

SAMCRO keeps meth traffickers and drug dealers out of the town, which angers some bad guys, but the bikers have no problem running guns or a protection racket, and the club's president, Clay (Ron Pearlman) knows how to grease not only his hog but local palms as well. It's all business, a bit like The Godfather's Vito Corleone.

His wife, Gemma (Katy Sagal), a tough but human biker babe, plays a bigger role than Mamma Corleone ever did.

SOA has drawn comparisons to Shakespeare's Hamlet, in that Clay is Jax's stepdad and he has mommy issues, but the series' intentions are not that insightful or well drawn. It is, at heart, a dusty, hog-heavy mob story — not exactly The Sopranos. The club's founding by a couple of Vietnam War vets searching for personal freedom might resonate with some viewers in an Easy Rider sort of way, but, for me, rooting for bad people who do things that aren't as bad as others isn't always that rewarding. SOA is well acted, though, and it keeps up the dramatic tension.

Sons of Anarchy: Season Two retails for $59.98 or $69.99 on Blu-ray.