Sons of Anarchy: “Family Recipe”

In this week’s episode of the Sons of Anarchy, we discover that Juice survived his suicide attempt. A broken branch thwarted his attempt to hang himself. And just as the club is getting set to vote on Bobby’s bid to take over as President from Clay, a hail of bullets disrupts the meeting—yet another drive-by attack related to the cocaine trade, or, the latest battle in the war the Sons have found themselves involved in. As an an added bonus, the shooters leave a bagful of severed heads in the MC’s compound.  One of the heads ends up in the chili pot (“I had to add a few things on my own”) to hide it from the police (who, of course, end up asking for bowls of chili). The headless bodies are delivered at a later time.

Clay’s turn to the dark side in this season gets even darker in this episode.  .  .  .

The  most impressive man hug of the episode (and perhaps the season) was between Opie and Jax. You know it was a meaningful hug because the back/shoulder slaps (two slaps by Jax, two corresponding slaps from Opie) were particularly loud, booming in fact. Perhaps the next step in the Man Hug tally will be to measure the decibel level of the manly back slaps.

Man Hug Episode Total: 2

Man Hug Season Total: 19


Forthcoming Westerns on Television

Posted at the Hollywood Reporter (click on link to go to full article):

In addition to AMC’s Hell on Wheels, which bows in November and is set amid the building of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1860s, the genre has become one of the most in-demand in TV development circles during the current cycle. TNT recently ordered to pilot Gateway, an action-adventure set in 1880s Colorado, from executive producer Bruce C. McKenna (The Pacific). ABC nabbed Gunslinger from David Zabel (Detroit 1-8-7) and Hangtown, a procedural pitch set in the Wild West, from Battlestar Galactica mastermind Ron Moore. CBS and author Nicholas Pileggi (GoodFellas) are prepping Ralph Lamb, based on the 1960s adventures of a real-life cowboy-turned-Las Vegas sheriff, and NBC has ordered a script for Shaun Cassidy’s 1840s-set The Frontier.

“They’re simple, emotional stories that you can make sense of in the context of the world,” AMC senior vp original programming Joel Stillerman says of the appeal. It doesn’t hurt that True Grit, the Western movie remake starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, grossed more than $250 million in the winter, making it the second-highest-grossing Western ever. Hell on Wheels follows AMC’s 2006 Western miniseries Broken Trail, its first original scripted effort and still its biggest commercial success. “Writers are hunting for ‘what’s next’ always,” says a TV agent, noting that it has been a tough year to sell sci-fi and comic book fare given the “uncertain future” of fall series Grimm, The River and Terra Nova.

SoA: Fruit for the Crows

Still catching up on episodes of Sons of Anarchy, just now watching last week’s “Fruit for the Crows.” The Sons take a field trip over to the Mayans to check out their cocaine distribution process. Somehow, the process requires three women wearing nothing but thongs and bras measuring out cocaine. I guess there hasn’t been enough gratuitous semi-nudity in recent episodes, so they’re trying to rectify that in this episode: a scene in Lyla’s “work place” also contributes to upping the thong-wearing count for the episode.

While visiting with the Mayans, the Sons get involved in a drive-by shooting, which leads to a nice motorcycle and car chase. Mayan leader Alvarez is wounded in the shooting, and Tara (who has just a received a death threat letter in her car) is called in to use her medical skills. As more evidence of how bad an idea it is for the Sons to get involved in cocaine running, the tracking down of the drive-by shooters leads to violent shootout in an apartment (and results in the death of an innocent woman). Over the past few episodes, dead bodies have been left all over the place, yet no one in the world outside of the motorcycles clubs seems to notice . . . .

Clay gives Juice a man hug, with the required two slaps to end the hug accompanied by an “I love you, son,” from Clay. This was a nice moment in the episode, as Juice has betrayed the club in multiple ways, but Clay rewards him—for finding the lost brick of cocaine (which Juice himself stole), etc. The tears in Juice’s eyes as he receives a new patch and accolades from Clay provide a nice counterpoint to the hug. And I guess this may be the last we see of Juice. I’m not sure about the decision to play a version of “Strange Fruit,” a song inspired by outrage at southern lynchings of black men, over the last part of the episode. Juice, indeed, hangs himself from a tree, but the use of the song here empties it of its politics.

Bobby has had enough—and calls an officer vote, challenging Clay’s leadership in the club.

Alvarez and Clay share several firm handshakes, but there’s no man hugs between them in this episode. Perhaps the series just can’t find a way to include equal amounts of thong-wearing and man-hugging in the same episode. This episode tilts heavily to the thong-wearing.

Man hug episode total: 1

Man hug season total: 17.

Joss Whedon and California Panel (CFP)

I am looking for scholars/writers who are interested in California as a region, and also interested in the television dramas of Joss Whedon, to take part in a panel I am organizing for the 2012 conference of the Western Literature Association. The panel would be concerned with Whedon’s two series that have a California setting — Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. If you are interested in participating, or if you know anyone who would be interested in participating, please get in touch with me (or ask others to get in touch with me). The conference will take place from November 7-10, 2012, and will be in Lubbock, Texas. Participants must be paid-up members of the WLA. I would like to form this panel before the end of spring 2012 at latest — but, of course, the sooner the better. I hope to hear from you and/or your graduate students (and/or acquaintances of yours who are faculty members elsewhere) soon. Please feel free to forward this email to anybody you think would be suitable. Anyone interested can reach me at:

Randi Eldevik
Associate Professor of English
Oklahoma State University

Catching up with Sons of Anarchy

Two recent episodes of Sons of Anarchy have continued to show the tensions within the motorcycle club, most of them revolving around the decision to move cocaine for the cartel. Fearing that the police reveal his mixed race background to the Club, Juice is manipulated into stealing a sample of the cocaine in the episode “Brick.” Complications ensue as a result, and he ends up stealing an entire brick—the absence of which is missed. By the end of the following episode, “With an X,” one member of the club is dead and Juice is wounded as a result (although he has successful concealed the fact he himself is the thief).

Some of the problems pre-date the cocaine troubles. Tara has in her possession a set of letters from John Teller that both Clay and Gemma are desperate to get hold of. As Clay comments, the letters reveal that “I had John Teller killed while bedding his wife. We gotta stop this. Otherwise we lose everything.” If the cocaine trade doesn’t tear the club apart, the surely the revelation of that bit of news would.

In “With an X” in particular, domestic problems add to the troubles of the club. Newlyweds Opie and Lyla are living separately by episode’s end. After discovering that Lyla is taking birth control pills, Opie has revenge sex with Ima in the club’s apartment. In series that is regularly problematic in its depiction of violence against women, what follows is one of the most egregious scenes of gratuitous violence in the series. Jax pretends to let Ima seduce him, and once in her dressing room, slams her head down against a table, and leaves her stunned and bleeding in the floor.  If more scenes like that are in store, I may soon be abandoning the Sons of Anarchy.

On the plus side, there continues to be some of the odd humor and casting that I enjoy in the series, including inspired roles for David Hasselhof (a producer of porno videos) and Tom Arnold (as Georgie, a recurring character, who is involved a the moment in manufacturing sex dolls).

With all the conflict, there was not much hugging in either of these episodes, with only one full-on man hug between the two episodes (Clay hugging the leader of the Mayans), and then one half-hug, between Clay and Jax.  The half-hug begins with a shoulder tap (which usually ends the man hug) and then proceeds to each putting one arm around the other (half-hug, as they don’t use both arms). The half-hug does take place just after Clay contracts to have Jax’s wife Tara killed, so that, at least, makes the duplicity of the hug all the more apparent.

Man hug season total: 16.


Breaking Bad: Face-Off

In the season finale, Walt won. With Jesse’s help, Walt managed to kill Gus by attaching a bomb to the wheelchair of Tio Salamanca. I loved Gus’s death scene. He staggers out of the room, his face half gone, and for a moment the viewer thinks maybe it is impossible to kill him, and then he falls to the floor.

Brock, Andrea’s little boy, was poisoned by lilly of the valley. Jesse tells Walt that it wasn’t Gus who killed him. He asks Walt if it was still necessary to do it. Walt says, of course. The episode and the season end with a scene of the poisonous flowers growing in Walt’s backyard. Walt has gone completely bad. There’s nothing remotely good left in him. He would do anything. In the final season, I want Jesse to kill Walt.


Call for Papers:

Affective Landscapes

May 25th / 26th 2012,

University of Derby, UK

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

– Kathleen Stewart, University of Texas Austin, author of Ordinary Affects (2007) and A Space on the Side of the Road (1996)


– Ben Highmore, University of Sussex, author of Ordinary Lives. Studies in the Everyday (2011) and Everyday Life and Cultural Theory (2002)

This conference seeks exciting disciplinary and transdisciplinary proposals from scholars working in fields such as cultural studies, literary studies, cultural politics/history, creative writing, film and media studies, Area Studies, photography, fine art, interested in examining the different ways in which human beings respond and relate to, as well as debate and interact with landscape.

In 2009, the one-day symposium ‘Land and Identity’, held at the University of Derby, brought together a diverse body of academics to discuss themes and intersections across multiple areas of research interest. This follow-up event, hosted by the Identity, Conflict and Representation Research Centre at the University of Derby in collaboration with the Centre for Studies in Literature at the University of Portsmouth, aims to develop inter-disciplinary debates around the idea of ‘Affective Landscapes’. The conference has been inspired by the work of theorists whose work examines points of intersection between ordinary life and extraordinary encounters and exchanges with the world around us. It asks how do we ‘feel’, ‘sense’, ‘know’, ‘cherish’, ‘memorise’, ‘imagine’, ‘dream’, ‘desire’, or even ‘fear’ landscapes? How do its ‘intensities’ register, flow and circulate? What forms do we use to articulate, debate and record these affects?

The Conference will include a related film screening and panel discussion to take place at the QUAD Arts Centre in Derby.

We are particularly interested in proposals examining the following:

– psychogeography

– critical regionalism

– cultural politics on identity and landscape

– national identity

– suburbia

– edgelands

– the rural / urban

– responses to landscape by creative practitioners (writers / photographers / artists / filmmakers)

– phenomenology

– the body in landscape

– Ecocriticism

– landscapes of trauma and memory

– theories of affect and landscape

Please send proposals of not more than 250 words by 16 December 2011 to

Dr. Christine Berberich at

Further details about the conference, the venue, travel, accommodation, registration etc can be found at the website: