"Sons of Anarchy": The Prince, The Spy, and The Biker who Came in from the Cold. By James J. Murtagh, M.D.

Biker drama echoes both Shakespeare and John Le Carré.

Warning:  spoiler alert. If you have not seen the final episode of Sons of Anarchy, do not read further. The episode contains a major plot twist which is discussed in this Op-Ed.

The season finale of Sons of Anarchy, the brash new biker-gangster drama, ended this week in the funeral of an innocent woman mistakenly gunned down in a blood feud. This is not just another crime story- Sons is even more ambitious than The Shield, The Wire or The Sopranos. Sons of Anarchy is one of the best counter-espionage stories in recent memory- worthy of John le Carré, even of Shakespeare.

Sons borrows from the two best spy stories of all time - The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and Hamlet. The Prince, the Spy and the Biker are all totally disillusioned anti-heroes, acutely aware of gross rottenness. Ghosts haunt all three. His dead father haunts Hamlet the Prince. Dead secret agents haunt Le Carré's British Spy. The ghost of his father and other demons haunts Jax the Biker.

The Prince, the Spy and the Biker all use expendable double agents and triple agents. Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern even really know whom they work for as they blunder into execution? Does the British Spy's girl have any idea why she is gunned down on the Berlin wall?

Anarchy explicitly rules all three stories. How can the body politic be cured of rank and rampant corruption? When Kings are criminals, no one is safe.

In Sons, bikers are in a kind of cold war with the FBI. Just as le Carré's spymasters set up their own agents to deliver lies, the FBI frames a biker to falsely appear as an informant. Sons baits their dirty lie with detailed artistry to trap their man behind enemy lines.

The Prince, the Spy and the Biker all contemplate and wreck horrific collateral damage. Hamlet sacrifices a dozen innocents to bring down Claudius. British Control sacrifices dozens of their own agents. The Bikers sacrifice their own to protect "The Brotherhood."

Hamlet a real secret agent? True, he doesn't have a James Bond car, lasers, or a decoder ring. But Hamlet claims to act for King and country, and has the code of a double 0 - he has a license to kill, or be killed. He kills Polonius by mistake, then expects some lackey like Felix Lieghter to clean up.

Thinking too much only causes more carnage. Hamlet hesitates to kill his evil stepfather while at prayer, contrasting the ruthless Laertes who would cut a throat in the church to end a blood feud. The Spy and the Biker also hesitate, with disastrous results, while more ruthless Laertes-figures execute without remorse.

All for the greater good. Hamlet, British Control, the FBI (and the Bikers) all see the deaths of innocents as the cost of doing business. It's all part of the game, as Omar Little might say on The Wire.

The Prince agreed with Omar, when he observed that each goes to gain a little patch of ground with no profit in it.

British agent Leamas deeply understands that the secret service undermine the values of the West. Straddling the Berlin Wall, Leamas cannot distinguish West and East Leamas. How to know which way to jump?

The Biker's nemesis FBI agent Stahl ruefully admits, "I guess I'm feeling guilty about making orphans."  She shrugs, and continues the game, despite the lack of profit for anyone.

To be, or not to be? Ultimately, that is the question for the Prince, the Spy and the Biker. They all end up taking up arms against a sea of troubles, but ultimately, their fate is clear.

The Prince and the Spy both get their most fervent wish, and are granted the boon of release in death. Before dying, both are dipped in bloodbath.

Odds are the Biker will join Prince and Spy in a not too distant episode.

 James J. Murtagh Jr.

jmurtag@mindspring.com