To be perfectly honest, I started watching this show mostly out of boredom and because it was free on Hulu. It had enough actors on it that I admire - Ron Perlman (a.k.a. Hellboy) , the British dude from Undeclared, Maggie Siff (the Jewess that Don Draper falls for in Mad Men's first season), Dayton Callie (who played one of my favorite Deadwood characters, the crusty-yet-benign Charlie Utter), and even the mom from Married With Children (who really shows her acting chops in the current season) - so I gave this show a shot.
Early on, SOA was dismissed for being another Sopranos rip-off: depicting amoral criminals who we can't help but root for, appreciating their complexity and brief glints of humanity. I've never watched the Sopranos, but I was a huge Deadwood fan, so I get the gist of that sort of thing. But this show is different, it adds something special to the mix:
It's Hamlet on motorcycles.
More specifically, the show uses the dynamic between the royal family in Hamlet as a jumping-off point. There's the king who married into his position, who thinks and acts like a warrior, and there's the brooding/analytical young prince whose communication with his dead father is stirring things up. But instead of talking to his father's ghost, he's reading a manuscript his father wrote detailing how his humble motorcycle gang got to their present unlawful state, and how to turn it all around.
I'm sure there are more Hamlet parallels, but these are the few basics that my English Major geekery gets excited about.
The first season was bumby at points, but kept getting stronger and more confident until the finale proved what this show could really do. This season kicks ass, especially since the Sons are in the midst of an all-out war against some calculating and ruthless white supremacists. Nothing like championing the lesser evil!
Side note: I've never seen actor Ryan Hurst before (he's apparently been in everything), but I think his performance as Opie is top-notch. He never hits a false note, which is no small feat when you're playing a guy going insane with grief.