Finally! I can wear leather and little else again without people looking at me funny. That can only mean Sons of Anarchy is back on FX! The last time we saw the hirsute hog riders they were headed to prison, and it was a good thing. In Season 4's appropriately named opener "Out," the boys got out of the slammer 14 months later. Would the members of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original come out changed men? Rehabilitated and ready to contribute to society? Yeah. Rrrrrrrright.
Before we got to their wayward ways, creator Kurt Sutter spent a large chunk of the 90-minute premiere reinforcing what's important to him with his show: a sense of family, respect, and loyalty. For all the press Sons of Anarchy gets for its shooting, stabbing, exploding, head cracking, and raping, the heart of the series lies with the camaraderie between SAMCRO's club members and the love between couples. And we saw it, possibly to a point of exhaustion, between Jax and Tara, Gemma and Clay, Opie and his porn-star fiancée, and pretty much everyone else with everyone else. Is there any other show on television right now that conveys the personality of its showrunner more obviously? Sutter makes headlines for his outspoken tirades that rumble through downtown Twitter, but if you've ever heard him talk about his wife (Katey Sagal), it's obvious that beneath the veneer of hardcore tough guy is just a softie.
But if all SAMCRO did was talk about their feelings and hug it out, things would get boring pretty quickly. The final minutes showed us the other side of SAMCRO, the kind of SAMCRO that doesn't mind using a wedding of one of its own (yeah, Opie!) as cover for eliminating a chief rival... during the bride and groom's dance. That's hardcore.
That's what makes Sons of Anarchy such a compelling drama, and one of the better ones on television. It's an unlikely marriage of crime and violence with respect and familial honor. No other show on television handles that kind of duality in the same way.
It's too early to tell where SAMCRO's decision to off the Russians will go, but it was clear that they had overstayed their welcome. We got the download on the situation thanks to some nifty exposition from the Feds: Clay figuratively stabbed the Russians in the back on a deal, so the Russians literally stabbed Jax in the side as retaliation. Clay made peace by giving them some big business while he was in the clink, but now that they're out, what's the point in keeping them around? Blam blam blam. Problem solved!
"Out" also laid the groundwork for what is looking like a more even and focused season after season 3's meandering Irish storyline, even if one of the big bad guys is a wussy real estate developer. But no matter what color the collar of their enemy, Sons of Anarchy works best when the club is battling for its own turf, and this time around the boys will be clashing with new Sheriff Roosevelt and creepy US District Attorney Lincoln Potter. Methinks "Linc" will be a personal favorite.
But when all was said and done, "Out" was relatively tame when compared to the last two season openers, which featured the rape of a main character, a shootout at a funeral, and someone getting their head crushed in on the pavement. Instead, this season of Sons of Anarchy started off more on the safe side and returned to the show's roots, exposing the soft underbelly of the series that is really about what holds the club together.
... Is this the season that Jax will finally leave SAMCRO, or is he still all talk?
... Do you like the show's tender moments, or would you rather SAMCRO stick to riding around town and beating people over the head with sticks?
... Looks like we have to wait another week for Danny Trejo, the show's big-name addition to the cast.