Tonight, Sons of Anarchy returns with an explosive, emotional fifth season premiere (FX, 10 p.m. ET). Since we’ve already given diehards plenty of intel on season 5, let’s talk to the people who’ve heard how great this EWwy-nominated show is (Ken Tucker gives it an an A- in the current issue of EW) but haven’t had a chance to catch up. Here are five things you need to know in order to jump in tonight.
1. The show is influenced by Hamlet. The kingdom is SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original), and Clay (Ron Perlman) became president of it by killing John Teller, the father of Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and husband to Gemma (Katey Sagal) who thought the club had lost its way. Clay married Gemma, and they were the King and Queen of Charming, Calif., making Jax the prince. Last season, Jax’s surgeon fiancée Tara (Maggie Siff) had possession of letters John Teller had written that could have implicated Clay and Gemma in his murder. Tara shared them with Piney (William Lucking), who founded SAMCRO with John, and Clay killed Piney to silence him. Clay then put a hit out on Tara — she survived, but was left with nerve damage to her hand and the feeling that she was now trapped in this life that she and Jax had both planned to escape. When Gemma confronted Clay about the hit (which was attempted when Tara was with Jax and Gemma’s two young grandchildren), he beat her. Full disclosure, Gemma had fired a gun at him. Deciding Clay couldn’t be saved, Gemma told Jax about Clay’s involvement in his father’s death and the attempt on Tara and asked him to kill him. Jax wanted to but couldn’t…
2. Clay must live — for now. Clay, wanting to bank big money before his arthritic hands give out and he can no longer ride, got the gun-dealing club involved with the Galindo Cartel muling cocaine. When the club was about to be busted by the ADA (more on that below), we found out that the cartel’s muscle men (Danny Trejo and Benito Martinez) are actually working with the CIA, which is subsidizing Galindo. They need the cartel to get into business with the Sons’ IRA contacts — and the Irish Kings will only do that if Clay is still at the table. The CIA will keep the Sons clear of RICO charges as long as that Galindo-Irish deal happens, but Jax can’t tell anyone about the CIA’s involvement.
3. Jax is president of SAMCRO, and Clay is literally on oxygen. Having learned from former police chief Unser (Dayton Callie) — who’s more loyal to Gemma than to Clay now — that Clay had killed his father, Piney’s son Opie (Ryan Hurst) shot Clay twice in the chest. Clay survived but Jax stripped him of his president’s patch and spit in his face in the hospital. As creator Kurt Sutter has told us, “I think we’ll see a broken Clay at the beginning of the season and, interestingly enough, as difficult as this might be for some people to wrap their head around, I think you’re gonna see a very contrite Clay…. I think you’ll see a much more humbled, and obviously more physically and emotionally vulnerable Clay.” As of now, Opie wants nothing to do with Jax or the club, which believes Piney was killed by a rival cartel.
4. SAMCRO is at war with the One-Niners gang. Not wanting to tell the club that Opie shot him (which would beg the question why?), Clay lied and said his shooter was “black.” Tig (Kim Coates), Clay’s former Sargeant-At-Arms who’d abandoned Clay, felt guilty and wanted to repent. So he waged a misguided retaliation against the Niners that killed innocent Veronica Pope, the daughter of gangster of Damon Pope. We’ll meet Pope, played by Lost‘s Harold Perrineau, for the first time tonight. As Sutter, who compares the character to Frank Lucas (American Gangster), has told us, “He’s a level of gangster that they’ve not yet encountered…. Pope really came up out of the streets and has risen above it and turned his drug dynasty into a very legitimate business, but he’s still very much connected to the street.” (Be prepared. We’ll have an interview with Coates posting after tonight’s premiere discussing Tig and Pope’s memorable first meeting.)
5. The ballads of Bobby and Juice. They are the other Sons’ backstories you need to know for the premiere. Keeping it simple: Levelheaded Bobby (Mark Boone Junior), who was against the club getting involved with the cartel from the start, is currently in jail. Otto (Sutter), a Son on death row, ratted him out to the ADA building RICO charges against the club. The ADA had told Otto that Bobby, who’d slept with Otto’s porn producer wife Luann, had lied about the club taking out the rival porn producer who’d killed her. (It’s true, they hadn’t done it immediately because they needed the guy for something, but it did eventually happen.) Sensitive Son Juice (Theo Rossi), meanwhile, was roped into ratting on the club’s current affairs by the new sheriff in town, Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar). Roosevelt threatened to tell the club that Juice’s father was black (a no-no for members). Juice had to kill club member Miles to protect his lie and felt so guilty, he tried to take his own life. Juice eventually told Son Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) about his father, and Chibs told him it wouldn’t have mattered to the club — Juice is listed as hispanic on his birth certificate. But no one knows about Juice having been a rat. Roosevelt, ultimately seeing he’s been used by the ADA as well, apologized to Juice.
There. You’re good to go.
For teases of what’s to come, listen to our latest InsideTV podcast here and watch the videos below (which introduce you to Jimmy Smits’ Nero Padilla, a new friend for Gemma and Jax):