By Mandi Bierly
Updated July 10, 2012 at 05:36 PM EDT
Credit: FX
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FX has released an ominous promo for Sons of Anarchy‘s fifth season, which premieres in September. Watch it below. Jax (Charlie Hunnam) crosses a bridge toward Tara (Maggie Siff) — is he leading the club or riding away from them? — and when Gemma (Katey Sagal) tries to stop him, he swerves and drives right off of it. To me, it’s an interpretation of what creator Kurt Sutter told EW will be at the heart of season 5: “What I want to look at this season is the idea that this [being at the head of the table] was always supposed to be his destiny. Can he be the leader of an outlaw empire without ultimately becoming Clay [Ron Perlman] or suffering the weaknesses or the setbacks that John Teller suffered? And ultimately, what kind of leader is Jax? Is this a job that he can do, and is it a job he can do well? Those questions get answered this season.”

As we report in our Comic-Con preview issue, on newsstands now, after season 4, which ended with Clay (Ron Perlman) in a hospital bed and Jax replacing him as club president, season 5 will feel less like a runaway train. “There’s a method to the madness this season that is being orchestrated by Jax,” Sutter says. The premiere will introduce two new characters. Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits), an OG gangbanger with an exit strategy, becomes a sort of mentor for Jax. “His whole thing is making enough money to punch that ticket and get out,” Sutter says. (At SOA‘s Comic-Con panel Sunday, Sutter will show the first five minutes of the 90-minute season opener, which includes a first look at Nero. Fans of The Shield will recognize the name of his Latino gang, the Byz-Lats.) On the flip side is Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau), a gangster who is the father of the young woman killed in Tig’s (Kim Coates) misplaced retaliation for Clay’s shooting. He too becomes an example for Jax. “He’s a guy who has turned his drug dynasty into a legitimate business and has given back to his community and become this savior to the hood,” Sutter says. “He has success and happiness and has utilized the outlaw life to his advantage. So you have these conflicting visions, the sort of good-Jax/bad-Jax dynamic that happens over the course of the season.”

A few more teases:

Clay’s road to crazytown ends: “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,” Sutter says. “The damage that was done, not just to him physically but ultimately to the club and to his family, didn’t happen in vain for him. They have a big impact on him. I think you’ll see a much more humbled, and obviously more physically and emotionally vulnerable Clay.”

• The Gemma-Tara relationship will have its own twists and turns: “The thing I love about some of the character arcs this season is that there’s no straight lines,” Sutter says. “There’s no straight line with Jax and Clay [since Jax has to keep Clay around so the Irish will work with the cartel, part of Jax’s deal with the CIA], or with Gemma and Tara. Tara and Gemma have this mother-daughter dynamic that happens where one episode they’re at each other’s throats and then next episode, they realize how much they need each other. [Laughs] I personally have that going on at home. I have a daughter heading off to college. It’s incredibly emotionalized around my house between these two women right now. So I see the ebbs and flows of that emotionality, and the need for someone to break free and be their own voice and independent person, like my daughter, and then suddenly, there’s that sense of ‘Ohmygod, I’m so afraid, I need my mommy.’ And then, ‘F— you, mommy. I want you to leave me alone.’ So I see this on a daily basis. It’s an interesting dynamic, and I thought that’s an interesting thing to happen with Gemma and Tara. Like Tara’s this woman who now is trying to be her own person in this world, and yet, she does need Gemma to a certain extent. She doesn’t have all the skills yet. So you never know from episode to episode where they’re gonna land. It’s not a straight trajectory, in terms of, ‘Oh, you’re my enemy, I’m against you,’ or ‘You’re my ally, and I’m with you.’ We really see it change circumstance to circumstance, which I think, for me, feels more naturalistic and real.”

• Danny Trejo’s Romeo is back: The cartel muscle, who’s actually CIA, will be in the premiere and then, Sutter hopes, in a few episodes in the back half of the season.

• Rockmond Dunbar’s Eli Roosevelt returns: “For me, I love the idea of seeing the dynamic between outlaw and law enforcement in small towns. What ultimately happened between Clay and Unser [Dayton Callie] over a period of 15 or 20 years is not an unusual thing to happen in small, isolated communities like this. I like the idea of perhaps seeing some of the history that played out between Clay and Unser start to play out between Jax and Eli. Not that suddenly Eli is gonna be in the Sons’ camp, because he definitely isn’t,” Sutter says. “But you’ll understand some of the challenges of both the outlaw and the cop when you’re faced with what’s best for the town.”

• Unser remains awesome: “He doesn’t really have his own arc like he’s had in the past, but he’s the omniscient character who becomes aware of what everyone’s doing, and he ultimately becomes this kind of interesting thread between several of the bigger stories,” Sutter says. “So I don’t know if we’ll see as much of Unser this season, but he’ll have a vital role in bringing everything to the surface, at the very least.”

• That “most disturbing SOA sex scene” Sutter tweeted about writing… It’s in episode 5. He wouldn’t elaborate.

Read more:

Episode Recaps

Sons of Anarchy

Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.

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