Season three of Sons of Anarchy saw its most beloved characters leave their hometown of Charming to track down Jax's (Charlie Hunnam) abducted son in Ireland. It was a divisive storyline that faced a lot of criticism and played a lot better with episodes viewed back-to-back, than the weekly airing schedule of television. The season finale, however, ended on an extremely strong note, with the boys of SAMCRO settling a few old scores before a handful of their leading members shipped off to Stockton Prison to serve time on weapons charges.
Tuesday's season four premiere feels like a sister to that finale, as SAMCRO's latest strategy slowly unfurls through the course of the 90-minute episode, much in the way Jax's ultimate plan was revealed at the close of last season.
The show begins with Jax, Clay (Ron Perlman) and four of their brothers being released on parole after serving 14 months in prison. While receiving warm greetsings from their fellow members of SAMCRO and awaiting families, the boys discover that their hometown has changed while they were away. Jacob Hale (Jeff Kober) is now the mayor of Charming and he's used his political influence to start up a housing development that is sure to gentrify the area and move the current lower-income citizens out. With the Charming police department shut down, there is, quite literally, a new sherriff in town. Rockmond Dunbar joins the cast as Leiutenant Eli Roosevelt, a lawman that the Sons will not be able to buy out of their way. In addition, Roosevelt's race plays an interesting role in his dealings with club, bringing to light a bit of latent racism among The Reapers. Also looking to cause some trouble for the club is the leather-clad, bike-riding Linc Potter (Ray McKinnon), an Assistant US Attorney that has settled in Charming, hoping to wrap the Sons of Anarchy up in a federal RICO case tied to their gun running. Needless to say, Charming isn't so charming anymore.
As if dealing with the law wasn't trying enough, the boys have to contend with some new professional associates, that are sure to make their lives more interesting. Much noise has been made about Jax's penitentiary buzz cut, but more notable are the scars on his chest, souveniers from a prison attack at the hands of SAMCRO's new Russian business partners, a retaliation for failing to turn over Jimmy O'Phelan as they had promised. Despite the attack on Jax, the Sons are still dealing guns with the Ruskies and the second episode we also meet Romeo (Danny Trejo), a representative from a Mexican drug cartel also interested in SAMCRO's wares.
The first episodes of season four are welcome return to the show we came to love in its first years. The 14-month time jump has allowed us to jump back into the story at point filled with a host of conflict. What's more, the months they spent in Stockton have changed the way Jax and Clay approach their leadership of the club and it's not going to sit well with all the members.
If there's any disappointment at the start of this new season, it's that it's spectacular female characters are sidelined by a subplot that's a bit lacking in momentum. Despite bonding while their partners were in prison, Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Tara (Maggie Siff) end up facing off against each other a bit over the letters from Jax's father that Tara discovered in the finale. It's unfortunate because the closeness between the two women seems so genuine at the beginning of the premiere (Tara even looks eerily like Gemma when she waits to welcome Jax home at the clubhouse). The moment Gemma gets a whiff that the letters exist, though, the defenses go up and it transforms the mama bear persona we love to see in Gemma into a desperate paranoia that's far less attractive.
Despite some less engaging subplots, season four is off to a rollicking good start with the boys of SAMCRO already in all kinds of trouble, just the way we like them.
Season four of Sons of Anarchy premieres Tuesday 6 at 9pm on FX.