An event both celebratory and mournful, the seventh and final season of FX’s hit drama Sons of Anarchy is upon us. Mr. Toad would be so lucky as to get a ride as wild as this series has been, putting viewers through some of the most pummeling and joy-sapping incidents in TV history, all with a sense of humor as dry and gnarled as an old tree branch. Dull moments are a rarity with Sons of Anarchy, which means not even the sky is the limit for Season 7, and some of its most explosive moments are yet to come.

With a show like Sons of Anarchy, the plotlines come quick and are all layered on top of one another, and the long wait time between seasons means it’s easy to lose track of where these characters are when Season 7 kicks off, not to mention what their mental states are like. So we’re tackling five (or so) of the most relevant story points going into this season and offering a little backstory on each one so everybody can start off on the same level.

”sons
The Aftermath of Tara’s Murder
If you’ll recall, the Season 6 finale offers one of the most shocking events in Sons of Anarchy’s long line of them, as Gemma drunkenly murders Tara by stabbing her in the head with a carving fork as she half-drowns in a sink full of dishwater. Gemma thinks that Tara ratted the group out to D.A. Patterson, unaware that Jax did his usual scheming to plan a way around that fate. Sheriff Roosevelt arrives at the scene seconds too late, only to be shot down by Juice, who cleans everything up for Gemma. Jax soon walks blindly into the worst moment of his life, just before more cops arrive.

Season 7 begins ten days later, with Jax wearing his familiar orange inmate jumpsuit. It seems like ten days should have been enough time to prove that he had nothing to do with the murders, but his lengthy record probably didn’t make the courts work very hard to get him back out. Jax is now a looser cannon than usual, refusing to talk to anyone but Gemma, who carries her guilt-stricken sorrow well, being accustomed to keeping such dark secrets from Jax. The cops are mostly clueless as to where to take the case, and are in need of a few pointers.
”sons
Charming’s New Sheriff
With Roosevelt’s morally-fluctuating leadership now six feet under, a new law-pushing puppet can step into his spot, and Annabeth Gish’s Althea Jarry is even more willing to dive off the deep end than her successors. Introduced as the new girl on the block, her quick education on Charming immediately leads her to transform her role into that of accommodating law person. Neither she nor D.A. Patterson want more bodies to pile up due to rampant gang warfare, so Sheriff Jarry plants seeds for favors that could spring eternal, if they’re the right favors. But how legitimate are her intentions?

Interestingly, Jarry takes Unser under her belt to assist in her learning Charming and the surrounding areas' criminal shorthand, and Unser’s own motivations are in question. Sure, Unser has SAMCRO’s back for life, but when he starts poking around a particular recent crime, people start getting suspicious, and his life is threatened. But if this guy can beat cancer and a consistently broken heart, all while living life in a marijuana-tinged haze, surely he can make it through a little police work without getting into too much trouble, right?
”sons
Juice is on the Loose
Considering his long list of crimes against SAMCRO members, Clay lasted longer than he should have among Sons of Anarchy’s ranks, but he was a leader and a good Big Bad for Jax to deal with. On the flip side, it’s goddamned ridiculous that Juice is still living and breathing. He's generally as loyal as they come and portrayed flawlessly as a stray dog by Theo Rossi, but his sins against SAMCRO involve divulging club activities to Roosevelt for an AUSA investigation in Season 4, as well as murdering a fellow club member when Miles catches him trying to hide stolen coke. As if that weren't enough, he later druggedly confesses to Nero that Jax had him kill Darvany, which Jax lied to Nero about. This railroad of betrayal puts him on Jax’s Kill List, and Juice knows his days are numbered. And he thought he had a problem because there were black people in his ancestry.

When Season 7 starts, Juice is hiding out, though it’s better to let you figure out where he is for yourselves. He would do anything to get back into the club – ANYTHING – but the chances of that happening are about as good as Jax buying stock in Nicorette. Without his brothers, Juice's path is uncertain, and we all know how easily this dude gets into a suicidal frame of mind. (Hide the chains, hide the Oxy.) Luckily for him, Gemma still has his back as a partner in heinous covered up crime, but how much help can she really provide?
”sons
Jax’s Grand Plan, or a Revised Lack Thereof
For six seasons now, audiences have had to deal with Jax Teller, whose grand goal has been to follow the unmarked footsteps towards salvation that his father John strived to take, and to give his family a safe existence far away from the violence that gang life survives on. But with Tara gone, Jax no longer wants to apply himself to any ideals, instead fueling his days with revenge and James Bond villain-style methods of mass destruction. And despite the fact that his two sons are still very much alive and in dire need of a stable household, Jax continues to put them on a much lower rung of his ladder to success.

So what’s Jax’s move? Based on a “tip” about Tara’s murder, he decides to unravel all of the meticulous hand-shaking and deal-making he’s been doing for the past season or two, taking a criminal mountain and imploding it into a molehill. He’s got plans for August/Black, Alvarez/Brown and Lin/Yellow, with the racist white element also being tied into everything. The season starts off with Jax and the Mayan-tethered Nero on the same page again, but only time will tell if Jax can make himself look clean long enough to steer clear of the corpse-building exercises happening all around him.
”sons
Wendy's Back, and Everyone Else's Business
Because I was only privy to the first three episodes of Season 7 – read my review here – I can’t say with certainty just how many of Sons of Anarchy’s supporting characters will get a story arc, but I can say that Venus Van Dam doesn’t show up yet, and that sucks. Actress Drea de Matteo was promoted to series regular finally, and it’s obvious why, as Wendy “The Junkie Whore” Case is now already back out of rehab and ready to take on life anew as a mother to Abel and Thomas, with Gemma always at her back, presumably not stabbing it with a carving fork.

Gemma's non-Tara murder story rekindles her love for Nero, now that the animosity has died down between him and Jax over Juice's covered-up killing of Darvany. Jax and Nero are still very much in charge of Diosa and Cara-Cara’s new dockside studio, though they end their co-managerial ways. Rat gets some action, and although everybody gets action on this show, this time is special. Brooke Putner, the girl who raged against the club for the death of her father, is still working for club members, serving as the umpteenth babysitter taking care of Abel and Thomas. Patterson is still close-lipped and judgmental, though she opens up a bit about her past. And finally, Bobby, Chibs, Tig and Happy remain the greatest foursome in all of drama. But you'd never forget a thing like that.

Tune into FX tonight for Sons of Anarchy's Season 7 premiere.

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