Sons of Anarchy Season 5 Premiere Watch: Sovereign

“All right, girls. Dicks in. Balls out. Home’s a speeding ticket away.”

Since last seeing the members of SAMCRO in December, I’ve spent months waiting impatiently, drunkenly, and without fingernails for their return. No other drama, other than the masterful Breaking Bad, gets my blood boiling and nerves popping like this dirty tribute to brotherhood. This enormous cast of characters has enough stories and threads running between them to spend hours talking them out over coffee and hooker blow. Speaking of, welcome to my take on Season 5 of Sons of Anarchy.

Open on Jax narrating (tension!) from his notepad-scrawled memoir manifesto, in the style of his father. I’m guessing it’s for his sons to read, forcing a Grandsons of Anarchy spinoff we never knew was missing from our lives. All I can say about this is, “Biker prose sounds pretentious, and don’t get me started on spotty narration.”

S.O.A. vs. One-Niners

They’ve had problems before, but the final episodes of last season, steeped in lies and wrongful death, are the driving force behind this season’s opener. Retaliation begins (possibly) with a botched attempt to destroy SAMCRO’s cocaine shipment that actually harms nothing and no one, except for singeing Phil. Does being a gang member deter one from utilizing a shooting range? The psychological damage was done, though, making the Irish wary about continuing the operation, as if the constant bloodshed has previously stopped them. But if the Irish pull out, the cartel can hurt the club two-fold, both in the normal gang sense, and in the Romeo/Jax secret camaraderie sense. To ensure calm heads, Jax and Niner head honcho Damon Pope need to meet.

In steps Harold Perrineau as Pope, another recognizable face for a Kurt Sutter antagonist. As one of Oakland’s most notorious gangsters, he doesn’t visibly leave a lasting first impression, calm and dressed to the gills, talking about not getting his hands dirty, puppeteering second-in-command August Marks (Billy Brown). Pope’s actions, however, are already among the most disturbing of any villain we’ve met thusfar. Peeved at the retaliatory effort approved by the now chopped-to-pieces Laroy (who was the intended victim when Tig accidentally killed Pope’s daughter last season in another example of fateful vengeance), Pope makes a very nervous Darnell his replacement, only to immediately set him up. At the last second before their meeting with SAMCRO that Pope is absent from, August tells Darnell to shoot Jax, but Darnell soon realizes he’s shooting Jax with an empty gun. In a “don’t fuck with Damon Pope” stating move, August shoots Darnell in the head. That’s some statement along with those walking papers.

But that’s all just business. The wretchedly brutal scene of “Sovereign” is strictly personal. Thinking he’s grabbing his fuck-up daughter Dawn from getting a D.U.I. charge, Tig arrives at the train yard, and we know that karma may soon rear its head. Quite simply, Tig is chained to a pipe and forced to watch as Pope burns Dawn alive, in the same corpse holding pit where we saw Laroy’s strewn parts. Rachel Miner and Kim Coates thankfully aren’t playing the scene to full dramatic potential, so there was minimal stomach churning. The fact that Pope then leaves Tig alive, solely so he can grieve over his daughter is as troubling to me as anything that will probably happen this season. Tig, as arguably the most dangerous character to pull this shit on, quickly re-gains footing by killing the cleaner sent to collect the bodies, and Goodman, the dirty cop who set him up, and would have eventually shot him. Tig is nuts. Tig will harm.

Gemma vs. Tara

For breathing room, let’s hit the show’s least effective conflict. Maybe because Tara’s character is defined by what others demand of her, I find it hard to join her side on things. But now that SAMCRO has mentally cracked her, she’s easier to palate. Presently, she wants to put her sons in daycare, because Gemma’s life is completely unhinged. She accuses Gemma correctly of smelling like alcohol and pot, and deems it non-influential behavior, and that she’s doing it, even without Jax’s consent. The capper to this was Tara toking on a joint while she silenced her baby’s screams coming through the monitor. Anyone without children who thinks that this is “bad mother” behavior should find a thousand better examples from this show. I now might actually pity Tara when Gemma once again unsheathes her BBC.

Clay vs. My Sympathy

I hate Clay in every entirely appropriate way you should hate a major character whose despicable acts speak louder than the samaritan ones, and who also gets to make out with Katey Segal. Tonight was a plea for all musterable compassion for this broken down man. He’s out of the hospital, walking slowly, breathing through a tube. While retrieving his belongings from Gemma’s house, he mistakes her tears as an entrance, and is dropped to the ground with an elbow to the gut when he tries to console her. He is too weak, and his hands too shaky, to even get his bike upright to rev it up. Poor wittle Cway. But what about all the lies? He’s workin’ on it!

Clay joins the table as the club settles in to vote on new recruits. Because Opie is, at least temporarily, done with the club, Clay comes clean to everyone on the true stories of Piney’s death and Clay’s shooting; clean except for the parts he lies about. He says Piney was drunk and drew his gun first, which is bullshit. So you know what, Clay? Duct tape your big vibrating woman-smacking hands together and go fuck yourself. The conversation between Jax and Clay, over why Jax didn’t kill him, wasn’t as gripping as I’d have hoped, though the coldness of being told he’s alive only to please the Irish must have been a weird thing for Clay to hear. The club has yet to vote on whether he remains in or gets booted. I’m fairly certain I know how this will go.

Speaking of voting…Under the falsehood that Bobby was being held on Georgie’s shooting, a further falsehood gets the “case” dropped, and Bobby is released from prison using Romeo’s connections. He is then voted in as Jax’s V.P. Bobby better start doing awesome shit soon.

Jimmy Smits vs. No One…Jimmy Smits Wins!!!

This is the easiest story to explain, and the one with the least predictable endgame. Gemma has a hyper-romantic drunken fourway with Nero Padilla (Smits) and two blonde bimbos. (This would be the most spectacular unfilmed scene in history, if the morning after scene is any indication.) Though she barely remembers any of it, the cool suaveness that is any Jimmy Smits character, combined with similar medical problems, wins her over. Numbers are exchanged. Nero, a self-described “companionator,” discreetly runs a high-class escort service. The softness in Gemma’s voice when they speak on the phone means he’s in for the long and probably bloody haul this season. Oh, and he’ll be sheltering Jax and Chibs after a couple of Oakland women finger them in a murder, because that’s what Nero does for that woman who used a false name when she blackout banged you. He’ll be Jax’s mentor, so the birds say. I expect scenes between Smits and Perlman to be more tense than whatever the opposite of Clay’s hands is.

Anyone with half a sense of television plotting knows the Oakland women - also saying they witnessed Tig as the one behind the Pope girl’s death - are up to something beyond their own intentions. Sheriff Roosevelt is suspicious. Regardless of where this goes, and the reality of how these people would live in real life, watching Jax running away from, and getting caught by cops is a common play for these writers. He’s got his hands in everyone’s business so those storylines need escalating before he gets in more situations where he can’t divulge information to officials.

Non-versus Conflicts

Charming is experiencing a series of home invasions, particularly to people involved with SAMCRO. Sheriff Roosevelt seems to be genuinely concerned, if only because he doesn’t want a bunch of revenge murders happening in his town. Oh, paperwork. Anyway, the episode ends on a particularly ugly note, with the home invaders, all wearing ski masks, beat the living shit out of Wayne. I assume they leave him alive. All we have to go on is one of the guys has titanium legs. I haven’t had time to consider yet who this might be. Ring in with your thoughts.

Also, feel free to comment on anything you think about the show or this review, and correct anything I may have been mistaken about or left out. I’m usually time-crunched when writing, so this is bound to happen. And not just this week. Come back every week as we ride through this world, all alone. Am I the only one who enjoys singing the wrong lyrics to the theme on purpose?

Stuff that Fell off the Back of the Bike

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Opie. Will we see him in a Sniper Gun Store next week? Who knows. How inherently contextual is the drama of a scene where somebody puts a “For Sale” sign on the front of a motorcycle?

Romeo will let Jax go when he’s done with him. He’ll let Jax lives if he needs him to live. Is somebody going to get all motherfucking Danny Trejo up on a Teller? A little hors d’oeuvre of Machete before the sequel comes out?

Franky Perez and the Forest Rangers perform a southwestern version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” in the opening truck barrage. 75% of this show’s music never ceases to amaze me.

August: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Darnell: “I ain’t no Spider-Man nigga.”

I like that the epithet didn’t seem to be a reference to August, but was the object of the “Spider-Man” modifier. I wonder if he just read the line wrong.

Frankie Diamonds, GoGo, and Greg the Peg are now in the fold. These guys should join Chibs and Rat Boy and create the crassest bar band in the world.

"Spics pimps" and "drunken MILFS". Dialogue for Emmy consideration?

Mr. Pope is also a nice guy, buying that ice cream for the kids and whatnot. If the soundtrack would have immediately flipped to Master P.’s “Ice Cream Man” for few seconds when we were shoehorned into having opposite emotions about Pope’s human nature, I wouldn’t have been upset. Also, I’d like some ice cream.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.