We’re on our way out of a dauntingly hot summer, but FX is putting us right back into the heat with the Season 7 premiere of the intensity-swamped Sons of Anarchy. Charming has always been a dangerous place, but it’s always had a fairly sane Jax Teller in its population. After Tara met her maker in the most brutal of Sons of Anarchy death scenes, Jax’s days of gameplanning and choosing rational life paths are over. He is running on fumes now, but it’s a lot of fumes, and everything around him always seems to be two seconds away from exploding into leather-clad pandemonium. Make sure you have a new thing of salt in your spice rack, because “Black Widower” has a few open wounds that need tending to.

Jax of All Trades

When we first meet back up with our lowly hero, he’s beating the shit out of a guy in jail while wearing duct tape across his fists, while a cover of “Never My Love” plays, all so he can get in the good graces of Marilyn Manson’s Ron Tully, the head of the local Aryan Brotherhood chapter. (Okay, so carving a swastika in his torso was probably the more direct message.) And so begins Jax’s quest of telling everyone one thing while mentally moving in the opposite direction.

Jax’s motivations this season come from a place of emptiness, where sanity only has base emotions to feed off of. All he’s got now are rage and vengeance, and the only way he knows how to let some of that steam out is to hatch a county-spanning plan meant to take down everyone around him. At least it appears that way. There’s a huge war brewing between Brown/Yellow and Black and/or White and/or the Irish, and everyone is a potential victim here. Whether Jax wants to admit it to himself or not, his hunger for leading SAMCRO is what has kept him in the top spot, even when he knew he was making bad decisions.

And so when all the bad decisions have seemingly been made, everything else looks like a good idea in comparison. Like befriending every single faction and trying to become the unharmed eye in an extremely dangerous hurricane, only to jump out from the middle like Bugs Bunny in a fight. I hate to see Nero get caught in Jax’s jagged path, but I really don’t see too many people surviving this season.

One guy definitely doesn’t make it out of this episode alive. Gemma feeds Jax a fake lead on Tara’s murderer, blaming it on one of Lin’s hired hands. The club then takes the guy hostage and Jax goes calmly apeshit, torturing him for an extended period, not quite caring if he ever confesses to the murder or not. Jax doesn’t need the truth, really. It’s like Memento; he’s just looking for someone to unleash his anger and regrets on…with a carving fork. Which happens, and it’s got a fabulously gross sound effect to go along with it. Will Jax now forget about Tara’s death and go about his life with a renewed approach to optimism and positivity?

sons of anarchy

”I’m sorry for your loss.”

Both Jax and Gemma hear this phrase in some form or another throughout the episode, but only one of them is actually mourning Tara’s death. Gemma is not even trying to overly dramatize her feelings about Tara being gone, which leaves Katey Sagal to pull a bunch of quiet “ho-hum” faces that don’t quite do anything for the character or the story. It’s a perfectly natural act, mind you, as no one suspects she jammed a kitchen utensil into anyone’s skull in recent weeks. But it’s such a slow beginning to what will absolutely become Sons of Anarchy’s most uncomfortable battle. I don’t want to watch Jax and Gemma fighting all season, but I cannot WAIT for the sparks to start flying.

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