SONS OF ANARCHY (FX) Season 3 Premiere Photos

The second season of SONS OF ANARCHY ended on a cliffhanger of epic proportions. Framed for murder by ATF Agent Stahl, matriarch of the Sons, Gemma, went on the run. Club prospect ‘Half-Sack’ was murdered trying to protect baby Abel, who was then kidnapped by True IRA member Cameron Hayes. It was a make or break way to end the series: would season 3 possibly be able to live up to what came before? If the season 3 premiere ‘So’ is any indication, it won’t just live up to season 2, it will exceed it.

The episode is split between the Gemma, hiding out in a generic motel, and the Sons, dealing with the aftermath of Abel’s kidnap.

Tig met up with Gemma and got her safely out of California and into Oregon, where he and a few Oregonian Sons watch over her. Though eager to get back to her family, Clay and Tig both tell her that she needs to stay put. The FBI is out to get her and Agent Stahl, the woman who set Gemma up for Edmond Hayes’ murder, is working alongside them as they try to find her. Gemma won’t take no for an answer, however, and tries to escape in a stolen van, briefly providing the episodes only comic relief. After convincing Tig she needs to leave, he takes her to stay with her father, who’s suffering from dementia.

Back home, the Sons are trying to find clues to lead them to Cameron Hayes and baby Abel. After tracking down his fake ID supplier and the gang who bought his escape boat, the Sons know only one thing for sure: no one has seen Abel. It starts to appear as though he may be dead. Taking an evening out of the search to attend Half-Sack’s wake, Clay tells a grieving Jax that he has to accept Abel’s death or believe he’s alive – either way, he needs to stay strong. Cut to Belfast and Cameron Hayes sneaking up to a house – with Abel, safe and well, in his arms.

Just when things start looking up, tragedy strikes again in true Sons of Anarchy fashion. Unknown assailants pull a drive-by shooting on the church, gunning down Sons and bystanders alike. One of the gunmen tumbles from the van. Hale, a week away from being officially named Chief of Police, tries to shoot the driver of the van and is run down. Jax sees a young boy shot, bleeding, and being cradled in his weeping mother’s arms, and finally loses it, attacking the gunman so brutally that it definitely ranks somewhere on my list of gruesomest SOA scenes. (First on the list being Kyle Hobart’s full SAMCRO back tattoo being burned off with a blowtorch – that still makes me cringe.)

It feels wrong somehow to say that I enjoyed this episode, given the subject matter, but enjoy it I did. Sons of Anarchy consistently delivers strong, gripping storylines and well fleshed out characters. Jax’s utter despair was heartbreaking. From Opie having to carry him into the shower until the final scene, he was utterly believable as a father lost without his child.

I liked two small scenes in particular: Jax helping to untangle the piece of wire from Opie’s leg, and Piney, at the cemetery, telling Jax that he needs to talk to someone. It was a nice reminder that these people care for Jax and he cares for them too, no matter what distractions and outside forces they’re facing. Similarly, I enjoyed Gemma returning home to her father, showing us that no matter how tough she looks, she still needs to be someone’s child too.

The real character surprise for me was Tara. I haven’t liked Tara much in the past. For me, she went from a somewhat bland love-interest to a caricature of Gemma, though the latter is probably because of how much she resembles Katey Sagal. But in this episode, specifically the scene in Abel’s nursery, I finally started to understand Tara’s evolution. The past few years have been crazy for her too, and she’s just as lost and unsure as Jax. I look forward to seeing where season 3 takes her.

And that last scene – wow. Is there really anything to say except ‘is it Tuesday yet?’

What did you think of the Sons of Anarchy season 3 premiere? Did it live up to your expectations? Were there any characters or scenes that stood out for you? And who do you think is behind the drive-by shooting?