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By Zack Gutin · September 12, 2013
The sixth and second-to-last season of FX's motorcycle ratings juggernaut shot out of the gate in Tuesday night’s premiere, continuing the ever-violent saga of Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam). As in previous seasons, show creator and supporting actor Kurt Sutter (who plays the now tongue-less Otto), provided us with a reminder of the internal conflicts of his main character via an opening montage of the characters since we last saw them, accompanied by some unusually heavy-handed narration from Teller, before quickly leading us into a series of new hurdles for the bikers to jump.
Hunnam, who will soon portray Christian Grey in Universal/Focus Feature's Fifty Shades of Grey, once again delivers an outstanding performance in his role as the leader of the fictional motorcycle club (SAMCRO) as he attempts to hold together the broken pieces of both his club and family with his wife now locked behind bars. He seamlessly shifts between caring father of two young boys to friend and protector to the spouse of his recently departed best friend to ruthless outlaw as he and his leather cut-wearing brethren confront a scumbag group of Iranian pornographers who specialize in torture porn and under-inform their talent so to mislead them into helpless and painful scenarios. Jax leads the Sons of Anarchy to the rescue to stop the criminal production in what has become a prerequisite for each season premiere: The Sons must stop the "bad guys" (aka "guys who do things that are debatably worse than what the Sons do") to remind us that they're more than just gun-running menaces to society.
However, to add complexity to their show of heroism in this episode, we brush against events from the season five premiere as the most "mouthy" of the Iranian porn producers is given a chance to leave peacefully, but then defiantly tells Tig (played masterfully by Kim Coates) that he hopes one day Tig watches one of their movies and sees his own daughter performing in it as she begs for Daddy's help. Unfortunately for Mr. Mouth, he didn't know that last season Tig's daughter was burned alive right in front of him and did indeed beg for Daddy's help—though he was chained up and unable to save her. The scene ends with Tig drowning the porn producer in a tub of piss (one of several hideous props from the porn shoot) and then urinating all over his dead body. Welcome back, Sons of Anarchy.
Newly introduced is the character of Charles Barosky (Peter Weller), whose turf is imposed upon when SAMCRO attacked the porn producers, but the most interesting of the newer faces is still the unnerving U.S. Marshal Lee Toric character introduced at the end of season five (and played by the magnetic Donal Logue), who seeks to avenge his sister's murder at the hands of imprisoned SAMCRO member Otto. The marshal uses his power within the prison system to ensure a daily regimen of torture for Otto. If it's true that one element of good writing is characters that lead tortured existences and endure ahead anyway, then Sutter deserves an award for the pounding his Otto character has been dealt. The man has no tongue—he can't even scream for help anymore!
Aside from Otto, though, Toric also uses his position to attempt to manipulate both Tara (Maggie Siff) and Clay (Ron Perlman). On the outside, Jax must try and plan for the worst—either or both of them cooperating with authorities. Expectedly, this will become a major arc for the new season. More interestingly is a new arc introduced with the help of a 90-minute season premiere given once again to Sutter by his endlessly supportive colleagues at FX and Fox21. This network-and-creative collaboration merits mentioning in a review because, aside from the attractive bottom-line fattening ad sales earned by creeping past 11pm, it also gave Sutter the chance to explore a wholly new storyline to help kick off the new season. As an audience, we feel what could have been the episode ending cliffhanger at the 60-minute mark with Clay having a change of heart in his decision of whether or not to work with authorities—but then there were an immensely important additional 30 minutes.
Throughout the episode, a young boy cross paths with several of our characters, with nary an explanation of who he is. We wonder, and then, we find out in what amounts to the most-talked about scene from last night’s episode. SPOILER ALERT: He shoots up the school with a high-powered automatic gun. Why? It felt gratuitous in the moment—hard not to want to consider any fictional school shooting gratuitous—but ultimately Sutter will lead us to answers. Will the gun have come through the Sons of Anarchy's distribution lines? Was Nero's (Jimmy Smits) or Jax's son a student at the school? A victim? New problems are infecting SAMCRO while they're at their weakest.
Sutter's character on the show is now unable to speak, but as showrunner his writing does plenty of talking. His characters are mesmerizing and the stakes at the center of each of their individual conflicts literally rips them apart as a group, but somehow they always find a way back together (that beating Chibbs delivers to Juice in the garage!). It's that brotherhood and family that grounds the show for viewers to allow Sutter and his writers to take audiences to otherwise unfamiliar places. SAMCRO has a dark, long winding road ahead of it, and record breaking amounts, about five million people every week, tune in to go along for the ride.