Sons of Anarchy Season 5 Episode 1 Recap - Sovereign

Sons of Anarchy Season 5 Premiere If you missed the episode, head over to the 'Sons of Anarchy' show page and watch it now!

Sons of Anarchy returned in bold fashion with its season premiere, “Sovereign.” As the title suggests, this episode gave us a glimpse into the various power structures that will be building this season: Jax and Clay vying for control of SAMCRO, Jimmy Smits as Nero the call-it-anything-else pimp with a crush on Gemma, and Harold Perrineau as Damon Pope, a frightening combination of The Wire’s Stringer Bell and Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring.

The episode quickly picks up from the fallout of last season, with the One-Niners retaliating for Tig’s attack on Damon Pope’s daughter. Clay manipulating Tig into accidentally killing innocent women has turned into something of a recurring theme on this show and it’s not long before Tig discovers the truth behind his actions. The fallout between these life-long friends will be interesting in future episodes, assuming Clay doesn’t manage to turn it back around in his favor.

After messing with the Son’s cocaine shipment, we see Damon Pope scold the remaining One-Niners for disobeying his orders. We’re also given the introduction to Pope’s personal aid, a mysterious man who coldly murdered two “leaders” of the One-Niners in the span of the episode. This is some of Kurt Sutter’s strongest work, when he’s not rehashing plot lines from past seasons (like Gemma and Tara arguing ad nauseum) he’s able to tap into a frightening but equally captivating world of drug running, and the consequences of swearing allegiance to a psychopath.

Speaking of psychopaths, special mention should be given to Tig’s situation towards the end of the episode. While it was clear that Tig would be in trouble when he went to go pick up his daughter from the police, the situation surprisingly escalated when it was revealed that it wasn’t him that was going to be killed, but rather his daughter instead. Kim Coates nailed the intensity of being powerless while watching his daughter burn alive, and while Damon Pope might have been a sympathetic father wishing vengeance for his daughter in the beginning, his eye for an eye mentality crossed the line when he murdered Dawn.

This scene, with Tig pacing back and forth in horror, is made all the more haunting by the director, Paris Barclay’s, wise decision not to include music. In any other show a momentous occasion like this would drown out the sound and just put all the emotion into an easy song. Here, we hear Tig’s cries of pain in their entirety.

While it was nice to see Tig escape his punishment (though the same could not be said for his daughter) it’s still hard to root for him in his war against Damon Pope. Given that the entire feud started over someone Tig murdered, he’s not necessarily the hero here. And Damon Pope’s murdering of Dawn puts him right in villain territory. The show has had a history of not placing its characters in neat black or white territory, but that just makes the plot emotionally harder to navigate when everyone’s gray. That’s not necessarily a detriment of the show, but it’s an important aspect worth mentioning.

The episode ends with Tara once again wondering “what now?” as Jax discovers that he and Chibs are wanted for the attack on Pope’s daughter. Gemma knows where to hide them though, and now we have our connection between Smit’s Nero and Jax. It will be interesting to see in future episodes how Nero’s “sovereignty” meshes with Jax as the two are in charge of wildly different operations.

And of course, as is customary for a Sons of Anarchy season premiere, the ending had that twist that will keep us tuning in to see how the plot unfolds. Poor Unser will never catch a break it seems, as he found himself on the receiving end of an unexpected beat down at the close of the episode. Our only hint as to the attackers is the prosthetic leg one of the nomads was wearing earlier in the episode, though the why of the attack still remains unclear.

With solid acting across the board and great direction by Sons veteran Paris Barclay, this was a great reminder of what we’ve been missing while Sons was away. And this looks to be one of the show’s stronger seasons.