What was the best scene? Where does the drama go from here? Round Table panelists Matt Richenthal, Christine Orlando, Chris O'Hara, Carla Day and Dan Forcella have gathered below to assess "Sovereign" and title Jax's new journal...
What was your favorite scene from the premiere?
Matt: The mini showdown between Clay and Jax at the table. I was of the opinion that the latter had to kill the former last season, but I'm now fascinated by the ways in which Kurt Sutter will force these two to play off each other and, of course, against each other.
Christine: I loved the opening scenes with Gemma and Nero. Between Gemma being hungover and clueless and Nero's "I'm a companionator. I bring folks together. I'm all about the love," it was bitterly funny.
Chris: Jax’s opening monologue was tremendous and stuck with me throughout the episode. We are used to hearing voice overs from his father when Jax would read his journal and letters, but now it’s Jax who is holding the gavel and writing the next chapter in SAMCRO’s story.
Carla: I loved seeing the Teller family together for breakfast. After all they went through, it was nice to see Jax, Tara and the boys having a nice, normal family moment. It's sure to be short-lived, of course.
Dan: When Billy Brown's August shot the new leader of the Niners in the side of the head. It was shocking and set a definite tone for the season.
What were your first impressions of Pope? Nero?
Matt: Perfect and perfect... er. Pope is unlike any villain we've seen on SOA, both all business and all street. His thirst for blood and revenge clearly knows no bounds, but he's intelligent enough to think his actions through. Nero? He was introduced naked and tattooed while bending Gemma over a bed and the suavely explaining his job as a "companionator." In other words: He's The Man.
Christine: Pope buying ice cream for the kids after burning a girl to death was beyond disturbing. And I'm thrilled with Jimmy Smits as Nero. Even as a sleazy pimp, the guy is still hot!
Chris: At first I thought Pope seemed to be more from the “it’s always business, never personal” school and even sounded like he was looking to distance himself from the criminal element and go more legit. As we later saw, though, he took the murder of his daughter very personally and got his revenge and then some. August Marks, however, may prove to be an even more intriguing character. It looked like he is to Pope what Stringer Bell was to Avon Barksdale on The Wire. He is ruthless but also extremely calculating, as we saw when he set up his man with the unloaded gun at the meeting with Jax.
Nero was a full treat. Like Christine, I loved the “Companionator” line and scene. I also liked the way he treated Gemma. Don’t sell him short, though, he is no more a simple pimp than Walter White is a street corner meth dealer. I have a feeling he and his “affiliations” are going to play a pivotal roll in protecting the SAMCRO members who end up going to jail. Don’t sleep on Nero’s female business partner either, who kept shooting Gemma disapproving looks.
Carla: Pope is evil and looks to be the most ruthless foe that SAMCRO has faced. I'm interested in seeing how he is able to compartmentalize his two lives: brutally killing Tig's daughter and smiling while buying ice cream for kids.
The introduction of Nero into Gemma and Jax's lives scares me. There is much more to him than being a "companionator." I hope I'm wrong, but I expect he will bring trouble to SAMCRO. I'd be pleasantly surprised if he is a positive force in their lives. They could use that.
Dan: It was a tale of two stories; the actor making the character (Nero), and the character making the actor (Pope). I've been a fan of everything and anything Jimmy Smits does, and this was no different. The way he plays a scene is just so engaging that it didn't even matter what Nero's deal was. The way Pope was written on the page, on the other hand, made me really enjoy Harold Perrineau... something I never did on Lost. The ridiculous disparity between the burning of Tig's daughter and him giving ice cream to the kids has me excited to see more of this business man.
Was Tig's daughter burning the most brutal scene in SOA history?
Matt: This is a show that has featured a castration and a rape, but I still say yes. It was simply raw emotion, displayed incredibly by Kim Coates, and it was truly the biggest nightmare anyone with a child could ever imagine.
Christine: Yes, because she was an innocent. Tig's screams were more than I could take. I couldn't even watch the end of that scene.
Chris: I thought Gemma’s rape was one of the worst scenes I have ever had to endure watching on TV, but the murder of Tig’s daughter almost had me reaching for the fast forward button. Definitely one of, if not the, most brutal scene in the show’s history.
Carla: As Chris mentioned, Gemma's rape was horrendous, but Tig's daughter's death was much worse. I watched a screener of the episode and had to change the channel when I watched the live airing of the episode. I couldn't watch it twice. Being burned to death has to be one of the most horrific ways to die and Tig's reaction to it made it even more painful. Just thinking about it now is upsetting to me.
Dan: Probably, but not simply because she was innocent. There have been too many innocent deaths to count on this show, including Donna's, which may have been the most brutal for me, if only for how early in the series it came.
Is Clay working some angle with his Piney admission to the club?
Matt: I have no idea what you're talking about. He's clearly sorry and happy to hand over the presidential gavel to Jax.
Christine: Of course! You didn't think he was actually looking for forgiveness, did you? Clay's working a plan to keep himself in the club and buy back some power. His little mea culpa was simply a part of that.
Chris: Clay is never out of play, I don’t think any fan was fooled by his “confession.” What a performance from Ron Perlman, though. Aside from the obvious irony of how he has taken Piney’s place as the ailing club member hooked up to oxygen, Perlman seemed to have lost a good amount of weight since last season. It did very well to convey just how beaten down and weak Clay has become. We saw Clay struggling to get on his bike and later Opie putting Piney’s up for sale. I wonder if Clay will complete the transformation and end up sliding into the seat of the man he sent to the grave.
Carla: Definitely. If he wasn't working an angle, he would have kept his month shut or at least told the truth. Clay is despicable and beyond redemption. It pains me to even see him sitting at the table with all that he has done.
Dan: Probably, but what if he's just giving up? He's an old man that should have died by Opie's gun. Maybe he realizes that and can't put in the effort to stay in everyone's good graces anymore.
Come up with a name for Jax's journal.
Matt: Teller-ing It Like It Is: An Inside Look at an Outlaw Life.
Christine: Lessons for the Long Run. I enjoyed Jax's journal musings and how Chibs told Tig he was writing a children's book. I love Chibs.
Chris: Simple Moments. Going back to his opening monologue, I really liked the message of not being on the road but feeling like you are in it, a part of it, with nothing to worry about except what is right in front of you. The simple moments in life, like the breakfast scene with his boys, are what will keep the new president grounded when everything else around him is spiraling out of control.
Carla: The Good Things. He's going to be writing about his search for strength to lead the club and be a good family man.
Dan: Script of the Son.