'Sons of Anarchy' Season 5 premiere - 'Sovereign': New adversaries and new problems

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harold-perrineau-sons-of-anarchy-s5-premiere.jpg "Sons of Anarchy" wasted no time jumping into big stories to begin its fifth season, delivering a dizzying, plot-intensive and at times really powerful season premiere.

Trying to predict where the show will go based on one episode is usually a losing game -- even moreso with a 90-minute episode that introduced two key new players, kept a few plates spinning from last season and ended with Jax going into hiding. But here are a few of the moments and revelations from "Sovereign" that will likely play a big role in shaping the season to come.

Clay is a broken man. The season picks up a couple weeks after the events of last year's finale, which means Clay is still recuperating from his wounds. It's not going particularly well. He's feeble physically, and both the club and Gemma want nothing to do with him beyond what's absolutely necessary -- in SAMCRO's case, keeping him around so the Irish will still deliver the guns the club will then funnel to the cartel.

PICS: 'Sons of Anarchy' Season 5

Clay's skill as a manipulator looks to be intact -- he spins his killing of Piney as self-defense, thereby buying himself some time, and you can see Jax almost buy into his "I'm all out of play" speech -- but with his oxygen tube and marginal role within the club, he has ironically taken Piney's place. Ron Perlman does some remarkable physical work in the episode. It's hard to tell if he lost weight, if the show's costumers are dressing him in looser clothing, or what, but Clay looks physically smaller on screen and it's fascinating to watch.

The new guys know how to make an entrance. Our first glimpse at Jimmy Smits (as gangster-turned-"companionator" Nero Padilla) is of him having vigorous sex with Gemma. It's light-years away from his usual on-screen persona, but the rake's role fits him exceedingly well in this episode. He's already got Gemma in his thrall, and it will be very interesting to see how Nero influences Jax now that he's hiding out in Nero's day spa/brothel.

As gangster Damon Pope, meanwhile, Harold Perrineau cuts a pretty terrifying figure despite his expensive suits and generosity with the kids of Oakland. He kills an underling for going off book, buys witnesses to put Jax, Chibs and Tig on the hook for two murders and, in easily the episode's most shocking scene, exacts some excruciating eye-for-an-eye revenge on Tig for killing Pope's daughter. Scariest of all: He does it all with barely a raised voice.

Tig is crazy. That's not exactly a new development, but after seeing his daughter burned alive, it's easy to see Tig going completely around the bend and jeopardizing his own safety and all of the club's operations in his quest for revenge. He's also now a cop-killer, having strangled the detective who was on Pope's payroll. Kim Coates turned in great work as well as Tig pinged from anguish to sorrow to revenge-fueled mania.

Jax is stuck. He's taken his rightful place at the head of the table for SAMCRO, but what a time to be doing so. Among the things he has to deal with, in addition to the trumped-up murder warrant now on his back: The cartel leaning hard on him to continue moving drugs, a suspicious Irish faction who would rather deal with Clay, the (at least temporary) loss of his best friend, Opie, from the club, the specter of Pope's presence and the inconvenience (to say the least) of Clay still being around. What's the saying? Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown?

SAMCRO is vulnerable. It seemed like a small bit of business midway through the episode when the club welcomed a couple of new associates (one of them played by former Hell's Angel Chuck Zito) from a Sons chapter that's disbanding. But the episode ends with them busting in on Unser and beating him down before robbing him (the prosthetic leg of one of the Nomads is a giveaway). It's the latest in a string of home invasions in Charming (as noted in the paper Nero reads), and it can't bode well for the rest of SAMCRO.

What did you think of the "Sons of Anarchy" season premiere? Where do you see this season taking Jax and the crew?
Photo/Video credit: FX