Sons of Anarchy is a television drama series created by Kurt Sutter about the lives of a close-knit outlaw motorcycle club operating in Charming, a fictional town in California's Central Valley. The show centers on protagonist Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the then-vice president of the club, who begins questioning the club and himself.
Sons of Anarchy premiered on September 3, 2008, on cable network FX. The third season of the series attracted an average of 4.9 million viewers per week, making it FX's highest rated series ever, surpassing FX's other hits The Shield, Nip/Tuck, and Rescue Me. The season 4 and 5 premieres ("Out" and "Sovereign", respectively), both directed by series Executive Producer and Principal Director Paris Barclay and written by series creator and Executive Producer Kurt Sutter (along with staff writers Brady Dahl and Roberto Patino), were the two highest-rated telecasts in FX's history.
The sixth season will premiere on September 10th, 2013. Those involved in the production of the series imply that a seventh and final season is creator Kurt Sutter's plan.
Sons of Anarchy is the story of the Teller-Morrow family of Charming, California, as well as the other members of Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (SAMCRO), their families, various Charming townspeople, allies and rival gangs, associates, and law agencies that undermine or support SAMCRO's legal and illegal enterprises.
The series was created by Kurt Sutter. Sutter is the showrunner, the series' most prolific writer, and a regular director. He has directed each season finale to date. Sutter had previously worked as an executive producer for the FX series The Shield. The series' other executive producers are father and son team Art Linson and John Linson. Jim Parriott served as an executive producer and writer for the first season only. Paris Barclay joined Sons of Anarchy as an executive producer in the fourth season, after directing episodes in the first and second season. In addition to serving as Executive Producer in the fourth, fifth, and sixth seasons, Barclay directed three episodes each season, including the season 4 and 5 premieres, the top two highest-rated telecasts in the history of FX.
Jack LoGiudice served as a consulting producer and regular writer for the first season. He became co-executive producer for the second season. He left the series to work on The Walking Dead. Dave Erickson also worked as a consulting producer for the first and second season and then took over as co-executive producer for the third season. The series other regular writers are supervising producer Chris Collins and co-producer Regina Corrado.
Sutter drew regular directors from The Shield including Stephen Kay, Gwyneth Horder-Payton, Guy Ferland, and Billy Gierhart.
The Sons of Anarchy (SOA) is an outlaw motorcycle club with many charters in the United States and overseas. The show focuses on the original and founding chapter, Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original, referred to by the acronym SAMCRO or Sam Crow. This nickname is also reflected in the original title of the show, Forever Sam Crow. The Redwood chapter is headquartered in (the fictional town) Charming, California, in a clubhouse adjacent to the Teller-Morrow auto mechanic shop. Led by President Clay Morrow, and later Jax Teller, the club protects and controls Charming through close community relationships, bribery, and violent intimidation. In early seasons they are particularly vehement about keeping "hard" drugs, and drug dealers, out of Charming.
John Teller and Piermont "Piney" Winston co-founded SAMCRO in 1967 following their return from the Vietnam War, where both men served as paratroopers. The first chapter was called "Redwood" because they weren't settled in any one city, but rather cruised the Northern California coast from Eureka to Big Sur, which is redwood country. After Gemma, John's wife, became pregnant with her first son, Jackson, they decided to settle in Charming, the town where Gemma grew up. At that point, John Teller thought Charming was too cute for a chapter name, so he called the chapter the Redwood Originals, hence the SAMCRO handle. Six of the "Redwood Original 9" members were veterans. When John died in 1993, his widow, Gemma, married Clay Morrow, the youngest founding member. John and Gemma's son, Jax, grew up around the club and became vice-president of SAMCRO.
Club members wear vests known as kuttes (jackets with the sleeves cut off). The SOA patch on the back is a Grim Reaper holding a crystal ball with the anarchy "A," and wielding the Reaper's traditional scythe, the handle of which has been replaced by the M16 rifle that the club's founders wielded in Vietnam. Only full members can wear the "patch." Other, smaller patches on the vest have specific meanings, such as "Men of Mayhem," which is worn by club members who have spilled blood on the club's behalf, and "First 9," worn by all the original nine SOA members.
The Sons ride customized Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Each rider customizes his own bike to his individual style; however, they all paint their bikes black and most sport drag bar style handlebars. A patchholder's bike usually sports the Sons of Anarchy letters on it somewhere, the club's Grim Reaper logo, or the circled "A" club logo. Prospects are not permitted to paint their bikes black until they get patched in.
Club members have "day jobs" in local industries; most work at the Teller-Morrow garage as mechanics, but they primarily make money by illegally importing weapons, modifying and selling them to various gangs, and making protection runs for local businesses by defending valuable truck shipments against hijacking. During Season 4 they start to mule cocaine for the Galindo cartel in exchange for cash and protection
The club operates out of a clubhouse located on the same lot as the Teller-Morrow auto shop. The clubhouse includes a living area with multiple rooms (where members sometimes crash for the night), a fully operational bar, a pool table, a kitchen, a workout room, and the "chapel," a room with an elaborate redwood conference table that has a reaper logo carved into the top, where the patched members meet to discuss club business and vote on major decisions. The club also owns a secluded cabin in the woods and a warehouse outside of town (which was bought from but is still maintained by club associate Elliot Oswald), where they store weapons and cocaine for the Galindo Cartel.
See List of gangs from Sons of Anarchy
SAMCRO keeps meth traffickers and drug dealers out of Charming, which puts them at odds with the meth-distributing white supremacist Nordics (aka Nords), headed by Ernest Darby. This earns them respect and admiration from the townspeople, who believe the Sons do more to protect their town than its own police. SAMCRO also has to deal with a rival, Oakland-based motorcycle club (MC), the Mayans led by Marcus Alvarez (who also features in The Shield season 2, episode 5). Other groups in SAMCRO's orbit include the San Francisco–based Chinese mafia Lin Triad, led by Henry Lin; the Italian American Cacuzza crime family; the Real IRA (aka RIRA) of Ireland, which supplies them with illegal Russian-made guns; the "One-Niners", an African American street gang (who also appeared on The Shield, thus possibly putting the two in the same fictional universe) to whom SAMCRO sell weapons; and various affiliates in the state prison system, where many members of the club have been incarcerated at one time or another.
Sutter has said of the Shakespeare element, "I don't want to overplay that but it's there. It was Jax's father who started the club, so he's the ghost in the action. You wonder what he would have made of the way it turned out. It's not a version of Hamlet but it's definitely influenced by it." Ron Perlman believes "they’re going to stick to the structure of Hamlet all the way to the end (of the series)." The two final episodes of season 4 are titled: "To Be" (Parts I and II).
The series begins with the torching of a SAMCRO gun-assembly warehouse and the theft of guns by a rival club, the Mayans. The police attend the scene where Joaquin County Sheriff Vic Trammel, who is on the SAMCRO payroll, finds two dead illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, Jax's estranged meth-addicted wife Wendy, who is pregnant with his child, collapses. An emergency C-section is performed and a baby boy is delivered ten weeks prematurely. Wendy names the child Abel.
Jax goes to a storage unit to collect some old baby clothes. He comes across a box of his father's stuff, in which he finds a "manifesto" outlining what the now-deceased founding member of SAMCRO hoped the club would become. This document sends Jax into a dilemma as he struggles with the direction the club is taking. Gemma visits Wendy in the hospital, telling her that she will kill Wendy if the drug addicted mother attempts to gain custody of Abel. She says that because Wendy took drugs during pregnancy, Gemma would see to it that the baby never calls her "Mother". A broken-hearted Wendy overdoses on the crank supplied by Gemma. Charming Deputy Chief Hale finds the immigrants' bodies at the burnt-out warehouse, but Tig and Bobby remove them before he can forensically examine them. Tara receives a threatening phone call from a former boyfriend, ATF agent, Josh Kohn, who comes to Charming stalking Tara, pretending to investigate the Sons but apparently on vacation status.
To solve a gun-trafficking problem under the ATF's watchful eye, the Sons head out to Indian Hills, Nevada, to patch over the Devil's Tribe Motorcycle Club. While there, Clay sleeps with a girl named Cherry, who takes a liking to Half Sack. Kohn follows the Sons and witnesses their shootout with the Mayans. Kohn provides Tara pictures of Jax in compromising situations to try to split the two. The Sons soon become aware of Kohn's presence in Charming. Clay is arrested on charges of aiding and abetting a triple homicide after guns sold by the Sons were used in a shootout. Cherry arrives in Charming, and Gemma realizes that Clay has slept with her. Shortly afterward, Gemma assaults Cherry with a skateboard and is subsequently arrested.
Tara reveals to Jax that Kohn has been stalking her since she broke up with him, and that she has a restraining order against him. Jax throws Kohn through a window before beating him and telling him to stay away from Tara. Kohn is arrested for breaking his restraining order, which ends Kohn's career as a federal agent. Kohn returns to Tara's house and attempts to rape her, but Tara is able to grab his gun and shoots him in the stomach. Jax comes to her aid and advises Tara to let the police handle the situation. When Kohn calls Tara a "biker slut", Jax shoots him in the head. Jax takes Kohn's body to the hills and later returns to burn it. He also throws his father's memoir into the fire, but takes it back out within seconds.
Opie botches a planned assassination that was a favor for the IRA, and Bobby steps in to complete the task. However, their crime is witnessed by the victim's 17 year old black mistress. ATF Agent June Stahl tries to crack the club's unity by interrogating the women associated with the club: Tara, Luann, Donna, and Cherry. Stahl arrests Cherry on outstanding warrants, but Charming Police Chief Wayne Unser aids Cherry, who escapes Charming that night. When Big Otto learns that Stahl is trying to use the RICO Act to bring the club down for racketeering, he violently assaults Stahl. The young girl who witnessed Bobby commit murder provides the ATF with sketches of Bobby and Opie, who are subsequently arrested. Stahl sets up Opie to look like a rat, even though she knows it endangers his life, and Tig and Clay fall for the ploy. They believe Opie has turned informant when they find wire taps in Opie's phone and truck. Clay orders Tig to kill Opie without telling anyone else in the club; however, Tig accidentally kills Opie's wife Donna while she is driving Opie's truck.
Clay set up the shooting to look like the One-Niners shot Donna, protecting members of the club. However, feeling guilty, Deputy Hale tells Jax that Stahl set up Opie. Jax subsequently realizes that Clay organized the shooting.
Tig, Happy, and Chibs find the witness to prevent her from testifying. Tig is about to kill her, but Jax has followed them and confronts Tig, putting a gun to his head. Jax threatens her and gives her enough money to leave California. Jax is clearly unhappy remaining under Clay's rule, as he sees Clay as immoral and taking the club from its roots.
The season opens with the arrival of a new threat in Charming, white separatists called the League Of American Nationalists (LOAN). LOAN's leader and backer businessman Ethan Zobelle and Zobelle's enforcer, A.J. Weston, seek to drive the Sons of Anarchy from Charming. To send a message to SAMCRO, Zobelle has Gemma kidnapped and gang raped by Weston and two others. Zobelle's own daughter, Polly, lures Gemma into this trap. Gemma chooses to keep silent about her rape to prevent her husband and son from retaliating.
From prison, Big Otto reaches out to SAMCRO, asking them to help his wife, Luann, and her pornography studio after a raid from law enforcement and intimidation from a rival pornographer, Georgie Caruso, threaten her business. Jax proposes that SAMCRO become partners in Luann’s porn business and offer protection to her and her performers, a move he hopes will raise money for the club legitimately while they rebuild their other revenue streams.
Opie, struggling to deal with Donna’s death, throws himself fully into the MC and, consequently, becomes increasingly distant from his children. Fueled by SAMCRO’s role in Donna’s death, the rift between Clay and Jax continues to widen, with Jax challenging most of Clay's decisions. When a LOAN car bomb nearly kills Chibs, Clay demands immediate retaliation. But retaliation was what LOAN wanted, and Clay, Jax, Bobby, Tig, Juice, and Happy are arrested by the San Joaquin sheriffs in a botched attempt to attack Ethan Zobelle. While in jail, ATF Agent Stahl returns in an attempt to get SAMCRO to rat out their IRA connections. Although they do not give up the IRA, Stahl succeeds in provoking Clay and Jax into a physical confrontation in jail.
Out on bail, the divisions in the club only worsen. The tension between Jax and Clay reaches a breaking point when the porn studio burns down shortly after Clay announces he wants SAMCRO out of the porn business. Jax initially believes that Clay had the place torched and announces that he is going "Nomad". Most of the SAMCRO members are upset with Jax's decision but ultimately vote in favor of his going Nomad. In order to convince Jax to stay, Gemma tells Jax and Clay about Weston's raping her, which reunites Clay and Jax.
The club, however, nearly falls when Tig, overcome with guilt, confesses to Opie that he murdered Donna because Agent Stahl and the ATF had made it look as though Opie had become a rat. At the same time, Chibs agrees to help Stahl take down the IRA and its head, Jimmy O, who is in town to repair the IRA's relationship with SAMCRO. Based on information supplied by Chibs, the ATF is able to apprehend Edmond Hayes, whom they then want to use to apprehend his father, Cameron, and Jimmy O. Opie later witnesses Chibs leaving a meeting with the ATF and informs the club of what he saw but asks them to confront Chibs before acting. Chibs, already having doubts about becoming an informant, reveals to the club what he did.
Meanwhile, the Sons learn that Ethan Zobelle's true intentions are not racially motivated; rather, he wants to do business with the Mayans on the prison heroin trade. The MC is able to exploit this information when they reveal it to AJ Weston, who is deeply committed to his racial beliefs and will not tolerate doing business with the Hispanic Mayans. This causes a split between AJ and Zobelle.
Weston is soon arrested in connection with the fire at Luann's porn studio. Later, Hale arrives at Impeccable Smokes as the Sons are confronting Zobelle. In an attempt to save his and his daughter's lives, Zobelle informs the police that he is in possession of narcotics and is arrested. However, both are released from custody and Unser learns that Zobelle, unbeknownst to both the ATF and Weston, has actually been an FBI informant for the past three years. With the loss of Weston's support, Zobelle turns to the Mayans for protection.
Weston, however, is on his own. Jax and others discover him in a tattoo parlor with his son. They instruct the tattoo artist to jab Weston so that Weston must wash the cut in the bathroom. Jax is waiting in the bathroom for Weston, but Weston has his young son with him. Weston sends his son away with instructions never to tell the police anything. Then, he sits on the toilet, resigned to his fate, and Jax shoots him several times.
Agent Stahl continues to hold Edmond Hayes, in an attempt to use Edmond to lure and arrest his father. Out of loyalty to his father, Edmond attempts to kill Stahl, who shoots him when he tries to escape. Shortly afterward, Ethan's daughter Polly, who had been having an affair with Edmond, arrives at the safe house. She has been followed there by Gemma, who then shoots her. Stahl witnesses the shooting and lets Gemma escape but then proceeds to frame her for Edmond's shooting. Falling for the frame and becoming emotionally distraught, Cameron breaks into Jax's home and stabs Half Sack before threatening Tara and kidnapping Abel.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Sons have ambushed Zobelle and the Mayans, forcing the Mayans to retreat, while Zobelle flees on his own. The Sons follow Zobelle, who stays in public places, knowing the Sons will not attack him in the open. Zobelle calls Hale for help, but is ignored. After a strange call from Tara, Jax returns to his home, where he discovers Half Sack's body and finds Tara tied up; she tells Jax that Cameron has taken Abel. Jax calls Clay, who returns to help track down Cameron without killing Zobelle. The Sons pursue Cameron, who makes his way to the docks, where he takes Abel and boards his boat. Chief Unser, after receiving a phone call from Gemma, is last seen driving in his police cruiser with her past Charming's city limits, apparently running off with her. Ethan Zobelle is seen quickly getting on a chartered plane back to Budapest without his dead daughter, Polly. The season ends with the Sons' arriving just as Cameron is leaving the docks.
Days later, Gemma is hiding up north in Rogue River, Oregon with Tig, while the club tries to sort things out in Charming. The club tries to close in on Cameron's trail, but find that he has liquidated his assets and apparently fled the country. Gemma and Tig visit Gemma's father Nate (Hal Holbrook), who suffers from dementia. At the end of Half Sack's wake, masked men commit a drive-by shooting and fatally run down Deputy Hale.
Having fled to Belfast with Abel, Cameron confesses his sins to his cousin Father Ashby, an intermediary between Jimmy O and the True IRA Council. Ashby subsequently has Cameron killed, and suggests he will give Abel up for adoption.
The Sons hire a bounty hunter to try to track down Abel, and they believe he and Cameron are in Vancouver. SAMCRO has an upcoming bail hearing for the weapons charges, but they agree to jump bail. SAMCRO receives an email showing Cameron dead in Belfast.
After Jax consults Jimmy O, SAMCRO believes Abel remained in Vancouver when Cameron left for Belfast. Gemma struggles when she takes Nate to his new assisted living home, and returns to Charming to reunite with her grandson, still unaware he has been kidnapped. Father Ashby's sister Maureen contacts Gemma, at Ashby's request, to tell her Abel is safe in Belfast. Upon learning of her grandson's abduction, Gemma suffers an arrhythmia and collapses in the Teller-Morrow lot. Tara confides in Gemma that she is six weeks pregnant with Jax's child. Jax makes a deal with Stahl behind SAMCRO's back. In exchange for his mother's freedom and the downgrade of the pending weapons charges against the club, Jax will deliver Jimmy O and his IRA contacts. Oswald agrees to smuggle the Sons to Belfast. Jax breaks up with Tara and the next morning, Tara walks in on Jax in bed with pornstar Ima.
The recently ousted and humiliated former president of the Calaveras MC, Hector Salazar, begins surveiling Jax and Tara. After discovering John Teller had an affair in Belfast that produced a daughter, Gemma escapes from police custody with the help of Tara and Tara's boss, Margaret. Tara and Lyla both make appointments at an abortion clinic. Gemma leaves with SAMCRO on their trip to Belfast to find Abel, where Jimmy O already anticipates their arrival.
On SAMCRO's arrival in Northern Ireland, Ashby tells Jax that the IRA are tired of Jimmy's profiteering ways, and suggests Jax kill him in exchange for Abel.
Stahl helps Jax uncover information on Ashby and SAMBEL, and warns Jax not to kill Jimmy O. SAMCRO plans to surprise Jimmy O on a protection run, but he is forewarned and attacks the Sons with a planted bomb that kills several SAMBEL members. SAMCRO tortures Liam until he reveals that he was privy to Jimmy O's plans, as was McGee. Jax kills Liam, and shortly afterward Clay pushes McGee from a rooftop; both are revealed to SAMBEL as traitors. Ashby tells Jax Abel's location, but suggests Jax allow him to be adopted so he will not be forced into the club life. Jax chooses to leave the child with the family, until Jimmy O kills the adoptive parents and abducts Abel, intending to exchange him for safe passage to America. Abel is returned to Jax after Ashby trades himself for the baby.
Jacob Hale, Jr. uses intimidation tactics to continue urban development in Charming. Salazar abducts Tara and Margaret on their way to the abortion clinic. He informs Piney that he will return them in exchange for the murder of Alvarez and $250,000.
Under the influence of Jacob Hale, Jr., the San Joaquin Sheriff's Department will soon take control of the Charming Police Department. Tara attacks Salazar's girlfriend and negotiates Margaret's freedom. Later, Salazar's girlfriend dies.
With the hearing for weapons charges looming, SAMCRO returns to Charming, with the task of finding Tara. Gemma threatens to reveal Stahl's murder of Edmond unless Stahl ends her dealings with Jax. Salazar takes Jacob Hale, Jr. hostage along with Tara. Unser indicates the need for Salazar to be captured alive to implicate Hale and save the Charming Police Department, but during a stand-off, Jax kills Salazar. Amidst the chaos, Stahl intentionally shoots her partner Tyler to protect her lie. Opie proposes to Lyla. Now in the USA, Jimmy O seeks the help of the Russian Mafia to aid his escape to South America. Stahl falsely tells Internal Affairs that Agent Tyler shot Edmond and framed Gemma, admitting that Gemma was wrongfully charged.
Jax and the Sons meet the Russians and pay $2 million for the exchange of Jimmy O, although most of the money is counterfeit. Jax tells Stahl the location of the exchange so she can intervene and arrest Jimmy, but Jimmy is moved to a different location before she can. Jax assures her that he will give her Jimmy if she reduces their prison sentence, to which she agrees. Stahl arrives at the clubhouse to arrest Jimmy. When Clay asks how she knew he was there, Stahl indicates that Jax is a rat, which outrages the club, whose members call Jax a "dead man". SAMCRO is arrested and loaded into an ATF van, with Jax isolated from the other club members.
Unser stops Stahl on the roadside as she transports Jimmy and warns her of an IRA threat further down the road. Her fellow agents leave to investigate, leaving her alone with Unser and Jimmy. Soon afterward, Piney, Chibs, Opie and Kozik arrive. Chibs gives Jimmy a Glasgow smile, and then kills him. Opie kills Stahl in a similar fashion, after reminding her that she was responsible for Donna's death. Proof of Jax's dealings with Stahl is destroyed, leaving the club with the documents provided by Stahl to reduce their sentence. The scene is set to look like the IRA is responsible. In the ATF van, Jax learns of Stahl and Jimmy's demise as the prospects following the ATF van ride past and beep a Morse code signal "A-F-F-A" ("Angels Forever, Forever Angels", a tribute to Sonny Barger, who plays Lenny the Pimp). He smiles, as do the rest of SAMCRO, revealing the club knew of Jax's plan from the beginning. Tara, meanwhile, finds and reads the letters Maureen had put in Jax's bag. In them, John Teller writes to Mo of his awareness of Gemma and Clay's closeness and his fear that they will soon murder him. The season ends with Jax rejecting his father's original vision for SAMCRO and embracing Clay's rule.
The imprisoned SAMCRO members leave the penitentiary after their 14-month stay and are welcomed home by Lieutenant Eli Roosevelt of the San Joaquin Sheriffs' Department, the new law enforcement presence in Charming. He forbids any paroled members from wearing club kuttes in his jurisdiction, declaring them to be a form of gang association. To Clay's displeasure, the club learns that Jacob Hale has fostered the construction of a new suburban development, Charming Heights.
U.S. Attorney Lincoln Potter seeks Lieutenant Roosevelt's help to build a RICO case against SAMCRO. On the eve of Opie's wedding, Jax proposes to Tara, who accepts when Jax explains that he plans to leave the club. The Sons prepare to trade guns with the Russians, using the guise of Opie's wedding as a cover to avoid the law. In retaliation for an attack on Jax in prison, SAMCRO betrays the Russians and murders several of the group – including an undercover agent working with Potter.
After Gemma finds one of Maureen's notes in Tara's belongings, she questions Clay about Jax and Tara's allegiance to the club. Eventually, she asks Tara about the notes, and Tara openly denies knowledge of their existence.
Jax and Clay meet with Alvarez and Galindo cartel member Romero "Romeo" Parada (Danny Trejo) to negotiate gun trafficking. To Jax's surprise, Clay agrees to mule cocaine for the cartel in exchange for cash and protection from the Russians. Jax realizes that Clay is taking risks in order to stockpile money for when he leaves the club. Jax makes a private deal with Clay, wherein he agrees to the trafficking on the condition that when Clay leaves, he does also, and Opie becomes president. The rest of SAMCRO is split on the decision to mule cocaine. After much discussion, the vote passes 6–5, but causes a schism in the club.
As SAMCRO makes their first gun run for the cartel, Clay's arthritis worsens. Gemma warns Piney against digging up the past with Tara. Potter continues to stir up trouble with the club, informing Otto that Bobby was sleeping with Luanne prior to her death.
As the search for the letters continues, it is confirmed that Clay had Jax's father murdered to stop him from ending the gun running arrangement with the IRA. Unser and Gemma are also complicit in that they either knew and/or covered up the "accident".
Eventually, Juice's paranoia about the club's knowing his African American origins grows to the point that he makes more contacts with Roosevelt, who makes it clear he needs a sample of the cocaine load if he wants protection. Juice successfully steals one brick, but he falls asleep before he can take a sample and return the brick, so he must hide it before being discovered. The club learns about the missing cocaine, which causes an internal conflict between SAMCRO and the Mayans, forcing both clubs to test their members to see if they are guilty of stealing the brick. Phil and Ratboy, two of SAMCRO's prospects, fall under suspicion and are subjected to Russian Roulette and other tests of their commitment to the club. Juice, feeling guilty that the prospects are suffering for his mistake, tries to retrieve the brick he stole, but Miles catches him. When Miles tries to take Juice back to the warehouse to reveal the theft, the two fight, and Juice shoots and kills Miles, framing him for the missing drugs.
Romeo arrives at the warehouse and verifies the successful delivery of the cocaine. Clay asks Romeo for help to kill Tara to keep his secret of John Teller's murder hidden, telling Romeo only that the doctor has information that could compromise their business.
As the club goes to one of Alvarez's drug laboratories to inspect the operation, they are ambushed and shot by a crew who kills several Mayans and wounds Alvarez. Jax gives chase and learns that the attackers were from the Lobos Sonora cartel, the rivals of the Galindo Cartel. The escalating violence gives SAMCRO members second thoughts, especially Bobby, who calls a vote for a new president and nominates himself. Clay angrily agrees. That night, Juice attempts suicide by hanging himself in a tree, but the branch breaks and he fails.
The following day, the vote for the new president begins with Clay and Tig voting against Bobby, but the vote is interrupted by an attack by the Lobos Sonora on the garage and clubhouse. They manage to catch one of the attackers who, under questioning with truth serum, reveals a possible traitor in the Mayan ranks. The club plans to use the traitor to send false information to the Lobos Sonora, luring them into an ambush. When the plan fails, SAMCRO finds a truck with the beheaded bodies of Mayans and the SAMTAZ President, Armando, raising tensions over the drug muling even higher.
Jax confronts Piney about his relationship with Clay, confirming once more that he will not follow in his father's footsteps. Feeling cornered by Piney's threat to show the letters to the club, Clay visits Piney at the cabin demanding the letters. When Piney refuses, Clay appears to leave, only to burst back through the door and shoot Piney with his own shotgun, killing him. In an attempt to implicate the Lobos Sonora for the killing, Clay paints in Piney's blood the initials LS on a photo of the First 9.
The club receives information from the Galindo Cartel that suggests the One-Niners are working with the Lobos Sonora, while Clay sets a meeting between the Irish Kings and Galindo for new, high-powered weaponry. The club decides to arrange a meeting with Laroy of the One-Niners, at which the Galindo Cartel appears and a brief fight ensues, but they instead use Laroy as a way to drag the Lobos Sonora's men into a trap. This fails, however, as the Lobos Sonora cartel members are equipped with destructive explosive weaponry, which they use to escape. When Galindo cartel member Luis wants to kill the Niners, Jax manages to save them by having them side with them][. At the same time, Luis gives Clay a cellphone for his contact to kill Tara, but Gemma convinces Clay otherwise and Unser plans to use the blame Clay put on the Lobos Sonora for a new plan. Gemma talks with Tara, who tells Gemma that the letters would put Jax deeper into the club out of guilt, so she won't show them to him. Juice is cornered by Lincoln Potter, who seemingly persuades Otto after knowing that Georgie had an alibi and that Bobby lied to him, letting him know that they have more than enough proof to potentially arrest every charter of the club, but that he wants the RIRA.
Jax confronts Clay about letting Bobby know he wants to quit the club and for promising him the Presidency over Opie, as was the deal. Clay blames Jax's changes on Tara, and Jax warns him to never insult Tara again. This leads to a talk with Gemma, who assures Clay that Tara won't let Jax read the letters and makes him promise not to hurt Tara. However, Clay later uses the cellphone Luis gave him to contract the hit on Tara. The next morning, Clay takes $25,000 of personal savings to pay the contract to kill Tara, unaware that Jax was going to escort Tara, Abel and Thomas. When he learns this, Clay desperately tries to call back the hit, but is unsuccessful, and Tara is nearly abducted and receives a severe injury to her right hand, that Tara believes is permanent. Clay meets Romeo and tries to end the hit but Romeo is convinced that Tara is better off dead, to which Clay reluctantly agrees.
The club and the Mayans go meet Laroy to contact the Lobos Sonora; however, due to the murders of 3 One-Niners, Laroy's men gun down a Mayan for being Mexican. This sparks a brief but intense fight that is stopped by Laroy, who demands both clubs leave. Jax tells Opie that he wants to quit the club, which shocks him. Opie tries to convince Jax to stay, but Jax tells Opie to fix his life with Lyla and talk to Piney. Juice is further cornered by Lincoln Potter into informing him of the meeting or risk the RICO act, leaving Roosevelt disgusted with Lincoln.
Gemma is horrified by what Clay has done and confronts him, further angering Clay, who demands her to stop. However, Gemma threatens to tell the truth and aims a gun at Clay, which ends in a fight in which Clay is injured and Gemma's face is severely beaten, prompting Clay to sleep at the clubhouse that night. Gemma calls Unser who, given what Clay has done, wants to report him to the authorities, but Gemma tells Unser that Clay is beyond salvation and as such "he will die by the hands of a Son."
The following morning, the club meets with the Galindo cartel to prepare the weapons for the battle against the Lobos Sonoras' settlement in California. The club and the Galindo cartel are able to ambush 3 members, who reveal the main camp's location; however, they are faced with landmines and a shootout ensues, with Kozik getting blown up when he steps on a mine. The club kills most of the remaining Sonoras using RPGs.
Wendy, who was gone for rehabilitation, is back and proclaims to both Tara and Gemma that even though she gave up custody, she wants to get closer to Abel. Otto strikes a deal with Lincoln Potter for information; among the benefits, Original Nine Lenny the Pimp is allowed visitations in exchange for criminal information. The club finds from Oswald that the Katsuki Family, Georgie's Asian investors, had met with Jacob Hale beforehand and are willing to invest in Charming Heights. Bobby, Opie, and Tig confront Georgie about this and, under threat, he confesses that he sent men to attack Luann but her death was unexpected. As a result, Georgie is killed.
Seeing Gemma's beaten face, Tig shows his disgust towards Clay and gives Clay his "Sergeant-at-Arms" patch, resigning his position. With Unser following, Opie goes to visit Piney, only to find his father dead. Opie confronts Unser, who tells Opie the truth about Clay, further shocking him and driving him over the edge.
A meeting takes place between the club and the Irish kings. The IRA express their discomfort with Jax's decision to use RPGs to rescue Clay during the fight with the Lobos Sonora. They eventually agree to consider the continual sale of heavy weapons, provided the club does them a local service. Meanwhile, Romeo and Clay meet to address the concerns of the Irish regarding their liability should the heavy weapons be used north of the border. Jax, Clay, and Bobby discuss Jax's future with the club, agreeing that Bobby should get the Presidency, Chibs the V.P., and Happy a promotion to Sergeant-at-Arms. Bobby heads out to inform Otto that Georgie has been finally killed, and he is escorted to an empty receiving room to wait for Otto.
Jax leaves to check in on Tara, only to discover that Wendy has returned to see Abel and Gemma is trying handle it behind Jax's back. Unser has the local mortician from season one remove Piney's body and bring it to the mortuary for an "after-hours" cremation. Juice is again picked up by law-enforcement, but this time it is official ATF. Jax, Chibs, Tig, and Happy agree to escort one of the "Irish Kings" to sort out an issue at another one of their American businesses. While there, Jax discovers it is another Irish "baby-factory" similar to the one that Abel was almost adopted from in Northern Ireland in season three. Jax starts a small riot at the adoption house, leading the Irish King Leland to question his decision making process with Clay.
Jax confronts Wendy, who is still intent on seeing Abel and threatens to see a judge if Jax refuses. When Wendy ends her argument with, "I'm not going anywhere", Jax responds, "I am". Clay proceeds to visit Tara alone in the hospital, where he reveals to Tara that he knows about the letters. He offers a trade, which would allow her, her family, and Jax leave Charming, but threatens her if she doesn't relinquish the letters. On his way out, Clay bumps into Gemma, who alerts him that Opie knows about his father's murder and will soon be coming after Clay. She ends their encounter with a kiss on the cheek, suggesting that she is saying "goodbye" to Clay. Jax then arrives to sort things out between Tara and Gemma, letting Gemma know his plans for leaving. Jax leaves after receiving a mysterious phone call, which we learn is to go meet Opie at the mortuary.
Otto has finally worked out all of the arrangements in his deal to turn state's evidence and signs the deal. He then sits down with Bobby and reveals his betrayal, as law enforcement leads Bobby out in handcuffs. Bobby is taken to a cell, and we see that Juice is being held in an adjoining cell, biding his time until the RICO sting goes down. Bobby does not notice Juice. Upon arriving at the mortuary, Jax sees Opie, Unser, and a coffin in the crematorium. Unser's intention is to talk to Opie, as requested by Gemma, and tell him there was a mistake and it was not Clay who killed his father. However, Unser does not get the opportunity to talk to Opie and leaves Jax and Opie together in the crematorium. Jax attempts to console an unresponsive Opie, who is holding his father's kutte, which he eventually throws into the flames to burn with his father's remains. After the cremation, Jax walks outside to find out how Piney died, only to have Opie pull a gun on him and divulge that Clay was responsible. Jax suggests that this is an issue for the club to decide; Opie responds by shooting out the tire on Jax's bike. Opie then takes off to confront Clay, with Jax trying to catch up. At the clubhouse, a fearful Clay lies in wait. Opie jumps Clay and confronts him with his father's death, forcing him to sit at the head of the table, stating he'll "die at the gavel". Jax rushes in with his gun pointed at Opie, threatening to kill Opie if he doesn't lower his gun. However, Opie opens fire anyway and hits Clay twice in the chest.
Clay is still alive and makes a gasping sound. Opie raises his gun to shoot him again but Jax shoots him in the wrist. Unser and one of the prospects hear the gunshots and come running. They move Clay outside and call the police. Jax tells Opie to go hide out in the cabin until he sorts things out. They leave Unser to tell the police and the rest of the gang that Clay was shot by two black men driving a SUV. Clay is taken to the hospital, where he goes into surgery. Jax drives out to Stockton, where he meets with Lenny "The Pimp", who heard Otto has made a deal with law enforcement. Meanwhile, Tig blames himself for not being there when Clay was shot, and goes after the Niners for revenge. He tries to run over Laroy, but kills the girl who is with Laroy. The Niners chase Tig until Jax and SAMCRO come to save him.
Afterward, Jax meets with the Galindo cartel and tells them about Otto. Romero checks with his people and tells Jax if Otto were snitching, he would have found out, so the meeting with the Irish is still on.
Gemma goes to Tara and tells her the truth about Clay. She convinces Tara to give her the letters so Gemma can give them to Clay in exchange for Tara's safety. Gemma gets the letters and removes those that implicate her and Unser in the death of John Teller. She takes the remaining letters to Jax, and urges him to kill Clay and take his rightful place at the head of the club. While Jax reads the letters, Gemma waits outside the clubhouse with Unser and tells him what she did, while Tara drives up and asks to speak with Gemma alone. Tara asks Gemma if she gave the letters to Clay and Gemma stays quiet. Tara reveals she knows about Gemma's plan claiming, "I'm smarter than you and I know Jax better." At this point Jax comes over and tells Tara that he is going to kill Clay. Tara says she knows, pulls a needle with blood thinner out of her bag, and tells Jax to inject Clay with it and pull out his chest tube, so it will look like an accident. She tells him to get out of Charming after killing Clay, which he agrees with. Jax leaves, and Gemma asks Tara what she thinks she is doing. Tara replies, "What you taught me. He's [Jax] mine." Gemma is visibly angered.
As Lincoln Potter is ready to move on his RICO operation, he's called off by Romero Parada and Luis Torres, who are revealed to be CIA agents, whom the government allows to run their cartel so as long as they bring others down for political reasons. During the meeting, the Irish King Galaan, makes it clear he does not trust Jax and will only deal with Clay. Romero and Luis talk with Jax, reveal their secret of being CIA agents, and instruct him not to reveal it to anybody; they advise they need SAMCRO to run the drugs and weapon supply, otherwise they will allow the RICO operation and crush SAMCRO. Jax visits Clay at the hospital, finally making clear that he read the letters. He does not kill Clay, as he's needed alive to deal with Galaan, but he does, however strip him of his position of President and orders him to stay away from Tara and Gemma. Demoted to the status of an unseated member, Clay agrees, knowing that Jax will not listen to his explanation.
Following the halt on the RICO operation, Lincoln Potter gives Roosevelt a clean record for Juice for him to give him, seemingly parting ways. Potter bursts into the meeting for Charming Heights, revealing the true colors of Jacob Hale's investors, whom Hale masked as Tokyo Fund but are actually the Natsuki Family, who are heavily involved in sex deals, including pedophilia. This puts a recess on the vote.
Deputy Chief Cane reveals that Laroy's girlfriend, whom Tig killed, is the daughter of Damon Pope, the most powerful gangster in Oakland (hinting a possible retaliation). Jax meets with Opie and confirms his suspicions, but warns Opie they need Clay alive (not revealing all details of the CIA's threat), and asks him to be his Vice President. Opie, still distrustful, does not give a clear answer. Jax returns home to Tara and tells her the truth about the CIA-backed cartel dealings and that he must remain as club president while she leaves with the boys. Jax appears at the chapel and announces himself as President, with his first act to name Chibs as his new Sergeant-at-Arms, which Chibs gladly accepts. Happy, Tig and Juice enter the chapel, with Juice finally free of his African-American record. The meeting starts at 8:03 pm with Opie's not showing (it is unknown if he later does). Tara enters the chapel, claiming to Jax that she will also remain in Charming, just as Gemma enters. Tara stands behind Jax in his President seat, mirroring a photo of Gemma and John Teller in the same positions.
Season 5 premiered on September 11, 2012. On his Sons of Anarchy YouTube channel Sutterinksoa, Kurt Sutter has stated that he began writing scripts for season 5, episodes one and two as early as March 1, 2012. It was also announced that Chuck Zito would be joining the Sons cast as a nomad traveling through Charming. Another announced cast addition for season five is Jimmy Smits. Smits, known for his work in L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, The West Wing, and Dexter, will play an escort service owner and former Latino gang member who becomes a mentor to Jax. Harold Perrineau joined the cast in May as the villain Damon Pope. The premiere episode is titled "Sovereign" and episode 5.2 is "Authority Vested".
Following the death of Veronica Pope, the Niners attack SAMCRO and ambush one of their cargo. The growing conflict along with several home invasions to people linked to the Club make Jax attempt to deal with Damon Pope. Bobby is released by Romeo and becomes the vice-president of SAMCRO at the same time 3 nomads are welcomed into SAMCRO. On his end Pope summons the Niners and orders them to stop any attacks on SAMCRO as doing so will make the Police suspicious and tie the attacks to him which he wants to avoid at all costs. To ensure this he has Laroy executed and mutilated, and arranges a meeting between SAMCRO, the Niners and August, Pope's second in command. August provokes a fight between Jax and the new leader of the Niners and has the new leader murdered, in an act to demonstrate Pope's power and has another Niner called Tyler to lead. Pope eventually has Tig arrested and chained around a garbage deposit. Pope then incinerates Dawn, one of Tig's daughters alive and threatens to do the same to his other daughter Fawn if he tells of the event to anybody. After Pope leaves Tig retaliates by murdering the detective and the man hired to clean Dawn's body. That night Unser who is in Gemma's house is beaten in a home invasion, and Pope hires fake witnesses to have Jax, Chibs, and Tig arrested for the murder of a police officer and a Niner, in order to kill them in prison.
SAMCRO temporarily hides in Diosa Internacional a prostitution house run by Nero Padilla, a new companion of Gemma. The club buys time to ensure Mexican protection from Romeo in prison. Jax grows closer to Nero as he slowly begins to serve as a model for the "big picture" and "getting out" after accompanying him to check on their son that requires special equipment. Jax marries Tara that day before being arrested. Clay asks Opie to help Jax because he needs him, which prompts Opie to punch Roosevelt and get himself arrested. In prison Pope buys the wardens and tells Jax that Tig is to stay in prison forever and needs another Son killed for his relationships. Jax takes this opportunity to tell Opie all the truth behind Clay. Eventually Ope sacrifices himself and is murdered in prison. Jax then arranges a deal with Pope to check on the home invasions and get Tig out. Because of this Jax has Tig promise him to never vote against Jax again, which he complies.
A rift appears in Gemma's relationship with Tara, as Tara gives her each time less control and time over her family, which is reinforced by Jax after Opie's murder and handling the funeral. Because Lyla is by herself, Jax arranges a deal with Nero to use CaraCara as his new business and have Lyla hired. However Jax demands Nero to not relate with Gemma, to which he agrees. At that night Gemma goes into a bar and is invited by a young man to spend the night. However the man is a gang member who specializes in robbing women and steals Gemma's car. Nero uses this opportunity to talk to Jax about Gemma and how she's still his mother. After Jax punished the thief, he talks about how he loves Gemma and gives her the chance to take care of Abel and Thomas. However, because she was smoking pot with Unser earlier that day, Gemma starts falling asleep behing the wheel and causes an accident that almost kills the kids.
The home invasions eventually reach out to Rita, Roosevelt's pregnant wife and she's killed. The invaders are later revealed to be the nomads hired by Clay in order to put pressure on Jax and make him step down as president. However knowing now that the Nomads can be linked to him, Clay double-crosses them and has two of them executed in Unser's garage. The sole survivor Frankie Diamonds hires black men to attack Jax the night Gemma crashes. Clay lies and tells Jax that a party attacked Gemma that night. Jax kills the attackers and finds Frankie taking Nero and Lyla hostage, and confesses about Clay's involvement. He later flees with Chibs and Nero's money. After Jax learns the truth of Gemma from Nero, Tara has her forbidden to any proximity or contact with the boys. However Jax sees an opportunity and makes a deal with Gemma, if she can be with Clay and find proof of his involvement with the home invasions, she will be forgiven. She complies to Jax's demands.
Jax makes deals with both Jacob Hale and Damon Pope in order to ensure the development of Charming Heights, so that the Teller-Morrow garage has exclusivity on Charming Heights and other benefits, including special funds for Lyla and Opie's children while Pope is to serve as the investor. Pope agrees and demands Jax that he's to deliver Tig to him after he has served his purpose, to which Jax agrees. SAMCRO goes after the prison inmate that murdered Opie that is unknown to them, under the protection of the Grim Bastards, as he's T.O. the Bastards' President cousin. After a failed attempt on his life Pope on a sign of good gesture tells him of the inmate's whereabouts. Although at the start promising to just throw a beating and let him leave, Jax has Chibs execute the inmate in front of the Bastards, due to T.O. not giving the inmate to Jax as was planned, which leaves a scar on the relationship of both clubs.
Juice reveals to Clay all the truth of his betrayal and the RICO case to Clay. Jax learns from Roosevelt that Juice had betrayed them, and eventually the two of them talk with Juice confessing to everything he did and how Frankie revealed to Juice it was Clay that was behind the home invasions, prior to his own death and also revealed that they gave him back the legal documents from his safe box. Jax then makes a deal with Juice, if he can find the documents that prove Clay's involvement, then Jax will not reveal Juice's betrayal and he will remain a member. Although relunctantly he agrees. Tara attempts several visits to Otto in order for him to reverse his statement and shut down the RICO case Romeo has over them, Otto does and has Tara bring a cross that belonged to Luann, which he used to murder a nurse and make Tara an accessory of murder, in order to destroy the RICO case and hurt Jax. Clay finds the truth about RICO and tries to secure himself protection with Romeo, warning him that Jax will try to destroy their leverage. Romeo suggests Clay returns as President by removing Jax, but he refuses and instead tries to convince Jax. However Jax does not yield and attempts to secure a relationship between Romeo and Henry Lin in order for the Chinese to secure weapons to the cartel. When Juice finds the documents and is about to show to the club the proof at Clay's home, Jax is kidnapped by the cartel, which buys Clay enough time to secure the documents. Jax has Romeo agree on Jax's plan.
Bobby secures a deal with Clay, he's to confess everything and Bobby will vote to let him live. Clay does and is excommunicated from the Club but is not executed as vote has to be unanimous and Bobby votes in favour of Clay. Jax sets a meeting with Lin and Romeo in order to secure guns every 2 weeks, although the procedure will take 3 months. Because of that Jax sets a meeting with Galaan and agree to sell Romeo a last time. However Romeo and the cartel decide to take the weapons by force and after a brief struggle, takes the weapons and has SAMCRO pay for the weapons. Galaan displeased retaliates by kidnapping Wendy and orders a retribution of $475,000, which is funded by Nero, who decides to lead his crew once more after he kills an emerging leader who almost ambushed Jax, Chibs, Tig and Happy. Clay arranges a meeting with Galaan, that Clay will act as an intermediary for new weapon customers. Galaan agrees as he trusts Clay and also arranges safe passage for him and Gemma into Belfast. Wendy threatens Jax to report everything that happened to her and Abel in Belfast, which prompts Jax to assault Wendy and inject her with drugs, and threaten her that if she reports Jax, he will demand a drug test on her, and demands that she "no longer hurt his family again".
After the murder of the nurse, Tara is visited by Lee Toric the brother of the nurse, a former US Marshal and questions her on her involvement on the nurse's death and Otto. Jax finds out through Unser that Lee was forced into early retirement for excessive use of violence and use of authority, and that he has taken many large names down. Tara's right hand begins to heal, and she makes preparations to make Wendy the legal guardian of Abel and Thomas in case something happened to her and Jax, as she distrusts Gemma. Gemma threatens to link Tara to the cross and the murder of the nurse if she leaves with the boys to Oregon as she had planned for her job. SAMCRO and Nero join together to destroy Nero's rival Dante and his crew, with the help of The Mayans, which makes Jax and Nero closer into their relationship. They ambush Dante at a dog-fighting ring and upon watching a dog get injured and finding numerous dead dogs, Tig's intense love for dogs kicks in and rescues an injured dog about to be executed.
Jax sets a meeting with Pope and through a calculated plan has Tig secured in an abandoned garage. As Pope orders Tig tied up and prepares to execute him, Jax uses Clay's silenced pistol that he had hidden and kills Pope's henchmen. Jax then frees Tig and has him take revenge on Pope shooting him in the head and pinning the crime on Clay. Jax contacts Roosevelt who knows about Clay's involvement in the home invasions, and has Clay easily arrested after Gemma gives a false statement against him. Jax then meets with August and has Clay equally framed, so that August can place a bounty on Clay, who is seen sitting along black inmates (it is unknown if anything happens afterwards). Jax forgives Juice and grows closer to Tig, however his actions are too much for Bobby to stand and he removes his Vice President patch. When Otto is about to give his statement, he bites his tongue out, therefore destroying the RICO case and any link to Tara with the murder case. That night Jax has a conversation with Tara about Wendy becoming a guardian for their sons. Although Jax initially refuses Tara tries to convince Jax to leave to Oregon with her, out of fear that if they remain in Charming, they become like Gemma and Clay. Before they can finish Roosevelt appears at their home and has Tara arrested for her involvement on the nurse's murder. Gemma appears and comforts Jax.
Season 6 will premiere on September 10th, 2013. Jimmy Smits has been upgraded to a series regular playing his role as Neron "Nero" Padilla. Donal Logue's character former U.S. Marshall Lee Toricis also stated to return for at least 5-7 episodes. When the show returns, “There will be a new VP” in place, given Bobby’s resignation at the close of Season 5. “And there will be a new sergeant-at-arms.” Season 6 will add two new characters still to be cast, one Sutter describes as “an old-school shot-caller that’s out of Stockton,” while the other is a major female character who is “in sort of the escort world.”
Although Sons of Anarchy is set in Northern California's Central Valley, it is filmed primarily at Occidental Studios Stage 5A in North Hollywood. Main sets located there include the clubhouse, St. Thomas Hospital and Jax's house. The production rooms at the studio used by the writing staff also double as the Charming police station. External scenes are often filmed nearby in Sun Valley and Tujunga. Interior and exterior scenes set in Northern Ireland during season 3 were also filmed at Occidental Studios and surrounding areas. A second production unit shot footage in Northern Ireland used in the third season.
Sons of Anarchy has received very favorable reviews over the course of its run, with many singling out Katey Sagal's performance. On the review aggregator website Metacritic, the first season scored 68/100, the second season scored 86/100, the third season scored 84/100, the fourth season scored 81/100 and the fifth season scored 72/100.
The first season received mixed reviews from industry critics. Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe said the first season had “real potential”. The New York Times’ Gina Bellafante spoke highly of the cast's acting ability, particularly Sagal’s portrayal of Gemma. Brian Lowry of Variety gave a mixed review, admiring Sutter’s creation of the club and the town of Charming but observing the early episodes lacked direction.
The second season saw a notable increase in positive reviews, and was the series' most critically acclaimed season. Writing for Chicago Tribune, Maureen Ryan called the second season “engrossing”. She elaborated that “the pacing is better [and] the plotting is tighter” and commends Sagal and Perlman for their performances. Variety’s Stuart Levine stated that the new season was “compelling”; he also complimented the acting skill of Perlman, Sagal, Hunnam and Siff. James Poniewozik of TIME called Sagal's performance "devastatingly powerful" and named the series on his list of Top 10 Shows of 2009.
Some critics felt the third season was dragged down by the previous season's cliffhanger. James Poniewozik of TIME called the season three premiere “breathtaking” and praised Sagal’s performance with Holbrook. He later stated that Abel's disappearance helped return the show to its central problem: Jax's allegiance to the club. Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker agreed that Holbrook and Sagal’s scenes were “beautiful” and called Stephen King’s portrayal of Bachman “chilling”. He also commented that the series handled themes of loyalty and family especially well. Maureen Ryan commented that the third season divided critics and fans alike, suggesting the expanded Belfast cast made it harder for the audience to invest in the characters' journeys. Ryan later questioned the credibility of Hector Salazar's story, noting that he was inferior to other villainous characters such as Stahl, Zobelle and Weston. However, she praised Ally Walker's performance, comparing her character to The Shields Vic Mackey. Critic Alan Sepinwall said the season was "interesting but uneven", noting that the plot gained traction in later episodes. Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter said "Sutter should be applauded for shaking things up", calling the slower pace a "creative necessity".
Alan Sepinwall stated that the fourth season risked predictability by returning to a successful formula of storytelling, but he nonetheless preferred those episodes to those of season three. Maureen Ryan reviewed the fourth season positively. She praised the addition of Lincoln Potter (played by Ray McKinnon), comparing the character's quality to that of Breaking Bad's antagonist, Gustavo Fring. The AV Club called the fourth season more "focused" and "operatic". AV Club reviewer Zack Handlen was fond of the season but felt disappointed with the finale, saying it featured a "lousy case of dictated convenience, of an arbitrary and unbelievable reveal used to shift characters around to where the writers want them to be for next season, as opposed to where they might land organically." However, the review did praise Charlie Hunnam's performance in the finale. TIME said the fourth season was the strongest since season two, but the show needed to end sooner rather than later. TIME also agreed that the finale's contrivances were sometimes too visible, stating "it’s the principle: you can only turn up alive at your own funeral so many times before it starts to lose its impact."
Season five received favourable reviews and has a rating of 72 on the review aggregate site www.metacritic.com/tv/sons-of-anarchy. Ken Tucker of Entertainment weekly praised the series by calling it a richly detailed portrait of self-righteous villainy. The series currently has a rating of 8.7/10 on the review site IMDB.
Sons of Anarchy was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Drama at the 2010 TCA Awards. Katey Sagal received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series (Drama) at the 68th Golden Globe Awards for her role in the third season. She also received a nomination for a 2010 Satellite Award in the category of Best Actress – Television Series (Drama), as well as a TCA nomination for the Individual Achievement in Drama. Sons of Anarchy (Season 5) received a Screen Crush Award for having the best TV series in 2012. Also in 2012, Paris Barclay was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Direction in a Drama Series for his direction of the Season 4 Premiere "Out". In 2013, Rockmond Dunbar won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Sherriff Eli Roosevelt.
The fifth season's premiere on September 11, 2012 received the highest ratings in the series' history. The episode was watched by 5.37 million viewers, including 3.5 million adults aged 18–49 and 3.45 million 25-54 year-olds. The episode was also television's #1 primetime program (broadcast and cable) among males 18-49 (2.15 million) and 18-34 (1.18 million).
Three EP soundtracks have been released by 20th Century Fox Records, on iTunes, featuring songs from each series. The first five-song EP, entitled Sons of Anarchy: North Country – EP, was released on September 8, 2009 and featured the full version of the Emmy Award nominated theme song "This Life". A second five-song EP, entitled Sons of Anarchy: Shelter – EP, was released on November 24, 2009 while a third six-song EP, entitled Sons of Anarchy: The King is Gone - EP, was released on November 23, 2010.
In November 2011, selected highlights from the EPs and new tracks were released in Songs of Anarchy: Music from Sons of Anarchy Seasons 1–4, followed up a year later by Sons of Anarchy: Songs of Anarchy Vol. 2.
Other notable songs featured in the series include: David by Noah Gundersen, Writings on The Wall by The Album Leaf (In Series Premiere), "Ålesund" by Sun Kil Moon, Bobby's Elvis covers, a cover version of "Son of a Preacher Man" by Katey Sagal, "Hard Row" by the Black Keys which is featured in the Pilot episode (the music of the Black Keys often features in the series), along with "Plenty Strong and Plenty Wrong" by Maylene and the Sons of Disaster on the radio in the pilot episode, "Can't Get Used to Losing You" by Andy Williams, a cover of "Forever Young" by Audra Mae, "Burn This Town" by Battleme, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya" by Dropkick Murphys, "Comin Home" by Murder by Death, "Hell" by The Upsidedown, "Power Player" by Clutch, "Railroad Cancellation" by Don Caballero, "Dolphin Center" by The Donkeys, "Stop" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Hands in the Sky" by Straylight Run, "People, Turn Around" by Delta Spirit, "Ashes to Ashes" by Tarbox Ramblers, and the blues song "John the Revelator" by Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers. The trailer for the 2009 season featured "Son's Gonna Rise" by Citizen Cope. Several Monster Magnet songs are used: "Monolithic" (from Monolithic Baby!) are used in season one, while "Radiation Day" and "Slut Machine" (both also from Monolithic Baby!) and "Freeze and Pixelate" (from 4-Way Diablo) are used in season two, and "100 Million Miles" (from Mastermind) appears late into season three. In the final episode of season three, "Get It On" by Turbonegro was used during the Russian chase scene. "Lot Lizard" by the band The Glasspack is used in season 2. Another notable song is a cover of Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen" by a teenage band at the end of the episode "Giving Back". In 2011, "Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers was used as a promo song for season 4. In episodes 5 and 8, there was music from the Belgian band The Black Box Revelation, and episode 7 featured the song "Machine Gun Blues" by Social Distortion. The 11/22/11 episode had two more notable pieces in the soundtrack. First was Boo Boo Davis "I'm So Tired", then in the confrontation between Opie and Clay, Noah Gundersens "David" [from his Family cd] is heard – with the line "I want to kill me a giant man". To Be, Act 1 contained "Burn It Down" by Awolnation during the interstate chase from Oakland back to Charming.
Sons of Anarchy premiered in Australia on the Showcase in 2009 while in New Zealand it appeared on TV3 on October 20, 2010. The show premiered in the UK on 5USA in 2009 and in the Republic of Ireland RTÉ Two the same year. It premiered in Canada on Super Channel October 20, 2008.