'Sons of Anarchy' primer: Five things you need to know before tonight's season premiere

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Image Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Tonight, Sons of Anarchy returns (10 p.m. ET on FX), and whether you’re a die-hard fan who’s forgotten where the season 5 finale left off, or a new viewer curious to see star Charlie Hunnam (the newly-cast Christian Grey) in action, here are five things you need to know/remember about the state of SAMCRO, which, newbies, stands for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (the outlaw charter Hunnam’s character, Jax, is president of). We’ll try to keep this as simple as possible. UPDATE: Read our season 6 premiere recap, and our extensive postmortem with creator Kurt Sutter.

• Why SAMCRO’s former president, Clay (Ron Perlman), is in jail: There is no love lost between Jax and his stepfather, now that Jax knows Clay was responsible for the death of his father, the MC’s co-founder who’d wanted to take the gun-running club legit, long before the series began. Jax also knows Clay’s other crimes, which include, but are not limited to: murdering the club’s other founder, putting a hit on Jax’s old lady Tara (Maggie Siff), and orchestrating a series of break-ins that resulted in the death of the local sheriff’s wife and unborn child. The crime Clay now stands accused of — murdering gangster Damon Pope in the season 5 finale — is the one thing he didn’t do. Unable to kill Clay, Jax used the people he has under his thumb — club members Juice (Theo Rossi) and Tig (Kim Coates) and his mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) — to frame Clay for the murder knowing that Pope’s successor, August Marks (Billy Brown), would make sure Clay dies in prison. Because of that move, Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) cut off his VP patch.

• Why Jax controls Juice, Tig, and Gemma: In brief, Juice was blackmailed into turning rat last season, ended up killing a club member who could’ve outed him, and then tried to take his own life. Instead of outing him to the club — only Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) has a clue — Jax told Juice he’ll now do whatever he tells him to do. That was also Jax’s deal with Tig, whom he’s bought a (temporary?) stay of execution. Tig killed Pope’s innocent-bystander daughter in season 4 and paid for it in the season 5 premiere by watching Pope burn one of his daughters alive. The mess Tig started resulted in the prison death of Jax’s best friend, club member Opie (Ryan Hurst), and Pope expecting Jax to deliver Tig to him. As for Gemma, Jax doesn’t know what role she may have played in his father’s death, but he does know she was high when she got in a car accident while driving his kids. He made her cozy back up to Clay, the husband who beat her (after she’d fired a shot at Clay’s head), in exchange for access to her grandchildren again.

• Why Tara is in jail: Jax’s wife is a doctor, so she arranged to volunteer at the prison where former Son Otto (played by series creator Kurt Sutter) is on death row, so she could “treat” Otto and convince him not to help the Feds build their RICO case against the club. Otto asked for a crucifix that his late wife used to own, and Tara got it from Gemma and brought it to him. Otto then used it to brutally stab a prison nurse — who, it turns out, was the sister of a former U.S Marshal who’d been given early retirement for using excessive force, Lee Toric (Donal Logue). Tara was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder in the season 5 finale. But who went to the cops: Was it Toric thinking Jax had sent Tara there for that purpose, or Gemma, who threatened to lie and tell the authorities Tara told her the plan for Otto when she asked for the crucifix? Otto, by the way, is done talking: He bit off his own tongue (which you will get to see again during tonight’s “previously on” montage).

• Why Tara and Jax are distant: The reason Gemma threatened to turn on Tara is because Tara wants to get her kids — Thomas, her baby with Jax, and Abel, his toddler with his ex-wife Wendy (Drea de Matteo) — away from the outlaw life. Tara had just accepted a job in Portland, Oregon, and told Jax she and the boys were going with or without him. She also asked Jax to sign papers making Wendy the boys’ legal guardian should anything happen to them. After Tara’s arrest, Jax tore up the papers without signing them. He doesn’t want his kids with Wendy, a recovering drug addict he recently shot up to discredit a story she could’ve told the cops to gain custody of the boys. That story: How she’d been kidnapped by the IRA, the Sons’ gun supplier, which prefers dealing with Clay to Jax.

• Why Jax’s partnership with Nero (Jimmy Smits) is so important: Nero, who’s now romantically involved with Gemma, was introduced in season 5 as someone Jax could emulate — an OG gang-banger with an exit strategy, who just wanted to bank enough money to buy a farm his kid could enjoy. He left his crew, the Byz-Lats (which includes Nero’s cousin, played by Dave Navarro), to handle themselves while he ran an escort service, Diosa Norte. Since SAMCRO’s “legitimate” business résumé includes a porn company, Jax saw this as a natural opportunity to partner. But as Nero helped Jax out of multiple jams — and as the Byz-Lats’ territory was threatened, for which, and this is essential to remember, Jax gave the gang weapons to handle — Nero got sucked back into the life.

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