Something I had wondered leading into this season was who the new villain was going to be. I figured with the survival of Clay, and the ensuing cover up of his true crimes by Jax, that Clay was going to have to take a temporary backseat as being the show’s resident antagonist.
My question was certainly answered.
Damon Pope, played by Harold Perrineau (or Michael from “Lost” as we know him), gives a chilling performance as a cold-hearted yet sophisticated gangster, who seems to be pulling a lot of the strings in the local gang scene. Pope is the father of Laroy’s girlfriend, who was mistakenly killed by Tig, and it’s safe to say he has a chip on his shoulder as a result. We first meet him while he is confronting some of the Niners about their new found feud with The Sons, and he shows the second in command the dismembered corpse of Laroy. Sadly, Laroy was one of my favorite small characters of the show, but nevertheless he certainly got his point across, that he (and his right hand man who seems every bit as hard as his boss), isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty.
The show has needed a bad guy of this magnitude for a while. Something that can wear one down when following The Sons, is one sometimes begins to not feel sympathy for what they have to face. It’s a sort of, reap what you sow situation. I found it hard to feel bad for Jax last season, in his never ending struggle to better the life for his family, because the decisions he consistently made to remove them from Charming were fairly stupid. Let’s face it, the right choice would have been to just run, but I digress.
Pope gives us a monster to root against. He further creates this image later in the episode, with one of the most shocking scenes in the history of “Sons of Anarchy.” After luring Tig to the train yard, by having the police tell him he had to come pick up his daughter, Tig finds himself chained up and forced to watch Pope burn his daughter Dawn alive in the same pit where he put the dismembered body of Laroy. It was an eye for an eye scenario, which Pope carried out without raising his voice, and barely showing emotion.
Aside from Pope, the season premiere also focused heavily on Gemma, and her one night fling with new character, Nero (Jimmy Smits), the gangster turned operator of an upscale escort service. It seems we will see a lot more of Nero, as he ends up doing a huge favor for Gemma and the club later in the episode, when he provides shelter for Jax and others after having warrants issued on them for the murder of Pope’s daughter and a few other IX members.
In the premiere we also got to see the new, broken down version of Clay. He has to sit opposite of the new club president, Jax, and wallow in his misery at losing his wife and the power he held. It’s hard to feel sorry for him after all he’s done, but seeing him so run down made me almost consider it. Clay decides to come clean with the club about the murder of Piney, and revealed to the members that it was Opie who actually shot him, but he skews the details of the story to save himself, typical Clay, so on second thought
feeling sorry for him might be impossible.
Jax spends the episode being the same family man on the run, wanting to settle down with Tara but letting club drama get in his way. He is trying his best to maintain so many different schemes and lies, from federal investigations to gang wars, and it will be interesting to see how he does now that Clay is out of the way and he can do things his way.
Overall, Kurt Sutter has given us an excellent start to season five, with an episode so plot heavy that it’s nigh on impossible to include it all here. It’s pretty certain that Clay is going to cook up something to turn the tide in his favor, Tig is going to let his emotions get the best of him as always, and Opie is going to seek revenge in a big way. The life is clearly taking its toll on Tara, and I can foresee some big problems when the family tension starts to mount on Jax’s shoulders.
It’s also going to be interesting to see how the issue with the new club members plays out. At the end of the episode, when we see Unser’s home being raided by a group of three masked men, we see an artificial leg on one of the robbers, which pegs the new recruits as the suspects. Some internal drama is certain to unfold as the truth becomes revealed.
The biggest thing I took away from the premiere though is without question Damon Pope. He is a cold, calculating killer who hides his evil behind an expensive suit and the tinted glass of a Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Sons have a real threat on their hands, and he is only one of many.
The manly soap opera is back and in full effect, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.