Warning: Major Sons of Anarchyseries spoilers ahead.
Here it comes, the seventh and final season of Sons of Anarchy, the season fans have both anticipated and dreaded, for it means the end of the series and, almost certainly, the end of at least some of our favorite biker bad boys (and mamas).
Season 7 throws viewers right back into the drama, picking up just 10 days after the murder of Jax's wife, Tara. Emmy winner Paris Barclay, also an executive producer on the series, directs his fourth consecutive SoA season premiere, which is bookended by a pair of incredibly violent, bloody acts that set the tone for the rest of the season (and, as a series' trademark, are accompanied by perfect, haunting music).
Below, nine big questions that should be answered before the men and women of SAMCRO ride off into the TV land sunset (well, the ones that are still alive at the end of the series finale, anyway):
1. Will Jax find out who killed Tara?
Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Juice (Theo Rossi) are the only ones who know Gemma killed Tara (Maggie Siff). Will Jax (Charlie Hunnam), or anyone else, ever learn the truth about Tara's murder?
This is the final season of SoA, and series creator Kurt Sutter hasn't been meticulously crafting this tragedy of Shakespearean proportions to end things on a happy note, so, yeah, it's a safe bet that "Hamlet on motorcycles," as the show has often been called, will end with Jax fully aware of everything his mother has done for and to him. When he finds out is the big question, along with how many others will become collateral damage before Jax learns the truth.
2. How true to Hamlet will the show ultimately prove to be (or not to be)?
Make your best guesses in the comments below, but Clay (Ron Perlman) is already dead. And it's not looking good for Gemma, who has a major case of the guilts about Tara's murder and thus begins acting squirrelly in the season premiere, or Jax, who makes it clear he has little left to lose now that Tara is gone.
There's a great shot at the end of Season 1, Episode 1, of Jax and Gemma standing close together, with Clay in the background watching them. It epitomizes the Hamlet theme that feels especially prevalent as we barrel toward the end of SoA. Last season, Claudius (Clay) got his comeuppance for killing the Ghost of Hamlet's Father (John Teller), and it's tough to see how both Hamlet (Jax) and Gertude (Gemma) will make it out of the SoA series finale alive.
3. Is Jax still committed to making SAMCRO's businesses legit?
This question is definitively answered in the season premiere, and the answer sets the tone for everything that's to come in the bloody final season.
4. What will happen to Abel and Thomas, Jax's sons?
Supposing Jax and Gemma aren't around to take care of Jax's sons, who will? Unser (Dayton Callie), who continues to try to be the voice of reason in Season 7? Nero (Jimmy Smits), who has issues with but cares about both Jax and Gemma? Wendy? Yes, Drea de Matteo is back as Jax's ex-wife for Season 7, and her motives seem good when she offers to help Gemma take care of Abel and Thomas. But there's also every chance Wendy's addiction to drugs and SAMCRO drama will lead her into serious trouble yet again. One of Gemma's biggest fears is outsider interference with her family, so after years of her machinations, it would be the ultimate tragedy for the boys to end up in the care of strangers.
5. Has August Marks forgiven Tig for killing Damon Pope and Pope's daughter?
It's unclear. Marks (Billy Brown) passed on his chance to exact revenge against Tig last season when Jax sent Tig to the porn warehouse, setting his SAMCRO brother up to be killed by Marks's men. Plus, though Marks had his doubts, Jax framed Clay as Pope's murderer. Marks might not let his emotions get in the way of business, but he also doesn't seem like a guy who lets things go easily, especially the murder of his longtime friend and mentor. And with Jax distraught over Tara and consumed by revenge, Marks could see an opening to get his revenge against a vulnerable SAMCRO.
Also, though Jax's biggest problem within SAMCRO is Juice, who's on the club's hit list because he betrayed SAMCRO when he guiltily told Nero that Jax ordered him to kill Darvany last season, has Jax ever forgiven Tig for killing Opie's wife, Donna, in the first season?
Kim Coates's performance as Tig has been one of the most entertaining of the series, but Tig has made a lot of enemies along the way, and it won't be a big surprise if he doesn't make it out of the finale alive. Here's hoping that no matter how it ends for him, he gets to enjoy a nice evening with his crush, Venus Van Dam, when Walton Goggins brings the lovely Venus back to town later in Season 7.
6. Has Nero forgotten or forgiven Jax for having Juice kill Darvany?
Almost certainly not. Minor spoiler for Season 7: Nero makes nice with Jax, partly because he's sympathetic about Tara's murder, partly because he's in love with Gemma, and partly because he's trying to broker some peace between the many gangs whose competing interests are about to erupt in an all-out war. Nero gave his loyalty to Jax and Gemma — and they have betrayed him. But if either one crosses him a second time, he or she might meet a less mild-mannered version of Nero.
Our bigger fear for Nero's association with the Tellers in Season 7: He could become part of that collateral damage we mentioned earlier.
7. Does SAMCRO survive?
Jax's attempts to make the club legit haven't worked out so well. But could his commitment to vengeance against those he thinks are responsible for Tara's death really doom the club? One more minor Season 7 spoiler: When Jax reveals his plans for SAMCRO's future to the club members, they back him up 100 percent. Will that be a decision they live, or not, to regret?
8. How will the guest stars factor into the storyline?
Courtney Love (as a kindergarten teacher!) and Glee star Lea Michele (as a waitress who crosses paths with Gemma) are on deck for guest gigs later in the season, as are return appearances by Goggins and the wonderful CCH Pounder as DA Tyne Patterson, one of the most unlikely characters ever to have bonded with Jax. And in the season premiere we're introduced to two guest stars whose characters will pop up in multiple episodes throughout the season: The Cosby Show alum Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Sticky, a member of T.O.'s Grim Bastards MC, and a nearly unrecognizable Marilyn Manson as Ron Tully, the head of a white supremacist gang who will do some business with SAMCRO.
The Bridge star Annabeth Gish will also do double FX duty, joining SoA as the charming Sheriff Althea Jarry (whose name might be inspired by the Grateful Dead song "Althea," co-written by Jerry Garcia, we're guessing).
9. Has FX planned any special events to send off its most popular series of all time?
Lots. Several episodes' running times will exceed an hour, beginning with the season premiere, which clocks in at one hour and 45 minutes. The season opener will also be followed by a live episode of Anarchy Afterward, the SoA aftershow hosted by comedian Chris Franjola and featuring guests Kurt Sutter, Charlie Hunnam, and Katey Sagal. The Sept. 30, Oct. 21, and Dec. 2 eps of SoA will be followed by online installments of Anarchy Afterward. Another live episode of the aftershow will follow the series finale on FX on Dec. 9.
More post-SoA goodies to celebrate the end of the series: a Sons of Anarchy Blu-ray DVD collection, out on Nov. 11, is packaged in a cool case that re-creates the elaborate table carving from SAMCRO's chapel. The set includes Seasons 1-6, with a spot left to slide in the Season 7 boxed set when it's released in 2015. And the day after the series finale, Sons of Anarchy: The Official Collector's Edition goes on sale. The only official companion book for the show includes an intro by Sutter, and 208 pages of color photos, exclusive cast and crew commentary, background on the production, music, props, costumes, makeup, tattoos, and bikes from the show, chapters on each season, and a glossary of biker lingo.
The best — potentially — news of all: Sutter recently confirmed to The Los Angeles Times that he's still considering a Sons of Anarchy prequel series. "It would be a completely different tonal piece," he said. "That is a real possibility."
Sons of Anarchy Season 7 premieres Sept. 9 at 10 p.m. on FX.