In less than a month, "Breaking Bad," "Dexter," and "Burn Notice" — three cable shows that have given viewers hundreds of hours of great primetime drama — will have aired their series finales. And though it's still at least two dozen episodes away, FX's "Sons of Anarchy" is beginning its run to the end, too.
"SoA" kicks off its sixth, and penultimate, season on Sept. 10 (10 p.m.), and the supersized premiere includes a storyline that while timely, is also likely to shock even regular "SoA" viewers. Details? Nah. Too good to spoil. Suffice it to say that by the end of the season opener, viewers should have a good idea of how serious "Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter is when he says the series will not end on a happy note. And they'll have a good idea of the path he's taking to that ending.
Meanwhile, this traumatizing event is far from the only trouble ahead for the men of SAMCRO and the women who love them. Nine things you need to know about Season 6:
1. Jax Is Having Michael Corleone-Type Problems
Like Michael Corleone, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is finding out that taking his crime-dependent crew legit isn't so easy. Jax is determined to turn SAMCRO activities completely legal — all porn, no more gun-running — but other interested parties don't have the same vision. Like True IRA leader Galen (Timothy Murphy), who's still ticked off about the gun deal that went bad in last season's "Darthy" and who isn't willing to lose SAMCRO as a gun-running connection. He also just doesn't really like Jax; Galen was all about working with ousted Sons president Clay. Speaking of…
2. Clay's in the Hoosegow
Clay (Ron Perlman) is wearing an orange jumpsuit when the season begins, after Jax — with help from Gemma and Juice — set him up for the murder of Damon Pope last season. But incarceration isn't Clay's most immediate problem. Pope's people want him dead for murdering their boss, and if Clay is sent to the jail's general population, he's a goner. His only chance of saving his own life might be to cut a deal with a Sons enemy who wants him to rat on his former compatriots.
3. Lee Toric's Out for Revenge
Remember Toric (Donal Logue), the former U.S. marshal who's only hinted at how brutal he can be? He's going way beyond hinting in Season 6. He's trying to get Clay to flip on SAMCRO, and in the premiere, he uses his contacts to exact some sadistic payback against Otto (Kurt Sutter), who killed Toric's sister, a prison nurse, last season. "Way to commit, Otto," Toric uttered after Otto bit his own tongue off in the Season 5 finale. Toric is no less committed to his plans, and they take him to some crazy places in the first few episodes of the new season. He's also making life difficult for Jax and Tara.
4. Orange Is the New Black Leather
Dr. Tara (Maggie Siff) is also donning the orange threads as the season opens. She was locked up after being accused of having a role in Otto's murder of Toric's sister, because Tara is the one who gave Otto the deadly crucifix (not knowing what he planned to do with it). Tara's angry about her situation, and she's not turning to Jax for support. But even after she finds out who's really behind her legal woes, she's going to make a surprising decision that is likely to put her future with Jax in further jeopardy. She's also pinning her hopes for her sons' futures on an unwilling substitute guardian for them.
5. Wendy, Jax's Ex-Wife, Returns
Wendy (Drea de Matteo) is back, and she has a new attitude about SAMCRO, one that suggests maybe being a recovering junkie isn't Wendy's biggest issue.
6. Gemma's Still a Meddling Mama
Gemma (Katey Sagal) is happily ensconced in a relationship with Nero (Season 5 guest star Jimmy Smits, now a series regular), but that doesn't keep her from trying to insinuate herself in her son's love life, with both Tara and Wendy. But even Gemma might not see the game Wendy's playing, which could blow back on the whole Teller crew.
7. Jax Is Also Having Tony Soprano-Type Problems
Like Tony Soprano, Jax is finding out that being the leader is often more of a headache than an opportunity to steer his group's direction. In addition to his family drama, he has brotherhood problems, like what to do with Juice (Theo Rossi), whom Jax forced to help frame Clay. Juice wasn't happy to turn on his mentor, but another father figure, new SAMCRO Vice President Chibs (Tommy Flanagan), is having an equally tough time living with the fact that Juice previously allowed himself to be blackmailed into working with law enforcement against SAMCRO. Chibs finds a way to deal with his anger, but Juice's position in the club remains fragile.
[Related: Why We Loved Tony Soprano]
Then there's Tig (Kim Coates). Jax was supposed to hand him over to Pope last season, as burning Tig's daughter alive, in front of Tig, didn't satisfy Pope's need for revenge against Tig, who had accidentally killed Pope's daughter. Jax spared him in Season 5, but Pope's successor, August Marks (Billy Brown), wants to carry out Pope's plans for Tig, and Jax doesn't seem particularly devoted to saving his fellow outlaw. When an event in the season premiere provokes Tig into a violent release of anger about his daughter's murder and causes more problems for Jax in SAMCRO business dealings, it's time to be really worried about fan favorite Tig.
And there's Bobby Elvis (Mark Boone Jr.), Jax's former veep, who left his position after Jax framed Clay for Pope's murder. Bobby is so disillusioned with Jax and his promise to lead the club in a different direction that he takes drastic action in the premiere, and it's going to leave an already decimated SAMCRO even more vulnerable.
8. New Faces Are Not All SAMCRO-Friendly
"RoboCop" star Peter Weller, who has directed several "SoA" eps (including Season 6's second installment, "One One Six"), plays Charles Barosky, a shady former cop who gets into business with Jax and Nero as they plan to relaunch the club's porn studio. Barosky also introduces Jax to a local madam ("Deadwood" alum Kim Dickens), who gets into bed with Jax and Nero (two figuratively, one literally) in expanding her escort service, while "The Shield" alum CCH Pounder plays an ambitious district attorney who rather blindly goes along with Toric's plans to take down the club.
9. "Sons of Anarchy" Is Getting Its Own Talk Show
"Anarchy Afterward" is the new online post-"SoA" series in which cast and crew will break down new episodes each week. After the 90-minute season premiere, Kurt Sutter, Kim Coates, and Jimmy Smits will chat live with host Chris Franjola and answer tweeted questions from fans. And fans are going to have a lot of questions after this episode.
Watch a preview clip:
"Sons of Anarchy" Season 6 premieres Sept. 10 at 10 p.m. on FX.