Previously on Sons of Anarchy: Meet the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Originals (SAMCRO), headquartered out of Charming, California. SAMCRO was started by a handful of alienated young men when they came home from serving their country in Vietnam and felt as if their country had no place left for them. One of those men, John Teller, had a sort of hippie-biker thing going; he is now dead, and the club's run by another founding member, Clay Morrow. Clay is nobody's idea of a hippie
Clay's married to John Teller's widow, Gemma. He's made John Teller's son, Jackson "Jax" Teller, the VP of the club. Most of the club members allegedly make their money off the auto body shop they operate, but the real truth is that they run guns, supplying all manner of groups who have their own reasons for not purchasing registered firearms. They also freelance in porn. The Charming police department is not unaware of these goings-on, but there's an informal understanding: SAMCRO keeps the town free of drugs and/or crime, the PD will not ask too many questions.
Hang on -- we're still on the background here.
Moving on to SEASON ONE: Jax becomes a father and it triggers an existential crisis, leading him to question who he is, who his father was, and what the "real" direction of SAMCRO should be. Not helping matters: his mom tries to kill his drug-addicted ex-wife/mother of his child; the former love of his life (Tara) is the neonatal surgeon assigned to his son's medical care; and Tara did not just bring emotional baggage back to Charming, but also an unhinged ex-boyfriend and ATF agent, Kohn. Jax decides against wooing Tara with flowers and skips straight to the part where he just kills her ex before Kohn can rape Tara. Truly, a love story for the ages.
Also: SAMCRO discovers that a sort of informal affirmative action is affecting their chokehold on the gun-running business; they're dealing with some racist thugs (Darby among them) who keep trying to set up a meth lab in town, thereby endangering the gentlemen's agreement twixt town and club; the SAMCRO-friendly police chief (Unser) will be retiring to battle cancer, and his replacement (Hale) is idealistic enough to believe that one does not live with the lesser of two evils, but tries to eliminate all evils. And then the ATF comes in to investigate SAMCRO, and owing to one agent's (Stahl) lethal combination of unearned hubris and incompetence, they manage to set off a chain of events that leaves Jax's BFF (Opie) a widower by Clay's right-hand guy (Tig).
Let's move on to SEASON TWO: Hale's brother makes a deal with some white supremacists (among them Zobelle and Weston) who promise to clean up Charming if they can just be left alone to stew in their own racist foolishness. It turns out their idea of cleaning up Charming is to gang-rape Gemma, reasoning that she'll run and tell the club, the club will understandably lose its collective mind, then do something so repellent, the town will demand they be expelled. Then the white supremacists can turn Charming into their personal hub for gun running and drug dealing.
However, nobody bothered to do advance work on the would-be victim, or else they would have realized that beneath the frosted hair lurks a tactical brain both Rommel and Patton would have killed for. And even though Gemma spends much of season two reeling from what happened to her, she only busts out the rape news when she senses keeping her mouth shut would fragment the club. Her timing is impeccable: an intergenerational smackdown between Clay and Jax is averted, and the newly-focused club manages to wreck Zobelle's life, put a stop to the plans to turn Charming into a heroin hub, and kill Weston. They even have Hale on their side, as he's had a chance to witness the lesser and greater of multiple evils and assess which he can live with.
Before we get to that comparatively happy ending, however: Clay and Jax butt heads over SAMCRO's adult-entertainment business and when the Caracara studio gets burned down, Jax incorrectly assumes Clay was behind it, and only Gemma's timely intervention keeps him from leaving the club. Once this drama's averted, Opie learns that Tig killed his wife, and there's a big ol' scene there, but eventually that calms down.
And the plot that takes us into season three was, of course, started by Stahl. She's after the IRA and leans on SAMCRO member Chibs to become an informant. He ultimately decides against it, and Stahl attempts to work on the local IRA talent. This backfires magnificently -- she ends up shooting her own witness in the back because she's too incompetent to hold anyone captive -- but Stahl manages to screw up a few more people's lives by pinning the IRA kid's murder on Gemma, (who was there to murder Edmond's girlfriend, Polly Zobelle).
Unsurprisingly, Edmond's dad does not take news of his son's murder well. Clay sums it up quite accurately with: "Cameron [Hayes] killed Half-Sack and took my grandson because Stahl lied and framed Gemma." In addition to the personal implications, this will probably not help SAMCRO's already shaky relationship with the IRA.
And NOW, on to season three.
Jax is shirtless, smoking a joint, and sitting on the floor of Abel's nursery. We get a wordless montage: Tara's in his kitchen, sipping a cup of coffee alone; Gemma's in a hotel room, pacing restlessly, and checking on her guards outside; Clay's sitting in church, smoking a cigar alone and brooding.