THE SHOW "Sons of Anarchy," FX, 10 p.m. Tuesday
REASON TO WATCH Fourth-season launch
CATCHING UP Sorry, but impossible to do in a couple of sentences. OK, IRA gunrunner molls are dispatched, but keep in mind the old letter SAMCRO club founder, John Teller, father of Jax (Charlie Hunnam), wrote, telling of his fear that wife Gemma (Katey Sagal) and her apparent lover, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), planned to kill him. Tara (Maggie Siff) and Jax know of this letter, too. Season ends with everyone -- Jax, Clay, Bobby (Mark Boone Junior), Tig (Kim Coates), et al. -- carted off in an ATF van to jail in Stockton.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The boys are released, but not before the Russian mob has brutalized Jax in jail. Revenge is on SAMCRO's mind. In Charming, there's a tough new sheriff in town, Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar), and an assistant U.S. attorney, Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon), who have their own plans for SAMCRO. Of course, Jax and Clay are recidivists of the first rank, but the long months in jail -- and Jax's new fatherhood -- have changed them. They're now thinking about their futures -- their separate futures.
MY SAY Some critics groused last season that the chopper wheels had come off as "Sons" tried to service two unwieldy story lines from opposite ends of the globe -- dusty Charming, soggy Ireland. Didn't bother viewers, though: "Sons" is now the biggest drama in FX history, with a little less than 5 million "Anarchists" hooked, reaffirming the old TV adage that you can never go too wrong reveling in blood lust. "Sons" can in fact be intensely, grotesquely violent -- someone this season is consumed by flesh-eating ants -- but that doesn't mean it's dumb and gory. The ongoing story is intricate, densely packed and allusive to past seasons. Lagging attentions are not rewarded. "Sons" sometimes feels like "Deadwood" on Harleys, but the meaty, aggressively unshaven cast carries it off like an acting master class. As always, Perlman is brilliant as malefactor club president Morrow, and his support is equally outstanding. This remains one of the best shows on TV, and (as usual) not for all tastes.
BOTTOM LINE The fourth starts out a little slowly, as though it's taking a deep and much-needed breath after the third's wildly operatic conclusion. But the pace quickens soon enough. "Anarchists" will be hooked.