Riding through this world, again! After making a tantalizing appearance months ago at Comic-Con 2012, ‘Sons of Anarchy’ season 5 rides out with its first episode of the year, as Jax and the club attempt to negotiate a truce with the Niners under Damon Pope, while Gemma finds a new friend in Latin escort maestro Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits) and Tig pays a deadly price for his sins.

Last season’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’ finale “To Be, Part 2” left Clay Morrow hanging by a thread as Jax took his rightful place at the head of the club, even with Opie's distress and Damon Pope's revenge looming over SAMCRO,  so how does “Sovereign”  get us started?  What will season 5 of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ bring besides mayhem, and well...anarchy?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Sons of Anarchy’ season 5 premiere , “Sovereign!”

Jax Teller writes in his diary of the way riding makes him feel, while we see a montage of a breathing tube-clad Clay settling into his new digs, Gemma taking the business end of Neron “Nero” Padilla amidst a gaggle of passed out women, and Tara smoking weed in her tub.  Over at the SAMCRO yard, Chibs and Tig get Jax ready for the upcoming ride.

Out on the road, the Sons flank one of their shipments driven by new inductee Filthy Phil, when the Niners suddenly appear to run the truck off the road!  Shooting up the cargo and lighting it ablaze, the Niners trade fire with the Sons as Jax desperately rescues Phil from the truck’s cab.  When the Niners drive off, no one seems grievously hurt, and the Sons opt to hide their illegal cargo in the woods before the police arrive.

The next morning, Jax explains to Tara the source of his injuries, pressing her to carry her gun for safety, as Tara explains that she can’t attend Piney’s memorial in favor of training her new replacement at the hospital.  Jax assures her they’ll get thorough all of these shenanigans as a family, before questioning Tara’s decision to take the children to daycare rather than leave them in Gemma’s care as planned.  Elsewhere, Gemma wakes up nude and disoriented, pulling her gun on a returning Nero before he explains that he picked her up drunk in a bar the night prior.  He cops to being a pimp of sorts when one of his managers retrieves the unconscious girls for work, but offers Gemma his complete hospitality in getting her ready to face the day.

Meanwhile, Clay learns of the Niners attack and declines to attend Piney’s memorial, while back at Nero’s “Diosa International” Gemma tepidly comes downstairs and chats with the man.  Nero explains that his organization operates for the most part legitimately, and clarifies a few further details of their night together (Gemma picked the girls?  Woo!).  Seemingly placing her trust in the man’s honesty, Gemma leaves her number with Nero before departing, under the watchful gaze of Nero’s madam.

At Piney’s memorial, Jax pulls Opie aside to explain that he understands his decision to distance himself from SAMCRO, as the truth about Clay killing Piney will need to stay hidden for now.  Jax assures Opie that sitting at the head of the table won’t make him as corrupt as Clay, but Opie worries more about his potential seat as number 2 would make him more like Jax.  Elsewhere, Gemma arrives home to find Unser in the kitchen, who’d assumed she’d be out at Piney’s memorial long enough for Clay to collect a few of his things.  Gemma finds Clay in their former bedroom, and even helps him find a missing ring, when her distanced husband asks for a moment of her time.  He explains that he wouldn’t insult her by asking for forgiveness, but rather claims that all of his actions and lies came from the soldier in him trying to accomplish a mission.  He assures her that he’ll take her own involvement in John Teller’s death to his grave, but when he attempts to touch her as she cries, she knocks him back and forbids him from doing it again.

Jax meets privately with Romeo Parada (Danny Trejo) asking to set up a meeting with Damon Pope, lest the Sons’ beef with the Niners derail everything they’ve worked for with the Irish, though Parada assures him it would be difficult.  Parada stresses that Jax needs to keep everything about their CIA involvement a secret, as Bobby arrives from jail, having been sprung  on the CIA’s intervention.  While Jax threatens Parada with exposing his double-dealing, the Galindo operatives remind him to keep the truth of Bobby’s RICO charges under wraps as well.

Back at the club grounds, Sheriff Roosevelt confronts the Sons over a recent rash of home invasions, specifically tied to those who might have knowledge of the Sons’ involvement in Veronica Pope’s death, though the men deny any involvement.  The group dismisses Roosevelt the moment Bobby pulls up, but presses Juice in private to let him know if any of the Damon Pope beef spills into Charming.

Elsewhere, Niners and their lieutenant Darnell meet with Damon Pope and his man August Marks, who both explain that Darnell’s leader Laroy has been drawing attention toward Pope by continuing to feud with the Sons.  Pope wants to maintain his distance from the criminal element, angered by the recent call for a meeting with Jax Teller, while Marks pulls Darnell over to a nearby pit to show him the mangled body of Laroy.  Darnell reluctantly accepts the new leadership role from August Marks, who chimes in that “with great power, comes great responsibility.”  Heh.

The Sons call to order a meeting of the clubhouse, inducting several new Nomad member as Jax declares Bobby to be his VP as long as Opie distances himself from the group.  Just then, Clay elects to tell the group outright that he was the one to kill Piney, and Opie the one to shoot him, but twists the story enough that Jax would have no culpability or involvement.  Clay understands the group might vote him out, but Jax urges them to sit on the matter for the moment.  Pulling Clay aside, he asks what his play is, though Clay insists he only wishes to right a few wrongs where he can.  Clay counters by asking why Jax kept him alive, or bothered keeping the Irish happy, to which Jax responds by doing his best for the club as well.

Outside, Gemma arrives to question Jax about Clay’s survival as well as Gemma places the kids in daycare, before taking a call from Nero to offer his help to her at any time.  Later, Marks addresses Darnell and the other Niners before their meeting with the Sons, giving Darnell a pistol to kill Jax with when he arrives.  The Sons pull up and Jax does his best to make peace, before Darnell pulls out the pistol, only to find it completely empty.   Jax wrestles him to the grounds as respective forces break the men up, and Marks puts a bullet through Darnell’s head!  Marks explains to Darnell’s underling Tyler that the beef with the Sons is to end, as Jax reasons to the other club members that Pope is trying to show his power over the situation.

Back at Clay’s, Juice explains that he understands how hard the confession must have been for Clay, before Tig arrives looking for some clarification of his own.  Shortly after arriving however, Tig gets a call that his daughter Dawn has been pulled over on a DUI, and he needs to pick her up.  He travels to the industrial yard where the Niners meet, only to find himself at gunpoint from the detective who called.  The man chains Tig to a nearby pipe as Damon Pope and August Marks arrive, opening their corpse pit to reveal Tig’s daughter Dawn unconscious inside.  Marks tosses gasoline on the girl as she regains consciousness, while Tig begs Pope to kill him instead, as the gang leader tosses his cigar in the pit and lights Dawn ablaze.   “Know my pain,” he says as the girl screams in flames.  Yeesh.

Dawn's body still burning, Pope explains to Tig that some of the Sons - including Tig - are soon to be identified for his daughter Veronica’s murder, while Tig swears revenge.  Back at the Teller household, Gemma confronts Tara on her taking the kids to daycare, though Tara retorts that she can smell the weed and liquor on Gemma on a daily basis and forbids her from being alone with the kids.  Just then, Jax arrives with Bobby, as Gemma gets a call from Unser that the cops are soon to arrest Jax, Chips and Tig for Veronica Pope’s murder.

Back at the pit, Tig manages to choke the remaining member of Pope’s outfit, and turns his gun on the cleaner there to get rid of Dawn’s body, empting rounds into the man through tears and anguished cries.  Similarly defeated, Clay tries to mount his bike in his weakened condition, but finds himself without the strength to keep it upright.

Meanwhile at the Teller’s, Jax and the others piece together that Pope set them up to get killed inside prison walls and far away from him, while Gemma convinces him to seek refuge with Nero rather than follow Tara’s suggestion of waiting things out.  Later, Tara smokes up again and dismisses Thomas’ cries over the baby monitor, while Opie puts his bike up for sale, Clay drinks, Pope dispenses ice cream to local children, and a group of home invaders breaks down Gemma’s door to attack Unser.  As they beat him, we see that one has a prosthetic foot.  Who could it be?

Clearly at a crucial juncture in the show's run, "Sovereign" has a lot more ground to cover than action, understandable given all the fallout from the season 4 finale.  That said, the highway shootout and the murder of Tig's daughter Dawn have to be some of the most brutal, tense moments that 'Sons of Anarchy' has ever produced, a welcome way to initiate us into season 5.  Jimmy Smits seems to have worked his way into the proceedings quickly, so it'll be interest to see how his character plays between both Jax, and Gemma, ultimately Clay as well.  Plenty of new conflicts to pick through, and a dark new day on the horizon for SAMCRO.

What say you?  Did you get your thrill of road-thrashing 'Sons of Anarchy' action?  What did you think about the premiere ? Join us next week for another all-new ‘Sons of Anarchy’ episode recap of "Authority Vested” on FX!