The third season of "Sons of Anarchy" brought numerous complaints from both critics and fans. The pacing was slow, the show's central "Hamlet" theme was cast aside and SAMCRO spent too much time in Ireland doing nothing except being the puppets of others' malicious plans.

The third season of "Sons of Anarchy" brought numerous complaints from both critics and fans. The pacing was slow, the show's central "Hamlet" theme was cast aside and SAMCRO spent too much time in Ireland doing nothing except being the puppets of others' malicious plans.

Then "Sons" wrapped it all up in the finale with one of its best episodes. Jax (Charlie Hunnam) was scheming the whole time. His plan kept the club from doing significant jail time while taking out Jimmy O (Titus Welliver) and bringing revenge on Agent Stahl (Ally Walker) for her role in Opie's (the magnificently menacing Ryan Hurst) wife's murder.

Ending in a particularly fitting and gruesome fashion - a Glasgow smile for Jimmy and a point-blank MAC-10 blast to the back of Stahl's head - the season's conclusion was epic, to say the least.

It showed that SAMCRO wasn't being manipulated; the group was simply lying in wait while letting Jax's plan play out. In this season's 90-minute premiere, it's revealed that last season, while flawed and slow, served as a setup for the compelling narrative to come, now that the club is out of prison.

Their release isn't much of a spoiler. The premiere's opening scene is a brilliant montage, set to Joshua James' "Cold War," of Jax, Clay (Ron Perlman) and the rest of the Sons heading home after 14 months of incarceration.

Back in Charming, the celebration is brief - Jax has barely reunited with Tara (Maggie Siff) and their newborn son before it's time to get down to business. SAMCRO has to address its gun-running business with the Russians and a potential new partner (Danny Trejo from "Machete").

The premiere doesn't even feel longer because of its rapid pace, some well-built tension and revelations about Jax's father. The next two episodes keep up the momentum.

Showrunner Kurt Sutter deserves credit for returning "Sons" to its Shakespearean subject matter about Jax's loyalty and suspicions while introducing new threats. A new sheriff (Rockmond Dunbar of "Terriers") and an assistant U.S. attorney (Ray McKinnon) are after SAMCRO as its illegal businesses get more complicated.

"Sons" seems to be reestablishing itself as one of the finest, most brutal dramas on television.