The first two seasons of Sons of Anarchy barreled at you like a freight train. The series was moving furiously towards an inevitable stepfather-son conflict for the soul of SAMRCO. Or so it seemed. Instead of bringing us the long-awaited Clay-Jax confrontation, the show brought us to Ireland, then to Mexico, and back to Charming, and still Clay lived.

It's hard to blame creator Kurt Sutter for keeping a talent like Ron Perlman around as long as he did, but when a show holds story, it shows. No matter how many explosions and cartel shoot-outs you work into the scripts, it still feels like you're treading water. Though we've only had a couple episodes since Clay bit the dust, you can already feel the show picking up speed, as it ramps up to its final act. Now that the evil father figure has been dispatched, we can see if Jax will back up his high-minded talk or simply settle for filling Clay's boots.