So, we start off with Abel being kidnapped, Gemma on the run, Half-Sack dead and oh yeah the club in utter turmoil. As a first episode, it did seem to be slow at times, but the last few minutes more then made up for it. At least some of our questions were answered. Abel is alive in Belfast, the FBI seems to think Stahl is being less then honest with them about Gemma or at least screwing up their three year long IRA sting and the club seems to be rallying around Jax. Gemma re-uniting with her father was a nice touch and I do love Hal Hoolbrook, I just wish he was in a more commanding role then Alzheimer's patient. I would have loved to see him in a flash back as the fiery preacher he used to be. I expect the caregiver to turn on Gemma and her dad. Something I didn't expect to see was the death of Hale. Totally out of nowhere to kill one of the leads of the show in such a violent and shocking way. The entire drive by scene was awesome film making. Jax being the shit out of one of the shooters was great and you can feel the rage that has been building in him since the loss of Able or maybe even as far back as Donna's death. Tara really stepped her game and I hope to see more of that in the weeks to come.
As for additional spoilers and rumors. Apparently this entire season is a week or two in real time. There are no other reported cameos like last year and no other surprise deaths coming. Of course, keeping Hale's death secret was an achievement unto itself. I have no idea how they are going to get Abel out of Ireland or if they ever will. I do think the shot of John in prison and the preview of Jax going to Stahl means Jax will be put away for awhile to end the season. Its a devil's bargain since Stahl is untrustworthy, but something tells me Jax will have an ace up his sleeve or they will just time jump when he is released in season 4 if they get renewed. The other theory I have is that will learn about what really happened to John through flashbacks via Hal Hoolbrook and Piney to set-up Jax officially taking the group away from Clay. I also wonder if they have no IRA connections, does that mean they are out of gun running or is Cameron the only IRA connection they have? Its going to be interesting and probably exhausting as well.
I'm hating Wikipedia, once again. I was watching the opening credits and trying to place all the actors' names. Despite watching this show since its inception, aside from about four or five names, I have no idea who plays all the SAMCRO underlings. So I went to Wikipedia to learn myself. There, under Taylor Sheridan's bio on the "List of charcters from Sons of Anarchy" page, I find out: "Hale is killed in the Season 3 premiere when he is hit by a van that has just opened fire on the crowd in front of Half Sack's funeral."
Arrgh! A plague on your house Pedia of Wikis! A plague!
C'mon...couldn't they have at least moved him to "Deceased characters"?
For the episode itself, I liked how they put some closure on the Zobelle storyline by showing his old storefront all boarded up. Oh, and was the framed mugshot the first time we've "seen" John Teller on-screen? It also looks like they're going to focus on some new members; like the transfer guy and Happy (who has slowly picked up more screen time since the last few episodes of Season Two).
They can probably get back to last season's stride. Aside from last season's opening bombshell with Gemma, I thought that the season didn't really get rolling until episode 5 or so.
Re: The shrapnel. Tony fixed Extremis, thus fixed Pepper, then applied the process to himself so he could heal with the shrapnel removed. It wasn't OVERT, but it was explained in the closing voice over. EDIT: I guess I wrong.