With masterful handling by series creator Kurt Sutter, FX’s hit drama Sons of Anarchy begins its fourth season brilliantly by not only presenting an intriguing, precise direction of focus for its familiar characters, but also overcoming many of television’s contrivances that have served as the downfall of far lesser series.

As the Sons of Anarchy season 4 premiere beings, we jump fourteen months ahead from what transpired in the wonderfully chaotic season 3 finale. The once-incarcerated majority of SAMCRO are released from prison and they journey back to their familiar surroundings of Charming – although, as it soon becomes apparent, familiarity is something that has been all but lost to those returning to the “free” world.

The often-used saying of “duck out of water” couldn’t apply more than it does to what’s presented in this Sons of Anarchy season 4 premiere. The one-time controller of all things Charming, Clay (and through him, SAMCRO), are thrust into a proverbial new world, with new rules and new players – some of whom may be even more dangerous than ones previously seen in past season.

This brilliant story arc, combined with the masterful handling of television’s often misused time jump, establishes a wonderfully poignant foundation to unseat the series’ dedicated fans by presenting a familiar, yet somehow still unfamiliar setting that the characters must not only come to terms with, but also attempt to overcome.

The sentiment that SAMCRO can and will do what they like is still present, but the notion that everything will work out for them in the end has vanished. With the familiar Police Chief Wayne Unser now living surviving in a trailer with a single marijuana plant to keep him company while cancer slowly eats away at him, SAMCRO’s last remaining connection to the presumed “law” of Charming has vanished. In his place now sits one of San Joaquin’s finest officers, Sherriff Eli Roosevelt – a man with enough morals and tenacity to not only be seen as a threat to SAMCRO, but one that doesn’t even show a hint of fear from what repercussions may follow his ever-brazen actions.

If that’s not enough, Jacob Hale has also become the new mayor of Charming, and has continued with his plans to build new developments within the city. Of course, the most apparent (and capable) antagonist to everyone’s favorite motorcycle gang is the mild-mannered, though brilliantly-minded Assistant United States Attorney Lincoln Potter. Potter, for all intents and purposes, will come to be the master of all these newly presented domains – though it’s going to take some time before we see exactly how that’s going to happen.

Echoing elements from the favorite Sons of Anarchy season 2, the masterfully planned SAMCRO is once again up against enemies who are not only their intellectual equals, but who are also able to unfurl their plans without Clay, Jax or the rest of the motorcycle club catching wind of it.

Often when a television series reaches a certain age, elements that once intently drew audiences to it in the first place are replaced by the notion that the producers simply want to revel in its presumed awesomeness, catering to the familiarity of its fan base and lackadaisically allowing its characters to proverbially sit and rot without any type of logically progressing character arcs or story development.

With the Sons of Anarchy season 4 premiere, not only has Kurt Sutter brilliantly transitioned the series into a new season of episodes, but he has done so with such calculated grace that it quickly becomes apparent that many producers of other television series – television series that receive much higher ratings than Sons of Anarchy – are simply not doing their job as well as Sutter. In a world where the landscape of television is shifting to honor the creative and shun the generic, Sutter has undoubtedly made it clear into which category he falls (as if there was ever a question).

While familiar scenes of SAMCRO gunning down rival gangs and out-smarting the local law enforcement are still present in the season 4 premiere, everyone watching knows that such familiarity will soon come to an end. With a team of calculated masterminds behind the impending “take down” of SAMCRO making their plans more and more clear, it won’t be long before SAMCRO, like the town of Charming (or the series itself), will need to either evolve or cease to exist.

If that’s not a brilliant way to kick off the fall television season, I don’t know what is.

Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesdays @10pm on FX.

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