Wi-fi permitting, I'm going to live-blog the "Sons of Anarchy" panel - featuring "Sons" creator Kurt Sutter and stars Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal - that will close out the final day of Comic-Con 2011.
3:35: Hall H was completely packed for the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" panel before this (I arrived just in time for the end, when the gang led 6,000 people in a singalong of "Dayman"), but a good chunk of that crowd bolted.
3:37: The crowd gets to see the opening montage from the season premiere, dealing with the day the Sons get out of prison after the events of the season 3 finale. I won't spoil anything, except to say that A)Several members of SAMCRO have new haircuts (including Jax), B)Sutter makes an appearance as Big Otto, and C)The crowd seems very happy to see the Sons again.
3:43: Moderator Maureen Ryan introduces the panelists. Charlie Hunnam just smiled on the way to his seat more than Jax did all the way through season 3.
3:44: How much time has passed between seasons? Sutter says it's been 14 months.
(Some season 4 premise-establishing spoilers follow, most of them fairly minor, but if you don't want to know anything, don't read.)
3:45: And what's the first order of business for the club? Hunnam says, "We all come out with a real head of steam, a little tougher than we were, if you can imagine that. We're a little less patient." Jax spent most of season 3 trying to get Abel back, and he had almost no time to absorb that before going to prison. "That 14 months was spent doing some pretty intense soul-searching and trying to figure out how he's going to balance his life in the club and how to look after his babies... Some difficult decisions are going to have to be made down the line."
3:46: Gemma says at the beginning of season 4, "You see a very happy Gemma. The babies are coming home, the guys are coming home, things are a little lucrative." Not to worry, though, because she adds, "Doesn't really last that long."
3:47: Rockmond Dunbar plays Charming's new sheriff, Eli Roosevelt. Sutter calls it a new dynamic for the club. That will allow him to play out some of the racial dynamics that play out within a club - "or not within a club."
3:49: How does Perlman see Jax and Clay's relationship right now? He says that "Whenever there's an external threat to the club, all internal philosophical differences are shelved," but the tension continues to exist.
3:50: Where does Jax and Tara's relationship stand right now? Sutter says that when they begin the season, "there's a deeper commitment to family than ever before. I would characterize that relationship as more important to him."
3:51: As was the case when I moderated the "Sons" panel last year, we're getting some very thoughtful answers, but at a relatively low energy level. Not nearly as many cheers and whoops as at most of the other TV panels I've been to.
UPDATE: One of the disadvantages of the live-blog format is that you're racing to get material up and don't always have time to make your point properly. So let me clarify that this was not meant to be a criticism of the session. If anything, I like that Kurt, Charlie and Katie got to give complete and at times very interesting answers. There are definitely Comic-Con panels where the crowd noise is so overwhelming that it becomes like a Beatles concert circa 1965: you can feel the love but can't hear the lyrics. Nobody seemed unhappy at all. It was a very good panel; the tone was just different from most of the other ones I attended. Also, Hall H is so damn big that it has a tendency to suck some energy out on its own. I recall the final "Lost" panel also seeming strangely listless at times, even though there was a lot of good stuff going on and fans were happy to get to say goodbye to the producers and cast.
3:52: "Kurt works me like a slave," Hunnam says - not to complain, but to explain how the boss helps put him into Jax's mindset.
3:53: Mo asks Kurt for a teaser of the craziness upcoming. "You know, it's just a romance novel at the end of the day, Maureen," Kurt jokes, before assuring everyone, "There's as many if not more fucked-up things this season than ever before."
3:56: Why did Jax cut his hair? Hunnam says he did a lot of research - "I really did!" he insists when the other panelists laugh at him - and says prison is a setting he's really interested in exploring at some point. "I just felt really strongly that because of the psychological place Jax was in at that time... he would want to just take the hair off and take the beard down and be living more primitively while he was in there." Says they'll probably grow it back out, but Sagal says "It looks pretty good short."
3:58: What role will Big Otto have in season 4? Fan praises Sutter's acting in the role. "I find it's important that I hurt Otto in some way every season, just so I can personify the process of showrunning and what ultimately is being done to my spirit and my person by the time the show will be done." He explains that Otto has always been a device for exposition from the prison world.
4:00: Sutter gives an answer with the phrase "an organized crime organization," then adds, "I've only been here 4 hours and it's already too fucking long."
4:01: Fan makes an "Undeclared" shout-out, asks if Hunnam prefers comedy or drama. He much prefers drama, though he had a great relationship with Judd, sings the praises of several of the cast of that show (but not, sadly, Jay Baruchel or Monica Keena). But he'd been doing so much heavy stuff in season 3 that he felt the need to do a comedy in the hiatus: "Frankie Go Boom," in which he and Perlman play lovers - "and that's not a joke. But Ron's a woman, so it's not weird."
4:03: Female fan rethinks her attempt to tell Charlie he's hot in light of the "Frankie Go Boom" news. Charlie: "Come on! You know that's hot!" She wants to know if Jax will take over SAMCRO anytime soon. Perlman: "Not if I have anything to say about it - which I don't." Hunnam quotes a line from his dad in the audience: "Son, when you're big enough, I'll be too old. I think that's kind of applicable here."
4:04: Last question: Does Katey prepare for Gemma the same way she does for Leela or that she did for Peggy Bundy? "Leela, I just kind of roll out of bed and show up. I do tend to play characters that have a lot of costume and hair change. I like the change physicality thing. Gemma definitely has some preparation that goes on physically, I have all this blonde in my hair, these stripper nails. She takes great pride in those things, and it's one of the fun parts of playing someone in this world. There's a lot of leather and cleavage. Probably my husband's (Sutter's) intention was to see me in leather and cleavage."
4:05: Sutter wants to thank the fans. "I obviously get it on Twitter and my blog, but to see you guys here, in person, this kind of turn-out is really fucking awesome."
And that's Comic-Con, boys and girls. "Sons of Anarchy" returns to FX on September 6.