Sons of Anarchy‘s season 7 premiere will be remembered for the brutality of the final scene, but as is so often the case with this show, there was also beauty in it. Exec producer Paris Barclay, who directed the episode, called into “News & Notes” on EW Radio (SiriusXM 105) and shared how the idea for a rainy night in Charming—a rare occurrence—came about. He always reads Kurt Sutter’s scripts slowly, so he can try to visualize what he’s created.
“Even though it wasn’t in the script, I just imagined it was raining for some unknown reason. I just imagined it had that low-barometric-pressure, the-sky-has-gotten-dark-earlier, rainy feeling. It hardly ever rains in Charming, if you’ve noticed over seven seasons, so I thought this would be something unique to do. But as I thought about it, I said, ‘Well, that means it’s gonna have to rain in every other scene in this montage,'” Barclay said. “And then it ended up raining when they buried the bodies at Chigger Woods, which was fantastically beautiful. So just by backing into that, thinking about the killing scene first just having the rain, it ended up giving us a lot of benefits for all the other scenes: The rain on Gemma’s face when she’s talking to Tara. And then I go to Paul Maibaum, who’s been our director of photography from the beginning, and I say, ‘Paul, if it rains, what does that mean for you?’ He said, ‘It means beauty.'”
As Barclay told EW previously, it was Charlie Hunnam’s idea for Jax to draw out the torture, slowly removing his clothing so he’s shirtless when Jax takes his revenge on the man Gemma’s blamed for Tara’s murder. Hunnam was inspired by a lengthy kill scene in the Paul Bettany movie Gangster No. 1. “To see that spectacular torso just cluttered and clumsily splashed with blood of this innocent man I thought was super, super compelling,” Barclay said. During a meeting with Sutter to discuss the tone of the script, page-by-page, Sutter weighed in on what he liked and didn’t like. “So by the time we came to shooting it, we had something that was pretty well worked out—a ballet of death, as I call it.”
As the premiere proved, the final season will not just be the pinnacle of violence, but also of the sense of brotherhood that fans value most. Tara’s death brings Jax closer to the club members who, as Chibs says when they return to the Reaper table, are “all in.” That chapel scene was one of the few times Barclay has cried on set. “Because all the guys were there before I could get there to rehearsal, sitting there in their places, going over their dialogue, and they never do that. But now that they actually believe they’re really in a club, and they’re actually club members, they enjoy sitting in those chairs and just working it through,” he said. “I looked at them after they had read the scene once, and I said, ‘Okay, guys, go back to your trailers. We’re gonna light this now.’ I didn’t have but a couple little notes for the actors, they were so into their characters. You can see when we filmed it, anywhere we looked, at Rusty Coones, who plays the big guy [Quinn], Kim Coates—their eyes are so filled with emotion. Bobby [played by Mark Boone Junior], at the end of the table, was absolutely a stone mask really of love, which was so incredible. And then Charlie was really worried about his performance in that two-page monologue he had to do, and I just thought he’s just an awesome actor—completely compelling, not overdone, didn’t go all Braveheart on it. [Laughs] Just really hits the ball out of the park.”
Listen to a clip below.