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'Sons of Anarchy' writer offers peek inside 'Red Rose' shockers

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SOA
Byron Cohen/FX

Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has called the Dec. 2 episode, “Red Rose,” the best of the season. Co-executive producer Charles Murray, who co-wrote it with Sutter, phoned into EW Radio the morning after it aired to discuss the big twists. Listen to a clip below. The highlights: 

• Why Unser (Dayton Callie) had to die: Both Callie and exec producer Paris Barclay, who directed the episode, told EW that they didn’t learn Unser’s fate until the script for this episode came out. Murray wouldn’t call it a late decision or a debate, but it wasn’t one of the deaths Sutter told his writers was definitive when they hit the room back in February (Gemma’s and Juice’s were). “We kinda went back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth,” Murray says. “It was like, ‘Okay, so is Unser the person who does end up being the sole storyteller who lives, or is it more impactful if he dies?’ I think as we got closer and closer…you realize through the playing out of the episodes that this guy wasn’t gonna have much purpose without Gemma.”

But his death would serve a purpose for Jax (Charlie Hunnam). Asked if fans are supposed to still root for Jax after he killed Unser to get to Gemma (Katey Sagal)—and according to a poll in our recap, 63 percent do—Murray explained that as with any antihero, you have to question the direction he takes. “If he had just killed Gemma without Unser being that middle step, I think think you would have come to a conclusion of like, ‘Oh, of course he had to do that.’ I think putting Unser in the way humanizes [Jax]. And in the way that the scene carried out, Jax was like, ‘Go home. Go away. Get out of here. Let me do what I have to do.’ And I think Usner saying, ‘This is all I got’ doesn’t make Jax a monster. I mean, it’s monster-like. But it doesn’t make him as much a monster as him understanding that they’ve all signed a deal with a devil. And at the moment, Wayne is sayin’, ‘If you’re cancelin’ her contract, you might as well cancel mine.’ So there’s a humanistic aspect to it in that it’s almost kind of a mercy killing, because without Gemma, what would Unser do?” (Read our postmortem with Callie, who shares exactly how he learned Unser would die and how he viewed Unser’s motivation in the moment.)

• The different way Juice (Theo Rossi) could’ve died: “The thing that made Juice interesting [was his loyalty to the club]. I think anybody else, he helps Gemma and [he’d] get the hell out of there. You hightail it, and you let the Sons find you. But what Kurt tapped into is human frailty, and the fact that we will do dumb things out of love, and the fact that we will not disconnect from something because we are overly connected to it,” Murray says. “We don’t necessarily talk in terms of plot when we’re in the room, where we go, ‘Oh, and then Juice gets stabbed.’ How we discuss it is, ‘Where’s his loyalty? Where’s his loyalty to Jax? How does that play itself out?’ Once he realizes that his loyalty has served his purpose—and again another character who, without the club, without that connectivity, has no purpose—how does he see his end? There was always discussion of him dying in prison or dying in jail, it was just, ‘Does he relinquish his power or does he go out aggressively?’ So there was a discussion about, ‘Does he grab a knife and go after [Marilyn] Manson’s character [Tully], and meet a demise through that? Or does he do what he did last night?’ (Read our postmortem with Rossi, who explains the choice Juice made for himself to not kill Tully for the Chinese, which would’ve been a betrayal of SAMCRO, and why he found peace in the decision to surrender to Tully, who stabbed him in the throat after he finished his pie.)

• Gemma would never commit suicide: Like everyone who advocates for Sagal to get an Emmy nomination year after year, Murray considers Gemma one of the best villains—”not villianesses, not female villains, one of the best villains”—to ever exist in television. Per our polls, most fans thought if Gemma were to die, it would be at Jax’s hand. But the second most popular theory was suicide. “That character would never commit suicide,” he says. “There are some people, they can pull the veil over your eyes, they can pull the veil over their own eyes, but there’s an agreement with the universe that you’re gonna have to take me out ’cause I’m not goin’. I think at most, her making peace with her dad was her way of saying, ‘If I get out of this, if I get past my father and I get to the other side of safety, maybe I’ll change? Maybe I won’t. But no, not suicide. That was never gonna happen.” (Read our postmortem with Sagal, who gives her take on Gemma’s spiritual journey.)

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