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'Sons of Anarchy': Inside 40 of the final season's key moments

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Sons of Anarchy‘s series finale airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX. With the end in sight, EW takes a look back through our weekly postmortems to go inside some of the final ride’s most memorable scenes.

EPISODE 1, “BLACK WIDOWER”

• Jax (Charlie Hunnam) slowly tortures and kills Chris Dun (Tim Park), the Lin Triad member his mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal), fingers for her murder of his wife, Tara (Maggie Siff).

Director Paris Barclay: Charlie said, “I want to come in with my clothes on, and I want to take them all off.” There was a movie that he really liked, it was a Paul Bettany movie [Gangster No. 1]—he was a gangster who eventually becomes a killer. And it has a long murder scene in it, and we emulated that with Charlie’s slow measured pace, the blood on his body, the time it took. And we thought that whole thing was going to be three minutes—it ended up being seven minutes. It wasn’t boring. It ended up being really, really compelling.

I think it took most of a day [to film]. There’s actually a model of the Chris Dun character [made by W.M. Creations, Oscar and Emmy winner Matthew W. Mungle’s company] that was unique and had to be manipulated a certain way, and it looked so believable. The actor came in, he saw himself, and he just went, “Oh my God.” The hair was perfect, and that’s what we actually plunged a fork into. It has a blood cavity in it, so we had one take….The other interesting thing about that was we had to film the guys watching it first because there’s only really the very first time you see that happening that you get a really raw, original reaction. So before we did it to the dummy, we had Charlie actually act it out as passionately as he could with the real actor for the other actors, and we filmed them first just to get their various, complicated responses. Anytime we put the camera on Tig [Kim Coates], Happy [David Labrava], Bobby [Mark Boone Junior], Chibs [Tommy Flanagan], any of those guys, it was fascinating.

Tim Park, who didn’t know Chris Dun’s fate when he won the role: Once you’re in character, on set, and the guys come in, you’re tied up, you see all the blood on you—it helps you go into that make-believe state and believe it’s real: This is it. This is it. You’re dying. Jax has that ability to become completely emotionless. That stare, that tone of voice. So in that state, he goes into the kitchen drawer, and he pulls out all those tools that he’s going to torture me with, and I see it, and he comes up to me telling me that he’s going to do to me what I did to his wife. I’m gagged, and I’m trying to say, “It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me!” But he has that stone-cold look on his face, that neutral monotone voice where there is no negotiating here—it’s done. It’s terrifying. And then oh yeah, looking around for some kind of sympathy from his boys and getting none, that really helped. That was kind of a frightening experience.

Creator Kurt Sutter: The thing I love about this season is that with everything that’s happening, they’re just sort of very united. It’s not like the dissention we’ve played, which was fun with Clay. Everyone gets it, everyone understands, everyone’s behind Jax. Not that they all agree with him, but they’re behind him. As individual events happen, there will be moments where Bobby and Chibs will counsel Jax in terms of, “You’re sure you want to do this?” or “Is this the right thing?” But ultimately, when Jax makes the decision, there’s no dissention. They’re making these decisions as a united club, which I think is the blessing and the curse: Yes, they’re united, but at that point, do they need the dissenting vote? Do they need somebody to say, “Hey, this is a mistake”? And perhaps their love of Jax and their desire to be supportive ends up working against them.

• Unser (Dayton Callie) discovers Juice (Theo Rossi) hiding out from the club at Wendy’s (Drea de Matteo).

Sutter: You know every season, I never quite know what I’m going to do with Unser, and ultimately every season, he ends up intrinsically tied to all of our characters and prominently in the mythology. We had an opportunity to do that this season with Juice, and then Unser becomes aware of what’s going on with Gemma—but doesn’t become aware of anything obviously that really happened [with Tara’s murder]. It just puts Unser in this position of wanting to honor his promise and his commitment to Tara in terms of taking care of those boys, and yet he’s thrust in the middle of these other relationships, and his love he has for Gemma, and the connection he has to the club—so he gets pushed and pulled in a lot of directions this season. He’ll ultimately have a connection and a professional dynamic that happens with the new sheriff [Annabeth Gish, introduced in episode 2]. So it’s just so funny how he ends up becoming the glue for the entire season year after year, and every season, we’re like, “Oh, what the f–k are we going to do with Unser? Maybe he just has cancer.” It’s just ’cause Dayton is so f—king great. You can just do anything with him. He has a gravitas.

Read the full postmortems with Sutter, with Barclay, with Park, and with Bob Thiele Jr., the show’s composer/music supervisor responsible for that “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover.

EPISODE 2, “TOIL AND TILL”

• As the club’s moral compass Bobby looks on, Jax tells Jury (Michael Shamus Wiles) his plan to destroy Henry Lin (Kenneth Choi), whom he believes ordered the hit on Tara—by first crippling his business and taking out his men and family.

Charlie Hunnam: The guys playing those characters struggled with that a little bit in the moment. It didn’t necessarily feel like it was the instinct that they’d come to know from those characters to behave that way. We just all had to bear in mind through those moments that it was gonna go somewhere. It’s supported by pretty easily understandable psychology: They know Jax. They know how much Tara meant to him. The way I was thinking about it, almost from their point of view, is, “We know this is f–ked. We know this is probably gonna cause some pretty tumultuous [monstrosities] to come, but ultimately this is what this kid needs, so we’re just gonna support him because this is his darkest moment.”

• After hitting one of the Triads’ meets, Chibs, Bobby, and Jax go see the two locals who helped with the ambush, shoot them dead, and make it look like they’re the ones who stole Lin’s guns and heroin. The guys don’t know it yet, but one of those young men was Jury’s son.

Tommy Flanagan: That one guy was such a sweet guy, and he got one right through his head. I don’t know. I have a feeling we’ll still get sympathy from the fans. I don’t think that’ll turn them off because we are on this mission to avenge the brutality that was done to Jackie’s family. So I hope they don’t start hatin’ us for being just downright evil. We wear the white hats. It’s like an old cowboy movie: We’re the good guys, you’re the bad guys, and that’s that.

• Juice lets Unser go.

Theo Rossi: I think at that point, one, there was that massive glimmer of hope, where it’s like, “Wait a minute, this guy is saying that he might help me.” Let’s be honest, who’s the only communication he’s had up to that point? It’s Gemma. At the same time, I think he’s so exhausted. Truly. I think he’s so exhausted that he’s just like, “Get out of here. What else can happen?” He has nothing that he holds onto, he has nothing that he cherishes anymore. There’s no joking. He has nothing.

Read the postmortem with Flanagan and Rossi and interview with Hunnam.

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EPISODE 3, “PLAYING WITH MONSTERS”

• Juice uses Unser to get Chibs alone and asks him if there is anything he can do to earn his way back into SAMCRO. Chibs’ response is brutal: “If I were you, I’d get that gun, put it in my mouth, and pull the trigger.”

Rossi: That scene was tremendously heartbreaking because all he wants is for Chibs to say, “Hey, listen, we’re going to make this right. I’m not saying that you’ll be in the club, but I’m going to get you outta here. I got your back.” He’s hoping he’s going to say that. And what I love about that scene is the moment after, with Chibs’ reaction. You see that he has this compassion, but he couldn’t do it in front of Juice. I don’t think Juice went in there with any expectations, I think he just wanted guidance. He wanted him, mainly, to tell him Jax is doing this on his own and that it’s not the rest of the club. Because in Juice’s mind, then he’d need to convince just one person, not everyone. So when Chibs tells him to put the gun in his mouth and take his own life, basically there’s no hope, that’s when I believe everything changes. I believe that one line dictates Juice for the rest of the season because at that point, he doesn’t care about anything anymore. I’m not going to come back. I can’t talk to anyone. You just told me the way it is: Stop trying. It’s over with. You’re gone, you’re out. Because of that, everything starts to go haywire.

Flanagan: Juice was my prospect: I brought him into the club, I looked after him his whole life, and for him to betray the club and to betray me in such a foul and stupid and dumb way, it’s just become unforgivable. I’ve tried to help him and tried to save him, but he just went down that path. There’s no redemption, that I can see. Maybe there is, but I don’t see any redemption for old Juicey…. If [Chibs] followed him out, I think he’d probably have shot him. You know, you can’t be a rat. I mean, it would break old Chibby’s heart, but he would’ve shot him. I think when Unser stops me, he’s not really stopping me. I’m stopping myself, you know what I mean? It’s like, “I wanna go after him, but I don’t wanna go after him. Thank you, Unser, for stopping me.” Dayton was so great in that scene. We did one take, and they went, “OK, let’s do another one,” and Dayton said, “What do you mean, ‘Do another one?’” He looked at both cameras and said, “You focused?” And the guy said, “Yeah.” “You focused?” “OK, we’re done!” That’s one of my favorite quotes, actually, of Sons of Anarchy: “You focused?” “Yeah.” “You focused?” “Yeah.” “Well f–k it, we’re done! Moving on!”

Read the full postmortem with Rossi and Flanagan.

EPISODE 4, “POOR LITTLE LAMBS”

• When Tig is injured tracking down the pantyhose preacher’s wife and stepson—who Jax will later use as leverage against gangster August Marks (Billy Brown)—Venus (Walton Goggins) helps nurse her “dear friend Alex” and the two share their first kiss.

Walton Goggins: I think she’s really seen Tig quite a bit. I think it has been glasses of wine—a chardonnay or a rosé in the afternoon, with his bike kind of coming up. I think they have talked at length about their childhoods and what their respective lives are like now. I think they’ve talked about politics. I think they’ve talked about everything that two people would talk about to further their intimacy and a friendship…. It was all there with the two scenes that Kurt [Sutter] had written. It was two people who had spent enough time together off-screen in order to get to a place where Tig would ask for Venus when he’s hurt and he needed to be comforted, and Venus would come and tell him what she tells him. It’s not a gender thing, it’s a heart thing. When we’re understood, regardless of who we’re understood by, we’re understood. There’s no replacing that. It’s outside of the confines of gender.

• Juice breaks down in front of Gemma and Wendy and admits he can’t be alone.

Rossi: Not even close to the low point, sadly. I think it’s the true expression of what I felt he always was, which is just lonely. His loneliness, his wanting this family so bad, has been the reason for all his errors. This has never been a malicious guy, and some people don’t understand that. There are people who I challenge when they say, “Oh, Juice is a rat.” I’m like, “Where?” He’s actually talked to the cops less than Jax, less than Chibs, less than anybody. Anything he’s done has been to help other people, even Gemma: Before he processed what was going on, he was shooting someone [Sheriff Roosevelt] that looked like he might be hurting Gemma. This is why Kurt [Sutter]’s doing such an incredible job with this character: it’s almost like this trick that people believe that Juice has done these things wrong. He has, but if you really think about it, everything he’s done wrong is trying to make things right. When I’m playing him, I don’t ever feel like, “I’m going to really hurt this person.” It’s always just, “I gotta get myself out of this situation.”

• After someone rats to the Chinese about SAMCRO stealing their guns and heroin, Lin’s men massacre 16 people at Diosa, including Colette (Kim Dickens).

Sutter: Obviously it impacts Nero [Jimmy Smits] deeply. I think it’s the game-changer for Nero, it’s what pushes him to that point of, “I know I’ve threatened about getting out before. But I have to get out.” It impacts Nero much deeper than it does Jax. We see in another episode, Jax talks about, “We’re gonna clean the place up and hire some more girls.” And Nero says, “Really?” For Jax, it’s business. I think that it f–ks with Jarry: Here she is, two weeks on the job and she’s dealing with this. We really begin to see the ramifications of Gemma’s lie—not just impacting the club, but impacting Charming, impacting the community at large. One of the things I’m very conscious of is, as pulp and as absurd as this show can be sometimes in the violence, that it never happens in a vacuum. We always see the ramifications. That’s definitely the case with Diosa.

Read the full postmortems with Sutter and with Goggins, and the interview with Rossi.

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EPISODE 5, “SOME STRANGE ERUPTION”

• Jax and Lin, who of course denies he ordered the hit on Tara, finally come to blows. Lin survives the lengthy beatdown, but is headed to jail on drug and gun charges.

Kenneth Choi: When I work, I like to just kind of stay quiet, stay to myself. I like to walk around a lot and figure out what’s gonna happen in the scene and try to get my head straight. I’ve watched Charlie throughout the years, and he kinda does the same thing. He stays by himself, and he walks around, and you can see he’s generating whatever emotion or whatever he’s gotta go through in the scene. And with this fight scene, it was no different. He was on one end of the street, I was on the other end of the street. I could catch glimpses of him walking and pacing, so I knew he was really trying to get to the emotional state he had to, and I was doing the same. You get little things in between the takes: He’ll come over, and you just kind of look at each other, and there’s a little bit of, “You okay?” “You okay?” “Okay good.” And then you go to your separate corners. You watch him when he does these performances, and he brings so much heat to every moment. He’s really trying to live it as authentically as he can. So when I know that he’s about to fight my character, and the reason why, that makes me want to up my game and really get into it as well.

At the end of the fight scene, Jax has pretty much gotten the upper hand and he’s just wailing on my face. You don’t really get to see it while you’re on set. But afterwards, when you go to your trailer, it looks amazing and horrifying. They have to clean up all the blood, and I asked them not to—I wanted to just walk down to like a 7-Eleven and say, “Hey, do you guys sell Band-Aids?” (Laughs) They wouldn’t let me do it. That’d be the greatest, right? “I cut myself shaving. Do you guys have any Band-Aids?”

• Gemma drives fragile Juice to a location where she can presumably kill him, only he figures out her plan and ends up pointing her gun at her as she begs for her life.

Rossi: [Katey and I] were so excited by [the scene]. There’s that turn, and you go, “Oh my God. These are two of the most unstable people. This can’t be good for anybody.” You know what’s coming, and there’s so much tension leading up to it. When it all goes down, it was just so much fun.

Read the postmortem with Choi and the interview with Rossi.

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EPISODE 6, “SMOKE’ EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM”

• Juice ends up face-to-face with Jax after he tries to make an ill-advised deal with Marcus Alvarez (Emilio Rivera) to offer intel on SAMCRO in exchange for help getting into Mexico. Instead, Alvarez agrees to help SAMCRO deal with Marks and provide heroin for imprisoned Aryan Brotherhood shotcaller Tully (Marilyn Manson) to distribute in Stockton in exchange for a promise that the Mayans will inherit the Irish gun business from Marks.

Director Guy Ferland: We took a lot of time filming that. I wanted it all to take time. I staged it so that Juice could be surprised, he wouldn’t see [Jax and the guys] too early coming through the door—he’d see them when they’re already in the room. I think it’s important to see everybody’s different reactions and feelings. You could understand everything without one word. When the scene got up on its feet and we knew what it was, that’s when the weight of everything really hit the cast. It was tense. Everyone wanted to get it right. What’s great about that show and that cast is everybody knows how to find their moments. You just have to cut to the faces and the audience, as you saw, has to stop and catch their breath. It’s really not technically that difficult of a scene, but it just shows that when you know when to cut to somebody and capture their feelings while something else is going on, it makes it kind of thrilling. It’s a perfect example of a Sons scene working at its best.

• The Grim Bastards and Mayan Stockton charter help SAMCRO ambush the East Dub crew working for Marks.

Ferland: You know what’s kind of interesting, I believe I filmed Jax’s first [non self-defense] kill in Season 1, where he killed that creepy agent from Chicago who stalked Tara. So I got to take him from there to here. It’s fun to go on that journey and see him now where he can light up a cigarette as 10 people get killed right in front of him…. It was a big scene. There are a lot of bikes, a lot of guns, and a lot of people who could get hurt and fall. So it’s always a little stressful, but it really went exactly as I wanted it…. I love seeing that line of the Sons all firing those guns—and doing it as one of the last times that we’re probably ever gonna see them as a club.

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• SAMCRO gets into a fistfight with Tully’s local AB crew, led by Leland (Brad Carter). But first, Leland fires a shotgun and holds it at Jax’s chest and throat.

Carter: I’ll be honest with ya, I forgot to put in my earplugs the first time I shot that sawed-off shotgun. The dumbest mistake I’ve ever made. I’m tellin’ ya, I was scared. I thought I had permanently lost my hearing in my left ear. They had offered my earplugs, and I didn’t think to put them in right before we started. And then holy s–t, I’ll never make that mistake again.

• SAMCRO shows the Aryan Brotherhood the bodies of the East Dubs to prove they can be trusted.

Ferland: If I think too hard about any of that stuff, I get really unsettled and I start asking myself strange questions. With Sons, you just have to go with it, and do it great, and then really try not to think about it too much. Thinking will just get in the way. You gotta go for it—and I think that’s what the audience is responding to, is just going for it. “You’re showing us something we’ve never really dreamed of seeing before.” (Laughs) It’s so horrendous.

Carter: It’s a little shocking and a little awkward, too, just to open a van up and there’s all these poor guys stacked in there. And it was hot. But they took care of them: they’d put them in there and then let them get back out in between each take. I felt kinda bad for them, just all stacked on each other like that. And then the one guy, the blood had dried and he was stuck to the floorboard. (Laughs) They all had a good sense of humor about it. Everybody was down.

• Alvarez hands Juice over to SAMCRO.

Ferland: It wasn’t scripted [for the last shot of the episode to be Jax’s face as he walks past the camera]. It just sort of happened through rehearsing. I had just seen the skull promo for the season, and I thought, wow, we could make his face turn into the skull kind of at the end of this. (Laughs). It’s tricky: The club feels a lot of hatred toward Juice, but we don’t want to give away everything right now and have them start beating up on him right there. I think Kurt was the one who told me “dead man walking,” so that’s what I tried to do.

Read the full postmortems with Ferland and with Carter.

NEXT: The beginning of the end

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