'Sons of Anarchy': Kurt Sutter on Opie's death
Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t watched last night’s episode of Sons of Anarchy yet, stop reading now. Creator Kurt Sutter had a conference call with reporters today to discuss the death that rocked fans.
• On “Why Opie?”: In addition to feeling as though it was an organic conclusion to Opie’s tragic history with the club and the “circular dynamic that was happening with Jax and Opie,” Sutter knows where he wants to take Jax by the end of the series and the road he wants him to travel. “Jax, I felt, just needed that emotional upheaval, that one event that happens in a man’s life that can change the course of his destiny, and I think the death of his best friend was that event,” he said. Sutter filled actor Ryan Hurst in on Opie’s arc as the writers were breaking stories for season 5, before they’d written any scripts. Though it was difficult for all involved, Sutter says after reading scripts for the episodes that follow Opie’s death, Hurst understood the importance of it in the mythology of the show. “[Fans] know that I don’t do things arbitrarily and that I don’t do things for just shock value. I think there’s a sense of how deeply committed I am to the show and to the fans as well. I knew obviously this would be a gut-wrenching episode and difficult for people to wrap their brains around…. It’s incredibly sad, but the death of Opie will color the rest of the episodes for the rest of the series. It’s not a death that will happen in vain. I would hope people still stay plugged in. Of course there’ll be a sense of vengeance, and there’ll be something that drives our guys to retaliate. It’s not even so much that, as it is the emotional impact that his death will have on the rest of the series, on the rest of the characters.”
• On the brutality of Opie’s death: “Look, that’s what we do on the show. That’s part of the big storytelling. That’s part of the absurdity, the pulp nature of the show. It’s a bloody show. It’s a violent show. And yes, sometimes it does cross into the absurd, but when you have what I feel is really good writing, and when you have wonderful directing and wonderful acting, you can make those big absurd violent things still be moving, and still be emotional and still be powerful. That’s really what we were trying to achieve last night and hopefully we did,” he said. “I wanted Opie to go out a warrior. I really wanted him to go out with nobility and a sense of feeling like I may not have a lot to live for, but at the very least, I’m gonna go out doing something noble and protecting the people I still love.” Sutter wasn’t on location that day, “But I do know that Ryan had requested that the guys be there for those final moments so he could actually look out over the guys that he’s been working with for the last five seasons. It was very emotional.”
• On the moment in the episode that Opie decided he’d be the one to sacrifice himself: “I think he put it together when they were in the prison cell together, when Jax told him the truth about what Pope wanted and seeing Jax’s frame of mind. I think he realized that Jax is put in this situation where he would be forced to sacrifice one of his guys. And I think Opie knows Jax well enough to know that he would rather take the bullet himself than say, ‘Here, take this guy.’ That’s where we wanted to go…. And then I think in that moment in the room, if push comes to shove, Jax was gonna be the guy that was gonna get dragged into that other room. He wasn’t about to give up any of his guys. I think Opie knew that. At the very least, even if he didn’t think Jax was gonna take the hit, he knew Jax would be put in a position where he would have to choose. Rather than put Jax through that agony, he gave himself up.”
• On whether Opie was also, in a sense, giving up: In short, yes. “I just felt like we had done so much damage to Opie and his family over the course of a few seasons — it’s why I couldn’t wrap my brain around bringing him back to the table at the end of last season. That didn’t seem right. To me, there is a sense of him having this tremendous loss, and yes, I do believe some of it was definitely a sense of here’s an opportunity for me to go out doing the right thing and perhaps this is how I can be of best service to my club and in a weird way — and maybe it’s a selfish way — also to [my] family. I always got a sense that Opie struggled with those kids ever since he got out of prison. He never really felt connected to them….”
• On how Opie’s death affects Jax’s opinion of the club: “I think events like this tend to make you reevaluate who your friends are. His commitment to the club will stay true in terms of taking the reins and wanting to get them on the right path, as he promised to do at the end of last season. But definitely the death of Opie has a lot of emotional weight for him and will force him to make decisions and perhaps choices based a little bit more on emotion than perhaps logic and reason. My intent is that we see a changed Jax this year, a guy who’s very much been influenced by his early tenure as president.”
• On Pope’s mentality and new working relationship with Jax: “It’s really that pimp mentality. I lead with sheer and utter brutality and then by contrast, everything else I do feels gentle and kind…. He starts to play that out on Jax. It starts to be a little bit about, ‘let me put my arm around you, son, and you can become just like me if you want to.'” As the season goes along, we’ll see an odd mentor dynamic between Pope and Jax. “When you think about in terms of what Jax wants to do, and where he wants to go in terms of taking his club legit, well Pope is the perfect role model for that. He’s the guy that has sort of turned all his dirty business into very legitimate things,” Sutter says. But, “At the end of the day, it’s all really a lot of ego and Pope just assumes everybody wants to be like him.”
• On when we’ll learn more about Pope: “Halfway through the season, there’s a few episodes where we really sort of get into who Pope is and why’s made the decisions that he’s made.”
• On the casting of Harold Perrineau as Pope: “The obvious choice for someone like Damon Pope would have been to cast an actor that might play more hard, more dangerous. I wanted to go against that type,” Sutter said. He wanted an actor who’d learned to compartmentalize his dark side. “Harold can go dark, Harold can go scary. But for the most part, there’s something just very warm and charming and almost vulnerable about him that I think makes him a really interesting antagonist.”
• On Clay and Jax’s relationship moving forward: “I think we will continue to see Jax and Clay go at it, but maybe not in the most predictable way.”
• On when Juice’s secret might surface: “Not to spoil, but the circumstances that we’re laying track to now will ultimately lead us to Juice and his involvement [with Roosevelt and the RICO case]…. As most of our story lines try to dovetail into something else, I think we’ll be able to see some of that play out with Juice more toward the back half of the season.”
• On whether we’ll see more deaths this season: “If it happens again, it would probably not be quite as sudden.”
• On Tara telling Gemma that she wouldn’t kill her but Jax might: “There was some really potent Gemma-Tara stuff that really lays track for a lot of the season and really speaks to the shift in these two characters…. The difference for Tara now is that she is a mom. She does have her own cub to protect and she’s taken Abel as her own…. When Gemma starts to threaten that, and threaten potentially how she raises her kids, suddenly it’s not so much Tara tapping into learned behavior, it’s tapping into this sort of instinctual, ‘No you ain’t f—in’ with my kids’ behavior that I think feels familiar because it is like Gemma. We will continue to see Tara adopt those skills as the season progresses…. She is going to carry with her this new sense of confidence, this new sense of strength. We really [saw] Tara in that scene basically saying, ‘F— you, he’s mine,’ and ‘If push comes to shove, Jax is gonna choose me over you, and don’t forget it, b—-.'”
• On Carla vs. Gemma: “That story line will continue to play out really through episode five or six. There’s more fun to be had there.”
Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.