'Sons of Anarchy': Kurt Sutter on 'John 8:32'
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy, “John 8:32,” stop now. (Read our full recap.) Creator Kurt Sutter talked with EW about the big reveals and crazy twists — and teased what’s next.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I loved the final shot of Tara holding Thomas and singing to him, and when the camera panned down, we saw she had a gun on her lap. Is she that afraid of Jax now that he knows she faked the pregnancy and the miscarriage she’d blamed on Gemma and was plotting to leave him and take his kids?
KURT SUTTER: Some of that, for me, was a little bit symbolic in terms of where she’s at. We ran the scenarios. What would Tara do? Where would she go? I think she knows at this point that there’s really no place to run to. She’s on trial, and she can’t split because then she’s ultimately a fugitive or, at the very least, in contempt. Is she really gonna try to run with Jax’s kids? She knows what the ramifications of doing that would be. Does she really think that Jax is gonna come and kill her? Probably not. But I do think there’s some sort of symbolic comfort that she gets from being able to protect herself and what she’s willing to do. My sense is that she slept with that under the pillow. What we saw with Jax is that the reveal starts out and he’s enraged by it all, but we end with him in a different emotional place.
Will we be surprised by what Jax does next?
Obviously the betrayal is a deep one, but it’s also a different kind of betrayal for Jax. It’s not like the betrayal of an enemy or a betrayal of a brother. How does he respond to the betrayal of the woman he loves and the mother of his child? I think the way Jax deals with that is really that he doesn’t deal with it, in typical guy fashion. I don’t think he can process it. It’s almost like he has to step away and figure it all out. I think that’s what he ultimately does, which to a certain extent is almost worse for Tara because it just extends that sense of, ‘What the f—‘s gonna happen?’ I think ultimately by the end of episode 10, Tara has a plan. That’s what I’ll say.
The tense scene in Unser’s Airstream between Jax and Lowen, when she confirmed his suspicions: She was clearly worried that Jax was going to hurt her. Did you ever toy with that idea?
I don’t think so. I think there’s that weird credo of these guys in terms of what they’ll do, and who’ll they’ll hurt, and what rules extend to whom. But I think he knew that to get the truth from this woman, he’d have to scare the s— out of her. And then once he gets the truth, it’s like he doesn’t want to hear anything else. It’s like, “Don’t try to defend her. Just get the f— away from me.” I think him telling her to get out is protecting her. You know what I mean? It’s like, “Get out now, because what I’m feeling is not a good feeling and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
I loved how Robin Weigert played Lowen’s exit: She didn’t run, which would’ve seemed weak, and yet you could tell just by looking at her that she’d just been scared to death.
She also had those eight-inch heels walking across broken macadam, which also slows her down a little bit. (Laughs) She played it like her knees were weakened by it all, which was really kind of brilliant.
Let’s talk about Clay’s “Sweet holy pussy!” outburst.
God bless Ron Perlman. And then Clay biting off a guard’s nose — I did not see that coming.
I got the idea because a buddy of mine is a chaplain and goes into prisons and talks to these guys and preaches. Maybe one or two of the guys are there because they want to be and the rest of them are just there because it’s something to do. The story is that the doctor who’s gonna get [Clay] the phone is in the psych ward. So he really has to go 5150 on them and go off the deep end so it’s not just being thrown in the hole. It also was just so much fun to give that to Ron because I knew he’d chew it up. We’ve sorta been in a little bit of a holding pattern with Clay because he’s inside. There’s a couple episodes where I’d written scenes in prison for him, but they ultimately just felt like what they were, which was reminding people that he was in prison. And because my episodes are already so long, we didn’t do them. But with this episode and him setting up what’s going on with the Irish, we really kick off the back half of his story.
Jax went to DA Patterson and made a deal: He’ll give her Galen in exchange for immunity for the MC on past and present gun charges. That sounds like the basis for more bloodshed. Is that where that’s headed?
(Laughs) I think it’s Jax making a decision on how he could potentially save his club. It’s all about setting up Galen and feeling that after what happened with his guys and at the clubhouse, is there anything there left to be loyal to? I don’t know if it’ll just lead to bloodshed as much as it’s that continuing mythology: As Gemma talked about in that Nero scene, it’s history repeating itself. This is why JT was gone to Belfast, because he was trying to do the same thing. And that’s when he hooked up with Maureen. That cycle continues in this world…. And it’s interesting that we played it so that it’s actually Patterson who brings up the Tara of it all, who basically says, “Well, what about your wife?” We debated that: The way Jax is feeling about Tara now, would getting her off really be foremost on his mind? Yes, he does want her to get off, but I think it’s almost like he doesn’t want to get into it. If he said, “I don’t give a s—” that would open up a whole other can of worms. Him saying, “Yes, this is what I want also” is almost about just doing it because that’s the expectation.
The information Gemma shared with Nero about John’s death — all true, yes?
Yeah. I think everybody had a sense of that already. But to hear her verbalize it and contextualize it. It’s the fact that she really probably has never uttered any of that out loud before, and that she ultimately really trusts this guy and loves this guy, and he’s sort of done the same to her. That relationship, like every other relationship in this world, always gets tested and has good days and bad days and we’ll continue to see that. When you throw these story lines together and these relationships together, you don’t know what’s going to connect in terms of actors’ chemistry. But the two of those actors together [Katey Sagal and Jimmy Smits] are so much fun to watch — if I can detach sometimes from the fact that it’s my wife and he’s this Latin stud. There’s so much mutual love and respect between them as actors that I think that really comes across onscreen.
Another big reveal: A character named Brooke (Hayley McFarland, pictured) took out some anger on Tig’s bike and the new clubhouse’s storefront, and Jax learned that she’s the daughter of a woman killed in the pile-up that followed his father’s fatal accident. Jax went to see her father and saw Brooke’s mother in a wedding photo — it appeared to be the mysterious Homeless Woman we’ve seen pop up from time to time on the show. After Jax arranged for Oswald to help Brooke’s broke father, one of his employees, keep their home (“It’s just my way of saying, ‘Sorry’ to a mother,” Jax told Brooke), Brooke walks outside and passes the Homeless Woman sifting through trash. How should we interpret all that?
To me, going back to our Shakespeare archetype, she’s a little bit of that magic. Obviously, this is far from a supernatural show, so it always has to be rooted in some kind of realism. It’s always just about creating that question in people’s minds and keeping them guessing. So is she an angel? Is she a harbinger of bad things to come? But at some point, I did want to root her a little bit in the mythology of the show. And then we had the opportunity to do that this season with the character Brooke, and having Jax respond to it in a real way based on where he’s at emotionally. Not that suddenly Jax thinks he’s seeing ghosts or that I want to create that illusion, but is it the same woman? Is it just somebody that looks like her? Just keeping all those questions so we never cross the line into it being something supernatural, and yet perhaps it is. I like the notion of having something out there that feels a little bit beyond, that there’s something out there spinning all this that’s beyond their control.
Did you always know when you’d reveal that backstory?
I knew I wanted to do it probably at some point in season 5 or season 6. I didn’t want to wait ’til the last season to do it. So I’ve sort of always had it in the back of my mind and then was looking for the opportunity so that it didn’t feel like it was something we were inserting for the sake of inserting. It dovetailed nicely into a story and the reveal felt organic.
We didn’t see Wendy this episode. She’s still alive, right?
Yeah. It was one of those things where, did I really want to play seeing her go through withdrawals? I felt like we acknowledge that she’s still there and that we’ll continue that story line. I love that we got to hear a little bit of that backstory this season, that perhaps at one point Gemma and Wendy were very close. Not that Gemma honestly feels like Wendy will just slip in and replace Tara, but Gemma, in her maternal need, is like, “Okay, Tara’s out. What do I fill that void with? Oh, here’s somebody.” She’s a person that needs to be doing that kind of stuff to give her some sense of worth. It’s interesting that Wendy is there and able to fill that emotional or psychological need that Gemma has.
Barosky has bowed out of the Diosa expansion. Will we see him again this season?
I love that character, and he was integral at the beginning of the season, and he actually comes back… I know he’s in the finale. I just wanted to keep that character alive because I think he’ll ultimately have some story next season. It just felt like one of those great urban characters that we have in terms of like Alvarez and what we had with Pope. He’s just one of those fixtures that are part of that community that our guys have to engage with. The thing I love about the world itself and how we play those relationships is that it’s like countries: There are embargoes, there are tensions. There are periods of time when everything is good and they’re allies. And then something goes south and suddenly they’re at war. It’s never a straight line, and it’s always very complicated because there’s no rule book. It’s all based on a handshake and an understanding. The simplest thing can turn it upside down. I’ve seen it in the MC world. It’s like suddenly I’ll go to a run with these guys, and there’ll be a club that’s no longer there. And I’ll be like, “What happened to…” and it’s that some arbitrary thing happened in a charter in some other part of the country that impacted the whole organization, and suddenly they are no longer alive to them. Those relationships are so fascinating, and I like to keep those characters around so we can continue to bounce off of them.
Last question: Following that spectacular hit-and-run, I’m not the only one I know who is on edge every time someone is standing on the sidewalk or in an alley. When Jax arrived back at the new clubhouse at the end of this episode and stood outside talking to Chibs, I was like, “Get inside! Get inside!” I don’t even know what I’m expecting to happen. I’m just nervous. Is that a feeling you’re intending to foster?
That’s so funny. I never even thought of that. But that’s fantastic. (Laughs) I’ve built-in tension I didn’t even know was happening.