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Sons of Anarchy Season Finale Post Mortem: Kurt Sutter Tackles Burning Qs and Previews Season 5

[The following contains major spoilers from Tuesday’s Sons of Anarchy Season 4 finale. If you have yet to lay witness to it all, turn back now.]

Phew. Sons of Anarchy concluded what has arguably been its finest season (take note, Emmy!) with an edge-of-your seat, twist-filled, game-altering hour that tied up a number of loose ends and planted just enough seeds to keep viewers pumped for Season 5. In the following Q&A, the show’s passionate, outspoken creator, Kurt Sutter, weighs in on the finale’s biggest question marks and reveals what’s in store when the show returns next year.

TVLINE | Was it always your plan to have Clay survive the season?
Yeah. The character of Clay was essential to me for at least a couple more seasons. There’s so much more dramatic ground to cover with Jax at the head of that table and Clay now almost the Piney character in that he’s weakened and stripped of some of his previous weight and power. To me, that’s a really interesting dynamic. And quite honestly, I didn’t want to waste the power of Jax having that knowledge and passion and knowing about the deceit that happened and the secret that’s been kept from him for all these years with just one episode of him killing Clay. Because then it’s done. He’s avenged his father’s death and it’s almost like that storyline kind of burns out, and I just feel there’s a lot more story to tell there. I equate it to a little bit of what we did on The Shield. When Vic found out that Shane was responsible for killing Lem, we played out a whole season with those two guys knowing that. It was so much fun to have those two guys [harbor] intense hatred and and yet they had to suit up every day and go to work together. That’s just really fun fertile ground for story.

TVLINE | The Tara-Gemma dynamic was forever altered, too. They’re essentially becoming the same person. Moving forward, what is the one thing that prevents Tara from truly becoming like Gemma?
That was always the idea to have Gemma kind of bring Tara close and ultimately create her own little Frankenstein there. Look, I don’t think we’re going to waste the arc that we built with Tara this season. Meaning, she’s not going to go back to the, “Am I in or am I out?” Tara that we’ve seen previously. But clearly Tara is not Gemma… Tara gives Jax that syringe and says, “This is how you [kill Clay].” Well if it was Gemma, she would have already done it, so there’s still an element of Tara that’s somewhat removed. I don’t thing Tara would actually be able to go up to Clay and put a bullet in his head or put the syringe in the tube. Is Tara really capable of becoming Gemma? And what happens if she’s put in a position where she has to make that ultimate sacrifice for her family and her club? Is she going to be capable of going that dark? So I do think they’re definitely some struggles with Tara yet to play out.

TVLINE | Tara and Clay now have something in common, in that they both know that Gemma is concealing the truth about her role in JT’s death from Jax.
Right.

Sons of Anarchy Spoiler Alert: Look Who’s Returning in Season 5

TVLINE | I have to imagine that that’s going to be a big story for next season.
I think so. It’s interesting — people have been asking me what’s going to happen with Clay and Gemma, and I’m not quite sure yet. I just know that they will always be intrinsically connected because of the secrets and the lies that they have together. And that’s an example of one. It’s why when Gemma sees Clay alive at the end [of the finale], that’s just a really bad thing for her. That’s a really big, dangerous loose end. So that will be something that we will definitely play with next season. And for Tara, that definitely gives her some leverage over Gemma. There are definitely still some loose ends from those letters — even though we see Gemma burning them. The physical evidence is missing, but Tara has enough weight with Jax that if she told him the truth, even without seeing the letters I think he would believe Tara. Perhaps Jax might not believe Clay, but I definitely think he would believe Tara. So I do believe there is some danger there even though she’s destroyed the evidence firsthand.

TVLINE | Is it safe to assume that the crime boss father of Leroy’s dead girlfriend will be a huge character next season?
Yeah. In terms of the level of participation, that always remains to be seen. But I definitely wanted to lay some track for Season 5 and put some complications already on Jax’s shoulder as he’s sitting at the head of the table. He’s already got a problem [going into Season 5].

TVLINE | Is it possible that we’ve seen the last of Opie for now?
I don’t think so. It was never my intention to suggest that he is away. To me, it was just too convenient and too soon for Opie to suddenly come back to that table with Jax. So much has happened to him and he’s such a thoughtful guy. I just think he’s the kind of guy that’s going to [need] a minute to put all this stuff in order in his head. And we’ll probably build some kind of story around that before he’s able to actually come back and be [at Jax’s side]. So that was just [a matter of] protecting the character and then to give me some story play for next season as well.

TVLINE | Given the pressing nature of the Irish deal, will Season 5 pick up almost instantly?
Fairly close. Obviously, there’s not going to be the huge break we did between Seasons 3 and 4. But I’ll try to [build in] a little time, maybe a month or so.

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TVLINE | Where do you stand on setting an end date to the show?
I’ve had a conversation with [FX president] John Landgraf and I look at [doing] potentially seven seasons. And, honestly, that’s really just coming from the model of the show and knowing that usually by Season 6 and 7 the above-the-line costs start to get pretty high and the show sort of loses profitability and it’s really difficult to continue to [produce] beyond that point. So my thought was that if I could get seven seasons, I’d definitely have stories to tell and a way to end it. So ideally, I’d love to be able to get another three seasons.