FX’s Sons of Anarchy has killed its fair share of characters over the years, but no death has packed quite the punch as Opie’s grisly murder in this Tuesday’s episode. To recap, grimacing anew with every keystroke: Per the terms laid out by Damon Pope to solve the Sons’ prison problem, Jax would not only cede half of the club’s coke-muling earn, but also sacrifice one of his brothers. (Tig’s life however was not on the table, as Pope also insisted that his daughter’s killer rot behind bars, forever.) And while Jax adamantly refused to give up a Son, Opie made the tough call for him, forcing his way into an off-book prison melee that had only one possible outcome: his death, via several blows to the head with a steel pipe.
During a Wednesday conference call, Sons creator Kurt Sutter told TVLine that he first mulled Opie’s fate during Season 3, and firmed it up at the end of Season 4, when the character’s dad, Piney, met his own maker, at Clay’s hand.
“I got to the end of that season and realized there is this circular dynamic happening with Jax and Opie that I felt was very difficult to get out of,” Sutter explained. Having informally set his sights on a seven-season run, “This is the first [season] I’ve had to think about the end game, and knowing where I wanted to get my hero and knowing how I wanted to get there, the road I wanted him to travel,” Sutter continued. “And Jax needed that emotional upheaval, that one event that happens in a mans life that can change the course of his destiny — the death of his best friend was [that].”
Sutter acknowledges that the manner of Opie’s death and the suddenness was hard-hitting, but promises it was not served up lightly. “I knew this would be a gut-wrenching episode and difficult for people to wrap their brains around, but… the death of Opie will color the rest of the episodes for the rest of the series,” he stressed. “It’s not a death that will happen in vain. Of course there’ll be a sense of vengeance, something that drives out guys to retaliate, but also the emotional impact that his death will have on the rest of the characters will always be there.”
Other topics Sutter addressed during the press call:
WHY OPIE GAVE UP HIS LIFE | “I do believe that some of it was a sense of, ‘Here’s an opportunity for me to go out doing the right thing, to be of best service to my club’ — and also to his family,” Sutter said, noting that Opie never really reconciled his life with his relationship to his ex and their kids. “Jax wasn’t going to force himself to make that choice [of who dies]. Opie saw that … and had to step in and make that choice.”
GIVING RYAN HURST THE BAD NEWS | “It’s a difficult thing. He is very plugged into the show and loves the character, and Ryan is a super-sensitive dude, so it was difficult for both of us to figure out how to do this,” Sutter related. “In the end, when he read the script and saw the episodes that follow, he understood the nature of it and the importance of it in the mythology of the show.”
WHY SUTTER HIMSELF ‘SPOILED’ THE BIG DEATH | For a showrunner who is extremely averse to spoilers, Sutter’s use of Twitter and the like to talk up the looming death was, to say the least, surprising. “The reason I ended up teasing it … was really because of social media and the speed at which information travels,” he explained. “It was about giving people a heads up that if they weren’t watching the episode [live] to stay off social media until they did, so it wouldn’t get spoiled.”