As the credits rolled on Sons of Anarchy‘s Season 5 finale, an old proverb immediately came to mind: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
A whole lot went down in those final 90 minutes, sure, but the end result certainly resembles the SAMCRO we’d seen in years past — save for a few major details.
The biggest changes afoot involved Clay and Tara, last seen making their respective ways to jail. Other than that, life in the tumultuous town of Charming sort of fell back into an all-too-familiar place.
Jax, who had long worked toward securing the future of SAMCRO so that he could finally walk away, mirrored Clay more than ever and let his deep ties to the club cloud his devotion to his family. Gemma, meanwhile, may have put into motion the downfall of her daughter-in-law/nemesis and once again secured a place alongside her son at the table — a position she’s long believed is hers and hers alone.
Here, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter weighs in on those events and more from the finale and answers all of your lingering burning questions. He also reveals some early plans for the FX drama’s sixth season, including who’ll be back and how a tongue-less Otto will prevail.
TVLINE | Talk about the significance of creating this season’s final shot so that it mirrors last season’s, with one major difference: Now Gemma is behind Jax, not Tara.
It’s not that I began this season with the intention of doing that, but I did realize we had the opportunity to do it. It’s been a rough season for Gemma. She began somewhat astray and lost. She had a rough ride, but at the end she really feels more grounded and like she’s earned her way back. She knows that people need her, and that’s the thing that grounds Gemma more than anything. So it was the idea that she got her balls back. Also, it’s just continuing to tell the story of that Hamlet/Gertrude quality of this very dysfunctional family.
TVLINE | Just to confirm: Tara’s arrest was the result of Gemma making good on her promise to rat her out?
My intention was to definitely put that out there as a possibility, and I think we’ll reveal how that happened. I do want the audience coming away with, “Wow, did she actually follow through on that threat? And what does that mean for Gemma and Jax if he finds out?” I definitely wanted to create that discussion.
TVLINE | Have you decided where and when Season 6 will pick up? That seems particularly important, given that we were left with two of our main characters being carted off to jail.
I don’t know yet. I have a sense of maybe where we’re going to start. But until I sit down and start to map it out with my writers, I’m really not certain if it’s going to be a couple of weeks or a couple of months, or if it’s going to be longer.
TVLINE | Why do this to Tara? She’s been loyal and strong and patient, and the moment she gets some good news, this happens.
I don’t think it’s a decision about “doing this” to a character. I’d like to think that the things that happen happen out of circumstance and out of character and that it was organic to the story. There’s this notion of Jax getting all of his ducks in a row on the outlaw side while the family side fell apart; pulling off one plan flawlessly while another plan completely fell apart was sort of the idea behind that. Also, for Tara, this takes her to a new place. Her involvement in what Jax has done has only really been through supporting what he does and not asking too many questions and patching up guys who are injured. Now she’s plugged herself into a situation that’s blown back on her, and she can suffer the same outlaw consequences. So, what does that do now to her? What does it do to that relationship? To me, it opens up a whole new level of possibilities for that character.
TVLINE | Is it safe to assume her Oregon job offer is officially dead?
That will remain to be seen.
TVLINE | Jax barely reacted to Tara’s arrest and then seemed all-too-content with welcoming Gemma back into the fold. What was going through his head in those moments?
My sense is that there is a level of shock and awe in his mind, and a sense of betrayal by what she did — not that she wasn’t justified in doing it and not that it wasn’t the right thing to do, but he felt betrayed. I also think [there was a] level of strength and almost stillness she had about those decisions; she wasn’t the fragile, neurotic Tara we’ve seen in the past. She was much more Gemma-like in these decisions: “This is my job, this is what I have to do, and I’m f–ing doing it.” That was new to Jax, seeing Tara be that strong and be that Old Lady. He was overwhelmed by all of that, which impacted his ability — or perhaps inability — to react when she got taken away. He was neutralized by it all, and that’s what was going on.
TVLINE | Is a main takeaway here that Jax is no longer looking for an out? Everything was finally squared away, and yet he seemed to be opting to stick with SAMCRO.
The takeaway is really the impact of this life; the impact of being in that chair changed all of that. I’m not going to just come out and say this, nor is the character going to come out and say this, but one could argue that once you have a taste of that power and a taste of the ability to move things around on that level, it’s hard to walk away from it. You can justify it 100 different ways, and at the end of the day, that’s still the case. Jax makes the argument to Nero when [Nero] says he gets pulled back in: ‘You f–ing knew that was going to happen.’ It’s the idea that they’re both kidding themselves.
TVLINE | In what scenario is Clay not immediately offed next season — especially given how easily Opie was killed behind bars? Is there possibly any longevity left in this character?
I don’t know if there is longevity — not that the premiere of Season 6 will be Clay getting a bullet in his head, but the intention was that we end this season with Clay a doomed guy. That will be a reality for that character in Season 6.
TVLINE | You somehow managed to make Clay half-sympathetic in these final Season 5 installments. Were you purposely trying to redeem him a bit?
I don’t know if it’s about redeeming him. I wanted to get Clay to a point that I think a lot of these guys do. We saw it a little bit in Belfast with McGee, that they get to the point where they just can’t do another round, you know what I mean? Clay got into the season and set up the thing with nomads and then that f–ing goes south, and then Eli’s wife gets killed and he just reached a point where he didn’t have the energy to do another round of it. At the end of the day, he just wanted to come out with a little bit of a piece of the pie — which was the gun business — and Gemma. That was completely sincere; that wasn’t Clay playing anybody. Not that that should buy him forgiveness for all the heinous sh-t he’s done as president, but I think it was an interesting place to take that character. Whether or not you feel for him really depends on the viewer’s connection to that character. I just wanted to show that at a certain point, these guys get worn out by the life and they can’t suit up anymore.
TVLINE | Bobby was merely choosing to vacate his spot as VP, not leave the Sons completely, correct?
It’s sort of what Tig did when he couldn’t feel comfortable being an officer under Clay. Bobby now feels like he can’t do his job as VP and that he’s just giving up the position. They’ll vote in a new VP next time they have church.
TVLINE | Did the thought ever cross your mind to actually have Jax give up Tig to Damon Pope?
There were a couple different scenarios on the table. I think there was even an early scenario where Tig died in jail with Opie. I love the actor and I love the character and unless I really needed it for story or I really needed it to take the series to the next level like we needed the death of Opie to do — if I was going to get rid of a guy like Tig, it just had to be something that the series needed. At the end of the day, I liked the idea that Jax still took a risk with his life, but ultimately got him a pass. I think Jax has the realization that his inner circle is getting smaller and smaller and that he perhaps needs as many allies as he can get.
TVLINE | Is Juice now officially in the clear for ratting out the club?
You know, we had a scene in the finale that we cut out of the broadcast version because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it next season. We had Chibs ask what they do about Juice and Jax just gives him a nod. We then see Chibs go to Clay’s house and he beats the sh-t out of Juice within an inch of his life. But I realized that I didn’t want to do that because I loved the moment with Jax and Juice in the clubhouse, when he kisses him and says, ‘I’m proud of you.’ I didn’t want to undermine that moment and make Jax look like a psychopath. [Laughs] Also, I wanted the option of going in a couple different directions in Season 6. I didn’t want to put a bow on it with a beatdown, which suggests that all is forgiven and this is how we’re going to fix it. I just like the idea that it’s out there and maybe we play it, maybe we don’t play it. But ultimately, Juice has earned — for now anyhow — some time.
TVLINE | The finale left things open for Jimmy Smits, Donal Logue and Billy Brown to all return next season. Is that the plan?
Donal I know is coming back. We have him for 10 episodes, I think, so he’ll definitely be back for 7 or 8 [more] next season. The way we’re doing it with Jimmy is that nothing would make me happier than to bring him back. I love the character, I love the guy, it’s just good energy on the set and, I think, ups everybody’s game. But he’s a busy guy, so what I wanted to do was leave it a little bit open-ended so that there was emotionality and story left on the table that we could pick up with, but that there was nothing that was lynch-pinned to anything that needed him to swing to the next place. We’ll probably get into that soon with Jimmy, but I would love to bring him back. And the same thing with Billy Brown. Sometimes it’s harder to get these guys who you don’t have big season arcs for because they’re in demand, like Billy… But I’d love to bring him back and I think there’s an arc for him. I just don’t know what that is yet.
TVLINE | You’ve told me in the past that you hate playing Otto, so I thought that his whole tongue debacle might be your swan song. But probably not, if Donal is back next season.
Here’s the good thing: I won’t ever have to say anything else again. [Laughs] I’ll be mumbling and I’ll be writing stuff on pads — that’s all I’ll have to do. I dunno, my intention was to always see Otto make it to the gas chamber and play that scene out. I think that’s an interesting place to see these guys go. I don’t know if or when that will happen, but, again, I didn’t foresee anything we did [with him] this season. It just became a great way to plug Tara into that world and set her up. So, who knows? [Laughs]
TVLINE | And now, most importantly, will the dog Tig rescued be back next season? Perhaps as a SAMCRO mascot?
[Laughs] We’ll see. For me and for Tiggy, it was Dawn’s replacement. It was giving him another child at the end of the show, so he had something to love. I don’t know how much that dog costs per day, so that will dictate whether or not we have it again. [Laughs]