Sons of Anarchy's Kurt Sutter on Gemma's 'Deep Bond' With Clay, SAMCRO's Rising Death Toll

Sons of Anarchy Season 5 SpoilersThis story contains spoilers from Tuesday’s Sons of Anarchy. If you’ve yet to watch, avert your eyes now. Everyone else, read on…

Sons of Anarchy continued to up the ante this week with an installment that laid the groundwork for both Clay’s undoing and Gemma’s redemption — though, per Jax’s orders, the two need not be mutually exclusive.

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Upon learning that Gemma had lied about the circumstances surrounding her recent car crash, Jax and Tara kicked the matriarch out of their lives for good. However, Jax later found out that Clay was actually the mastermind behind Charming’s recent string of break-ins, and as such, he came up with a plan to kill two SAMCRO birds with one stone: Gemma, leaving Nero behind, would get back into bed — both figuratively and literally — with Sons’ fallen king. If she unearths his blueprint to dethrone Jax, she’d be welcome back into the family. And if not? Well, Jax wasn’t too concerned about that.

Juice, meanwhile, strengthened his unlikely bond with Clay when he confessed to him all of the sordid details surrounding that RICO case, Miles’ murder and even the controversial ethnicity of this father.

Here, series creator Kurt Sutter speaks with TVLine about Jax’s increasingly dark demeanor, Gemma’s response to her son’s ultimatum and Juice’s dangerous new friendship. The EP also discusses Nero’s inner gangster — whom we’re about to meet — and reveals how high SAMCRO’s death toll might get by the end of Season 5.

TVLINE | Talk about the aftermath of that indecent proposal.
After the death of Opie, we see Jax heading down this path that’s perhaps more dark than we’ve ever seen him; he’s doing things that perhaps we’ve never seen before. The irony of using Clay’s tactics to bring down Clay is what we’re going for. [Jax is] beginning to do things behind the club’s back, he’s making deals with different people at different times… That’s been Clay’s history up to this point, and that’s how he’s gotten ahead and managed his regime. We now see Jax being motivated to do that — probably even unaware of the patterns he’s repeating — and this is the beginning of it with Gemma and taking advantage of those situations. It’s sort of what I teased in the beginning of the season, when I talked about the idea of Damon Pope and Nero Padilla becoming these different mentors: one was about having to get out and doing the right thing, and the other was about not getting out, but learning how to turn disadvantage to advantage. And, again, whether he’s aware of it or not, we see Jax begin to follow the advice of Damon Pope and seeing the advantage in people’s disadvantage.

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TVLINE | You also said prior to the premiere that we will learn exactly what kind of leader Jax is by season’s end. Is that still the plan?
I think so. We don’t spell it out, but I do think that after the season ends, people will be able to judge Jax’s behavior and make that decision for themselves. And that’s ideally what we want to do.

TVLINE | Back to that proposition: Jax told Gemma that if she obliges, he and Tara will welcome her back into their family. Is there any truth to that? Or was that just more manipulation?
It’s both. It’s a dark maneuver, obviously, to undermine Clay. But he does feel that this is leverage he has on Gemma, and leverage only works if you uphold your end of the deal. So, my sense is that it’s not a ruse or a lie. What I love is the idea that as much as Gemma may have disdain for Clay and as much as she’s drawn to Nero, there is a sense that she has this deep connection with [her ex] — and Jax knows that. Even if she’s forced to engage with Clay, she has the awareness that there is a deep bond and a lot of emotionality. It would be hard for her to separate herself from that. My sense is that the reason Gemma’s going out of her way to push Clay away is because she doesn’t want to get sucked back into those strong feelings she may have for him like she has done in the past… But Jax is very away of the connection he still has with her and as he says to her at the end of the episode that he knows that once they lay down together, the secrets will start flowing.

TVLINE | Nero has been fiercely loyal to both Jax and the Sons thus far, but I have to imagine there will be some ramifications after he learns what’s been asked of Gemma.
It will definitely have an impact on him, and it will become a big complication for Gemma, in terms of what she’s starting to feel for Nero and her connection to her own family. It won’t be a straight line in terms of either one of them being settled. Gemma being Gemma, there’s a sense of her trying to navigate around everything, and that’s when things usually come crashing down. But it will definitely have ramifications on her relationship with Nero, and consequently, Nero’s relationship with Jax and the club.

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TVLINE | Will Nero live up to his name in the latter half of the season?
We’ll see that what Nero’s doing with Gemma and the Sons will start to impact his own crew, and that’s perhaps where you’ll start to see his life get more complicated… One of the things I told Jimmy [Smits] from the start is that Nero’s a reformed gangster, but he’s still a gangster — and you will definitely see some of that gangster before the season’s over.

TVLINE | Similarly, Damon Pope has proven more friend than foe — save for the death of Opie. Should we expect the other shoe to drop?
I don’t want to give anything away in terms of where that relationship goes… But both men are aware of who they are and what the other is capable of. I don’t think Jax has sipped [the Damon Pope] Kool-Aid, nor do I think Pope [believes] Jax can really be trusted.

TVLINE | What prompted Juice to confess his sins to Clay of all people? Was it purely a catharsis for him?
We felt like there was a relationship that had been established with Juice and Clay, really [from] when Clay gave him that Men of Mayhem patch awhile back. That was really the thing that broke Juice’s heart the most and caused him to almost kill himself last season. And then we’ve played this whole season as Juice being the guy taking care of Clay during his rehab, so there’s a lot of stuff that’s happened off camera between these two guys; their relationships has grown. Clay knows Juice well and has enough information to know that he’s keeping something from him. It’s really just about him pressing Juice. Juice is unstable; he’s really broken, and Clay exploits that to his own end. It’s that weird gray area; yes, he does care, and yes, there is a fatherly connection, and yes, he is taking care of Juice. But at the end of the day, he’s also getting information that may give him some insight into what Jax is planning and what might impact his own fate. What I love about it is the idea that we’ve played four-and-a-half seasons of the sanctity of the club, and all of a sudden you have a member saying, ‘We all lie. That’s how it works.’ You know what I mean? [Laughs] And for someone like Juice, who’s still a relatively new member… He’s naive in some of the realities of the world. Clay throws that line out in such a cavalier way. Whether or not that’s what everyone believes, the fact that Clay puts it out there for Juice is one of those moments that’s like, ‘Really?!’ That secret will ultimately serve and blown back on both of them.

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TVLINE | Can we expect the deaths of any series regulars before season’s end?
Potentially. Maybe one. I’ve said this from the beginning: If I go back to my Hamlet archetype, there are a couple of acts where wheels are spinning and then the third act is where the guillotine falls — and that’s what’s happening now. It’s the ramifications of a lot of circumstances, a lot of relationships, a lot of lies. It’s a bloody life. One of the things we’ve always done and continue to do on this show is, as random and as off-handed as some of the violence may seem, we very rarely do stuff in a vacuum… It may not happen until the next episode or the next season, but actions have reactions and that stuff can come back and bite you in the ass at anytime. That’s really what we’re seeing now; the stakes are higher and relationships are much more complicated. So, when you raise the stakes like that and your narrative continues to get thicker, s–t happens. [Laughs]