*** MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD ***
Last night's Season 5 episode of Sons of Anarchy titled Laying Pipe saw the death of a major character. If you haven't watch this powerful and heartbreaking episode yet, you may want to skip the rest of this story, as it contains Major Spoilers!
Turn back now! You've been warned!
If you've seen the episode, then you know that Jax's Charlie Hunnam best friend Opie (Ryan Hurst) met his brutal, ugly demise in a county lock-up beating setup by a rival gang that the prison guards were in on. It was emotionally gut wrenching and one of the more powerful moments in television history.
Creator Kurt Sutter held a conference call this morning to answer all questions about Opie's death. To find out why this had to happen, we quizzed Sutter about this shocking, visceral moment that has all of the fans upset this morning.
First question: Why was it done?
"I don't do things arbitrarily. I don't do things just for shock value. There is a sense to how deeply commited I am to the show, and to the fans. I knew this would be a gut-wrenching episode. And difficult for people to wrap their brains around. I think the fans understand why it happened, and where it will go. I would say to the fans, "Yes, it is incredibly sad, but the death of Opie will color the rest of the episodes for the rest of the series." It's not a death that will happen in vein. I hope people stay plugged in. There will be a sense of vengeance. And it will drive our guys to retaliate. But its not even so much that as it is the emotional impact that his death will have on the rest of the series and all of the characters. I think that will always be there."
When did actor Ryan Hurst find out about the death? And was he in on it before getting the script?
"He was looped in. I didn't just send him the script. I had been playing with the idea, the arc between Jax and Opie, really towards the end of Season 3. It all came together with the death of Piney last year. I got to the end of that season, and I realized that there is this circular dynamic happening between Jax and Opie that was difficult to get out of, in terms of where their arc was going. Of course, Ryan Hurst is an extraordinary actor. As we came into this season, this is the first time I had to really think about the end game. Knowing where I want to take my hero, and the road he has to take to get there, the road he has to travel...I just felt that Jax needed that emotional upheaval. That one event in a man's life that can change the course of his destiny. I think the death of his best friend was an event. I wanted to do it at a point in the season where it felt organic, but I also wanted it to happen early, instead of it being the finale. I wanted it to happen early on in this season. As far as bringing the actor into the loop, I did that before we even started writing. As we were breaking the stories, I brought my man in. It is a difficult thing. He is very plugged into the show, and he loves the character. It was difficult for both of us to figure out how to do this. In the end, when he read the script, and seeing the episodes to follow, he understood the nature of it, and the importance of it in the mythology of the show."
What does Opie's death mean to the Tig (Kim Coates) and Clay (Ron Perlman) relationship? And the Tig and Jax relationship?
"Both of these will continue to change. Obviously there is a new dynamic between Tig and Jax. But I think the betrayal that Tig felt in the first couple of episodes with Tig and Clay, is real. Tig does feel betrayed. You will see an interesting shift happen this season. It parallels what happened in Season 2, when Opie started moving closer to Clay as a result of his rift with Jax. I think that will happen in this season as well. You will see that Tig is engaged in this new dynamic that he has with Jax. In his debt for what he did. Of course he doesn't know all of the details about the deal he made with Pope. All he knows is that Jax has gotten him a part. Tig is a great, complicated character. He is one of those characters I can, on any given episode, spin him into some absurd comic relief, or I can spin him into some gut wrenching emotional dynamic. I am lucky enough to have an actor like Kim Coates. I can ask him to put on any suit of clothes to wear. He can pull it off.
How does Opie's death tie into the end game, and will the series still wrap up with Season 7 as planned?
"I understand the model that I have to work with. And for practical reasons, after seven seasons, the above the line costs become greater than the actual revenue. In a very practical notion, I knew this model for a television series had seven seasons. It has that life span before you have to really reinvent it, change licensing fees, and all of that stuff...So, I was thinking, if that is my model, and this is my mythology, do I have seven seasons worth of story to tell? I poised it from that point of view in figuring out how to dole out the story. And where to go. The initial idea of seven seasons was not just a number I pulled out of the air. It was something I based on the practicality of what we do. As I move forward with the mythology, that has become the super structure of the show. So, yes, I have this idea for seven seasons. Look, not to throw this out there as a potential tease, I am sure that half way through season 6, if I went to FX and said, "Look, I can't end it in seven, I have another eight episodes..." Or whatever, my sense is, the network is committed enough to my show and my vision that they would probably find a way to accommodate that. But I do feel like we have been working from that structure of it being seven seasons. Today, as I look at my board, with the finale all beat out, I can still see that happening in seven seasons.
With this season, this is the season where Jax figures out the kind of man he will become. We see the decisions that he makes, and the kind of leader he is going to be. I felt that laying Opie's death out early in this season will color Jax and all the decisions that he makes. Obviously, I didn't want to do it in the premiere. I don't know that things will get more insane. They will be influenced by that loss, and that emptiness will color Jax throughout the rest of the season."