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Sons of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter On Last Night’s Character Death

Charlie Hunnam (left), Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst and Kim Coates on "Sons of Anarchy"

We’re only three episodes into the fifth season of FX’s Sons of Anarchy, and already we’ve lost one of the most beloved members of SAMCRO. If you missed last night’s episode “Laying Pipe,” steer clear of the Internet in general (and especially this article) if you want to avoid spoilers.

With that out of the way, it was tough to say goodbye to someone who’s been one of the most sympathetic characters over drama’s entire run.

Opie (played by Ryan Hurst) has been murdered, beaten to death in prison to protect the life of his best friend and SAMCRO president Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam). Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter held a conference call with journalists this morning to discuss perhaps the most influential death in the history of his series, and what it means for the future of the show.

“The death of Opie will color the rest of the episodes for the rest of the series,” he said. “It’s not a death that will happen in vain, and I would hope that people still stay plugged in. Of course there will be a sense of vengeance and there will be something that drives our guys to retaliate, it’s not so much that as it is the emotional impact his death will have on the rest of the series and the rest of the characters.”

Sutter emphasized he wanted Opie’s death to happen now so it will be “organic,” versus building hyping it for the premiere or finale of a season. By losing Opie now in such a tragic way — the character actively sacrificed himself to prevent Jax, Chibs or Tig from having to be killed off to satisfy Damon Pope’s (Harold Perrineau) need for vengeance — Sutter wanted to show there’s going to be a whole new Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy.

Ryan Hurst as Opie

“Jax I think needed this emotional upheaval,” Sutter said. “This is the season where Jax — my sense of it is — Jax really figures out what kind of man he’s going to become and what kind of leader he’s going to be, and I feel like wanting to lay these circumstances out early in the season really allows this death to color all the decisions Jax is going to make [for the rest of the series].”

If Jax had his way, he would have been the man who died in the fight. Sutter confirmed that Opie knew that, which was why he sacrificed himself instead.

“I think he put it together when they were in that prison cell together when Jax told him the truth about what Pope wanted,” Sutter said of the moment Opie knew he would be the one to die. “Opie knows Jax well enough to know that he would rather take the bullet himself to say, ‘Here, take this guy.’ … Rather than put Jax through that agony, he [sacrificed himself].”

Hurst has known for a while that his character was on his way out. Sutter said he realized in Season 3 that Opie would have to die so that his death would influence Jax to be a better — or at least different — leader. Although the death scene was one of the more brutal moments of the series, Sutter said he felt this scene allowed Opie to die a way that honored his character. In other words, his death wasn’t a suicide and was instead what he considered the best service to his club and his family.

“I wanted Opie to go out a warrior. I wanted him to go out with a sense of nobility,” Sutter said. “I felt like we were able to do all that with [his death].”

He added that he felt Jax and Opie had at last resolved their issues and were again brothers.

“I felt like there was a very organic process in the episode where we see these two guys — it was a bumpy road, but there was a sense of Jax being honest with him and telling him everything and really bonding with him as a result of these circumstances,” he said.

At least fans can breathe a little easier from here on out. Instead of Opie’s early death being a sign that Season 5 is going to continue to spiral out of control, Sutter made it clear that Sons of Anarchy won’t get any crazier in the finale than the show already is.

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“I don’t know if things will get more insane. I think they will be influenced — Jax will be greatly influenced — by the death of Opie and that loss, that emptiness, will color him,” Sutter said, adding, “This is really the first season where I’ve had to think about the end game.”

Looking forward, we will see Pope take on a “weird” mentorship role (don’t worry, it’s not one in “the classic sense of the word”), there will be some ebbing and flowing — Sutter’s words — in the relationship between Jax and Clay (Ron Perlman), and Juice’s big secret from Season 4 will come back after seemingly being buried.

“I’m very aware of the level of violence and the bigness of our stories, and I think one of the things that keeps them real is they don’t happen in a vacuum,” Sutter said. “I don’t play out a huge scene or a huge arc and then just let it exist and not tie it to the ground.”

He teases, “Halfway through the season we really get into who Pope is and why he’s made the decisions that he’s made,” adding that it’s intriguing to find out how Pope became a welcome member of his community.

Sutter also added that, while Sons of Anarchy only has seven seasons planned, he believes FX will give him more time if he decides in the future that he needs it.

Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.


  • Joshua Casey

    I found myself in shock after this most recent episode played out. I had to talk to my roommates from college again, whom I started the series with and see if they’d kept up. This loss is easily a top 3 “most emotionally engaging moment of TV” that I’ve ever experienced. I had some premonitions towards this sacrifice, but had wished and expected a jarring turn of events to see everyone make it out of county, even as the fight began. I can’t help but compare this loss to the most significant loss of life in the final season of Six Feet Under. All signs were there but I kept trying to see a way out of it. It is insane how real television is feeling recently. 

  • spider jerusalem

    This one hit hard, and where it hurts. This can be added to the all-time most emotionally painful TV deaths list, including Nate Fisher, Johnston Green, John Locke, Augustus Hill, Brad Bellick, Felix Gaeta, Whitney Ellsworth, Ellen Tigh, Bonnie Richmond, Helen Givens and Joyce Summers. Just…ouch.

  • matt

    My wife cried after it and then couldn’t sleep. They filmed it so perfectly in that you as the viewer almost thought Opie was going to fight them off. I completely agree with you though it’s probably my top most emotionally jarring TV moment

  • Misty Woo

    killing Opie off in such a brutal and violent way cruel, I won’t be watching this series when it airs on 5USA and sorry Kurt Sutter but I personally think you are a dickhead!

  • Seth Lewis

    I watched it last night & hated seeing Opie get beat 2 death, but still am glad I watch it.  A lot of the show’s WAY over the top, but it’s still 1 of the better dramas currently on tv.

  • Brian from Canada

    It was a sad loss. But the one thing I missed from the episode was Jax not telling Pope he’d get revenge for this. You know it will happen — and soon.

  • bobbi

    OMG I know exactly how you guys feel; I was so shaken up
    after the death. There’s just no way anyone could’ve predicted it. My DISH
    coworker was telling me that this is all building up to what is to come in the
    final episodes, and Sutter’s hints seem to confirm that. I just wonder what
    other twists we should start bracing ourselves for. I’ve never been more
    intrigued! I’ve already set the show to the top spot on my recording list, just
    to make sure I’m there for whatever tricks Sutter has up his sleeve. And since
    my Hopper DVR has so much memory space, I’ll never have to worry about it being
    too full to record it. There’s no way I’m missing a second from here on out! I
    feel like no character on the show is safe anymore.

  • Davyboat

    Dexter season 4 finale.

  • Capt’n Fun

    Everybody want’s Pope to get it now. I can’t wait to see how they bump him off! 

  • Whitey Bulger

    This show is insane, but I keep watching.