Tuesday night's Sons of Anarchy finale marked an explosive end to a fantastic season. Jax cemented his place at the head of the table by brilliantly wrapping up all the of challenges facing the club, but meanwhile faced perhaps his biggest difficulty yet -- seeing his wife be led away in handcuffs. Showrunner Kurt Sutter downloaded with a select group of journalists on the season five finale.
After the shocking death of Opie early in the season, is it difficult to build to a season finale that lives up to that?
Kurt Sutter: That's always a challenge, doing something larger in the beginning. I really wanted to do that with Opie, I didn't want to drag out it out… [have the audience] see it coming because of the natural progression of the world. I really wanted it to be shocking and come as a complete surprise. … What I was able to do really with the death of Opie, and not so much worrying about having the rest of this season be a letdown, really what it gave me was such a life-altering circumstance for my hero, that really allowed me to accelerate his journey. I really wanted to have a situation that would force his hand ... so we could organically push Jax to the edge to see what kind of man, what kind of leader he would become. It really kind of opened up my story possibilities rather than hindering them.
Was having Otto bite his own tongue off a way of having him exit from the series?
Sutter: It was my way of writing myself out of having to learn dialogue. As Otto comes back it will just be grunts and me [scribbling notes on paper]. ... My pitch on the first day in the writers room was that I want to find a way for Otto to bite his tongue off so I don't have to learn any more lines… [But] I thought, with a guy that's as f***ed up as Otto, what a better way of saying, "I'm not talking."
How do you find that balance between Gemma being completely despicable, and yet, still making us root for her in her relationship with Nero?
Sutter: It's always a fine balance with any of our major three characters, Jax, Gemma and Clay, that trilogy, such familial, strong characters who have won over the audience. ... Some of [their] decisions are really bad, reprehensible decisions, so it's always difficult trying to find that balance. I try to let the story be my guide, I try to make sure things happen organically. Gemma, and I mean this in the most flattering way, Gemma's just a cockroach, she's just hard to kill. She was really adrift at the beginning of the season, she was f***ed up, she hit a bottom and she crawled her way back up and she made some very defining decisions. I think at the end, my intent for her was to sort of have her balls back, and I think we got there at the end of the finale. It's hard to cheer that on, but at the very least, there's always that sense of -- she always lands on her feet. And her justification is always, "I'm taking care of my family." That's what allows her in her mind to do the things that she needs to do.
We've seen Jax develop into a leader… where would you say Jax mentally is at the end of season five?
Sutter: I really wanted to get to a place with Jax at the end of the season ... where he realizes that he's better at being an outlaw than he is at being a husband and a father. ... He does one incredibly well and one incredibly bad.
What do you foresee will be [Clay's] role in the coming seasons?
When August tells his guy, I want him dead before the hearing… I really wanted to convey a death knell for Clay. … [That] he's a dead man walking… in other words, that Jax was successful in his death by proxy option that he's choosing for Clay. … Whether Clay will make it through season six, I'm not sure. … I don't want to get into another situation where it's another almost-death for Clay, because that unsatisfying. Ultimately it has to be near, but there is still more story to tell.
Will the [Sons] be fractured in season six?
Sutter: I think that was part of the irony or the tragedy. We had this list for Jax at the beginning of the season, it was a sort of checklist of what Jax wants: he wants to get out of the drug and cartels business, wants to get out of Rico, he wants to get payback, revenge on Clay. ... He methodically and brilliantly achieved all those goals this season … but the fallout came out on the personal side of it. Both families were in shambles. Now he has a club that has no more external pressures… and yet the club itself is in complete shambles. ... The club itself, it's got all these wonderful opportunities and it's ready to flourish. Part of Jax's job next season is -- I've removed all of these external things, [now] how do I fix it from the inside?
Will guest stars like Jimmy Smits and Donal Logue be returning?
Sutter: I can definitely tell you that Donal will be back, we've made a deal with Donal for 10 episodes so far, he was in two or three, we definitely have him locked up for seven or eight episodes next season but it will probably be more. That character will be a big character next season and probably the most dangerous threat that the club's ever had. Just in terms of a guy with law enforcement weight, credentials, and yet because he's retired, doesn't have the legal handcuffs or morality hurdles that some of our other law enforcement members have had. ... Jimmy Smits -- I would love to bring him back. He brings such a gravitas to the show. I love bringing in that new sort of culture to the show, his Latino [culture], mixing that into the show. That's really interesting for me. I [also] love the relationship going on with he and Gemma. We left it sort of open ended because I wasn't sure on his availability. I feel like there's enough relationship or emotion on the table to continue with his story [so] we're in the process right now of trying to figure out Jimmy's availability and trying to make that work.
Will Drea de Matteo come back?
Sutter: I'd love to bring back Drea. She got [another] show and it remains to be seen whether her show gets picked up. ... I definitely think there's more story to be told with that character. I love where we went with it this season. … I think Drea had a lot of fun to have some bones and some meat to chew on with that character, like she did early on. … [But ultimately], it's her availability.
Are you still planning to end the series with season seven?
Sutter: Season seven was always my goal because I know how this cable model works. … We're still heading in that direction and working towards that. … Look, if I get halfway through season six [and can't] tell all the stories I need to tell in seven season, I can have a conversation with FX President John Landgraf. … Here's what I definitely don't want to do, I don't want to just extend the show for another season just for the sake of doing another season. … My answer is, [once] I get halfway through the storytelling in season six I'll have a pretty good sense of whether I can tie it up in season seven.