Sons of Anarchy

Don't call Sons of Anarchy gritty.

It's not that the word doesn't accurately describe the show's bloody violence and testosterone-fueled moral darkness. Rather, Sons creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter just thinks the word has been used to death. And, Sutter says, all the gun-running and motor-revving is really just background noise to the show's family drama.

Check out photos of the Sons of Anarchy cast

That was never clearer than in the show's 90-minute Season 2 finale, in which a son loses his father, a father loses his daughter and two fathers have their sons taken from them. The most emotionally gripping of those losses: Jax (Charlie Hunnam) crumples into the arms of his former nemesis/stepfather Clay (Ron Perlman), as they watch kidnappers speed away in a boat with Jax's son.

"There was something fascinating about finding some organic way to put the family in a crisis that they've never been in before," Sutter tells TVGuide.com. "You can see the look on Jax's face, the look on Clay's face, that what has happened to Abel is not in any of their handbooks. This season has been about trust and loyalty and testing those loyalties and ultimately bringing that all to a head.

"Ultimately, when a brother says, 'I need you,' everything else takes a back seat. Whether it's vengeance, whether it's money...everything else falls away," Sutter says. "The wounds right now between Jax and Clay are put aside to deal with the crisis at hand, but those wounds will always be present, and there will be times in the series when those scabs will be ripped open. But brotherhood and family is more important than that vengeance."

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Sutter is fond of making sure viewers understand that "nothing happens in a vacuum," and he says that Abel's kidnapping reinforces that notion. The great irony, however, is that Gemma (Katey Sagal), who carried the painful secret of being gang-raped for most of the season, set off that chain of events by killing the woman who helped set up the attack.

"Had Gemma not decided to go after Polly [Sarah Jones], she wouldn't have potentially created that circumstance that allowed Stahl [Ally Walker] to put out the lie that then triggered Cameron [Jamie McShane] on his quest of revenge," Sutter says. "Although Gemma isn't directly responsible for what happened to Edmond [Callard Harris], her need for vengeance is what set it all in motion. Violence begets violence. You can't seek out vengeance with one hand and then expect the other hand not to get bloody."

With Gemma now on the lam, she's unaware of her grandson's kidnapping, which Sutter says will provide great drama in Season 3. But he also says it was important for Gemma to get a sense of healing, even if it was through a misguided faith.

"Even though she's got these circumstances at hand, emotionally she feels like she's taken back that part of her," Sutter says. "Only a Machiavellian personality and a megalomaniac like Gemma would be on a journey of faith that would bring them to redemption and remorse. Gemma tends to manipulate it, and now thinks she's got, essentially, God on her side to do whatever the f--- she wants. She's even more dangerous than she was.... [But] it was important to me to see that satisfaction with her at the end. Ultimately there's emotional relief for Gemma."

Sons of Anarchy: How long will Tara keep Gemma's secret?

Gemma's actions also brought into sharp focus where exactly Tara (Maggie Siff) stands in her journey. After decking a hospital administrator in Episode 12, it seemed Tara had begun to accept the club's way of life. Tara's reaction to witnessing Gemma's revenge mission and the kidnapping of Abel, however, changes that, Sutter says.

"By the end of the episode, she's in absolute distress by the circumstances, and it was important for me that we show that she hadn't evolved yet to that point where she could roll with it," Sutter says. "She doesn't know how to deal with that. Even though she was a perpetrator of some violence the week before, she doesn't know what to do really with that violence, when someone puts a gun to her head, when someone's killed in front of her. These guys see it every day, but it's not who she is yet."

To be sure, there were plenty of casualties. Sutter says Half Sack's exit was born of actor Johnny Lewis' behind-the-scenes desire to move on to other things. The death of A.J. Weston (Henry Rollins), however, was a no-brainer. "I think if Weston didn't take a bullet, I may have," Sutter says with a laugh. "I think that price had to be paid."

So why let SAMCRO's archnemesis Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin) get away (mostly) unscathed? "The sadness is that guys like Zobelle get away," Sutter says. "As frustrating at it is, guys like him are simply out of the reach of guys like Clay and Jax. I think you see the blow about his daughter's death in the deli, and it does strike him. I do think he's hurting... but he's also not the kind of guy who's going to stick around and try to figure it out at this point. He's going to flee."

How did Sons of Anarchy's Season 2 finale match up with these season-enders?

Zobelle may still have his day with Clay & Co., though. "I don't think we've seen the last of Zobelle," Sutter says. "I don't know if it will happen next season, but I do think it's an interesting character and guys like him can potentially show up in almost any scenario because of the associations they make and the worlds that they navigate in. These guys will continue to thrive at the business they thrive in. There's a strong possibility of him showing up again."

Even though nothing is official, Sutter is confident the show, which hit record ratings and has an ever-increasing, obsessive fan base, will return for a third season. He says the resolution to the Jax-Abel cliff-hanger could lead the charter on a chase to Ireland, and he'd love to bring back guest stars Titus Welliver and Kenneth Johnson.

But more important than the chase, Sutter wants to explore family and the background of the club. "Next season we will perhaps learn some more history of the Teller family," Sutter says. "I'm fascinated by the mythology of the club, and when I have an opportunity to organically reveal those bits and pieces, it's fun for me. And I think the fans really enjoy being able to get that information and put those pieces together."