As any longtime fan of Sons of Anarchy might expect, the final season of FX's flagship drama is going to be a bumpy ride.
The show's swan song, which kicks off Sept. 9 at 10/9c, picks up 10 days after the end of last season, when Jax (Charlie Hunnam) was found in his home cradling the corpse of his brutally murdered wife Tara (Maggie Siff). Although the new season begins with Jax behind bars, he's eventually freed and sets out to punish the person responsible for Tara's death.
There's just one problem: Jax has no idea that it's his mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) he should be targeting. "The relationship is similar, if not better than ever," Hunnam said of the Jax-Gemma relationship. "This final betrayal and tragedy in his life has completely demolished any potential of him trusting anyone outside of his immediate circle. In all of the scenes, I've been trying to instill a little bit of that sense of, 'If you're not my mom, or my children or one of the Sons of Anarchy, you better look out."
And don't look for Gemma to give up her secret anytime soon. "She is somewhat duplicitous at this point — not even somewhat," Sagal said. "What's coming out of her mouth and what's going on in her brain are two different things. She has adjusted to the situation based on her basic instinct, which is to survive and keep her family together. That hasn't changed."
What has changed, according to creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter, is how the show's final season will play out compared to Sutter's original plan. "I always had a sense of where I wanted it to go and I would come in each season with a blueprint... of big arcs and mile markers," Sutter said. "I've learned that over seven seasons now, the looser I grip that idea, the better the seasons are. This season isn't any different. I came in with how I wanted the season to end and we're heading in that direction, but things change. Always been headed in the same direction, but the way I'm getting there continuously changes."
One thing's for sure: The final season will likely be brutal. But Sutter said he's not trying to top last year's grisly battle between Tara and Gemma, which ended with Gemma stabbing Tara in the back of her head with a carving fork. "I don't think anything we've ever done has been inorganic [or] unbelievable in terms of heightened circumstances and the players involved," Sutter said when asked about the show's violent content. "It's not that my goal is to disturb people, but I want that reaction when beloved characters go away. I want people to be upset. When Opie was killed, people f---ing hated me. They didn't stop watching, but they were upset — they had lost a friend. That to me means you're writing characters that are relatable, believable and people want to show up for each week. Which means, quite frankly, I'm doing my job"
However, has the show's violence hindered the show's ability to earn Emmys recognition? "The package isn't a package that appeals to Emmy voters," director and executive producer Paris Barclay said. "I'm not a biker dude. I'm more of a Glee dude, but I got sucked in. .. I honestly don't think [Emmy voters] watch the show. If people gave it a shot and looked at it, it would be a different story."
For his part, Hunnam says he's more interested in delivering a satisfying final season than winning awards. "It doesn't matter at all," he said. "I feel there's this perception that we're upset about it. I really don't give a sh--. I make this for the people who love the show."
And so does Sutter, who increasingly has found it impossible to cut episodes to fit the 60-minute timeslot. "As the seasons became more complicated and as each scene of our little movie became an integral connective beat to another scene, it became more and more difficult to find things to cut," Sutter said. "I got to the point with the network where I needed help. I said, 'What do I cut here?' They did some internal discussions and ... they started to allow us to have longer episodes. It proved to be successful and we weren't losing any viewership.
"I no longer have the struggle going into the creative process [thinking], 'As I write this, what am I going to have to cut?'" Sutter continued. "I can write the episodes I want to write, and on an editorial level I'm cutting only the things that make it a better episode. That's the beauty of that. Now I'm able to turn out episodes that really are the best cut to deliver that story."
Sons of Anarchy's final season premieres Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 10/9c on FX. Will you be sad to see the show go?