Through all of its seven seasons, Sons of Anarchy has been one of the most exciting dramas on television, and the plot twists and shocks along the way made the bumpy ride all the more entertaining. Before the FX biker drama signs off for good, look back at some of the most memorably twisted moments.
Spoilers through the penultimate episode are ahead. Click at your own risk.
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Clay Castrates a Clown (Season 1, Episode 3)
Anyone shocked by the show's brutal violence in later seasons need only look back to this moment early in the series' run. When SAMCRO spends a day at a traveling carnival, they are quickly recruited by prominent local businessman Elliot Oswald to find a clown who raped his daughter. Although Clay arranges for Oswald to take his revenge on the rapist, when he refuses, Clay castrates the clown himself and uses the murder as blackmail against Oswald, to whom Clay sends the severed testicles.
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Abel Is Kidnapped (Season 2, Episode 13)
Behind all the bullets and blood, Sons of Anarchy is really a family drama. That was never more clear than in the Season 2 finale when, after a series of misunderstandings and frame-jobs, distraught Irishman Cameron (Jamie McShane) avenges the death of his son by kidnapping Jax's baby boy Abel and taking him back to Ireland. "There was something fascinating about finding some organic way to put the family in a crisis that they've never been in before," creator Kurt Sutter told TVGuide.com at the time. "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. … Brotherhood and family is more important than vengeance."
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Juice Tries to Kill Himself (Season 4, Episode 7)
Really, this was the culmination of several shocking moments that all began when Sheriff Roosevelt used the fact that Juice's father is African-American as a way to get Juice to rat on the club. After Juice stole a brick of cocaine to help Roosevelt, he eventually had to kill and frame fellow member Miles when he discovered Juice with the stolen brick. After Clay gives Juice his "Men of Mayhem" patch, the guilt becomes to much to bear, and he attempts to hang himself. He is saved, however, by a weak branch that snaps before he dies.
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Jax Shoots Up Wendy (Season 5, Episode 12)
When Wendy, the former heroin junkie who birthed Jax's first child, returned in Season 5, she had seemingly cleaned up her life. And just as Tara begins to let Wendy have a small role in Abel's life, Wendy is kidnapped by the Irish and learns that Abel was also once abducted. Once the club arranges Wendy's release, she tells Jax she is going to use the information in order to gain custody of Abel. Instead, Jax attacks Wendy, shoots her arm full of heroin and says he's going to demand a drug test. We know Jax was just trying to protect his family, but this is one of the first times we began to worry that Jax had gone too far in that effort.
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Otto Bites Off His Own Tongue (Season 5, Episode 13)
Big Otto Delaney, an imprisoned SAMCRO member played by series creator Kurt Sutter, suffered plenty during his time on the show, but perhaps his grisliest punishment came by his own hand, er, teeth. After tricking Tara into bringing him his dead wife's rosary — which he used as a weapon to kill a nurse in order to make his testimony in the RICO case against SAMCRO worthless — Otto is threatened by the nurse's brother, former U.S. Marshal Lee Toric and forced to testify. However, when he's being interrogated, Otto bites off his own tongue and throws it at the interrogation room's glass window where Toric can see. As Toric notes, you can't fault the guy for his commitment.
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The Irish Blow Up the Clubhouse (Season 6, Episode 5)
When Jax insisted on handing off the Irish gun trade to August Marks, the racist Irish Kings decided to show Jax who was still in charge. They told Jax to assemble the club for a meeting, but Jax eventually figured out the whole meeting was a setup. Although Jax was able to get everyone out of the clubhouse safely, SAMCRO members could only watch as a massive explosion sent their home up in flames.
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Clay Finally Dies (Season 6, Episode 11)
Sure, it happened two seasons after many fans wanted Clay to pay for his murderous misdeeds, but the show managed to spice up the inevitable death by having it be part of Jax's master plan to screw the Irish and finally get out of the gun-running business for good. And perhaps the true shock was that, even after all he had done, viewers still felt for Clay as he stepped up and accepted his fate: a bullet to the throat and several more rounds to the chest as the entire club and his ex-wife Gemma looked on.
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The Debut of Venus Van Damme (Season 5, Episode 5)
Yes, we did a triple-take when The Shield and Justified star Walton Goggins made an unannounced guest appearance as the transgender escort who helped the Sons gather some incriminating photos to use against an enemy. While Venus' future appearances didn't quite catch us off guard the same way, her increasingly complicated, and then romantic, relationship with Tig was lot of fun to watch.
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Tig Accidentlaly Kills Donna (Season 1, Episode 12)
Like so many things on this show, this wouldn't have happened if communication had been better. Although Clay had asked Tig to kill Opie, whom Clay believes is a rat, Clay eventually learns that the ATF had framed Opie. Unfortunately, Tig doesn't get the call from Clay telling him to stand down, and riddles Opie's truck with bullets only to realize in another sad twist of fate, that Opie had swapped vehicles with his wife Donna.
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Bobby Takes a Final Bullet (Season 7, Episode 9)
To punish Jax for betraying him, August Marks has Bobby kidnapped and tortured in a effort to force Jax to hand over his leverage against Marks: the body of a dead preacher and the preacher's wife's testimony about Marks' shady land deals. Naturally, Bobby won't talk, which costs him an eye and four fingers before Jax finally relents. However, when Jax finally hands over the evidence August wants, August still shoots Bobby in the head to send SAMCRO a message.
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Damon Pope Kills Tig's Daughter (Season 5, Episode 1)
Again, misinformation dooms poor Tig. Believing the One Niners shot Clay instead of Opie, Tig retaliated in the Season 4 finale and killed Damon Pope's daughter in the process. As a result, Pope forces Tig to "know my pain" by having Tig watch as his daughter Dawn is thrown in a pit, covered in gasoline and eventually burned alive, courtesy of Pope's cigar. We can still hear Tig's pained cries.
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Clay Kills Piney (Season 4, Episode 8)
We had no idea how far Clay would go to protect himself from the damning truth in John Teller's letters. Once Tara shared the letters with Piney, he used them as leverage to force Clay to kill a deal with a Mexican drug cartel. Although Clay agreed to Piney's demands at first, he eventually stormed into Piney's secluded cabin and shot him in the chest with a shotgun. But as you'll see on the next slide, this was only the beginning of Clay's downward spiral.
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Clay Beats Up Gemma (Season 4, Episode 10)
After Clay killed Piney and ordered a hit on Tara to eliminate the threat of Jax learning about John Teller's letters, Gemma no longer wanted to keep Clay's secrets. When she threatened to tell Jax what Clay had done to Tara, Clay did Gemma one better by threatening to reveal Gemma's role in arranging John's death. The argument eventually spilled into a fistfight that ended with Clay beating Gemma's face into an almost-unrecognizable collection of cuts and bruises. The hard-to-watch scene was the final straw for many fans who demanded Clay had to die.
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The School Shooting (Season 6, Episode 1)
Sons of Anarchy was always a show willing to push the envelope, but that was never more true than the Season 6 premiere, which featured a troubled 11-year-old walking into his Catholic school and opening fire with an automatic weapon that, you guessed it, traced back to SAMCRO. The moment, coming in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, perhaps played a little too heavily on shock value, but it was also the inciting incident that finally forced Jax to seek a way out of the gun business.
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Opie's Death (Season 5, Episode 3)
In what remains the series most emotionally devastating death, endlessly loyal good guy Opie volunteers to go to his death so Jax won't have to choose which of his brothers has to die. (Damon Pope had demanded a dead SAMCRO member and Tig's life in prison to make up for Tig murdering Pope's daughter.) "I got this," Opie says as prison guards drag him away to a four-on-one fight that Jax has to watch through a glass window. The brutal beatdown ends with Opie being cracked in the back of his skull with a metal pipe, a fatal blow that is likely seared into the memories of viewers.
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Gemma Is Raped (Season 2, Episode 1)
Sons began what is arguably its best season with yet another scene that is remarkably hard to watch. Gemma is kidnapped and chained to a fence while three white supremacists repeatedly rape her in order to urge Clay to stop dealing guns to the Mayans and One Niners. Even more sad, a fearful Gemma keeps the whole attack to herself until the end of the season, when she confesses the truth in order to unite a warring Jax and Clay against a common enemy.
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Gemma Kills Tara (Season 6, Episode 13)
This moment paved the way for the series' endgame, and again proved just how much of a Mama Bear Gemma is. Believing Tara has ratted out Jax and the club, Gemma attacks Tara in the kitchen, beating her and trying to drown her in the sink before ultimately stabbing her in the head multiple times with a carving fork. The moment is perhaps most shocking for its utter brutality, a fact that actually plays to Gemma's favor when she later claims Tara's death was retaliation from the Chinese.
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Jax Kills Gemma (Season 7, Episode 12)
Yes, after Tara's death, Gemma's death was inevitable to some degree. But we were most shocked at how sad we felt for Gemma as she peacefully walked into the rose garden and awaited a bullet from her son. And, even though we knew Jax had to kill his mother, we honestly thought he might not go through with it. It's the moment the entire show was building toward, and it was just as disturbing and emotionally affecting as anyone could have ever asked it to be.