[WARNING: The following story contains major spoilers from the Season 5 finale of Sons of Anarchy. Read at your own risk.]
"You can't sit in this chair without being a savage."
After a season-long examination of what kind of leader Jax Teller would become as president of the outlaw motorcycle club at the center of FX's Sons of Anarchy, Jax offers up the words above as his ultimate conclusion. And there's plenty of evidence to support his case.
So did Gemma turn Tara in, or could it be the work of someone else? And why does Jax seem so lax about his old lady being carted off in handcuffs? Below creator Kurt Sutter answers our burning questions about the finale and tells us what's to come in Season 6, including more Donal Logue and (possibly) Jimmy Smits as well as some serious club rebuilding.
The question of the season was: What kind of leader would Jax become? Jax tells Bobby, "You can't sit in this chair without being a savage." So, is that our definitive answer?
Kurt Sutter: Jax is very aware of the very real possibility of that [statement]. We obviously highlighted and accelerated the drama this season with the death of Opie [Ryan Hurst]. That obviously took Jax to that place much faster than it would have had we not been able to do that. It was always my sense [to have] something that becomes a flashpoint in Jax's life that sort of pushes him towards that finish line. I don't know if that is where he will stay, but I think he has realized that, at least for now, that is where he is and perhaps where he needs to be.
We end the episode with Tara being arrested in connection to Otto murdering the nurse. Is that another turning point that might pull Jax back?
Sutter: I think it all depends. In my mind, and I don't think I've completely made this decision yet creatively, but I think that when all of that was going down, there is a part of Jax that was in a conflicted place. I think he felt a little bit of betrayal on Tara's part in terms of what she was doing with the boys. [Her arrest] comes on the heels of this betrayal, and it is a different kind of Tara. She's a much more formidable wife and mother than Jax has seen in the past. There are shades of Gemma that he begins to see there with Tara, so when she gets taken away, my desire in telling that story was that Jax is sort of in this odd place. He doesn't just jump out and say, "No, baby." He is in this weird, conflicted place and a little bit overwhelmed by everything that just went down.
A colleague and I were actually wondering, given the puppet strings Jax was pulling in this episode, is it possible that Jax is somehow behind Tara's arrest?
Sutter: I don't want to say specifically who is behind it at this point, because I love the fact that you're having that conversation. We'll have to reveal those truths at the beginning of next season. But it wasn't so much about a big change in Jax's character. For me, it was a little bit about the idea that there are checks and balances in this world. Nothing happens in a vacuum, nor does anything really happen according to plan. As Jax is getting his ducks in a row on the outlaw side, things were falling apart on the home front. He pulled off the other plan flawlessly while things with Tara just completely collapsed. It asks the question: Can you truly have both?
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Of course, Gemma is probably the leading suspect in terms of who tipped off the cops.
Sutter: Yeah, that definitely was my intention. We saw Gemma levying that threat against Tara earlier on, and then the question is: Did she indeed follow through with it?
Then again, it could be U.S. Marshal Lee Toric looking to exact his revenge. How much more will we see of Donal Logue next season?
Sutter: We signed him for 10 episodes. I think he will be in at least six or seven episodes next season, maybe eight.
We saw what he did in prison to Otto. Should we be worried about Tara?
Sutter: I've always had this notion of having a law enforcement officer with essentially nothing to lose. He sort of has all the power, all the knowledge, all the contacts, and yet no restraints because he is essentially retired now. Now, he obviously has a personal grudge. That is a really dangerous guy for these guys to face because ultimately all of those [lawmen] that cross the line in our world to get the bad guy... get their comeuppance. But if you have a guy that there is no comeuppance, what does that look like? I think the dangerous side is when you find out he is Harvard-educated and you see him reading f------ Artaud. You see his sociopath connection and use of violence. That is a guy who is just a shade darker than anybody else that has ever been on that show, so it is just bad news for everybody.
So much of this season was about Jax trying on for size the competing ideals of Nero and Damon Pope. Even though he was killed, it seems Pope won out.
Sutter: I think the irony was that this was Jax embracing [Pope's methods] wholeheartedly. I love the fact that it was like, if you watch Episode 12, Pope gave him the idea. It is sort of like the student became the teacher. Jax did something that Pope absolutely would have done, but the process of doing that involved killing him. That is sort of the irony of that outlaw life: There are no safe alliances.
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Did you know from the beginning of the season that Pope would be killed as part of Jax's master stroke to take down Clay?
Sutter: I had a sense of where Pope was going, but I learned, I think for the better, to sort of hold on to those goals somewhat loosely. As the story unfolded with Clay and with Tig, that became the most logical way to [kill him], and I think probably the most satisfying way for me creatively and for the fans as well.
Was Pope's death only about setting up Clay, or to some extent did Jax need to keep Tig loyal to him? His allies at the table are fast diminishing.
Sutter: I think it is a move to keep him close, but it also serves the plan. There is a part of Jax that probably wasn't lying to Pope when he said, "I have no use for Tig." But as Tig continued to show his loyalty to Jax throughout the season and as it served his plan to set up Clay, I think it all fell into place. But, yes, I think you are right: His inner circle is getting very small.
Once Clay realizes what Jax — and by extension, Juice did — he seems quietly resigned to his fate. Does he not have any fight left in him?
Sutter: I think the way we leave it, he's a dead man. We've seen the reach that Pope and Pope's team has. Even though Damon is dead, the idea is that Jax set Clay up to be killed. We saw Clay several times throughout the season, especially when Roosevelt's wife was killed, that he just couldn't do it again. He didn't have another round left in him. He's a survivor, so he saw the gun business was a viable avenue for him in terms of setting himself up and making money doing that outside the club. But really at the end of the day, Gemma was the most important thing to him. That is really what he wanted. I think to me [what Gemma did] was a much more brutal betrayal than anything that Jax did. For Clay, that was worse than somebody making him a marked man.
Juice seems like he's about to break when they take Clay away. Any chance he might come to Clay's aid and provide an alibi for him or is he too afraid of Jax?
Sutter: I don't think Juice would do that. Juice is just a much more fragile dude, but I don't think Juice would rat again. I haven't really given all that much thought in terms of where we go with that story line next year. My sense is that a lot of this is played out. It is always going to be around and be part of the relationship that he has with Jax, and at some point I'm sure it will come back in some capacity. It will definitely dictate the things that character does for the rest of the series.
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Nero's still in the picture and still has business dealings with the club. Do you see him playing a major role as the series goes on?
Sutter: My desire is to have Nero come back, and quite honestly it depends on the practicality of Jimmy's availability. So we sort of wrote it a little bit open-ended. We left enough track and enough history and enough emotionality on the table that we have something to begin with. ... It is just interesting energy to have on the show — that different outlaw energy. With the exception of some of the Grim Bastards, we haven't really seen a different outlaw component working with the club, so it is kind of cool.
And clearly Gemma is pretty hung up on the guy.
Sutter: Yeah, I would love to continue to pursue that relationship. I love the fact that Nero is all kind of bent up about having to get back in the life, and it really makes her much more comfortable. She knows what to do with a dude who is an outlaw. Like she says on the episode, she knows messy. So to her, that is a level of comfort.
Jax does seem to somewhat regret that he pulled Nero back into the life. Is that a sign he hasn't completely become a monster at this point?
Sutter: It's never black and white. That we have Jax moving in a darker direction doesn't mean he is without compassion or without any kind of empathy. I think he really appreciated Nero's influence. I think personally, he feels guilty. I think he feels like it was Nero's involvement with the Sons that pulled him back in the life, and that is not what Jax wanted. When Jax says to him, "You're so close, man. Just go, I'll handle your business," I think that is sincere.
Jax did get the club out of running drugs and big guns, but he seems to have broken the club in the process.
Sutter: Yeah, the irony is that they are making money, they are off the hook, and yet they are more fractured internally than they ever have. We'll get to see what happens next season in terms of how Jax either puts that back together or adds to the problem. The reckoning is happening, and now the rebuilding has to begin. What does that look like?
Do you plan to skip a significant amount of time between seasons?
Sutter: There will be a little bit of one, but I don't want to jump too far. We'll see Jax still in the throes of everything that has happened at the end and rectifying that and seeing what worked and what didn't work. Now that all the external threats to the club have been removed, it's about trying to put it together internally. Now, Jax has got to do the hard work. I think that is where we'll begin with him.
Do you still see the show ending after Season 7?
Sutter: Yeah. I'm sure, if halfway through Season 6 I said, "I don't think I can close this out in seven," I'm sure [FX] would figure something else out. Do they throw me a couple episodes more for Season 6 and Season 7? Do they add a Season 8? Right now, we're still looking at Season 7 as being the end.
What did you think of the Sons of Anarchy finale?