[WARNING: The following story contains major spoilers from the Season 6 finale. Read at your own risk.]
In the world of Sons of Anarchy, betrayal comes with serious consequences.
Just as Clay (Ron Perlman) was killed for his crimes against SAMCRO earlier this season — nearly two years after many fans believed he'd earned his death — Tara (Maggie Siff) learned the hard way on Tuesday's Season 6 finale that decisions can come back to haunt you. After Tara decided against going into witness protection, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) tracked her down. However, he revealed that he didn't plan to kill her. Instead, he agreed to give himself up to D.A. Patterson (CCH Pounder) for the gun charges related to the school shooting. All he wanted was for Tara to be a good mother to his sons while he was in prison.
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Unfortunately, the happy reprieve was short-lived after Gemma (Katey Sagal) learned of Jax's impending arrest. Because Gemma assumed Tara had ratted Jax out, she attacked and killed Tara by drowning her in the kitchen sink before stabbing her repeatedly in the back of the head. "The show is an epic tragedy and a tragic love story," creator Kurt Sutter tells TVGuide.com in a postmortem interview you can read here. "The tragedy of Gemma not having that piece of information is heartbreaking. But it's also not an inorganic death; it doesn't just come out of left field. It happened, one could argue, because Tara, once again, made the mistake of trusting love in this world. Had she just followed through and gone into witness protection and given up Jax, she would have been in custody. None of that would have happened."
TVGuide.com chatted with Siff about the inevitability of her character's death, whether or not Tara regrets the decisions that led her untimely demise, and what it was like to film her final scenes. Plus: Could Tara's death finally be the act that saves Jax and his sons?
At what point this season did you know Tara wouldn't make it out alive?
I've known where it was headed since the beginning of the season. After the first table read, we sat down and had a conversation, and Kurt told me what was going to happen.
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Did it make it difficult to play those scenes all season when you knew what it was building to?
I had a lot of time to mentally prepare and to think about it and ponder what it meant for me and my life. But Tara's always been somewhat of a tragic character. In most of her efforts to change her life or to get them to leave Charming and create a safe environment for her children, she's mostly failed time and time again. So, the feeling of being kind of heartbroken for the character is familiar to me. There's something almost imponderable about imagining your own death. It's a very strange and surreal thing to contemplate. It didn't feel real for a long time, but it got very emotional when it was supposed to.
Obviously you knew what was coming, but do you think Tara was prepared for the possibility of death? She had to know her master plan might backfire.
I think she had a larger realization before she set this plan into motion, which was that this life was incredibly dangerous for her and her children. If she didn't make her best effort to get out, the chances of them all ending up dead or harmed was really great. That reality really washed over her sometime toward the end of last season. So, she was doing the brave thing by trying to make a last effort to get out.
During the first part of the scene with Jax in the park, I think Tara is more honest with him than ever before. Is that because she felt she had nothing to lose at that point?
Yeah. She believed that this is goodbye. There is no other ending to this because I've betrayed him. That's one of Kurt's big themes in this family: if you cross that line, there's no going back from it. When she sees them [at the park] she knows it's the end. I think that scene was about saying what I have to say to him before I go, and saying what I have to say to him to try to protect my children one last time. She's not letting him off the hook in a way. At the same time, she's also really mourning herself and her own failures. I think she's really looking at all of her failed attempts and the really bad decisions she's made along the way, the first of which might be coming back to Charming. It's definitely one of those very strange and difficult scenes to play.
Speaking of mistakes, do you think Tara regrets not honoring her deal with Patterson? Why go to the hotel instead of into witness protection?
We can all look back on it now and say she really shouldn't have done that. But what made her do that really has to do with her love of this man and the fact that she's taking his children away from him forever. She just can't quite pull the trigger yet.
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So, no regrets?
I don't think she has time to cycle through regret during that confrontation with Jax. It just is what it is, and she's looking down the barrel of that.
Of course, the scene takes a turn when Jax reveals he isn't going to hurt Tara
Kurt leads you down the road thinking that she's going to be killed and then there's redemption for them — for the two of them, for their relationship, for Jax. There's hope for their children, there's hope for their family, there's hope for a lot of things. Tara and Jax arrive at that together. I think that's more than she could ever have hoped for and something that she never expected. Ultimately, it's very healing for her because there's this love between them that has never gone away and that's the thing that rises up at the end.
Given their love story, were you gratified to have that one last scene of happiness between Jax and Tara?
Yes. That was something that I specifically asked Kurt about. I didn't want the season to have them spiraling away from each other into alienation and despair and violence and death. I really felt that it was important that the conflict that she experienced all along the way be present in the writing. I think Kurt felt similarly that we didn't want to destroy their bond. So, I was happy for the fact that there's a little moment of joy between them before the hammer comes down. [Laughs] The Gemma hammer.
It was a brutal death scene. Do you think Tara believed she had any hope of getting out of that kitchen alive once she saw Gemma?
I think it happens too fast for there to be a lot of consideration. She walks into the room, and she sees something in Gemma's eyes that says this woman looks a little f---ed up. She starts to move away and then everything happens very, very quickly. There's panic, but there's not really much beyond that. It's where the story ends, which is what's so sad about it.
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How difficult was it to shoot those final scenes?
Siff: That was the hardest part, I would say. Shooting those scenes, both with Katie and with Charlie, was really hard because my character is supposedly dead but I'm very much there witnessing and experiencing the gamut of emotions that they're having about it, both as actors and as characters. Katey and I love each other, so her having to kill me was difficult. Then the scene at the end with Charlie was just really heartbreaking. I kept getting up off the floor crying for him and for the character. He's the one who's left behind. So, I wasn't crying for myself, I was crying for him and the character and the loss of their love and looking at what his life is going to be. That was really painful.
How hard was it personally to say goodbye to the show?
We always give a big rousing send off to people who leave the show. The cast took me out to a really wonderful dinner. We sat around and told stories for hours. People were so incredibly kind and respectful and loving. There was a lot of love and closure too. I think we did a good job of saying goodbye to her. ... It's been an amazing run on an amazing show. I'm very grateful for that.
Were you surprised by all the hatred some fans directed at Tara this season?
Yes, it is surprising. But on another level, it's not surprising. I've been watching other TV shows and following other kinds of commentary around this stuff. We have a very male fan base. We have a lot of women who love the show too, but there's a real male fantasy of the outlaw. I think in that fantasy, the woman stands by her man. Tara has always been set up to be somebody who loves this man in spite of herself and in spite of her better judgment, which is also true of the audience. So, when she turns on him, I think people really felt it as an affront. She's the one who's not supposed to turn on him. She's the one who gives us hope for him in a weird way. If this kind of woman loves this kind of man then it's all OK.
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But her betrayal doesn't come close to comparing to the bad things Jax and other have done.
Siff: Right. The thing that is hard to get around is that really what she's been trying to do is protect her children. She hasn't been killing anybody. She's just trying to get out of a very bad, very dangerous situation. The fact that people are calling for her death, it is extreme and it is strange. I think it speaks to something a little bit disturbed.
Do you fear that some people will feel Tara got what she deserved or do you hope they see more in her death than that?
Of course I do. I can't control what people think and how they react. [But] I hope that people understand what she was trying to do and what her role as a responsible person and mother was. I also hope that people see what a tragedy it is for Jax that she's no longer a part of his life, and that his children don't have a mother. I think people would be hard-pressed to not feel a little bit sad about it.
Despite the tragedy, do you think Tara's death might in some way finally force Jax to look at this lifestyle and move away from it?
Siff: I don't know. Jax as a character carries a tremendous burden in his mind and in his heart and his conscience about the things that he does and the people he's lost along the way. The way that he took to heart and was kind of warped by the death of Opie suggests that the death of Tara will really have a huge impact on his soul and psyche. I think that Kurt has set up something very interesting for the seventh season, which is really seeing Jax stripped of everyone that he's loved. It's probably a volatile situation but I think it'll make for some interesting drama.
What did you think of the finale?