'Sons of Anarchy' postmortem: Kurt Sutter and cast talk 'Wolfsangel' shockers

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Image Credit: Michael Becker/FX

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy, “Wolfsangel,” stop reading now. Creator Kurt Sutter and other members of the cast open up about the high body count. 

GOODBYE, TORIC! GOODBYE, OTTO?!

You were probably expecting Lee Toric (Donal Logue) to be around for the full season — so were Logue and Sutter. The friends had long wanted to work together and finally thought they had their window, so they went for it. Unfortunately Logue, who’s contracted to be a series regular in season 2 of History’s Vikings, had to leave much sooner than anticipated to begin shooting that show in Ireland in June. “Donal felt awful,” Sutter says. “We had set up this season-long arc for this character, and suddenly I didn’t have the actor. It’s just sort of the nature of the business, and so, what I always try to do when that stuff happens is say, ‘Okay, how do I turn a negative into a positive?’ That’s happened to us before where we lost actors and had to make changes, and ultimately, we managed to do it fairly seamlessly and sometimes it even works to the benefit of the show…. In Season 3, we couldn’t make a deal with the actor who played David Hale [Tyler Sheridan], so that character ended up going away, and what we were able to do is put a lot of that onto Unser [Dayton Callie], and that’s really what blew up that character. I’m so glad I was able to do that because he’s become such an integral part of the show.”

Going back to the drawing board for season 6, Sutter saw that he could beef up the role of DA Patterson (CCH Pounder). “I was sort of like, ‘Well, okay. I guess this is supposed to be. Let me just figure out how to put it into her court.’ And so what I ended up doing is taking a lot of the antagonistic qualities that Donal was going to carry and finding a way to bring it around and make it Patterson’s quest and Eli’s quest,” Sutter says. “It’s interesting because it’s a little bit different energy. You had a character like Toric, who is really kind of out there, as opposed to Patterson, who’s much more by the book but equally as much of a threat.”

And what about the decision to take Otto (Sutter) out now after he killed Toric? “I just felt like Otto has killed so many f—ing people in jail at this point, I could not have him do some other horrific act of violence and not take a half-dozen bullets in the chest because it would have been too ridiculous for him to get away with yet another one,” Sutter says. “So, I was like alright. It’s time to go.” Was that how he’d always envisioned Otto’s demise? “I had this idea about Otto ultimately maybe getting the gas chamber or a lethal injection. That would be an interesting way to go,” he admits, “but then the more I thought about that, the more it just didn’t feel like our show. I just thought there’s only one way this guy can go out. After all the violence he’s perpetrated, his karmic energy is he just has to go out bloody and violently. He can’t go out peacefully. So, ultimately I think that was probably the way he was going to go anyhow.”

For Logue, who was also filming BBC America’s Copper at the same time as SOA (as in he wrapped SOA at 2 a.m. and had to be at LAX at 4 a.m.), Toric’s final episode brought a change in the character. “He was becoming more desperate and human and making these more direct appeals. When he goes to see Otto and is like, ‘Are you tired of this? Do you want it to end? I do, too,’ it felt legit. It’s like everybody’s exhausted by this darkness, and then bam,” Logue says, with a laugh. He confirms “Your sister’s blood tasted as good as her pussy” was the only message they filmed Otto writing to Toric when Toric thought he’d convinced Otto to give him something on Clay. “But Kurt wrote me a different note on that notepad — “I love you, man” — and I saved it,” he says. The way he sees Toric’s final moments, calling off the guard after Otto stabbed him in the gut and had the shiv at his neck, was that Toric was trying to juggle dual thoughts. “It goes back to he wants it to end, too. I’m sure this guy’s done some brutal stuff in the past, but I really feel like he did stuff to people that he felt at least had it coming to them. So in a way, once he’s crossed that line in the hotel, it was suicide by cop himself,” Logue says. “The other side could be, I’m just trying to buy myself more time. If these guards come in and do something aggressive, he’s gonna end it.”

The actor says Sutter was “as cool as humanly possible” about having to change his plans for Toric, who may even have ended up on the lam in season 7 (Sutter hadn’t yet decided). Though he knows fans were probably ready for Toric to go, he hopes the fact that they expected him to stick around made the turn shocking. Going out with Sutter’s Otto, Logue says, was an honor. “Lee Toric, whatever. That’s a guy who appeared as a blip at the end of season 5, and certainly he was a crazy firecracker in season 6, but Otto is one of the primary characters on the show. So I just shared a scene with the journey of Otto. The really tragic journey of Otto.”

GOODBYE, FILTHY PHIL. GOODBYE, V-LIN.

After Jax (Charlie Hunnam) told Gaalan (Timothy Murphy) “hands off” his club until Jax decides they need more guns, Gaalan and his men showed up at the gun warehouse — where they found Phil (Christopher Douglas Reed) and V-Lin (Walter Wong). Once Phil told Gaalan that Jax was on his way, Gaalan shot him in the head. V-Lin took a bullet, too. Reed says he got a call from executive producer Chris Collins about two weeks before they shot the episode telling him Phil’s time was up. “I was definitely hoping for some sort of gun-blazing outlaw death,” Reed says, adding that he had to do a bit of detective work at first to find out details. While he won’t revolve his source, he says, “They told me it was something pretty big in that it sets off a chain of events in Charming, and it sure does.” (“Phil would’ve voted yes,” he says about Jax’s call to go settle a score with the skinheads instead of taking a breather as Chibs suggested.)

There was some pressure filming the actual death scene because they only wanted to do one take of the gun shots since cleaning the blood splatter off the pristine truck in the background would be a hassle. Reed remembers Murphy being ready to go. “He was fired up for that scene. The worst part of it was me and him filmed an Australian cereal commercial together in the offseason,” Reed says, laughing. “So it was a fun dynamic with him all day.” Though it’s not funny when Jax and the boys find Phil’s and V-Lin’s severed hands resting on their cuts and their dismembered bodies sitting nearby, Reed says he and Wong looked pretty ridiculous. “They cut off our jeans,” he says, “so we were running around in these little tiny jean shorts. The pockets were hanging out the bottom. It was pretty entertaining. It might’ve had some blooper moments, but mostly we tried to keep it pretty professional. I have a ton of respect for what those lead guys have to go through. They put themselves through a lot to get the product we see on the screen. I try not to interfere with that.”

Keeping his character’s death a secret was another challenge. He admits he told his close friends. “They were gonna be seeing me every day and being like, ‘How’s work?’ and I really couldn’t figure out how to make that happen without telling them. I told my immediate family, but there are still some family members out there that don’t know. I’m pretty sure my phone’s gonna light up,” he says. “Phil is one of many characters to meet unexpected ends tonight. It’s exciting to be a part of such a course-changing episode.” Reed did get a bit of a happy ending. He got to keep Phil’s cut. “I wasn’t sure if I was gonna get a charred one or not, which one would be cooler,” he jokes, “but they had a prop one to burn, so I got the real one.” He also scored a guest spot on an upcoming episode of HBO’s Eastbound & Down two weeks after he said goodbye to SOA. “I’m gonna be playing a guy that Kenny Powers hires to do a dirty deed,” he says. “It’ll be a lot of fun. A nice change of pace.”

HELLO AGAIN, TIG!

In a poll in last week’s recap, only 35 percent of readers expected Tig (Kim Coates) to survive his run-in with August Marks (Billy Brown). Thirty-four percent expected August to make him suffer for an episode before killing him, and 31 percent thought no, this week would be it. We’d bet 100 percent of fans expected to at least see a heated scene between the two men — the actors certainly did. Brown recalls crossing paths with Coates as they were getting in and out of vans headed to set one day, and Coates saying, “‘Yeah, man. It looks like you and me going head-to-head, blow-to-blow.’ So I’m thinking to myself, okay, finally. So August Marks will get to get down and dirty with Tig. We’re gonna mix it up. Two dogs in the junkyard,” Brown says. “I had no idea until the [episode 3 table read] that it was going to be that moment followed by something unexpected, which is a credit to Sutter’s writing. The obvious path would’ve been a vicious last man standing. This keeps the audience guessing. I think it’s great.” Coates agreed, eventually. “I was really pissed off that I wasn’t in shackles and chains and nude, ’cause Tig can handle the nudity,” he says. “Just, like, something so whacked with me and August because Billy’s a great actor and he’s fun to be around, and I just thought that’d be a way to go with Tig for a show, or maybe two shows, maybe three. And then for it not to be that, I’m glad it happened right away. First scene up, me and Charlie. Boom. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Because that’s the last thing the audience would expect, seeing me at the door.”

Tig asked Jax if they were good, and Jax said yes. But Tig’s got to suspect something, right? “Tig is a flat-out survivor. He may be on Jax’s leash but his eyes are wide open,” Coates says. “I think Tig is probably trusting fewer and fewer people now within the club.”

Tig and Rat Boy (Niko Nicotera) posing as father and son to suss out the neo-Nazi situation was a much-needed moment of levity. “‘You’re gettin’ out of prison. I’m so proud of you, son.’ They’re pretending to be white supremacist douchebags, and Kurt kept it all in, and I was so happy to see that,” Coates says, “because boy oh boy did we ever need it. This show is not getting any funnier any time soon.” Not that Tig (or anyone) had a vote about gunning down the skinheads, but did Tig support it? “No,” Coates says. “You know what’s happening, if I may: I think Tig at the end of the last season became a bit of the moral compass of the show. I mean, with saving the dogs and the framing of Clay, he doesn’t like that. And we start the season with the Iranian guy saying the wrong word — don’t ever say “daughter” to Tig in a bad way. We see what happens. But I don’t think Tig looks for violence this year. I really don’t. And it’s been so much fun to play. Tig’s messed up. He’s trying to be on everyone’s side now like he’s never been before. It’s so odd, I can’t describe it to you.”

Even if Tig’s not looking for violence, it will continue to find its way onto the show. “It’s so violent this year,” Coates says, “and I know there’s a reason for it all in Kurt’s twisted, f—in’ brilliant mind. That horrible to watch school shooting — there’s a reason for all of it, and it’s all gonna become crystal clear by the end of this season. Which will then lead into the final season of Sons of Anarchy.” Will we see August and Tig come face-to-face again? (It doesn’t seem like Jax will be able to negotiate August inheriting the Irish distribution in exchange for Tig’s life now, does it?) Coates won’t say. But as he’s told us before, be prepared for the worst — for every character: “Here’s the thing: We’re all gonna die by the end of next season. Whether that’s the complete truth or some of us survive, I really believe that. So how many they take out this year or next year — at the beginning, or at the middle, or at the end — you’re just gonna have to keep watching. That’s the thing about this show: You cannot stop watching. Once you’re in, you’re in.”

(Additional reporting by Lynette Rice)

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