'Sons of Anarchy' season finale post-mortem: Burning questions answered

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Image Credit: James Minchin/FX

SPOILER ALERT: IF you haven’t watched the season finale of Sons of Anarchy, do not read below.

The death toll on FX’s Sons of Anarchy has swelled once again, and while that’s to be expected from a season finale of one of the most deadly shows on TV, the shocking murder of Maggie Siff’s Tara Knowles at the hands of Gemma (Katey Sagal) is one that will change Jax Teller forever.

“Obviously, it’s a major shift in the mythology,” executive producer Kurt Sutter said at an intimate screening event Tuesday evening in Los Angeles. “I knew that, ultimately, where I wanted to take Jax in that final season is I wanted to remove his true north for that last season. I feel like there need[ed] to be, for someone like Jax, a major psychic and emotional shift.”

Next season, added Sutter, will explore “what happens to a guy who has lost both of the people who he loved the most and who centered him the most,” referring to both Tara’s death and the death of his best friend Opie last season. “It is Jax untethered and on his own in the final season,” said Sutter, who was joined at the event by Siff and Sagal.

Below, see the trio answer a few more burning questions. For more insight into the finale, read our postmortem interviews with Siff, Theo Rossi, Rockmond Dunbar, and Jimmy Smits.

+ WHEN WAS IT DECIDED TARA WOULD DIE?
“I knew fairly early on that Tara would die before the final season — probably as early as season 2 I had a sense of that happening.,” revealed Sutter. “I didn’t quite know exactly, obviously, how it was going to happen in terms of story. I just knew in terms of a mythology mile marker that that’s when it was going to happen.” Meanwhile, Siff reiterated what she told EW, saying that she learned of Tara’s fate at the beginning of the current season. “I had some time to wrap by head around it and head toward it.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE SHOOTING THE KITCHEN SCENE?
Both Siff and Sagal watched the season finale for the first time at the event, and Siff admitted shortly after that seeing it unfold was more difficult than she’d imagined. “Watching it put into the story and put into the context of the entire series and everything we’ve been through together — that was hard. That was more difficult than I thought,” she said. Meanwhile, Sagal admitted she was nervous about filming the murder scene for a while. (She even joked, “I think I was in denial that we would [do it]. Actually, I thought I could maybe change [Sutter’s] mind.”) “I think the biggest struggle for me was to remain truly with Gemma because the truth of that [moment] is that she was not aware of all those things going on behind the scenes,” said Sagal. “I think that’s maybe why it was so hard to watch because it was so clear. But in the moments of Gemma, [she] didn’t know what was going on. All [she] knew is that [Tara] had ratted, she had betrayed me, she had betrayed my son, she was taking my grandkids away — all those things that were Gemma’s center.”

WHY DID TARA’S DEATH HAVE TO BE SO…BRUTAL?
“I knew I wanted it to be sort of simple and pedestrian and of Gemma’s world — not of the club’s world, meaning I knew I didn’t want it to be a gun or a knife,” Sutter explained of Tara’s death by carving fork in the family kitchen. “We see Gemma in that opening montage washing dishes and we have no idea that something as simple of a tub of dirty dish water and a carving fork would ultimately be used as implements of death.” Sutter said it was also important to root the moment in Gemma’s tendency to react first and ask questions later. “There was a moment where Katey looks back at that fork…and it’s almost a moment of like, ‘Oh, where did that come from?’ and of not being aware of what she was doing.”

DOES UNSER KNOW THAT GEMMA MURDERED TARA?
Not according to Sutter, who said that despite the fact that Unser was seen comforting Gemma at the end of the episode, “Unser is not necessarily aware of the details of what happened.” “All that he knows is that she’s upset, and, he thinks, at that point, that it’s because Jax is gone,” he said.

HOW WILL NEXT SEASON BEGIN?
With a time jump — but a small one. “I don’t want to lose the weight of what’s happened,” he said, “so there may be a little bit of a time [jump], like we did this season, which was a few weeks.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JUICE?
Sutter admitted that he’s not sure what’s next for Juice’s arc, but said that he will be aware that he’s on thin ice with Jax (“Knowing that he betrayed Jax is not a place you want to be in the outlaw community.”) and possibly use his bold move in helping Gemma as leverage. “Does Juice keep this secret? Does he use it to his advantage? I don’t know the answer to that,” said Sutter. “I just know that we have something really fun to play with when we start the next season.”

DID JAX KNOW AT THE BEGINNING OF THE EPISODE THAT HE WANTED TO TURN HIMSELF IN?
“I think the beginning of that episode and the journal entry is the most honest and revelatory we’ve ever heard Jax,” said Sutter, “and I think that was the beginning of it.” Ultimately, though, “a lot of things along the way cemented that choice — the conversation with Patterson and the conversation with Tara,” he says. “But I think he had to have that idea somewhere in his conscience and his consciousness and, in the moment, it became the only option.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE FILMING THE PARK SCENE?
“I feel like that was the most important scene for me in the episode because I knew it was the only moment for Jax and Tara to really penetrate each other, in a sense,” said Siff. “It was very tricky because I think coming to the point where I actually believed it was possible Jax could kill me was a scary place to get to and then to sort of turn around and see all those guys approaching and knowing the jig was up — it was scary.” Luckily, Siff said, co-star Charlie Hunnam made the heavy moment a little easier. “Whenever I work with Charlie I feel like we find our way together, and I just hoped for the best.”

WHEN DID SUTTER DECIDE ELI HAD TO GO?
“When he became a series regular on The Mentalist,” joked Sutter. “That’s only half true.” The whole truth is that in writing the scene, Sutter realized that Patterson would not have left Tara alone and would have given her a police escort. So in the end, logic won out. “It happened organically,” he says.


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