An act of retaliation is under way. That’s nothing new for Sons of Anarchy, the FX show famous for doling out death sentences to beloved characters—except this bit of revenge is happening in between takes. It’s a September morning at Stevenson Ranch in California’s Santa Clarita Valley, and Charlie Hunnam is shooting a scene in which his character, Jax Teller, dodges gunfire from an angry redneck. After a break in the action, Hunnam delivers a quick and dirty punch to the arm of his costar Tommy Flanagan—payback for an earlier prank where Flanagan left a band of bruises on Hunnam’s bicep for fun. Hunnam runs for cover behind a gun-laden cart a few feet away from where EW stands. “I will find you!” Flanagan bellows. For a moment, there’s a temptation to rat him out. But as any Sons fan knows, you never, EVER rat.
When Sons of Anarchy debuted in 2008, the adrenalized drama was quickly dubbed “Sopranos on wheels,” thanks to its darkly complex portrait of the gunrunning club known as Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original (SAMCRO). But over the course of six seasons, fans began using “Hamlet on Harleys” to describe the Shakespearean drama of creator Kurt Sutter’s story about a son (Hunnam) who rises to lead his late father’s motorcycle club but can’t escape the grasp of his manipulative mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal). Now, as the show barrels toward its Dec. 9 finale, it’s earned the right to stand on its own. Sons may well go down as one of the most savage—and addictive—family dramas, even if the family is bonded by honor instead of blood. After all, in addition to TV’s fiercest matriarch, it features the most moving man-hugs (fan and onetime guest star Stephen King has crowned it the “best bro show ever”); the most brutal-but-beautiful montages (“ballets of death,” executive producer Paris Barclay likes to call them); and the only leading man with both the looks to land a Calvin Klein fragrance ad and the street cred to get props from tattooed fans in East L.A. (“You keep the hood safe on Tuesday nights,” one recently told him.)
That strange, special mix draws an average of 8.1 million viewers a week—an audience as loyal to the series as the members of SAMCRO are to their outlaw brothers. Blockbuster ratings and profitable merchandising (from branded bikinis to cigars) have made the show not just FX’s biggest hit but also its most valuable one. All eyes are now on the Men of Mayhem and Queen Gemma, with fans anxiously awaiting the answers to two looming questions: What’s going to happen when Jax finds out it was his mother who killed his wife with a carving fork to the head in one of the most gruesome deaths in TV history? And how will Sutter drive his series into the sunset? “I know how I want it to end,” says the showrunner. “I think the legacy is already out there: People have embraced the world. They love that they can have fun watching it, yet the next scene they can be bawling. If we can continue to do that, that’s really what I’ll be most proud of.” READ FULL STORY