As FX's Sons of Anarchy airs season finale tonight, 10 questions answered by mad scientist/creator Kurt Sutter
Blink and you may miss the coolest moment in tonight's season finale of FX's high-octane drama, Sons of Anarchy.
As a character sits in a jail cell, the TV plays a scene from The Shield, the high-octane FX series where Sons creator-executive producer Kurt Sutter worked before building his Shakespearean drama about a California biker gang (excuse me, motorcycle club).
The move is complete Sutter, a subtle shout-out to reward fans and friends that adds extra flavor; seasoning an action-packed episode capping a completely compelling season. And it comes during an episode that wasn't supposed to happen at all.
But Sutter, as the show's rebellious mad scientist, convinced the suits at FX to let him turn the last third of a planned 90-minute season finale into a new episode, airing at 10 tonight. It helps that Sons has been leading cable shows in ratings for viewers ages 18 to 49, even beating many network TV shows by leveraging a crackling season filled with blood and intrigue.
This season is resolving storylines Sutter first hinted at in the show's 2008 debut, as energetic hero Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) realizes his stepfather and club leader Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) killed his biological father and tried to kill his wife after she learned about the murder.
Last week, we saw Morrow barely survive being shot by the son of another club member he killed. In Tuesday's season finale, as police prepare to bust a high-stakes meeting among the club, Mexican drug cartel members and Irish gun runners, the question hangs: What can possibly come next?
As a stone fanboy for the series, I've already noted how the show gives new life to white, working class heroes and pushes the limits of the antihero on television. And while some enthusiasts have criticized the show's last season, which spent a lot of time exploring storylines in Ireland, this year's stuff has felt like a fine return to form for a series that is something of a fairytale for those intrigued by the life of modern day outlaws.
Sutter, known for his brutal honesty both on Twitter and his blog SutterInk, was nice enough to answer some questions about all things Sons via email. Here's his take on wrapping another murderous season with Jax and the boys.
1) When did you realize you needed another episode and how did you get FX to agree? What did the extra episode allow you to achieve?
IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ONE 90 MINUTE EPISODE, BUT I KNEW AT THE SCRIPT LEVEL THAT IT WAS TWO EPISODES. IT HAD A NATURAL BREAK AND REAL SENSE OF ACT AND ACT 2. THEY GAVE ME 10 DAYS TO SHOOT IT AND WHEN I PUT IT TOGETHER IN POST I HAD 89 MINUTES OF STORY. I DISCUSSED OPTIONS WITH FX AND 20TH AND THEY MADE THE DECISION TO ADD THE EXTRA EPISODE. THEY TOOK A BIG FINANCIAL HIT TO DO THAT, SO I AM VERY GRATEFUL.
2) Has this season been about Jax realizing he can never live a healthy life in the club or being forced to realize he can't run from Clay and needs to excise his evil from the club?
3) I've been saying for a while that, at a time when TV loves anti-heroes, you've built some of the best around. What's the key to keeping people engaged by characters who can be racist, sexist, gun-running murderers? Is it their love for family? Keeping the villains worse than they are?
NO SECRET. IT'S WHAT ALL GOOD DRAMAS ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE -- REAL, RELATABLE CHARACTERS. WHETHER THEY'RE DEALING METH, SAVING CHILDREN FROM BURNING BUILDINGS OR SHOOTING GUYS IN THE HEAD. IF YOU OPEN THEM UP, SHOW LAYERS OF VULNERABILITIES AND FLAWS, IT MAKES THEM ACCESSIBLE. YOU DON'T HAVE TO LIKE THEM, YOU JUST NEED TO BE DRAWN TO THEM.
4) Any idea why viewership is so strong for the series this year? Did you learn anything from last season's storylines to fuel this year?
NETFLIX HELPED AWARENESS. AS DIVIDED AS PEOPLE WERE ON SEASON 3, I STAND BY IT AND WOULDN'T CHANGE A WORD. SEASON 4 COULD NOT HAVE WORKED WITHOUT SEASON 3.
5) You have put Katey's character through quite a lot, from sexual assault to the ultimate butt-kicking from Clay. It seems the only character to get it worse who is still alive is the character you play. Are you guys just gluttons for punishment? A way to atone for all the cool things in your real life? (just kidding). But seriously, is it just that suffering produces great acting challenges or is there more to it?
IT'S NOT SO MUCH ABOUT PUNISHING AS IT IS SHOWING THE VIOLENCE THAT COMES WITH THE LIFE. IT'S REAL. IT HAPPENS. MY GOAL ON THIS SHOW IS TO NEVER LET ANY BAD DEED GO UNKARMA'D. S--T DOESN'T HAPPEN IN A VACUUM. VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE. RAGE BEGETS RAGE. BETRAYAL BEGETS BETRAYAL. THESE ARE DANGEROUS PEOPLE MAKING DANGEROUS CHOICES. THIS AIN'T THE F---ING GOOD WIFE.
6) I know you feel misunderstood by critics and fans sometimes; what do you think people understand LEAST about the stories you have told this season? Or about the series overall?
I DON'T FEEL MISUNDERSTOOD BY CRITICS. I JUST THINK MOST OF THEM ARE LAZY F---ING HACKS.
7) Are you glad you didn't stay off Twitter long? (bet FX PR isnt!)
DON'T F---ING KID YOURSELF, MY TWITTER FEED IS THE BEST THINK THAT'S EVER HAPPEN TO FX/SOA PR.
8) Did you base that prosecutor character on anyone? He was wonderfully quirky through the whole season; mysterious and human at the same time.
WE DID THE RESEARCH ON FED DA'S. THEY ARE THE NEW ROCK STARS OF RICO. WE ROOTED THE CHARACTER IN REALITY, GAVE HIM A BACKSTORY AND THEN TURNED THE IDEA ON IT'S HEAD -- TO MAKE HIM MORE INTERESTING AND UNPREDICTABLE (THE SAME WAY I DID WITH FORREST WHITAKER'S CHARACTER ON THE SHIELD). RAY HELPED WITH THAT A LOT. HIS CHOICES ARE ALWAYS OFF THE HOOK... IN A GOOD WAY.
9) Was wondering how you deal with race on the show. I noticed last season you had the club get friendly with both black and latino gangs. This season, we have a black sheriff who is much more than a villain and Mexican cartel members who are, ostensibly, on the side of the authorities after all. Do you spend much time thinking about balancing stuff so the Sons don't look too racist and the show features a diversity of characters, or does it happen naturally? And if it happens naturally, why don't more shows cast like you do?
I DON'T THINK IN TERMS OF "FAIR AND BALANCED" WHEN I WRITE. THAT'S DEATH TO STORY. I JUST TRY AND KEEP IT REAL. LET THE TRUTH BE THE MESSAGE OR THE THEME.
10) One last question: Any idea what project you'll tackle after Sons ends its run?
I'LL CONTINUE IN BOTH FEATURES AND TV. I WANT TO DIRECT A FEATURE I WROTE, "DELIVERING GEN", WHICH I REALIZED I COULDN'T DO DURING A HIATUS. THAT'S THE FIRST THING I'LL PROBABLY DO WHEN I FINISH SONS. THEN HOPEFULLY DO ANOTHER SHOW. I LOVE TV.
Thanks for answering.
ALL GOOD... BTW, YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THE LAZY HACKS... BUT I THINK YOU ALREADY KNEW THAT...