Warning - the following contains massive spoilers regarding tonight’s episode of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and if you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you turn around and hightail it to your nearest TV or computer and watch it. Then come back here and join the discussion.
Last year when Kurt Sutter killed Piney Winston (Bill Lucking) with a shotgun blast fired by Clay (Ron Perlman), I was ready. That moment had been building for quite some time - not even just that season, but truthfully, since the series premiere.
Piermont “Piney” Winston was John Teller’s friend, not Clay’s and as Clay slowly but surely off-ed the rest of the First 9 (including JT), Piney’s obvious disapproval of the direction in which the Club was headed spelled certain doom for the gruff old man.
And one could also argue that the grisly death of Winston the Younger in tonight’s episode is one that has also been brewing since the first season.
Since Opie (Ryan Hurst) was released from jail just prior to the start of the series, there’d been a cloud of uncertainty following the man formerly known as Harry “Opie” Winston. His reluctance to join in Club tasks or finish Club business was a problem that plagued him during the entire first season. As naive fans, we thought his reluctance was the result of his wife Donna (Sprague Grayden) urging him to leave SAMCRO as the Club was nothing but trouble and the reason he’d been in prison to start with. But it’s possible that his five year stint in prison sobered him up and led him to the truth: SAMCRO was a toxic poison.
But even if Opie realized this prior to the end of the first season, I think the true beginning to his undoing came when Tig, believing he was killing Opie - whom he’d been led to believe was a rat - shot Donna through the back windshield of Opie’s pickup truck.
Opie never fully recovered from Donna’s death, despite rushing into a marriage with porn star Lyla. But that too crumbled once he sobered up and realized that Lyla was not Donna, she would never be Donna, and marrying her would not make the pain of losing Donna hurt any less.
Opie carried the burden of losing Donna - after all, his association with SAMCRO is the reason she died - with him every single day, and though he hid it well under that bushy beard of his, it slowly gnawed away at his insides. If he’d been a surly, unhappy man at the start of the series, her death magnified the intensity of the situation ten fold. Add to that the death of his father at the hands of the man also responsible for ordering the hit that ultimately killed Donna, and you’ve got a man who feels he’s got nothing left to live for.
Last week when Opie handed Lyla that envelope of cash and asked her to watch the kids for a little while, we all thought it was because he was finally joining Jax and the boys at the table. He showed up just in time to punch Roosevelt and be carted off to jail with Jax, Chibs and Tig. But it’s clear now that Opie was already dead inside.
Now, I doubt Opie had any inclination of what would transpire behind those prison walls or inside that dark, dank room with those four other men, but I have a feeling that he didn’t care what happened to him. Losing Donna and losing his father meant he’d lost himself and any reason to go on living.
After Jax came clean to Opie about everything that happened at the end of last season - why he stopped him from killing Clay, the RICO case, the guns - and after he explained his meeting with Pope in which he was ordered to choose one of the four men inside to be sent to their death, I think Opie knew full well what his choice would be.
Tig was out for obvious reasons - Pope wanted him alive so he could punish him as he saw fit for the rest of his life -, Chibs literally had nothing to do with the situation at hand, and Jax had a wife and two small children - not to mention a club full of horny and quite possibly very stupid misfits (which I’ll get to in a second) to run. So even though Opie told him that he’d made the wrong choice when he chose between killing Clay or saving the club, it’s possible he knew that he’d never walk out of that prison.
I think it’s fitting and true to character that Opie went out swinging. Ryan Hurst played that scene (and the last few seasons) very well, and he sold Opie’s despair beautifully, even if he only spoke about seven words per episode. But seeing the helpless Jax and Chibs banging on the glass as they watched their brother die by a pipe to the head, was unbearable to watch. In fact, I watched that entire scene behind a pillow, clutched so tightly that my knuckles were turning white.
I’ve never understood the madness of Kurt Sutter’s brain, and after tonight, I never want to. He knows whose deaths will hit the hardest and he pulls the trigger with ease. But I’ll never understand his reluctance to kill someone as deserving of death as Clay Morrow, but he’ll off beloved characters like Donna, Piney and Opie without so much as a warning (OK, strike that - we saw the Piney death coming a season away).
The fact that the entire Winston family has met a grisly and untimely death because of Clay’s actions - no matter how direct or indirect they might be - sickens me. But at the same time, I understand Opie’s willingness to march to his death. I don’t think he sacrificed himself for the club, not even to save his best friend. No, I think he saw a way out of his tragic life and he took it. Saving Jax and his brothers was just happenstance.
Some stray observations (because I’m about to lose it … again):
- Pissed off that Tara didn’t put her on the visitation list at the hospital day care, Gemma (Katey Sagal) tried to undermine Tara (Maggie Siff) by going straight to the person Tara hates the most - Wendy (Drea de Matteo). Concocting a lie about Tara self-medicating, Gemma urges Wendy to go after custody of Abel. But Tara’s smarter than Gemma, she always has been, and she sees through the entire thing. Poor Wendy, always getting fucked by Gemma.
- The Clay and Juice bromance continued tonight as Clay basically begs Juice to tell him where Gemma’s been spending her nights. A reluctant Juice takes him to Nero’s place and Clay apparently has sex with Ashley Tisdale (vomit), while Juice the Puerto Rican Lovah gets it on with Nero’s madam. Gemma, enraged that Clay showed up to Nero’s place, busts in to Clay’s room and beats the shit out of Tisdale (yay!), and then, what do you know, ater that night, the cops bust the place, taking both Nero and Gemma into custody. What a coincidence!
- After Opie dies, Jax tells Pope that he’ll get him the money (part of Pope’s deal was that he got half of the cash - about $100,00 a month - the Sons brought in from hauling the cocaine for the Galindo cartel), but that he also wants Tig to walk with him and Chibs. After he does what Jax needs him to do, Jax tells Pope that he can do the same to Tig that he already did to Dawn. A chilling thought - one I’m sure won’t actually come to fruition, but a chilling thought by a man who just had to watch his best friend die because his brother didn’t think before he acted.
What did you guys think? Were you shocked and sad to see Opie bite the dust? Do you think Jax would really give Tig up so easily? Do you wish Theo Rossi would just spend an entire episode shirtless already?
Note: Photo courtesy of FX.