Character’s Violent Death Shakes Up ‘Sons of Anarchy’

by | September 26, 2012 at 1:33 PM | Sons of Anarchy, TV News

RIP, Opie: Ryan Hurst as "Opie" Winston on "Sons of Anarchy" (Photo: FX)

“Sons of Anarchy” fans are reacting emotionally to the brutal killing of a revered character on the hard-boiled FX drama Tuesday night.

Who got whacked? It was the troubled gang member known as “Opie,” played by Ryan Hurst, who went out like a warrior, sacrificing himself for the survival of three other members of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club — most notably: His long-time friend and current president of the club, Jax Teller (series star Charlie Hunnam).

The killing took place in a California correctional facility, a fatal beating with a pipe by members of an African-American crime organization with whom the Sons have been tangling this season. The violence was seen on the third episode of the current fifth season of “Sons of Anarchy,” seen Tuesday nights at 10/9c on FX.

“That was horrifying,” said one message on an FX “Sons of Anarchy” message board in the wake of the episode. “If Jax is the brains in this little endeavor now, then Opie was most certainly the heart,” this fan wrote. “I feel like they killed the heart. I almost feel like it was my own brother there. I am not looking forward to who dies next at all if this was the first.”

“I am in mourning!” wrote another fan. “I am wearing black to work tomorrow. I love you Opie!!”

Watch a clip from Tuesday’s episode of “Sons of Anarchy”:

Some fans were so unhappy with the loss of Opie that they turned their ire on the series’ executive producer, Kurt Sutter. Wrote one, “Sutter, you [expletive deleted] up big time. Clay [Ron Perlman], Gemma [Katey Sagal], Juice [Theo Rossi] — they all deserve to die grizzly [sic] deaths, but not Opie. Out of all the Sons, he was the best.”

Sutter was matter-of-fact about the decision to kill the Opie character when he explained the thinking behind it in a telephone conference call with reporters on Wednesday. For one thing, Sutter noted that Hurst was in on the decision — or, at the very least, Sutter didn’t spring the news on him at the last minute. “He was looped in,” Sutter told reporters. “I didn’t just send him the script.”

So why’d he have Opie killed off? Because, said Sutter, he felt it was time to bring the up-and-down storyline about Jax’s and Opie’s friendship to a close. Here’s how Sutter put it in the news conference Wednesday:

“I started thinking about it in terms of that arc between Jax and Opie towards the end of Season Three,” he said. “And then I think it all sort of came together with the death of Piney [Opie's father] last year and I got to the end of that season and realized that there is this circular dynamic that was happening with Jax and Opie that I felt was very difficult to get out of in terms of where their arc was going.

“As we came in to this season — this is really the first season that I’ve had to think about the end game — and knowing where I wanted to take my hero [Jax] and knowing how I want him to get there, the road that I want him to travel, I just felt Jax needed that emotional upheaval, that one event that happens in a man’s life that can change the course of his destiny, and I think the death of his best friend was that event.”

To translate or otherwise interpret what the executive producer said: This killing, which Jax was forced to witness, will likely (and hopefully) harden Jax so that he can be a more assertive leader of the club.

Here’s hoping that a newly hardened Jax will avenge Opie’s death.