Today, my heart bleeds once again. Sons of Anarchy Showrunner Kurt Sutter has done the unthinkable.
[Episode 5.3 Spoilers Ahead]
After robbing the world of Piney in SOA Episode 4.8, Sutter took the life of another one of SAMCRO’s beloved children. Sadly, we now wave goodbye to Opie (Ryan Hurst). His life was taken away in one of the most brutal murders yet on SOA.
Opie’s journey has been a tumultuous one over the past five seasons. When we first met Op in season one, he was halfway out of the club. His wife, Donna, was against his club activities. However, his friendship with Jax and loyalty to the club his father started brought him back into SAMCRO. Then, Clay ordered Tig to kill Opie – an order that mistakenly resulted in Donna’s death.
The loss of Donna plunged Opie deeper into the club. In Season two, he was ready to do anything for SAMCRO and to avenge the loss of his wife. He went after rival gangs as retaliation. Then, the truth came out. He learned about Clay’s order. But, he was convinced to channel his anger at Agent Stahl – the person who misled the club into thinking that Opie had betrayed it.
Seeking solace, he temporarily found comfort in the arms of Lyla, a porn star. Opie killed Agent Stahl at the end of Season 3, perhaps closing a chapter of his life so that he could move forward. He married Lyla, promising to ride her like he rides his bike. That love affair was short lived. He was never truly able to move on from the loss of Donna and his new wife was unwilling to give up nude life in front of the camera.
Finally, Opie lost his father, Piney, in the shotgun blast heard round the world. A long time beef between Piney and Clay came to a boil after Clay inked the deal to mule coke for the Galindo cartel. Piney was against it. When Piney learned the truth about John Teller’s death, he tried to use it as leverage against Clay to break the deal with Galindo. It resulted in his death – leaving Opie ostensibly alone.
EDITOR’S PICK: Sons of Anarchy – Obituary for Piney
In Episode 5.2, Opie told Lyla that he was going away for a while. He wanted her to take care of his children while he was gone. She asked him if he ever loved her. Opie replied, stating that he was unsure if he was capable of loving anything.
Much like Jax, we had come to empathize with Opie like a brother. However, the giant we had come to love was lost and broken. He wanted to be an island. But, Clay thought differently.
Like Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Clay used his talent as a word strategist to subtly push Opie back into the club. Who knew that it would be the last time Opie would ever come into contact with Clay? Opie slugged Sheriff Eli, earning him a spot next to Jax, Tig and Chibs in prison.
Gemma said he was staying close. Apparently, that meant sacrificing his life for a club whose ideals were lost to him.
The 2012 Emmy Awards are over and done with. Yes, Sons of Anarchy was shafted – yet again. But, who cares about an awards show that rehashes the same nominees and caters to the norm. SOA is far from the normal series.
So, I’m delighted that an episode like “Laying Pipe” comes directly after the awards show. The last twenty minutes of the episode was one of the most heartfelt moments on SOA – it was also one of the most brutal. The Emmys cater to more sanitized series that cringe at scenes like Opie’s tragic death. The majority of people who run those awards shows will never take the time to truly understand the subtly of “Laying Pipe.” They’ll just see a murder. Bloody. And disgusting.
But follow the story outlined above. Yes, it hurts to say goodbye to such a great character. In Hurst’s own words, he’s the biblical Job on the series. Yet, it’s the thoughtful and meticulous progression of his character that makes him so good and his death so poignant. Opie made the greatest sacrifice for a club that robbed him of everything that he loved. Sure, he may have felt like his life was over, but he still made the CHOICE to sacrifice his life. And, isn’t that what Sons of Anarchy is all about – choices?
Let’s step back for a moment and take a look at the scene where Opie and Jax are pulled from gen pop and placed into a solitary cell together.
The prison sergeant tells Jax to select one of his men to die, an order that came from Damon Pope.
When he leaves, Jax crouches down to the ground and puts his hands are together in prayer position.
He stares at the wall and says, “I miss your old man.”
Opie was sitting on his prison bed, looking down at Jax – almost from above. He was framed like one of those old portraits of Jesus, but looking down on Jax like an angel.
Opie simply responds, “Yeah, me too.”
Then, like a priest, he heard Jax’s confession. The truth about Clay, Galindo, Rico, JT, Bobby, Otto and Piney all came out.
Regarding Clay, Opie asked Jax, “Why didn’t you let me kill him?”
Jax stated that he made a choice. In order to save the club, Clay had to live.
Opie responded, “You made the wrong choice.”
Once again, we come back to choice. Despite Opie’s words, he still chose to take the fall for SAMCRO’s sins. Did he love the club too little or too much? Or, did he just love the club and Jax more than he loved himself?
An even bigger conundrum is deciding who is to blame for Opie’s death?
Is it Damon Pope? The man who ordered Jax to choose one of his men as payment to stop the ensuing war?
Was it the prison sergeant, who will probably end up dead because he forced the club to make a decision?
Tig killed Damon Pope’s daughter. Isn’t his fault that SAMCRO is in this mess in the first place? Perhaps if Tig didn’t kill Damon Pope’s daughter, Opie would still be alive.
What about Clay? He took Donna’s life by accident, targeting Opie. Then, he murdered Piney. He was the one who convinced Opie to stay close to Jax. Isn’t Clay responsible for the death of an entire family?
Let’s not leave Jax out of the equation. Every time Opie wanted to walk away from the club, Jax pulled him back to the table. Jax wanted him by his side. And, Jax got just that. Jax had the loyal friend who was willing to sacrifice all for him and a dream of a better club – gun free.
Or, perhaps the blame simply lies with Opie? He told Lyla he was unsure if he could love anything. Perhaps in that moment (and this may sound soppy), Opie realized he loved the club and his brother, Jax, more than he loved himself. So he gave up his life – tracially – for the dream that could be or could have been.
“It’s not about thanks. From now on you back my every play. You support all my deals. And you never vote against me again.” – Jax to Tig.
Times are changing on Sons of Anarchy. The problems with Pope appear to be on hold for the moment. Pope has proven that the reach of his power extends farther than the club. For now, there will be no retaliation against Pope.
But, we’ve seen Jax make deals before with his own agenda buried deep down. He may say that Tig’s life is fodder, but it’s only for appearances. Much like Stahl, there will be reckoning between Jax and Pope. But, it may not come until Sons of Anarchy Season 6.
*This article has been updated to reflect a quote correction.