Last night, I watched the season finale of the FX series Sons of Anarchy. And by the end of it I felt not only emotionally devastated, but deeply traumatized.
If you haven’t watched the series, know this before you dismiss it out of hand: It is, in many ways, a complex exploration of the story and themes of Shakespeare’s acclaimed play Hamlet (with grim intimations of the Scottish play) — an interpretation more intricate and unforgiving than any I have ever seen — all rendered in modern dress on motorcycles.
Given those starting parallels, which I’ve perceived ever since the pilot episode, I should have seen this season’s finale coming a mile away. But I didn’t. I refused to believe the show would go there. I couldn’t dare to let myself imagine that such horrors would be visited upon such a core character of the series, or that such a beloved and central figure of the series would meet so horrific and grisly an end.
Consequently, I went to bed last night haunted by the death of a character I had come to love, one with whom I had learned to empathize. Someone I was rooting for, even in the darkest moments. I realized as I closed my eyes that, despite all my efforts to purge myself of the memory of that character’s violent and gruesome demise, I couldn’t stop seeing it. It replayed in my mind’s eye whenever I closed my eyes, like some Hollywood cliché.
I realized I’m in shock. I’m grieving for a fictional character. The tragic end of someone who never existed outside of a realm of shared imagination has nearly reduced me to tears.
The actor is alive and well, unharmed, and no doubt already under contract to star in some new series next season. But still I’m haunted; my gut twists as I relive that fictional person’s last moments and I rage against the waste of it, the injustice of it, the stupidity of it. Part of me still can’t believe it. I’m actually in denial.
And that’s how I know that showrunner/creator Kurt Sutter is a fucking genius, and his writing and production staff is clearly among the best in the business.
It also makes me fear for the end of the series. Now that I see this horror was unavoidable, that the parallels to Hamlet and the Scottish play demanded this moment transpire by some means — and when I factor in that the show’s rendering ripped my heart out far more than Shakespeare’s ever did — I now realize what the series finale must have in store. And it’s not going to be good. Not for anyone. If Sons of Anarchy plays out as I now fear it will, it might very well become the most unflinching, gut-wrenching, long-form tragedy ever produced on television.
Time will tell. But until then, I will continue to reel from the blow the show dealt me last night.
“Defend me friends. I am but hurt.”