When a Character Death Makes You Angry Instead of Sad

I don’t review Sons of Anarchy week to week like I do some other shows on the site here, but I’m willing to bet a fair amount of you do keep up with it.

I just finished watching this week’s episode which everyone said was “jaw-dropping” right after it aired. It’s the third episode of the season, how crazy could it be? We all know that TV shows stack their truly “big” moments for finales after all, right?

Not so in the case of SOA, and despite its placement in the season, they killed off a beloved character in what was probably the most significant event in the entire series.

But it didn’t feel…right to me, and it got me thinking about when shows botch a major development like this. I was angry at the show. Not for killing a character I liked, but for the way that it was handled.

Spoilers follow:

Opie. He’s been the loveable mountain man of the show since its inception, and has been central in nearly all of the series’ most powerful plotlines from the death of his wife, to the killing of the FBI agent responsible, to the death of his father, to the almost-killing of Clay, who was responsible.

And now there he goes, beaten to death in a matter of seconds at the behest of a new villain we just met two episodes ago.

Pope wanted a Son dead to make up for the nameless cop and thug that the Sons killed previously. It had to either be Tig, Chibbs, Jax or Ope, or else none of them would leave prison alive. After Jax told Ope the whole truth about everything regarding his father’s death and the club’s RICO case, Jax tried to volunteer himself to be flung into the pit to be sacrificed, but Opie jumped in and was promptly beaten to death by Pope’s thugs.

It wasn’t right. Not because Ope is a good guy that doesn’t deserve to die. I mean he is, but that’s not what I was talking about. It was a development that felt incredibly rushed, and like the show was killing off a character they simply didn’t know what to do with anymore. Between his wife and father’s death, and his newfound distance from the club, Opie has been sort meandering around aimlessly this season until he volunteered to head to prison to watch over the other guys.

But to kill such a formerly important character two thirds of the way through an episode one fourth of the way through the season? It didn’t seem like it was handled or planned particularly well. He didn’t even get the traditional send-off of the fade-to-Sons logo after he died. There were still 15 full minutes to go in the episode, most of which was spent dwelling on the stupid Gemma-Tara-it’s-my-baby-not-yours subplot.

Yes, his death will likely propel Jax to a new level of rage, but I felt like the character deserved more of a send-off than a hurried decision to essentially commit suicide for the good of the group.

I like Sons of Anarchy, and they usually handle big moments like this very well, as the show’s been full of them. But here? I was just angry. Not their desired reaction of angry, directed at Pope, but angry at the show itself for treating a beloved character with apparent disdain in the way his death was handled.

Perhaps I’m overreacting. What did you think of the episode if you saw it?

  • XenoIrish

    I can understand you’re reaction, and even felt a bit that way myself. But I also trust Kurt Sutter to know what he’s doing and give him the benefit of the doubt.

    His death is bound to have a profound effect on Jax, and until we as an audience see how that plays out for the rest of this season we should reserve judgement.

    Also, If this was a season ending moment we would have had almost a year to get numb to it. Doing it this early in the season also keeps the audience more emotionally involved for the remaining ten episodes. We loved Opie too, and we want blood for it.

  • my dad is darth vader

    I agree with the part about his death being followed by 15 min of useless stuf, but other than that, it was awesome..there aren’t many more moments like this for me anymore, where I really feel the loss, ’cause usually I don’t even care that much about those things..yeah sure, they kill of characters for one reason or another, but this one really got to me…now I know it sounds dumb, but I’m kinda flying high right now, so excuse me..what I’m trying to say is that this was/is one of the best, most intense moments in recenet TV..it was epic..and yes, it felt rushed..but still..epic, man 🙂

  • JB

    I actually thought they lead to Opies death well. I dont think it was done just to show how dangerous Pope is. It was also the consequences for all there previous actions that led the dominos to fall this way.

    Opie shooting Clay
    Jax not letting Opie kill Clay
    Clay lies and says the Niners did it
    Tig tries to get revenge on the Niners and accidently kills Popes daughter
    Which leads to Pope needing his own revenge.

    Opies death is the consequence of all their other lies that put them in this unwinnable situation. And I think his death will have a huge impact on Jax. Jax told Pope that he needs Tig for now but when he is done Pope can do whatever he wants to Tig because Jax just doesnt care. That could just be Jax manuvering but I think he was serious. It showed a direct change in Jax already and im interested to see where the show and charecters go from here.

  • jediguy

    Agreed, it was rushed. I wish he had put up a better fight or something. Bad way for him to go out. Nothing like killing off a major character as the catalyst for change in another.

  • Hendo

    I was OK with the way Op was killed. It just added to his tragic storyline. Wife killed by the club, dad killed by the club, die to get out of the club, it’s the only way.

    It was definitely abrupt but so is death in a biker gang I assume.

  • Cube

    Ope’s death had to seem rushed. The whole point was that Jax was facing a decision against the clock (changing of the guards) and he couldn’t make himself do it so Ope did it for him.

    Ope is the Ophelia of this Hamlet story. I thought it was going to be Tara but his death from self-sacrifice is what is going to set Jax finally on the course of revenge and self-destruction that has to happen.

    Hell, even his name is a shorten version of hers.

  • lol

    They might have put the Gemma-Tara scenes before rather than after, but the death itself and the scenes following were perfect. If you look back on the previous scenes you’ll see that it was inevitable. Given the characters involved and what we know about them it could only have ended this way.

  • GrandWazoo

    Paul, I think you should check out this article. It has an interview with Kurt Sutter, and he explains his decision. After reading this, I definitely see where he is coming from.

    The problem most of us are having is that we like all the characters on the show, but Sutter is specifically writing this story about Jax. The entire seven season arc is based around Jax and what makes him tick. Sutter explains that this death is that once in a lifetime moment that changes a man forever.


  • B33tleborg

    Opie had to die. Here’s why. After Jax told Opie everything in the holding cell, if Ope had gotten out of prison with the rest of them, he would have definitely tried to kill Clay again. There is a small correction to what you stated in the article. Tig could not have been chosen. Pope wanted a son dead AND Tig to be in prison forever. Jax could not have been chosen as the show would not have a lead. So it was really down to Opie and Chips. Opie through the entire series has been told countless times to watch and/or protect Jax. That was Opie’s role and eventual destiny in the show. In order for Jax to not fight, Opie had to sacrafice himself. I agree with you that Opie had distanced himself and after Piney dying really didn’t have anything else to lose. I thought his death was shocking. It may not have been the best closure for the audience for such a lovable character, but the show really didn’t have any other choice. At least it was a memorable and honorable death.

    **Potential Spoiler
    I watched the previews for next week, and I want to know how they are going to do an open casket. I say at least three of the guys in the background take a pipe to Opie’s head after he was dead.

  • Batttmaan

    you obviously didn’t like that Opie died lol who didnt – regardless of his current position on the show or how, i think they needed to do it, to show you who and what pope is about, think about how dangerously lucky the sons have been given all their situations

  • peter

    Sutter didn’t botch this killing. It needed to happen to show us how dangerous Pope is but more importantly Jax needed something drastic to happen to make him snap. Opie has had it the worst on the show out of anyone. He was in prison in season 1 gets out; stall sets him up to be a rat his wife gets killed by the club. he gets married tries to have a kid with his porn star wife to find out shes been taking birth control, leaves her then he sees his father laying on the floor from being shot with a shotgun. tries to kill clay for killing his dad and he gets shot by Jax. Opie has been shit on but still came back. the episode before ‘laying pipe’ he made peace with his ex wife, gave her 20000 and left the kids with her. he said his goodbye. it was a terrible death (worst death in sons history in my opinion) because he was out. He came back in to protect jax and got killed for it. Like I said the most important aspect was that it pushed jax over the edge. Opies time has come and gone in the show. This death needed to happen and like b33tleborg said it didnt need to happen at the end of the season bc we would get numb to that feeling of losing one of the best characters on soa.

    It got Tig out of jail to gain an important vote at the table and Jax’s retribution on the prison guard and the niners in prison will be epic.

    also the whole tara/gemma thing happened before all this information. the gemma/clay stuff happened afterwards but the important stuff was jax talking to tig and talking to chibs. Jax is changed on the show now forever because of what just happened.

    “those are the things that turn players into kings”

  • Shiki

    Well Op was my favorite character so I was pissed! Wonder whats gonna happen with his kids?!

  • Velku

    Ever since the beginning of the show, Jax has tried to do things “the right way”, keeping his hands as clean as he could, but it always backfires. It’s not after he becomes cold and plays it smart (at the end of each season) that gets the club out of the mess they’re at the time (like stopping Opie from killing Clay, being aware that he killed J.T. as well, just to get the club out the whole cartel business).

    Now once again, they’re in what might be the biggest mess so far. They got a new enemy, one that is powerful, intelligent, cold, resourceful, both respected and feared, hurt, has influences, and tons of motivation to make the life of the club impossible. The only way to get rid of him is to become as cold, intelligent and calculating as he is.

    That’s precisely the effect that Opie’s death has had on Jax. Pope has just created his equal by pushing him, and making him realize that his usual methods are not gonna be enough to deal with him, the police and the niners. Democracy in the club represents a risk, so he’ll need to call the shots without any objections. By taking Tig with him, he’s also getting rid of that problem and keeping him on a short leash.

    I think that’s probably what Sutter was trying to achieve by killing Hurst’s character. I think, that we’re gonna see a very different attitude in Jax from now. And mostly, I think things are gonna get really really wild and exciting. All thanks to the events from this episode.

    Problem is, we all love Opie and were looking forward to see him team up with Jax, kicking ass and establishing himself as the Sons right hand. But deep inside, we know it was necessary (and inevitable).

  • Charlie Ward

    Opie certainly deserved better, but think about how realistic this was. Don’t most heroes deserve better deaths than they get? Maybe that’s what the writers were going for. I don’t know.

  • I just think the reasoning behind opie’s death is a simple as to just continue jax’s character arc. It’s obvious from the his conv with Pope and the last shot of the ep that Jax’s had it with the club. He is loyal only to Tara, his kids and himself. We fist saw this last season. But while last year his plan was to leave samcro up and running, this time around its different. He basically just doesnt care anymore. That is not to say that there will be no retribution, because there will be, but his allegiance to the club is done.

  • Matt

    Opie had dying was the dumbest thing I ever seen. People that watch the show are like mindless sheep sometimes when Kurt does something that is just truly dumb but they don’t want to admit it. We have been left to believe that a Oakland street pimp is more powerful than a CIA backed cartel. Trust me in real life they would have killed Pope with in seconds of him interfering with the drug trade. Not to mention were supposed to believe that the District Attorney would just let a SOA member die in jail and than let the witnesses recant their testimony and let the Sons out of jail. Come on this has to be the dumbest thing in the history of dumb things.