On the 9th of December 2014, the long running television series Sons of Anarchy aired its last show on FX with a record 6.4 million viewers. The finale brings to an end seven seasons of a show which has gathered much praise from fans, criticism from tv censors and avoidance by award show committees. Sons of Anarchy, the creation of Kurt Sutter, followed the life of a biker club, Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Originals (SAMCRO) and the main character of Jax Teller, son of the club’s founder and first president, John Teller. The show has often received much criticism for glorifying criminal and ‘biker gang’ culture. Anyone who has actually watched the show knows this couldn’t be further from the truth as the individuals of SAMCRO are often used up and thrown away because of the criminal lifestyle they lead. If anything, the show tells us that two wrongs don’t make a right – only one more massive wrong that comes back to get you later.
In addition to the roller-coaster storyline, SOA also introduced viewers to an army of new characters and personalities. Some were very minor, maybe in only a couple scenes while others were present for an entire season or more. From Stephen King and Peter Weller to Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love, fans had a lot to keep track of. Of course, creator Kurt Sutter made sure we didn’t have to work too hard to remember all the names. That’s because the show tended to kill off a lot of characters, often in gruesome or spectacular ways. The following looks at 15 of the most shocking deaths to happen over the course of the entire series. Some are shocking because of how the character is killed, while others shocked viewers because it involved a long-term or main character who had been so integral to the storyline.
16 Honorable Mention: Jax Teller
What? Only an honorable mention? Let’s be honest, we all saw this coming and as the series entered its last few episodes every indication was that Jax was going to die. Online polls everywhere even had him crashing his father’s bike into a transport truck as a possible way to go out. As the season finale neared its end, everything fell into place with the ex-SOA president riding his dad’s bike down the road, followed by more than a few police vehicles. The arrival of Michel Chiklis (who starred in Sutter’s other hit show, The Shield) and his transport truck confirmed the way Jax was going to end it. Plus, we all know Jax wasn’t wearing a helmet and motorcycle safety statistics show that 1/3 of all deaths could have been prevented with a helmet – so predictable.
15 Half Sack
Played by Johnny Lewis, Kip Epps was a prospective member during the first two seasons of the show. His character was largely used to provide some comedic relief (hence the name Half Sack, resulting from his one testicle) and was often tasked with undertaking the less desirable jobs of the club. Half Sack met his end while watching over Tara Knowles and Gemma Teller during the season 2 finale. Confronted by an angry and distraught Irish gun dealer, Half Sack attempted to protect Tara and ended up getting stabbed in the process. The on-screen death caught audiences by surprise. Probably helping the effect was that the death wasn’t planned as Sutter had to write Lewis out after the actor had asked to leave the show. Equally shocking for fans was the actual death of Lewis a few years later.
14 Dawn Trager
Dawn Trager was the daughter of club member Tig. Dawn was a very minor character who appeared earlier in the series as part of a minor storyline. Her reappearance in the season 5 premier was unexpected and the way she died was definitely shocking. Viewers quickly found out that in the previous season Tig had unknowingly killed the daughter of crime boss Damon Pope. Pope was not the kind of character you wanted to cross and when he confronted Tig in the train yard we all saw why. The vengeful Pope forced Tig to watch as Dawn was burned alive. Minor character or not, it was definitely a gruesome and shocking death which caught a lot of people off guard.
13 David Hale
Deputy Chief David Hale was all set to take over the role of Chief of Police in Charming. He was willing to work with the SOA but made it very clear they were criminals who would be arrested if the opportunity arose. So, at the start of season 3, no one suspected anything when a van full of rival gang members pulled up at the funeral for Half Sack and opened fire. Hale, maintaining watch over the funeral, was caught in the path of the escaping van and run over. Viewers never really saw his death coming, but they may have had some idea if they knew the actor who played him, Taylor Sheridan, had told Kurt Sutter he wanted to move on to another acting gig. Sutter obliged and what we got was the end of Hale in the season 3 premiere.
12 Lee Toric
Vengeful, determined and psychotic – the former soldier and US Marshal was introduced to SOA fans following the murder of his sister, prison-nurse Pamela Toric, by Otto Delaney. Toric was a dangerous character who didn’t care who he harmed while on his way to making the SOA suffer. The focus of his rage was Otto Delaney, who he had raped daily in prison. Ultimately, Otto had the last laugh when he stabbed Toric and cut his throat with a shiv. It was a dramatic death for a character many viewers thought would be around a lot longer. Turns out Donal Logue, the actor who plays Toric, had to leave to join the set of Vikings. The unforeseen departure required Sutter to rewrite Toric’s role, leading to the death scene we all saw.
11 Piney Winston
Piney was one of the original SOA members – the First 9. In the early seasons he was one of the few characters who would call out President Clay Morrow and question club policies and decisions. Added tensions were created when Piney gave Clay an ultimatum to pull out of drug and gun running or else incriminating letters connecting Clay to the death of John Teller would be handed over to the club. There was obvious friction between Piney and Clay but no one thought the club president would kill a patch member. In season 4, we weren’t shocked when Clay confronted Piney over the letters. We were however, caught a bit off guard when Clay left the cabin only to burst back in moments later and shoot Piney point-blank with a shotgun.
10 June Stahl
Ally Walker gave us one of the most hated characters of the SOA series. ATF agent June Stahl may have been law enforcement but she was a rotten ‘cop.’ Stahl was a real weasel who was interested only in furthering her career - offering something with one hand and taking it away with the other. Her lies led to the death of two SOA members, the kidnapping of Jax Teller’s son and the framing of Gemma Teller for a murder she didn’t commit. Stahl couldn’t be trusted and her lies and manipulative ways caught up with her in the season 3 finale. Nobody predicted that the ATF agent would be caught with her guard down on the side of the road with Charming’s Chief of Police Wayne Unser. So when members of the SOA pulled up and exacted their revenge, it was a death which was definitely shocking – and enjoyed by more than a few fans of the show.
9 Juice Ortiz
Juan Carlos Ortiz was the tech-savvy and more ‘simple-minded’ member of SAMCRO. More comic relief in the earlier seasons, in season 4 it all started to go wrong for Juice. After stealing some cocaine, a series of lies and the murder of a fellow member spelled the end of this likeable character. Rather than end it quickly, Kurt Sutter pulled Juice out of the firing line on more than one occasion, stringing out the misery until the series’ penultimate episode. Sure, it wasn’t shocking that he died. After all, Jax had told him his death would be quick. Perhaps it’s fair to say we didn’t predict that Marylin Manson would be the one to kill Juice by stabbing him repeatedly in the neck.
8 Otto Delaney
Make no mistake about it, Otto Delaney (played by Kurt Sutter) was a bad man, that’s why he was in jail during his entire time on the show. Nonetheless, fans liked his character because he was, at times, sympathetic and combined loyalty with dark humor. Delaney did a lot of ‘work’ for the SOA behind prison walls and every time he helped the club he suffered as a result. Physical and mental trauma were equalled by an ever increasing sentence which was ultimately bumped up to the death penalty. Everyone knew he would eventually be killed off, but the way he went surprised a lot of viewers. Killing Lee Toric (and thereby protecting the club) before being shot to death by guards seemed a fitting end which was given some shock value as that scene had apparently not been originally planned.
7 Tara Knowles
I can never look at a Thanksgiving dinner the same way ever again. Tara was a divisive character and many viewers couldn’t stand her. Yes, she made some terrible and frustrating choices but this was a show about a drug dealing, gun running, porn producing criminal organization – bad decisions were what the show was all about. From day one Tara did not get along with Gemma, the matriarch of the biker club. A fight was inevitable but what happened during the season 6 finale caught many people totally off guard. Having entered into a fight with Gemma, Tara soon found herself the underdog. With her head held down in a sink full of water, Tara was killed when Gemma plunged a turkey fork into the back of her skull.
6 Eli Roosevelt
When you first meet Eli Roosevelt in season 4, you aren’t supposed to like him. He was the new Sheriff in town – straight shooting and incorruptible. Nonetheless, over the course of the next couple seasons he fit right in the same way David Hale did. What caught viewers so off guard with Roosevelt’s death is that it occurred immediately after the murder of Tara Knowles. Having stumbled upon a blood-covered Gemma and the body of Tara, Roosevelt was just about to call it in when Juice shot him from behind. Without more than a minute or two to digest one major character’s death, the death of a second was definitely shocking.
5 Bobby Munson
Bobby “Elvis” Munson was another much loved character of the show. Bobby was often described as the moral compass or conscience of the club. If the club made a bad decision or there were tensions, Bobby addressed the issue and tried to provide solutions and guidance. He was like Piney, in a way, only more subtle and less threatening. In season 7, Bobby was kidnapped by August Marks and tortured for information. Everyone thought Bobby was a dead man. Surprisingly, after having an eye and some fingers removed, Bobby was released – for about 30 seconds. Shocking to everyone who was watching, August Marks tried to send a message not to cross him by shooting Bobby in the head, right in front of Jax Teller.
4 Clay Morrow and Galen O’Shay
This is a two-for-one deal because it's the holiday season and we feel like giving. Galen O’Shay was the gun running, back-stabbing, Mercedes G-Wagon driving, highly unlikable friend of Clay Morrow. You knew things were going to end badly given the clash between O’Shay and Jax concerning the gun deals. What surprised a lot of people was how quickly and nonchalantly Jax shot Galen in the head when they met at an airport hangar in season 6. Not quite over the ‘wow’ moment, viewers soon realized this was the end for Clay Morrow. While we had all grown to despise Clay, some sympathy had been created over the last several episodes which made some think that Clay wouldn’t end up shot in the throat and dying on the floor beside his gun-dealing Irish friend.
3 Wayne Unser
Unser was the good-bad cop who ran charming while having an unwritten understanding and ‘relationship’ with SAMCRO. Over several seasons he worked hard to balance the needs of the town with the needs of the SOA. He was definitely one character a lot of people thought would make it out of the show alive (despite the fact that he battled terminal cancer throughout the entire series). Near the end of season 7, he was even given one last chance to get out alive. In a desperate attempt to save Gemma from the wrath of Jax, Unser tried to arrest her. He was given the opportunity to leave, but opted to stay by Gemma’s side and payed the price with a gunshot to the chest.
2 Gemma Teller
After Gemma killed Tara, it was predictable that there would be some sort of showdown between Jax and his mom. Over the course of the entire seventh season, however, Kurt Sutter clearly tried to play down that possibility by making it seem more likely that Jax just wanted to talk. After all, would he really shoot his own mother? Turns out he would. While the eventual death of Gemma was predicted, the actual scene where Jax killed her still produced a ‘wow, this is it’ moment. Turns out the death was inevitable as Jax revealed in the finale that part of his ‘exit’ strategy required her death. After all, the club would never be free from trouble as long as Gemma was running things behind the scenes.
1 Opie Winston
Poor Opie. He was a fan favorite and a loyal friend to Jax. Unfortunately, the club Opie loved so much gave him the short end of the stick on more than one occasion. It killed his wife, killed his dad and ended up pulling him back into a lifestyle which led to his own death. By season 5 Opie was definitely a changed character. The hope had been sucked right out of him. That still didn’t prepare the vast majority of fans for the gut-wrenching scene where he sacrificed himself to satiate Damon Pope’s demand that one SOA member be killed. Brutally beaten to death in the basement of a prison while his friends watched, SOA viewers were completely blown away that such a significant and well-liked character had been killed off.