(Spoiler alert: Don't read this if you don't want to know what happened on Tuesday night's "Sons of Anarchy.")
FX's biker drama "Sons of Anarchy" ended with a jaw-dropper of a death Tuesday night, but creator Kurt Sutter says it had to happen.
As fans still grappled with the brutal demise of one of the series' most beloved characters, Sutter fielded reporters' questions Wednesday about why Harry "Opie" Winston (Ryan Hurst) was offed. He died in an eye-for-an-eye tradeoff between Jax Teller, newly minted leader of the SAMCRO biker gang, and crime kingpin Damon Pope.
As Sutter tells it, Opie's death, as "gut-wrenching" as it was, was necessary to shape Jax's character as he moves forward in making the gang his own, following the ouster of Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman).
"Jax needed that emotional upheaval, that one event in a man's life that can change the course of his destiny," Sutter (pictured at right) offered. "And I think the death of his best friend is an event."
Choosing Opie for the chopping block was somewhat natural, Sutter said, given the personal devastation that being in the biker gang previously brought upon him, including the death of his wife and last season's death of his father and fellow gang member, Piney.
"I just felt like we had done so much damage to Opie and his family over the course of a couple of seasons, I couldn't wrap my brain around the idea of bringing him back to the table after last season," Sutter offered. "It just didn't seem right."
Opie's damage at SAMCRO's hands notwithstanding, he's remained incredibly (some would say foolishly) loyal to the club, and Sutter told reporters that his final act of selflessness -- making himself the sacrificial lamb who must die to appease Pope -- was a fitting departure.
"He knew that Jax would have to make that decision, and rather than put Jax through that agony, he decided to give himself up," Sutter said.
"I wanted Opie to go out a warrior," he added. "I wanted him to go out with nobility and the sense that, 'I really don't have a lot to live for, but I'm going to go out doing something noble and protecting the people I love,' and I think that was accomplished with that death."
Sutter also promised fans that the demise would reverberate throughout the remainder of the show.
"I guess I would say to them, yes, it's incredibly sad, but the death of Opie will color the rest of the series," Sutter said. "It's not a death that happened in vain."
Opie's brutal demise will have particular resonance for Jax, as he guides SAMCRO into the post-Clay era.
"This is the season where Jax really figures out what kind of man he's going to become, and we see the kind of decisions he's going to make and the kind of leader he's going to be," Sutter said. "Jax will be greatly influenced by the loss of Opie. Perhaps that loss, that emptiness, will color Jax for the rest of the series."