So much has happened in the fifth season of FX's "'Hamlet' on motorcycles" drama "Sons of Anarchy" that it seems as if Dr. Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) married her bad-boy biker club president Jax (Charlie Hunnam) in a brothel during a completely different season.
But that was how Season 5 began, and a lot has gone down since then -- Damon Pope's vicious murder of Tig's daughter, Opie's heartbreaking death, Gemma's accident that nearly killed Jax's sons, the introduction of Gemma's new boyfriend Nero (Jimmy Smits), and Pope's demand that Jax turn his SAMCRO brother Tig over to the mobster -- that the Dec. 4 season finale had to be nothing short of epic.
Teaser: Yahoo! TV has seen the episode and it is shocking, brutal -- at least two scenes are so graphic you should make sure dinner is consumed before watching -- and provides both resolution and new angles on storylines that will be left dangling into next season. It's the sort of finale that leaves you satisfied with the season you've just watched but already itching for the next one to begin.
Watch a preview of the Dec. 4 season finale:
And much as the season was about Jax and SAMCRO, as always, the women of "SoA" continued to be front and center in Season 5. Siff's Tara tried to help her man and the club by persuading Otto to retract the testimony that would have led to some serious jail time for her hubby, and while the club may skate by, Tara's in legal hot water herself just as she got a job offer that could save her family from the ills of Charming.
Read on for Yahoo! TV's talk with Siff about the season, Tara's incredibly complicated life as a biker wife, and that very awkward scene in her bedroom after she visited Otto at the prison. Then check back after the season finale for Part 2 of our chat, in which she discusses the finale and what's ahead for the Tellers.
Season 4 ended with Clay, and therefore Gemma, ousted as SAMCRO leader, and Jax and Tara as the new king and queen. Did Tara start this season thinking she had the upper hand with Gemma?
Yes. Certainly, for the first part of the season, she felt ... well, I think it's a combination of things. Her position in the club, and the feeling of Jax being in charge, and then all of the guys being there in support of Jax and, by association, Tara, that gave her a feeling of power and protection. But I also think that at the end of last season, something started to move through the character of Tara. It was dark, and it was powerful too. It was like, "F--- this ... My life is what it is, and I get to decide how it goes down. I'm not going to be so f------ scared all the time anymore, and that includes Gemma."
I think that's just about a person hitting a wall within themselves but also coming up against really difficult life circumstances and surviving them. I think certainly for the first half of the season, Tara felt more ... even though her life felt slightly more circumscribed, I think she felt more powerful. Even as she was losing control at different moments, I think she still felt stronger than we've seen the character feel before. Then, as the season progressed and things started to spin more and more out of control, I think again she had a feeling of how much bigger these circumstances were, bigger than what she could control.
Wendy (Drea de Matteo) has become a big factor, and she and Tara have definitely bonded. Now that Tara is in deeper with the club herself, more privy to exactly what they've done and are doing, does she have more empathy for Wendy's old life with Jax?
Maybe. I think Wendy is kind of a great character, just mythologically speaking. At the very beginning of the series, she is really in the lowest of low places. She's a despicable person. Now, five seasons in, she is the only person we have seen who has actually been able to transform her circumstances and make a different choice. That's the thing that's the soap opera that is "Sons of Anarchy!" (Laughing) It's like, nobody can get out. They're all helpless [within] their circumstances. Their field of vision is so incredibly small. She's the one person who's different in that way.
I think Tara is very moved by that and really wants to believe in that, wants to believe that we are capable of change, that Jax is capable of change, that [Tara] is capable of change. The belief that we can get out and make a different life and provide a different life for our children is the thing that Tara most desperately wants to believe in. So Wendy actually becomes a beacon of hope, in a strange way.
You just touched on it ... Tara has a different scope of the world, certainly different from Jax and Gemma's. She has lived somewhere else, gone off and done something different with her life, made a life outside of Charming. Do you think ultimately that will be the thing that will propel her to keep fighting to get her family out of Charming?
That's a good question. I have no idea what [series creator] Kurt [Sutter's] intentions are for the character. I would imagine so. I think it's the thing that makes Tara in some ways the most tragic character, because she really does know better, more than any of the rest of them.
Even if they can all sort of, even if Jax can think about a different life, he doesn't know a different life. Whereas Tara actually came very close to living a different life and found her way back here and has been trapped ever since. I always think of her as proactively making the choice to be with this man, and on some level just choosing the love she has with this person and the feeling of family that she has in this place.
Ultimately, I think that does trump all these other things, but she doesn't believe that she'll be able to find those things outside of Charming, even though she can find all these other things that she's already known, like safety and comfort and material security and not having her life or the lives of her children be in danger every day. The paradox of knowing better and yet choosing to stay or feeling trapped inside of this horrible life and this love, I think is pretty tragic.
Is there a part of her that enjoys the power, though? When she came back to town in Season 1, she was coming from another life in Chicago, and she had found love, but with a guy who turned out to be a psycho stalker. It made sense then that she came back to somewhere safe, to home. But even aside from that, does she simply enjoy the power and protection she enjoys as the wife of the leader of this club?
One of my favorite moments this season was when, and it was such a weird moment, and it arose spontaneously, but it was the episode where we got married and Jax says, "Nothing says endless love like capital murder." He makes an allusion to the fact that our first moment of coming together was over a dead body, and there's this little charge between them. I think that on some deep, dark level, it is true that Tara gets some feeling of power or excitement from it. I think that that's the part of her that comes from this world. When you come from a history of violence, it holds a power and immediacy and maybe even romance sometimes.
I try to hold this in my mind: She's also a surgeon and somebody who deals with these life-and-death circumstances, bloody circumstances, heightened circumstances, every day. That's a real part of who she is, and that's one of the reasons why she can live there with him in that life. So, I don't know if it's so much a feeling that she derives of power, but I do think there is a charge in it that fills her in a way that she -- I don't know if "enjoy" is the right word -- but she thrives on in some way.
Tara had some new interactions this season, namely with Otto (Kurt Sutter) at the prison. Is it different working with Kurt as a co-star than it is working with him as the showrunner, creator, and writer of the series?
Yeah, it is, and it's actually pretty fun. I think that the hardest part of that is when we're rehearsing a scene and I'm like, "Hey, can I say it this way instead of that way?" I see this thing happen to him where he's struggling with doing his job as an actor and being the showrunner, so over the course of working on these scenes, I came to understand that what I really needed to do was not ask him those questions and really just treat him as an actor, because he needed that space in order to do his job as an actor.
He loves acting and he loves the process of acting, and [playing Otto] is his chance to let go of all his other responsibilities and just play in this way. So, it's actually really lovely to be able to have some scenes with him and work with him strictly as a peer. He's a very good actor, and to get inside a scene with him, it's a different kind of connection. We get along really well as people and as collaborators, but he's also my boss. But in that room, acting, he wasn't my boss. He was just my co-actor. It was really enjoyable.
Tara and Otto had some weird chemistry during her visits to the prison, and there were those scenes in Episode 9, "Andare Pescare," when Otto masturbated while Tara stroked his hair... What was your take on that whole situation?
(Laughing) I know people were so confused by that. As was I. Well, I don't think that she was fantasizing about him, and I don't think she felt a sexual connection to him. That was not my read on the situation.
I think she felt like this was a desperately lonely man who was taking a rare opportunity to give comfort to himself, and she was like, "Uh, OK, that's what's happening now." She sort of let that happen. But she didn't feel involved in it in any way beyond being there and letting him comfort himself.
To that extent, I think that if there is a connection between what we see her doing later on in the episode and what he was doing, I think it's much more about her experiencing her own loneliness and making a choice about addressing it in that moment in a way that she does. But I don't think ... she certainly wasn't fantasizing about him or connecting in any really erotic way. It was much more ... an expression of loneliness, I think.
She was very lonely this season, wasn't she?
She's always lonely! (Laughing) But yes, yes. I think so. I mean, I felt like her and Jax's connection … you just didn't see them enjoying each other that much this season, because he's in such a terribly dark place, and she's really on her own and trying to figure out how to fill this role, and then trying to figure out how to get out of this role. They're always promising not to keep secrets from each other, but they're always keeping secrets from each other. This season was almost worse than it's ever been.
One of the other really great Tara moments of the season, and one of the rare, but so welcome, moments of levity was her scene with Unser at the hospital. It was funny and moving, because it felt like both of them are in deep with the club, yet they also can both sit back and just say, "Man, can you believe the stuff we've gotten into with these people?"
(Laughing) Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think Unser is another character who's a very lonely person. For better or for worse, these are the people he's thrown his lot in with and who he calls family. [Unser and Tara's] position within that world is really, it's really weird and sweet, but also at times very alienating and lonely. I loved that scene. I mean, I just love Dayton [Callie, who plays Unser] and his work so much, and that character, he is like this elder. He's like this curmudgeonly elder, just like Tara says, "I think of you as someone who's seen it all."
I think of Dayton that way a little bit as well. We haven't had many opportunities to work together, and whenever we do, I enjoy it so much, because they feel like a very unlikely pair, and yet in that scene, you see everything that they have in common.
On a far happier note, in an interview earlier this season you mentioned you were planning your own wedding while you were filming Jax and Tara's brothel wedding. Did you get married?
(Laughing) Yes, I did. I got married last month. I had a very small wedding, with just close family and friends. We did it in Maine, where a lot of my family live. It was really lovely, and we did not get married in a brothel! We got married on a beautiful farm, and it was a great weekend.
"Sons of Anarchy" airs Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 10 PM on FX.