In 2008, Sons of Anarchy rocked the FX channel for the first time. The biker-centric drama series had all the hard-hitting, tough-nosed grit of a crime series with a poignancy that counterbalanced all the gang on gang violence. Often compared to Shakespeare's Hamlet, Kurt Sutter's high-octane series tracked Jax Teller's transformation from a capable leader to the man he feared the most.
More than three years removed from the show's final episode, fans are still picking up small clues and details as they re-watch FX's most viewed series. While the most devoted fans may think they know everything there is to know about SoA, there are still some Easter eggs and nuggets of knowledge that have managed to slip past even the most keen observers.
From the meanings behind a name to the significance of a tattoo, we've done our research and delved deep into our biker culture history to break down every last bit of information behind Kurt Sutter's series. While we still may not know every secret behind the making of the show, we've managed to unearth some of the lesser-known things you may not have noticed the first time around.
Join us as we take a look back at 15 Things You Completely Missed in Sons of Anarchy.
Throughout SoA’s seven seasons, many of the show’s characters had their fair share of growing pains, but none came out happier than Jax Teller's ex-wife Wendy Case, a recovering addict played by The Sopranos actress Drea de Matteo.
In the penultimate episode “Red Rose,” Wendy and Nero share a conversation about Nero’s farm after he extends an invitation for her to visit. After some light banter, he playfully tells her to calm down or else she’ll be “riding in the trunk,” a remark with which she replies “It won’t be the first time.”
The throwaway line is a clear nod at de Matteo’s character Adriana La Cerva who met a not-so-happy ending in The Sopranos. The comment is the show’s second reference to the Italian mobster series as Jax makes a similar remark in the second season episode “Small Tears”.
14 Gemma’s Singing
As important to Sons as its biker-themed looks was the bluesy, Americana soundtrack. Blending a bit of rock 'n roll into each song, the music was such an integral part of SoA that Kurt Sutter commissioned the series’ own personal band, the Forest Rangers, led by the show’s music supervisor Bob Thiele. But when it came to executing Sutter’s musical vision, it wasn’t just Thiele providing the vocals.
Recruiting none other than his wife, Katey Sagal sang at least one song for each of Sons’ seven seasons. Sagal had a history as a singer, providing backup vocals for such artists as Kiss, Bob Dylan, and Bette Midler.
In her early days, the actress was so terrified of singing publicly that she hid off-stage to control her stage fright.
These days, those worries are behind her and she’s not afraid to show her talents as a grade A songstress.
13 Tig’s Fear of Dolls
As the Sergeant-at-Arms for the Sons, Tig Trager was one of the more intriguing characters of SoA. Responsible for many of the club’s biggest slip-ups, Tig saw his share of ups and downs, but underneath his callous exterior was an unlikely sensitivity rarely seen by the other members.
Despite hiding many secrets throughout the series, none of Tig’s hidden skeletons were stranger than his fear of dolls. Known as pediophobia, his fear came from a very real place as it was actually Kurt Sutter who admitted to having the irrational character trait. According to him, the fear was so strong that it almost came between him and wife Katey Sagal.
Sagal’s own collection of life-like dolls terrified Sutter so much, he had to “turn them the other way whenever she left the room” because he felt like they were watching him.
12 The Real Meaning Behind Unser’s Name
When showrunner Kurt Sutter committed to SoA, he did it with the kind of full-on involvement that’s so rarely seen in television shows. From directing the finale for every season to overseeing every detail of the Sons' clothes, the series was truly his baby.
It should come as no surprise that Sutter took the opportunity to hide a few meanings behind the names in his show.
Known for being quite the thinker when it comes to using words with double meanings, Sutter often used foreign languages to name the episodes of SoA, something he also shared when coming up with the name of Charming’s former police chief Wayne Unser.
Often seen working on the wrong side of the law along with the Sons, Unser’s last name translates to “ours” in German, suggesting he’s always been the MC’s whipping boy, even if he didn’t care to admit it.
11 The My Name Is Earl/Raising Hope Connection
With its gang life storyline, Sons of Anarchy was far from a funny show, but in its later seasons, the series managed to pull off one of the most bizarre television connections in recent memory.
In the episode "Toil and Till", the Sons hire Jury White's son Gib O’Leary in an effort to assault the Chinese. Later, when they need to frame someone for the attack, they murder Gib, unaware of his connection to Jury. When Jury is asked how he knew Gib, he replies that his mother, played by Dale Dicky, used to get around, possibly making a nod to Dickey’s character Patty in the series My Name Is Earl.
To make things stranger, a second Greg Garcia-produced series Raising Hope used the minor Sons character Filthy Phil in a surprise cameo when he was shown babysitting while wearing his club attire.
10 Gemma’s Changing Birds
As infuriating as he is poignant, Kurt Sutter has never been shy about using symbolism to convey hidden meanings in his shows. In the opening scene of SoA's pilot episode, fans witnessed the first shot of crows as they sat on a desolate stretch of highway as the Sons drove past.
The imagery of birds would pop up again throughout the series during critical times for the club, but it was Gemma’s birds which she kept as pets that would become a running gag for the remainder of the show’s run.
Beginning as a cockatoo, then later changing into a cockatiel before finally becoming crows themselves, her species of pets changed randomly throughout the series. Many fans have suggested that the species may have changed to reflect Gemma’s personal growth over time, but whatever the reason, it remains an odd detail that’s continued to stand out to fans.
9 Jax’s Shiny White Shoes
From his kutte to his baggy jeans to the Ka-Bar 7” USMC knife on his hip, everything about Jax Teller’s style was meant to reflect the latest looks in biker culture. While his clothes were often dirtied by the illegal activities of the club, one item of clothing always managed to remain conspicuously clean.
As many fans have pointed out, Jax’s all-white sneakers were never shown to be dirtied, but it left a lot of fans wondering why he would choose white shoes in the first place.
According to Charlie Hunnam, the decision was made when he noticed the style of a young biker he met in a club. Up to date on the latest fashions, the newest riders were heavily influenced by hip hop culture, including wearing the very best tennis shoes, something even the old-timers often did for comfort when driving their bikes for leisure.
Over their seven year run, the Sons saw many memorable celebrities waltz their way onto the show. From Lea Michele to David Hasselhoff, not every notable appearance was the typical run-of-the-mill guest spot, but one famous fan’s infatuation with the series took an odd turn when he popped up to say hello, dropping off a nice little Easter egg along the way.
In the season three episode “Caregiver,” Gemma employs the help of a cleaner from Crescent City by the name of Bachman to dispose of a body.
When the help arrives, it’s none other than horror author Stephen King who offers his services.
Not only is his guest appearance a sudden surprise, but his name is a sly reference to Richard Bachman, the nom de plume under which the author published many of his works, including novels like The Running Man and Thinner.
7 The True Jax Teller
As the matriarch of the club, Gemma was a mother bear willing to do whatever it took to protect her cubs. From conspiring with Clay to take out John Teller to eliminating Tara with a barbecue fork, she was quite possibly the worst mother to ever grace the small screen. In reality Katey Sagal is a much more supportive parent to her three children, including one who happens to share the same name as her TV son.
As many fans may know Kurt Sutter and Katey Sagal have been married since 2004, but many may not know the character of Jackson “Jax” Teller was named after Sagal’s son Jackson James White, who was twelve years old at the start of the series.
Luckily for White, his future looks much brighter than Jax’s.
Now 21 years old, he’s an accomplished singer who takes after his mother with his musical talents.
6 Men of Mayhem
For all the members of the Sons, the devil is in the details when it comes to their kuttes. From each Son’s rank to their own personal accomplishments, the kuttes worn by the characters were personalized and altered as the series wore on. With the Redwood Original charter branded on the chest, wearing the leather jacket is a badge of honor for the club and is not to be taken lightly.
With each patch comes a specific meaning.
The Men of Mayhem patch is one of the more commonly seen displays of the Sons, signaling that a member has suffered for the club. The Unholy Ones patch is another often seen piece worn by members to show a Son has loyalty to a specific member. Each instance of patchwork was hand-selected by the show’s crew and fitted to match how viewers should perceive the series’ cast of characters.
5 The Meaning Behind the Ink
Whether they’re real or sketched on for the show, each member of the Sons have their own unique tattoos specific to their characters. When it came to picking out the artists responsible for the ink, Kurt Sutter wanted the tats to feel as authentic as possible, so Charlie Hunnam helped the showrunner by introducing him to Freddy Corbin, an established tattoo artist based in Oakland, CA.
Responsible for much of the club’s artwork, Corbin designed the Sons’ reaper logo with the help of his partner Derrick Snodgrass. The now emblematic symbol pictures the reaper holding his traditional scythe with the handle replaced by the rifle the club’s founders wielded in the Vietnam War.
In addition to the club symbol, each member was given their own distinct designs as chosen by the actors, including Jax’s memorial to his father John Teller, displayed on his right arm.
4 The Shield crossovere
Years before running his own show, Kurt Sutter was in the writers’ room brainstorming ideas for The Shield, another FX drama series depicting a corrupt police department in the fictional Farmington district of Los Angeles. It was with The Shield that Sutter would get hands-on experience working in television, leading to a few key connections to his own series.
Possibly set in the same universe, Sons of Anarchy and The Shield not only both took place in California, but they both depicted two of the same violent gangs: the Byzantine Latinos and the One-Niners. The Byz-Lats would also reappear in another Shawn Ryan-produced series The Unit, making it another potential show to share SoA’s universe.
Although none of The Shield's characters would pop up in SoA, many of the show’s actors would make guest appearances, including Walton Goggins, who played Tig’s transgender love interest Venus Van Dam.
3 The Real Hells Angels
In order to capture the essence of biker culture, Kurt Sutter went all in, surrounding himself with real-life MC members. While everything in SoA isn’t true to life, the show did get the stamp of approval from its real world bikers, which is why Sutter honored them by putting them in his show.
One of the founding members of SAMCRO, Lenny Janowitz was the only original member to make it to the end of the series.
In real life, Lenny was played by Sonny Barger, a founding father of the Hells Angels Oakland chapter and author of several books detailing the life of an MC member.
Along with Barger, David Labrava, who played Happy, was also a real life Hells Angel. Originally hired as a technical adviser, Labrava quickly became a favorite of the show and stayed around for the remainder of the series.
2 The Original Clay Morrow
When a showrunner first pitches an idea to a studio, he or she is lucky to get past the development stages, let alone shoot a pilot episode. A lot of changes can happen between the first pitch and the final product and that includes some serious casting choices that leave the show looking completely different.
When Sons of Anarchy shot its first episode, the President of the Charming MC had a different feel. That’s because it wasn’t Ron Perlman playing Clay Morrow, but rather veteran actor Scott Glenn.
When the show was finally greenlit, it was under the condition that another actor would step in.
Reworking the first episode meant re-shooting many of Glenn’s scenes with the exception of a key moment involving a warehouse explosion. For viewers with keen eyes, Glenn can still be spotted in the scene as he runs away from the burning building.
1 Jax’s Body Count
As a series that revolves around drug and gun trading, it’s hard for the Sons not to bypass so many laws without spilling some blood, but a closer look shows that the series' supposed good guys weren’t as squeaky clean as they let on. Although Jax Teller was never portrayed as a white knight, he was originally supposed to be the better alternative to his crooked stepfather Clay Morrow. Somewhere along the way, however, Jax's body count rose and his leadership went out the window.
Meant to distance the Sons from gang-related violence, Jax ended up killing more people to reach his goal. According to the body count of each member, Jax easily topped his brothers with 46 confirmed. For comparison, Tig managed 28 while Happy had 24 and Chibs hit 17. That makes Jackson the clear stat leader in a competition he didn’t want to win.
Is there anything else we missed about Sons of Anarchy? Let us know in the comments!