Life in a rough and tumble outlaw motorcycle club is understandably chaotic and unpredictable. Actions are driven by fear and rage just as much as they are by a sense of community and family. Sons of Anarchy captured such conflicts and dilemmas perfectly during its seven-season ride. Over that time, we saw so many characters leave this mortal coil that it almost felt like they might have gotten caught up in Thanos’ “finger-snap” moment from Avengers: Infinity War!
Episode after episode, the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals (aka SAMCRO) did some really crazy stuff in service of their club. However, even fans who closely followed the show might not stop to think about all the crazy stuff the club did before season one even aired. While there’s been no direct prequel to the series, many of these past deeds were discussed and revealed during the course of the series’ unfolding drama. Quite a few of these historical moments carried as much mayhem as any of the striking stuff we saw go down on screen.
Not all of the club's actions involved violence and pain – some were even positive-- but most carried serious repercussions that helped forge the events we did see in the series. Still, they are easy to forget as many were only discussed in passing. Now it’s time to rectify that with a little brushing up on the club’s days gone by. Let's take a look into the past.
Here are the 20 Wildest Things SAMCRO Did Before Season 1.
When SAMCRO was first formed, it wasn’t set up to be a gun-running outlaw gang. John Teller and his fellow Vietnam vets had just returned from war and were simply seeking a way to live their lives free from the confines of society. While that might seem to automatically lend itself to criminality, it was about exploring self-respect in a way undefined by “normal culture.”
It was only later that Clay Morrow lobbied for making money by selling weapons to dark figures doing darker things. For a club meant to be completely free-- even of crime-- the direction it ended up going in was tragically ironic.
If early SAMCRO had one other mandate besides “living free” under their own code, it was protecting their hometown of Charming from any invasive criminal influence. That meant taking on violent and dangerous mobs running all sorts of rackets to the detriment of the locals. When you think about it, it must have been a tall order for the club to essentially ride as a vigilante bike gang without becoming criminals themselves.
Being exposed to such violence often begets more violence, which was proven before season 1, as the Sons eventually devolved from regional heroes to being part of the problem.
When we meet the Sons of Anarchy in the very first episode, they are already well into their gun-running business. They dabble with danger on a daily basis and show no remorse for flooding the streets with weapons. The way they see it, they need to earn money and control the violence that inevitably reaches their doorsteps.
This whole criminal enterprise was established long before season one. As we learn, Clay established a pipeline back when the Belfast, Ireland branch of the Sons – known as SAMBEL – made a deal with criminals there. Without this established plot point, a lot of the drama we witness on SoA would never have happened.
The Sons of Anarchy have no shortage of enemies. They go up against everyone from law enforcement to real estate developers-- and, of course, rival gangs. The most famous beef they harbored was with The Mayans. This group of bikers engaged in a years-long war against the Sons, tangling over territory disputes in many illegal activities. Over time, the bad blood and body count piled up high – most of it occurring well before the series ever premiered.
This was another pre-show setup which would not only generate a lot of the SoA storylines but spawned a spinoff series for the Mayans as well, and helped generate that series’ drama by extension.
John Teller wasn’t just the main founder of the Sons of Anarchy, he was the ideological leader of the motorcycle club. It was his dream to see a group of decent, strong men lead as protectors of a free community, holding themselves to a higher standard than the stereotypical biker gang image lends itself to. When this beautiful vision came into conflict with the selfish desires of Clay Morrow and Gemma Morrow-Teller, John paid the ultimate price.
Betrayed by the pair, John’s passing paved the way for SAMCRO to go criminal, as per Clay’s own vision. The club was never the same after that. It all set the stage for the violence and mayhem SAMCRO's members suffered over the course of the series.
On thing that SAMCRO has always been interested in is protecting the town of Charming, CA. That not only meant keeping away corrupting criminal elements from the area, but also preserving its small-town charm (so to speak) from being distorted by over-development. This has always pitted the club against large real estate players, many of whom would use both the law and illegal intimidation methods to counter the Sons’ efforts.
After Clay took the club over in the wake of John Teller’s demise, he went much further into the intimidation aspect of things. Arson, vandalism, and worse were employed on his orders. This legacy conflict is well-established from the start of the show and remained an influential plot point throughout the series.
When Clay Morrow decided to have John Teller dispatched, he needed to make it seem like an accident. Lowell Harland, Sr. was John’s friend and the only mechanic he trusted to work on his bike. Clay manipulated Lowell into sabotaging Teller’s ride. This, in turn, led to the “accident” that claimed Teller's life. Morrow needed to make sure no one else would know about the plot, so he dispatched of Harland himself before the first season.
When a real estate developer unwittingly unearths the remains of Lowell where Clay had buried them, the case is reopened, and the revelations reverberate throughout the show. This action led to the tragedy of Lowell’s son, who we see as a troubled adult in the series, and ultimately exposes Clay’s crime – for which John’s son, Jax, ultimately takes his revenge.
Before John Teller was betrayed and dispatched by Clay and Gemma, he sensed something was awry within SAMCRO. His original idealistic vision for the club was slipping away and darker trends were emerging. Feeling increasingly isolated and lost, he began keeping a journal, of sorts. It was really more of a history and critique of the Sons.
Jax Teller discovered the book in a locker of his deceased father’s belongings in season one. What he read in the pages therein changed the course of the show and Jax's life. It also eventually helped lead to the downfall of Clay Morrow – a sort of payment for his crimes – as well as the ultimate fate of Gemma Teller-Morrow.
What’s the best way for a criminal gang to get away with their crimes? All they need to do is review The Godfather: Don Corleone famously kept the police in his pocket to dissuade them from interfering in mob business. So it was with SAMCRO. For many years, the club allied itself with Charming’s police department. In particular, the friendly relations with sheriff Wayne Unser, cultivated for decades, helped keep the law off of the bikers’ backs for a good long time.
This relationship was tested over the course of the series, and was strained further once Unser retired due to an illness. This was another pre-season one setup which added drama to Sons of Anarchy and afforded many challenges to the characters.
While it’s easy to think of John Teller as a saint, especially in comparison to Clay, he was, in fact, deeply flawed and made some very poor choices. John sired a secret child over in Belfast, when he was spending some time with SAMBEL. The fling threatened his own family, and became part of Gemma’s motivation in the plot to end her husband’s life. Eventually, Jax would travel to Belfast during on season of the show and unknowingly fall into a web of painful revelations about his own past and the one he could have had.
Without spoiling it, a dangerous subplot emerged when he finally met his grown-up half-sister Trinity.
Clay Morrow was a pretty bad leader. Not only did he betray club members in the worst way possible, but he ordered acts that sent many of his brothers to jail for a long time. One such act was Opie Winston committing an arson that targeted an enemy of the club. Opie paid for the crime with years of his life.
When we first see Opie in the opening season of Sons of Anarchy, he’s just been released and is out on parole; stuck in a crummy job making lousy money. One of his early conflicts is in whether or not to return to the Sons, where he could earn more money, but expose his family to more danger. He chose to return and he and his loved ones paid a great price in the end.
When it comes to troubled backgrounds, Chibs Telford can stand with the toughest of his SAMCRO brothers. A native of Scotland, the defaced biker was raised in Belfast, and eventually served in the army. After being court-martialed out, he used his medical skills to help patch up wounded gang members in Ireland.
Eventually running afoul of that criminal organization as well, Chibs had his family was taken from him and his face scarred. Running from Ireland, Charming’s favorite biker gang took him in, and the rest is history. By the way, anyone who’s seen actor Tommy Flanagan in films like Sin City will know that those facial scars are real, and Sons of Anarchy just wrote them into the show.
In the world of Sons of Anarchy, Gemma Teller-Morrow is the undisputed queen of the kingdom. As her name itself denotes, she has been the wife of two of SAMCRO’s leaders, Clay Morrow and club founder John Teller. Her actions before the start of the series had a huge, lasting impact on everything that unfolded from the pilot.
Feeling wronged by John and fearing abandonment by him, Gemma conspired with Clay Morrow in the offing of her own son’s father. Not only that, but she married her partner-in-crime after the fact. Gemma and Clay’s bond is the central relationship around which the rest of the club revolves, and that was established long before the first episode aired.
There’s no shortage of wasted lives in Sons of Anarchy. Amazing potential abounds, much of which is lost to violence and madness. Perhaps the most promising future was Tara Knowles'. As a talented prenatal surgeon, she truly found a key to getting away from her ugly past.
Before the show's start, Tara was a substance abuser who was arrested many times for disorderly conduct. It was the fear of falling further into a life of crime that made her leave Charming and become a great doctor. Of course, she returned to her criminal past when she felt threatened by a stalker, which ultimately led to her tragic end.
It’s always jarring to learn that there are super-scary tough guys out there who might just have one unexpected weak spot. When it comes to Tig Trager, one of the meanest brawlers in SAMCRO, it may shock audiences to learn he has a fear of dolls.
This berserker biker has no problem running into a hail of bullets or taking a beating to help the club-- but make him face dolls, and he panics. While we never learn the story behind Tig developing this fear, it seems to be tied to abuse by his father. The phobia's behind-the-scenes source is the show's creator Kurt Sutter, who also has pediophobia: a morbid fear of dolls.
There’s a lot of things wrong with the Sons of Anarchy. Besides being into some serious criminal activities, they also have certain aspects to their club charter which are relics of a time best left behind. One of those is the racist stipulation that SAMCRO will not accept black members into the club. This is a problem for Juice, as his father was a black man.
This hidden secret – one which should really not matter – is eventually used by law enforcement to manipulate Juice into betraying the club, something for which he ends up paying for with his life. This choice got other brothers harmed or worse and negatively affected many storylines. This pre-show secret from his birth changed everything on the series.
Many of the brothers in the Sons of Anarchy are the offspring of older members and are truly “in the family” to the end. Bobby Munson was not one of them, but he was born into his own version of criminality. Bobby’s father, was an accountant for The Mob in Reno, NV. It was by watching his dad cook those books that Bobby gained the skills that would lead him to helping SAMCRO deal with their finances.
This, and many other pre-show experiences, made Bobby one of the most valuable brothers in the club. Along with his dogged loyalty and reliability, Munson proved to put everything he had on the live for his beloved bikers.
Wendy Case has always been a very troubled girl. As the first wife of Jax, she is the mother of his son Abel, but she was also a hard partier, pretty much from the get-go. This led to a serious substance abuse issues which dissolved their marriage. Beyond hurting herself with her addiction, her self-abuse while she was carrying Abel reverberated throughout the show.
For one thing, her habit may have caused problems with the boy. As a consequence, she lost many of her rights as a mother, often with the entirety of SAMCRO working against her. Wendy’s constant attempts to reinsert herself into the club’s sphere and her children’s lives caused many a plot thread to get going, all the way to the end of the series.
Otto Delaney has given up a great deal for the Sons of Anarchy. Working for the club, he lost his freedom once convicted on crimes committed in its service. Inside of prison, he lost his dignity in some of the worst ways possible.
Even on the inside, he continued to do SAMCRO’s bidding, often harming or even dispatching rivals serving time within the same walls. Caught in the act of some of those violent events, Otto was established as unlikely to ever get out of jail before season one ever aired. As his miserable story progressed, things got worse and worse for Otto, all due to crimes the audiences never even saw.
One of the most distressing things that happens if you get kicked out of the Sons of Anarchy is that you must get your club tattoo removed-- and we’re not talking about laser surgery. To be in the club, members need to seal the deal with skin ink – a lot of it. As for the removal process, there are two choices: by blade or by fire.
Kyle Hobart is seen in season one trying to get back into SAMCRO after the betrayal of abandoning Opie when the cops caught him at an arson. While that happened before the series aired, the price he had to pay for it we got to see in that first season, with the show revealing how rough life in the Sons can be.
What else did SAMCRO get up to before Sons of Anarchy began? Let us know in the comments!