Sons of Anarchy ended its violent ride with an equally violent finale. For some, retribution, peace and/or closure was found - but for others, it was a final bloody meeting with Mr. Mayhem. (READ: Our official Sons of Anarchy series finale review).
As fans continue to process the entire saga of SAMCRO over the course of 7 seasons and seven years on the air, we decided to look back at Kurt Sutter's revolutionary series, which helped to both push biker "Outlaw" culture into the mainstream, and move the model of American television away from rigid old network paradigms and into the evolving tapestry that it is today.
Of course our nostalgia isn't the usual warm, fuzzy type (that wouldn't be fitting for Sons after all); no, we're more concerned with dredging up and discussing the 15 Most shocking, bloddy and disturbing moments from the series - moments that literally made us cringe in our seats.
NOTE: These moments are listed in order of CHRONOLOGY NOT RANKING, in order to minimize SPOILERS. Use the Links below for safe passage if you're not fully caught up with SoA!
15. "Fire or Knife?"
Season 1, Episode 5
By season 1 episode 5, we were well on our way toward getting to know the various bad boys of SAMCRO (and their ladies), but "Giving Back" really hammered home just how unflinchingly rigid (and often brutal) the tribal laws of the MC were.
When the boys of SAMCRO run across an ostracized ex-member named Kyle Hobart (Brian Van Holt), it seems like they will be able to work out their differences amicably - that is, until Jax (Charlie Hunnam) notices a clear violation of club law literally tatooed on Kyle's back. As became routine practice around TM, Kyle was lured into a trap and given an impossible choice: have his SAMCRO tattoo either burned or cut off his back.
Watching grown men engage in such barbaric ritual was shocking - almost as much as watching Kyle's acceptance of his penance. "These dudes is crazy," is the last thing we remember thinking, as that blow torch kissed skin and we were forced to avert our gaze. Smell must've been terrible.
14. Mayhem Ménage à trois
Season 1, Episode 8
Jax and Tara were always the star-crossed Shakespearean love tragedy of the Sons of Anarchy saga, and nowhere was this better expressed than in one of their first (and most carnal) love scenes.
ATF Agent Josh Kohn (Jay Karnes) came to Charming pretending to be after SAMCRO when really he was after his secret obsession: Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff). With increasing creepiness, Kohn stalked closer and closer to Tara, eventually ruining his career, and finally attempting a psychotic sexual assault that got him gut-shot by the formidable Doc Knowles.
Things took a cringe-worthy turn when Jax finally dispatched the wounded Kohn where he lay on the bedroom floor - and immediately preceded to have hot sex with Tara on the bed as Kohn's body was still bleeding out.
As titillated as viewers may have been, the scene was also oddly repellent and disturbing, as we wondered just how much "crazy" was between this crazy in love couple.
13. Mistaken Assassination
Season 1, Episode 12
Sometimes it's not an act of perversion, violence, or general depravity that makes us cringe and recoil - it's watching the inevitable collision that we see slowly approaching, but can do nothing to stop.
When Opie (Ryan Hurst) is framed as a snitch by a vengeful Agent Stahl (Ally Walker), Clay (Ron Perlman) takes the bait, hook line and sinker. Assigning Tig (Kim Coates) to do the unthinkable (assassinate a brother), Clay thinks everything he's doing is flawless and justified - while we were forced to watch SAMCRO suffer the first, deep, cracks in its internal axle.
It went wrong in so many ways: Opie switches cars with his wife Donna (Sprague Grayden) at the last minute; Tig has no idea about the switch; Clay learns of the frame on Opie a second too late; Tig rolls up to that pickup truck stopped at the red light... and even clenching our eyes shut couldn't spare our ears from the sound of that MAC-10 going off.
In a lot of ways, the brotherhood of SAMCRO died in that truck with Donna.
12. The Rape of Gemma
Season 2, Episode 1
It's hard to even read this section header and not cringe - and what we got onscreen was much worse.
By the start of Sons of Anarchy season 2, it seemed like Gemma Teller Morrow was a force that no one could (or would want to) reckon with. It was with horror, then, that we watched mama Teller lured into a trap and wake up chained in a warehouse, with a group of masked men (the local neo-Nazis SAMCRO was beefing with) staring at her like dinner.
SoA had a unique way of consistently taking the experience of horrible moments and really twisting the knife. If watching a helpless Gemma being beaten, gang raped, and having vile racist threats being whispered to her wasn't bad enough, we had to watch that scene unfold juxtaposed to a montage of the men in her life happy and safe, blissfully unaware that their queen was being ravaged. We're still cringing over that one.
11. Irish Incest Alert
Season 3, Episode 10
Like we said: Sometimes the most cringe-worthy moments are not explicit instances of sex or violence, but rather the slow unfolding of a disaster in the making.
When SAMCRO headed to Belfast, Ireland to make new strides in the gun trade and recover Jax's kidnapped son, there were many hurdles in the way. Yet, true to form, "Handsome Jack" managed to snag a little lovin' along the way - only this time it got weird.
For three episodes viewers were treated to the dramatic irony of watching Jax slowly fall for (who we knew to be) his half-sister, Trinity (Zoe Boyle). Gemma's love of keeping secrets nearly made things get real gross; by the time Jax and Trinity were about stripping down to hump, most viewers were screaming, "Noo!" like Darth Vader, eyes firmly covered. Thankfully, Gemma and Maureen Ashby (Paula Malcomson) decided to let the light of truth in at the eleventh hour, thereby avoiding that dreaded "three-headed grandchild."