Sons of Anarchy has never been afraid of removing characters in both surprising and violent ways. It is also similar to The Shield, a show that Kurt Sutter worked on where any character, no matter how important, was never safe. On Sons of Anarchy, no one was safe and almost every major character on the series ended up going out either in a blaze of glory or with a very humbling end. That should come as no surprise since Sons of Anarchy is loosely based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Shakespeare was never afraid of ending his stories with the most glorious tragedy possible.
Originally, it was Clay Morrow who was the leader of the motorcycle club, but it was his stepson Jax Morrow that the show focused on as its lead character. When it comes to SAMCRO, none of the members of the club were safe, from the top to the bottom, from the loyal to the rats, from the fan favorites to the disliked, everyone was fair game for a bad ending. Add in all the rival clubs, the law enforcement that was trying to bring them down, and the friends and family in their lives, a lot of characters succumbed to fate over the seven seasons of the series. Without further ado, here is a look at 10 character exits that hurt Sons of Anarchy (and 10 that saved it).
20 SAVED: DAMON POPE
Damon Pope was a kingpin and one of the most dangerous hoodlums in Oakland. That put him at odds with SAMCRO from the moment he debuted in season four. He first appeared after Tig set out for revenge against the One-Niners and missed his target, taking out the guy's girlfriend instead... a girl who happened to be Damon Pope's daughter.
Pope was extremely wealthy and controlled a lot of the power in the Oakland criminal scene. In season five, an all-out war erupted between the One-Niners and SAMCRO and it hit a crescendo when Pope took out Tig's daughter in front of him for revenge. Tig got his revenge, though, which also set the wheels in motion to finally bring Clay down as well.
19 HURT: BOBBY
Bobby Munson was one of the most beloved characters on Sons of Anarchy. He was the former second-in-command of SAMCRO, as he resigned from his position after Jax framed Clay for what happened with Damon Pope. Despite this, Bobby remained a loyal and trustworthy member of the club up until season seven.
Season seven is where things really started to snowball for SAMCRO and most of the fan favorite characters on the show. In that final season of the show, Bobby was taken by August Marks' crew and just when it looked like they were returning Bobby to SAMCRO, they took him out in front of Jax to prove a point about crossing them.
18 SAVED: AGENT STAHL
If there is one character in the history of Sons of Anarchy that earned the wrath of fans, it was Agent June Stahl. She arrived on the show in season one and was supposed to be a law enforcement officer set out to bring down SAMCRO. However, as her time on the show wore on, it was clear that Agent Stahl had no problem breaking the law that she swore to uphold and double-crossed anyone who helped her along the way.
Agent Stahl was directly responsible for the passing of Donna Winston, and her lack of concern when an innocent fell in her war against SAMCRO showed just how unsympathetic she really was. One of the best moments of the show was in season three, when Opie was finally able to get revenge against Stahl by taking her out the same way Donna went.
17 HURT: WAYNE UNSER
Chief Wayne Unser was an interesting character. He was a police officer who was corrupt, but did what he did for what he considered noble reasons. He allowed SAMCRO a free run because he felt that the club kept violence and crime off the streets of Charming. Unser also believed that SAMCRO helped the people of Charming and were the lesser of the possible harms that could end up eliminating his town.
When the Charming police department was about to be shut down, Unser resigned from his position, but his fate was still set in stone. Unser was very loyal to SAMCRO, even though the entire club treated him badly the entire series. What is sad is that Unser, a hero at his core, fell to one shot from Jax because the former officer wanted to protect Gemma in the end.
16 SAVED: LEE TORIC'S SISTER
Pamela Toric was a nurse at the Stockton State Prison, where Otto was held. She only made two appearances in season five, but her passing marked a huge moment on Sons of Anarchy. This happened when Tara smuggled a crucifix into the prison and then Otto used it to take out Pamela, something that he felt would implicate Tara and hurt Jax. This is what actually marked the beginning of the end of Tara on the show.
However, what made the passing of Pamela so important for a minor character was that she had a brother who was pretty much a madman in Lee Toric. The incident brought Lee into the picture as he sought revenge by having Otto mistreated and he made things very difficult on SAMCRO throughout the entire sixth season.
15 HURT: DONNA
Donna Winston was one of the most tragic characters on Sons of Anarchy. She was Opie's wife and the mother to his two children. She never really trusted SAMCRO after Opie served a lot of time for the club. The two struggled somewhat in season one and the fans of the show who were solidly behind the club might have disliked her, but what she did was for the safety of her family and her love for Opie.
That made her departure from the show very sad and one of the biggest moments that changed the entire outlook of the characters. Agent Stahl was out trying to bring down SAMCRO and did everything she could to make Opie look like a rat. As a result, Clay ordered Tig to take out Opie and he accidentally ended Donna's life instead. This took away the mother of their two children and eventually, it left them without parents at all when Opie fell as well.
14 SAVED: JOHN TELLER
John Teller was the man who was one of the founding members of SAMCRO and he was already gone before Sons of Anarchy's first episode. However, his passing was a huge moment in the history of SAMCRO and one that foreshadowed the fate of the club due to their increasingly sinister ways. John was Jax's father and Gemma's husband, and he believed SAMCRO could be a force for good without the need for running weapons.
It was John who was a pacifist and his leanings made Jax want to be a better man as well. It's also what really starts the conflict between Jax and Clay. What really brings the passing of John into importance is the fact that Jax later learns that it might have been Clay who took out his dad and this ends up leading Jax to finally seek vengeance.
13 HURT: OPIE
Over the seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy, no one really took the hits that Opie did along the way. Honestly, with all the pain that Jax, Tara, and everyone else went through, it seemed like Opie was the one that had the most pain heaped upon him, building season after season. The first season saw him lose his wife and mother of his kids, and that was because Agent Stahl was double-crossing him up to that point.
Later, he struggled to maintain his role as a father and then he lost more than just about anyone on the show, all while everyone he was friends and foes with seemed to try and hurt him every step of the way. Despite all that, Opie went out of his own way and did it as a sacrifice to protect his friends. His passing is what brought Jax to the edge, with Tara's loss finally toppling him over and into the abyss.
12 SAVED: CLAY
Clay had an amazing transformation on Sons of Anarchy. He was the club's leader and, at the start, someone that a lot of fans really gravitated to. He was as unethical as they come, but he was also someone that seemed like he was also sympathetic and seemed to be someone who was just caught between a rock and a hard place in his life with SAMCRO and his family.
However, as the years moved on, it turned out that Clay was very fiendish and had no loyalty to anyone but himself. There might not be a single person on the show that Clay did not double-coss and hurt. It was his actions as a man with way too much on his hands that finally did him in. By the time that his own stepson Jax took him out, it was a satisfying end, and one that Clay deserved more than almost anyone else.
11 HURT: TARA
For much of her existence on Sons of Anarchy, Tara was one of the most disliked characters as far as fans were concerned. This was mostly due to the complications of watching the show. Fans were pushed into siding with the villains because they were, at times, nobler than the other villains on the show. However, that meant that a woman like Tara was standing in the way of watching the antiheroes in action.
She was always giving Jax a hard time, which made most fans angry and many wanted to see nothing but bad things happen to get her out of Jax's life. That is sad, since Tara did what she did for the protection of her children. Seeing where Jax ended up, Tara was right all along. However, Gemma reached the point of paranoia where she felt Tara was a threat and not only eliminated her, but did so while Tara was pregnant – a move that pushed Jax to his eventual end.
10 SAVED: PINEY
Piney was old-school, and that made him someone that fans could easily get behind. He was also someone who had no tolerance for nonsense, which meant that fans knew where he stood on most issues and that made him more relatable than someone like Clay. Piney was the second-in-command and was the best friend of John Teller, giving him a strong role in helping Jax.
Piney was also Opie's father. That is important because when Clay believed that Piney double-crossed him by sharing information with Jax about John Teller, Clay did what he does best: he eliminated Piney. This act, while sad, set into motion the movements by Jax and Opie to finally take out Clay once and for all.
9 HURT: GEMMA
While she was as wicked as they come, by the time Sons of Anarchy wrapped up its run, the end of Gemma was the last step that Jax would take before stepping up to his own demise. Gemma was the character that seemed to have her hands in everything that SAMCRO was responsible for and that means, at the end, she was responsible for everything that happened to Jax.
She was responsible for causing almost every demise in the war between SAMCRO and the Lin Triad, as well as their battles with August Marks since she caused those wars. She also took out a pregnant Tara, and this marked the end of everything. When Jax found his beloved Tara, he set out and eliminated his own mother and then took his own life, meaning that Gemma was the catalyst that ended this entire world.
8 SAVED: JUICE
Juice started off as a decent character, although he was not the most loyal as the series wore on. In the beginning, Juice was a hacker and really helped out SAMCRO in the early stages. However, in later seasons, he was someone who seemed to only care about himself and made way too many mistakes, becoming a liability and a hindrance to the club. By the time he met his end, he was someone that most fans seemed ready to see go.
While he was faithful to SAMCRO through most of the series, he was also someone who did so out of his fear of being alone and considering the club to be his family. However, he soon became a rat who double-crossed Jax and ended the lives of some good people who trusted him. His end was amazing though, as he sacrificed himself when pushed into a corner in order to help save his family in SAMCRO.
7 HURT: MILES
Miles first appeared in season three of Sons of Anarchy as a prospect for membership to the club. He went from someone who just hung around with the club to someone who got a chance at membership after the passing of Half-Sack Epps, who then became a full-patched member of the SAMCRO club. That made his demise and the aftermath wrong on so many levels.
In the season four episode “With an X,” someone stole some inventory from SAMCRO and Miles was tasked with finding out who did it. He eventually learned that Juice was the guilty party and when he tried to do something about it, Juice immediately eliminated him. What is bad is that Juice then framed Miles, and the man was buried without his patch.
6 SAVED: OTTO
Otto was an interesting character in that he was portrayed by Kurt Sutter, the creator of the Sons of Anarchy television show. Otto was the inside man while serving a life sentence in prison. He first appeared in season one and proved his loyalty by attacking Agent Stahl when she visited him in prison.
Through his time on the show, he lost an eye, had his wife eliminated, and took matters into his own hands to make sure no one could force him to rat anyone out again. However, Otto was able to go out in a blaze of glory. After he eliminated Lee Toric's sister, he was then able to finally take out Toric before his demise by police, ending his stay in prison permanently.
5 HURT: DAWN
Arguably the most concerning moment on Sons of Anarchy came when Damon Pope sought revenge against Tig Trager. While he did not have a good relationship with his ex-wife or daughters, he still loved them very much. As a matter of fact, the first time that Dawn appeared on Sons of Anarchy, she showed up in Charming and took money from Tig by lying about her sister needing medical help. Tig knew it was lies, but gave her money anyway.
That made things tough when Tig tried to seek vengeance on the One-Niners after he thought they were the ones who shot Clay. He attacked Laroy, but hit the girl eating with him, who happened to be the daughter of Damon Pope. In revenge, Pope did not take out Tig, but instead, had him restrained while he lit Dawn on fire and made Tig watch the demise of his daughter, causing Tig to go down a very dark road.
4 SAVED: A.J. WESTON
There have been some great guest stars on Sons of Anarchy, from Marilyn Manson to most of the cast from The Shield. Another huge name to get a guest-starring role on the show was punk icon, Henry Rollins. He played the role of A.J. Weston, a very high-ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood. He showed up in season two to help a local businessman try to drive SAMCRO out of Charming.
A.J. Weston and his group did the one thing that might have set up everything that would go wrong for SAMCRO from that point on. They took and roughed-up Gemma to send a message, something that changed her outlook on life completely and turned her into the manipulative and vengeful woman that brought down everyone. Jax is who took vengeance for his mother, eliminating a very man in the process.
3 HURT: AGENT KOHN
Fans who watched The Shield had a lot of opportunities to hate the character of Dutch: a police officer with some dark vices who seemed almost as hypocritical as he was judgmental. Actor Jay Karnes also had a role on Sons of Anarchy as Agent Josh Kohn, and his character was also one that fans wanted to see come to his end, although that end was something that actually resulted in very dark things for both Jax and Tara.
Agent Kohn was the ex-boyfriend of Tara and tried to force his way back into her life after she started a relationship with Jax. He pushed things a little too far and Tara ended up injuring him in self-defense. While that was justice served, Jax then showed up and eliminated him. This was the first in a long line of sins that eventually steered Jax to his end.
2 SAVED: KEITH
Keith McGee was the leader of the SOA MC chapter in Belfast (SAMBEL). While he was the leader of a branch of the club, he was one of the villains throughout most of the third season. He was one of the originals, the First 9, alongside John Teller and Piney, and he ended up going out just like those two men did before him.
Keith ended up double-crossing the brotherhood by pushing them out of the weapon-smuggling business in order to ensure a bigger cut for himself with a rival organization. That was something that SAMCRO would not stand for and Keith ended up face to face with Clay, who learned that his old friend was a traitor and sent him off the roof of a building. It was a huge moment for Clay and one that foreshadowed his own end down the line.
1 HURT: JAX
When it comes to the main character on a television show, most fans expect that character to survive until the end. When it comes to Sons of Anarchy, Jax Teller was the character that fans followed. Much like The Shield, this was a story of a guy who tried to do the right thing, but found himself pulled into a wormhole of sins that eventually ended with his fall. Unlike The Shield, where Vic Mackey faced a fate worse than his own demise, on Sons of Anarchy, there was only one way for Jax's story to end.
Based somewhat on Hamlet, the fate of Jax Teller was written in stone when the series began. By the final episode, Jax had watched his entire world fall apart, losing his beloved girlfriend and mother, as well as some of his closest friends and finally, and his role in SAMCRO. He ended things his own way, by his own hands, and that was fitting, but when Jax fell, the story told on Sons of Anarchy ended.
Are there any other character exits that hurt or saved Sons of Anarchy? Let us know in the comments!