On the surface, Sons of Anarchy was a loud, brash, and often violent portrait of life inside a criminal outlaw motorcycle club, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Underneath all of the machismo, leather cuts, and Mr. Mayhem tattoos beat the heart of a show that had more in common with the likes of The Sopranos or The Wire than many may realize.
Like The Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy explored enduring themes like loyalty and redemption against a backdrop of criminality and corruption. In Charlie Hunnam’s Jax Teller, the show had a central anti-hero to rival Tony Soprano, as a character both sympathetic and disgusting in equal measure. Like The Wire, Sons of Anarchy also maintained a foundation of realism, helped by the presence of David Labrava, a real-life member of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels, who served as technical adviser on the show and took on the role of club member Happy Lowman.
That air of authenticity served as the jump-off point for the show’s many outlandish storylines. It was madness and it was mayhem, but it was closer to reality than many probably thought. Overseeing proceedings was Kurt Sutter, a writer, and showrunner who set the bar for provocatively violent TV drama on The Shield and raised it further with Sons of Anarchy. Audiences lapped it up. Sons of Anarchy remains one of the highest rated shows in the history of FX and one that has now spawned its own spin-off – Mayans. However, like The Wire and The Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy wasn’t perfect. It had flaws.
Here are the 20 Characters Sons Of Anarchy Wants Us To Forget.
20 Jimmy O’Phelan
There’s no denying Titus Welliver’s talent as an actor. Whether it’s as the Man in Black on Lost, Silas Adams on Deadwood, or in the title role on the Amazon TV series Bosch, he’s got a proven track record on the small screen. All of which makes his turn as true IRA arms dealer Jimmy O’Phelan that bit more embarrassing. Casting a US actor to play someone from Ireland was always likely to be a risky approach and that proved to be the case.
Welliver’s attempt at an accent is so jarring and so lacking in authenticity that it stands at odds with the show’s pursuit of gritty realism, taking the viewer out of the action and undermining the show’s entire foray over to Ireland for its third season. The only saving grace was that Welliver’s stint on the show proved short-lived.
19 Kyle Hobart
Kyle Hobart’s brief character arc on Sons of Anarchy was problematic to say the least. As a former SAMCRO member cast out of the club after fleeing the scene of an arson, Kyle’s cowardice landed Opie with a five-year prison stretch and makes him an enemy of the club. Even so, their treatment of Hobart showcases the club’s sadistic tendencies.
Having allowed Kyle to return to Charming to watch his son’s band perform, the group corner the remorseful Hobart and force him to have his still-intact SAMCRO tattoos removed by knife or fire. He chooses fire, with Tig administering a blowtorch to his back. Dumped outside a hospital, where his ex-wife is forced to pick up the pieces, Kyle is rarely mentioned again. Maybe someone thought that the punishment went a little too far?
18 Homeless woman
The true identity of the mysterious homeless woman who featured through Sons of Anarchy’s seven-season run is the source of much debate. Some claim she is the mother of Emily Putner, another victim in the accident that also ended John Teller’s life. Others have noted the fact she appears in any scene where Jax or Gemma are forced to make an emotional decision. Then there are those who claim she is the symbolic representation of Jesus.
Yet, despite featuring at numerous points, the homeless woman never ends up having much of a purpose -- or not one that’s all that apparent to viewers. You get the feeling that the writers kept her around with a view to doing something interesting but either ran out of time or failed to come up with any idea of what it might be.
17 Phil Russell
Phil Russell might have appeared, to all intents and purposes, like a fully-fledged member of SAMCRO, but the reality is that he was more often a punchline/punchbag for the rest of the club. Too often the butt of the jokes, Phil’s character was never truly fleshed out. He was overweight, bumbling, and a bit useless... and that was apparently all we needed to know.
How he ended up in the club is unclear, but his character did at least provide a handy narrative device. Any time Jax needed someone to look after his kids, Phil was there., even though, from what we could grasp, he didn’t have much experience in childcare. Though his eventual demise did prove gruesomely effective in the wider scheme of things, Phil’s legacy as the show’s "comedic overweight guy" isn’t an enduring one.
When Jay Thames’ Needles first arrives on the scene in Sons of Anarchy, viewers are led to believe that he’s going to be a fairly important character. As the VP of the Devil’s Tribe MC before it was patched over, Needles looked like he was going to be a pretty major player in proceedings at SAMCRO. Then he disappeared. No one ever mentioned him again until the seventh season of the show.
At that point, though, we were told he had been replaced by Gaines, another motorcycle club member played by Tony Curran – an actor who looks suspiciously like Jay Thames. Quite what happened in between is unclear, but it’s almost as if Kurt Sutter is so embarrassed by the Needles fiasco that he did his level best to try and make us forget he ever existed.
15 Chuck Marstein
Chuck Marstein hung around like a bad smell for much of the latter part of Sons of Anarchy’s run. Introduced as a con artist who hires SAMCRO to provide him with protection from the Triads ,Chuck was eventually double-crossed by the club, which hands him over for an intense fate. That would normally be where the story ended, but Chuck returned, minus his index fingers, which were removed after an unfortunate compulsive disorder landed him in trouble with his captors.
Give prosthetic hands, Chuck then sticks around, working as an accountant for SAMCRO and serving as an occasional stooge and background player. He never had his own storyline or any major role in what unfolded in SAMCRO. You could take all of his scenes out of the show and it would make little to no difference.
14 Trinity Ashby
Jax Teller spent the majority of SAMCRO’s foray over to Ireland in season three flirting with Trinity Ashby. Then, when they finally got together, Kurt Sutter pulled the rug from underneath us all by revealing she was, in fact, the illegitimate daughter of one John Teller – Jax’s dad. That could have been the start of some seriously twisted storylines surrounding the taboo topic. Maybe Trinity Ashby would head over to Charming later in the series to cause trouble between Jax and Tara? Then again, maybe not.
Despite throwing this particular curveball into proceedings, Sutter and the writing team played it straight from there. Trinity was never heard of or mentioned again. It seems like Jax wasn’t the only one who was keen to forget the whole thing ever happened.
13 Nate Madock
Hal Holbrook put in a fine performance as Gemma Teller’s father, Nate Madock. It’s just a shame that the character proved to be a fairly limited and one that ended up getting lost in the shuffle of the series as things progressed. As an elderly man in the throes of dementia, Nate’s story was among the most depressing to feature on the series, with Gemma ultimately forced to send him off to an old people’s home.
One of the lasting images of Nate’s time on the show came when he arrived in the retirement home’s day room and realizes that he will meet his maker there. Maybe that’s why Nate all but disappears from the show, save for one final encounter with Gemma during the second-to-last episode. Perhaps the grim reality of the degenerative condition was a little too heavy for some.
12 Fawn Trager
While the surprising demise of Tig Trager’s daughter Dawn was among the most memorable moments of Sons of Anarchy’s entire run, the sudden introduction of her sibling Fawn was somewhat less so. More of a comedic punchline than a fully-fledged character, Fawn’s only contribution comes when several members of SAMCRO are dispatched to find her and ensure that she avoids the same unfortunate fate her sister suffered as the hands of vengeful crime lord Damon Pope.
When they eventually track Fawn down, she appears to be fighting with a man. The punchline comes with the revelation that said man is her boyfriend and, rather than fighting, they were… well, you know. She soon leaves Charming, never to return, having essentially been little more than a punchline for a pretty lame joke.
Much was made of the fact that Glee’s Lea Michelle made an appearance in the final season of Sons of Anarchy. Since she had a squeaky-clean presence on the hit musical series, many viewed this as a chance for the actress to showcase her versatility in a darker and more intriguing role. It didn’t quite end up that way, though. While Michelle puts in plenty of effort as the down-on-her-luck waitress Gertie, it’s not a role with a lot of depth.
Her performance is essentially a single, virtually meaningless conversation with Gemma Teller in which the latter alludes to her desperate family situation at the time without going into much detail. The whole scene is entirely forgettable and, given Michelle’s star status at the time, a little embarrassing.
10 Amelia Dominguez
Kurt Sutter may have earned plaudits for creating a series centred on a motorcycle club with Mayans M.C., but he’d probably rather forget the character of Amelia Dominguez on Sons of Anarchy. As the worst kind of stereotype, Dominguez is an illegal immigrant who is paid to look after Gemma’s frail dad, Nate.
When Gemma and Tig pay Nate a visit, it doesn’t take long before she strikes up a relationship with the latter. Then, after a confused scuffle with Tara, she is accidentally bumped off, forcing Tig and Gemma dispose of her body before heading back to Charming and business as usual. This one is cliched and callous in equal measure.
An unspeakably grim character, Fat Clown appeared in the very first episode of Sons of Anarchy and made quite the impression, for better or worse. As a Fun Town Carnival worker, he violated the young son of a local businessman, who came to SAMCRO for help. They duly deliver him on a plate for the father of his victim.
A frightening fate plays out after Clay Morrow removes a certain part of the Fat Clown’s anatomy, leaving him to his demise. A controversial part of the show’s debut, the entire plotline may have perfectly highlighted the club’s ruthless streak but it also sent out a pretty strong message about crime and punishment. While some would have concurred with Clay’s actions, others may not have. Either way, it’s pretty dark -- perhaps a little too dark.
8 Matthew Jennings
While Sons of Anarchy excelled at addressing universal themes of brotherhood and redemption, the show lumbered somewhat with more topical themes. This was most apparent at the start of the sixth series and the introduction of Matthew Jennings.
As a bullied schoolchild who takes the law into his own hands by stealing some weaponry sold to his father by Jax, Matthew and his story were a clear parallel with the glut of school-based crimes witnessed across the US. The fallout may have lit the touch paper to convince Jax and SAMCRO to move away from arms dealing, but it felt a little too on the nose and, if truth be told, in slightly poor taste. Authenticity is one thing, but this felt both narratively clunky and made for uncomfortable viewing.
7 Kia Ghanezi
Like Twin Peaks before it, Sons of Anarchy offered up a depiction of middle US's hypocrisy. Charming may have been a wholesome town on the surface, but that merely masked the seedy underbelly beneath. It was a town of arms deals, narcotics, and adult workers. Yet there were times when, tonally at least, the show doubled down a little too much on the latter of those three.
Women and the adult entertainment industry played a pretty key role and often painted the club’s members as unpleasant misogynists objectifying the females around them. It was worse for their adversaries, though, like adult movie director Khia Ghanezi. The fact that he was descended from Iran made the whole depiction an uncomfortable and strangely xenophobic one -- why not make him from the US?
6 Mary Winston
Piney Winston’s ex-wife Mary looked set for a fairly sizeable role in the show for the first two seasons of its run. In the wake of Donna’s demise and Opie’s sudden emotional withdrawal, she stepped forward to take care of the once-happy couple’s children – her grandchildren. Then something strange happened – Mary left.
Dropping her grandkids off with Opie, she takes off out of Charming. It might have served as another example of the abandonment felt by Opie in much of her life, but in a show lacking in strong female characters, it felt like a cop-out. The idea of Mary deserting Opie didn’t feel right and once she was gone, she never really came back. It felt like another example of the show writing itself into a corner and getting out of it in the clunkiest way.
5 Ellie Winston
The character of Opie’s young daughter Ellie ended up being a source of some mild embarrassment mainly due to the fact that the role had to be recast halfway through the show’s run. While Lela Cortines played the part in the first two seasons of the show, by the time season three rolled around, actress Kerris Lilla Dorsey had arrived in her place.
Why this happened is unclear, but recasting rarely goes down well, regardless of who is involved. In this instance, it proved to be a source of some confusion and was also a little distracting. In a show that asks you to immerse yourself in a world of biker gangs, corruption, and intrigue, this slight hiccup should have been avoided by those behind the scenes.
4 Lowell Harland Jr.
Lowell Harland Jr. first arrives on the scene in season one as a mechanic, troubled addict, and ally of the club. However, when the long-missing body of his father is discovered, Lowell’s loyalty to the club is seriously tested.
It takes a pep talk from Clay, which includes the frank omission that his dad was an informant who had to be bumped off, before Lowell is convinced to refrain from going to the cops with any information about the club. For this, Clay takes him under his wing to work in his garage while he gets clean. However, come season two, Lowell is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the whole reformed addict turned ally wasn’t worth returning to, or his story once again highlighted some of SAMCRO’s not-so-pleasant qualities.
Sons of Anarchy’s slightly problematic approach to female characters is a common theme throughout the show. Women are objectified to the extreme, as they are seen as playthings of the show’s male characters who turn to them for pleasure and some occasional amusement. Take Daytona, for instance, a briefly-seen character who appears at a clubhouse.
We learn that biker Jury White has paid her $1,200 to "entertain" Bobby. There’s a lame joke about ‘"Daytona 500" before she heads off to earn her stripes. Daytona later reappears only to be sick. Neither funny nor particularly pleasant, this is one role that’s embarrassing for everyone concerned, not least the viewer, who is left complicit in yet another of the show’s more unfortunately misogynistic moments.
2 Johnny Yates
Remember that racist, former member of the Nordics who committed dozens of indecent crimes – possibly against minors – but moved in with his mother and became born-again? Well, you’re in the minority. Johnny Yates’ only appearance in Sons of Anarchy came during the show’s controversial opening episode.
When a 13-year-old girl is assaulted, SAMCRO is tasked with finding the culprit and quickly draws up a list of suspects that includes Yates. However, after an encounter during his prayer group meeting, they quickly rule him out and the character never returns again. It’s almost as if a decision was made to shy away from the reformed abuser as a sympathetic character. That, and it was pretty bad taste to begin with.
1 Margaret Murphy
The character of St Thomas Hospital administrator Margaret Murphy was always an odd one on Sons of Anarchy. Rarely fleshed out in terms of motivations or background, she spends much of her early stint on the show scowling at Tara and generally disapproving on her relationship with Jax in a way akin to a parent.
However, as the show progresses, Margaret goes from mild antagonist to full-blown ally, helping Tara in anyway she can. It’s never explained and comes off as clunky. The fact that Margaret is played by McNally Sagal – Katey Sagal’s real-life sister-in-law – might explain how she got the role and why she doesn’t get a whole lot of backstory and isn’t exactly remembered fondly.
Are there any other characters Sons of Anarchy wants us to forget? Let us know in the comments!