FX's Sons of Anarchy, in what has become a Comic-Con International tradition, closed out Hall H on the final day of the convention.
Panelists included Sons of Anarchy creator and showrunner Kurt Sutter, Executive Producer and director Paris Barclay, and cast members Charlie Hunnam (Jackson "Jax" Teller), Katey Sagal (Gemma Teller Morrow), Mark Boone Junior (Robert "Bobby Elvis" Munson), Kim Coates (Alex "Tig" Trager), Tommy Flanagan (Filip "Chibs" Telford), Maggie Siff (Dr. Tara Knowles-Teller), Ron Perlman (Clarence "Clay" Morrow), Theo Rossi (Juan-Carlos "Juice" Ortiz), and Dayton Callie (Wayne Unser).
A short video presentation played on the big screens previewing the upcoming sixth season of the FX drama. In the video, the voice of Jax narrates a letter to his sons, as clips played of Jax in a knife fight, Nero overseeing the beating of an unknown character, Chibs punching Juice, Tara in an orange jumpsuit, a shot of new cast members Peter Weller and Donal Logue, Tara punching in a prison fight, and Nero firing a gun at an unknown character.
The panel began with a somewhat grim revelation from Sutter -- when asked whether all the panelists would have a reason to be on the Sons of Anarchy panel next year, Sutter paused, turned his head to glance down the row of panelists, leaned into the microphone and responded, "No."
"Actually, I'm not sure yet," Sutter backpedaled.
While the show's creator has previously stated that Sons would concluded following its seventh season, the series is one of FX's highest-rated shows, which made many fans wonder whether the seven-year plan was still in place.
"I think we've really created these characters and narratives that have been very organic to this world and I feel like we're running towards this finish," Sutter said. "My goal is to tell the story I want to do. What I never wanted to do was to overstay our welcome ... At a certain point the shit has to hit the fan for it to stay believable and real. Ultimately it has to find its endgame."
Sutter noted that his general idea of the final scene of the series will be "a big pool of blood." "How we're going to get there and what that looks like, I'm not sure," he said, adding that he begins each season with a blueprint of what he wants each season to be, and he realizes that the looser he grips those blueprints, the better the season will be.
Season five was undeniably brutal for the Sons characters, and the series creator noted that many of the events that took place in the recent season finale will help set the stage for what's to come in season six.
"We begin season six a few days after season five and I think obviously there's a lot of big events that happen at the end of season five and they will carry us through into the season," teased Sutter. "But it continues to be Jax's journey. Can he be the leader of this outlaw organization and still be a loving father and devoted husband? Can he take the club and lead them into a more legitimate line of work and still be an outlaw organization? Can he have everything that he wants and remain true to what he is? What father is Jax destined to become? Is he destined to become Clay or is he destined to become J.T. and is there something in-between?"
Hunnam sees Jax as a character still getting used to leading as he stepped into the role of National President of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club.
"I think that he hadn't anticipated how difficult is was going to be to lead," said Hunnam. "Much like many presidents who follow from their predecessor, it's a difficult transition."
Hunnam also noted that Opie's death last season left a hole in Jax and has been one of the highlights of this experience. "It was really tragic and painful to let go of that character, but it was such a deep creative experience," said Hunnam. "I think I always anticipated that it would be Opie and Jax sitting at the head of the table. I think as we've been going through the season so far, he's been trying to let that loss inform him in a more positive way."
According to Perlman, whose character Clay lost a lot of leverage in season five, there won't be many options open to the character in the next year. "Last season, Clay decided that Gemma was the only thing in his life he could do without and now that she's betrayed him, he's out of options," said Perlman. "Season six is him knowing that there's no more leveraging. There's no more maneuvering. There're no more choices. There's just this bounty on his head and he's no longer in control of how many minutes he's got left. It's the first time in his life when he's not in the position to have any fight left in him. He's worn out all his choices and he's completely at the mercy of other forces."
Another big change was Gemma's relationship with Tara, which Katey Sagal teased during the panel. "That relationship bounces around a lot," Sagal said. "Certain things will intensify in season six, Tara will have to 'man up' a bit and Gemma's motivation continues to be getting close to her son." Sagal also mentioned that Gemma has no regrets about what she did to Clay.
Siff was asked if Tara has any regrets about coming back to Charming or any worries that she may be turning into Gemma. "I think she's realized that in order to survive in this world, there are certain rules and modes that she has to live by in order to survive and they happen to resemble Gemma deeply," Siff replied. "But what Tara desires is completely different, even if their methods are the same. In terms of regretting coming back, I think once you've had children, regret is kind of a moot point."
One of the biggest and most-discussed scenes in season five was the Gemma/Clay betrayal scene, which the actors were able to shed some light on from a behind-the-scenes perspective.
"You feel pretty safe in the environment," said Sagal, praising the subtlety of the betrayal. "It was written so well that the actual final beat where [Clay] gets it and Juice gets it -- it was very quick. So much is said while saying so little."
Rossi agreed. "Sometimes there's so much power in words not being said and just looks."
Perlman said that Clay had already made his decision of redemption. "That scene was like getting hit in the gut knowing that all the rules were going to change, not just for Clay, but for everything that has happened over the past five years," he said. "It was devastating for Clay having to realize that he wasn't as good a chess player as he thought he was."
On his part, Rossi couldn't say much about how the events of the last two seasons would affect Juice this year. While Juice has always had ties to Jax, the character looked at Clay as a father figure. "He's just looking to be led and he wants someone to point him in the right direction" Rossi said. "There are leaders and soldiers in this world and he is definitely a soldier."
Much like the rest of the cast, Boone was cagey on what Bobby's role will be in the show going forward. "I don't think Bobby's gonna go down too easy," said Boone. "This is his life and throughout this whole thing, he's just kinda holding the club up as much as he can. What else is he going to do?"
Barclay, who is also President of the Director's Guild, was asked what it was like to direct Sons of Anarchy and how intense do things get with the actors. "Every script from Kurt is like a bomb and their job is to light the fuse and watch it explode."
In addition to being the creator of the show, Sutter plays recurring character "Big" Otto Delaney, who has lost a fair amount of limbs since the beginning of the series.
"Well, he's running out of appendages," Sutter said. "I always joke about what's going on with me emotionally...is basically what happens to Otto on-screen and I think we'll continue down that path this season and awful things will keep happening to him."
Sutter then told the assembled crowd that Sons of Anarchy will release as a comic book from BOOM! Studios, as he held up two of the covers, both featuring drawings of Tig. The graphic novels will run parallel to the show with new and familiar characters set to appear.
Sons of Anarchy returns Sept. 10 on FX.