Charlie Hunnam as Jackson "Jax" Teller in FX's "Sons… (FX )
The fifth season finale of FX's outlaw motorcycle gang drama "Sons of Anarchy", which aired Tuesday night, scored one of its biggest audiences, cementing its status as one of TV's most elite and popular dramas.
The episode of the series, which is the cable network's top-rated show, drew 4.67 million viewers -- its highest rated finale ever and the third-most watched episode ever.
While longtime fans expressed enthusiasm over the numerous twists, turns and betrayals in the episode, some also noted that the level of graphic, horrific violence reached new heights this season, rivaling Martin Scorsese movies or other critically acclaimed series such as "Breaking Bad" and "Boardwalk Empire".
Rarely an episode passed without at least one person getting shot in the head. In many episodes, several characters met bloody ends.
Among the more disturbing incidents:
--The grown daughter of "Sons" sergeant-at-arms "Tig" was kidnapped, put in a large container and set on fire in an act of revenge. "Tig" watched helplessly as she was burned alive, screaming for help.
--"Opie," the most emotionally vulnerable member of the "Sons," was killed by a prison guard who bludgeoned him in the head with a lead pipe.
--Imprisoned "Sons" member "Otto" brutally stabbed a female nurse in the neck with a crucifux given to him by Tara, the surgeon wife of club leader Jackson "Jax" Teller, in an act of kindness.
--In the season finale, Otto, in an interrogation room in the prison, slammed his head down on a table, his teeth slicing into and severing his outstretched tongue. He spit out the bloody tongue.
To be sure, "The Walking Dead" is more relentlessly violent than "Sons of Anarchy. But that show is set in a post-apocalypic world and much of the gory carnage is linked to the battle with flesh-eating zombies. "Sons of Anarchy" is is set in a more realitistic violent world filled with a range of criminals.
Kurt Sutter, the creator of "Sons of Anarchy" who last year expressed some dismay at the amount of savage violence on shows such as "Boardwalk Empire," acknowledged that the violence on his show was more graphic this season.
But he said the escalation was necessary to show the effect that all the bloodshed and elevated dangers had on the various characters -- particularly "Jax", who at the end of last season took over leadership of the "Sons."
"We really wanted to turn the heat up on Jax and show the point of view of a very dangerous existence," Sutter said. "For me it was about shining a light on the very dangerous nature of the world. Nothing was done to shock, but we turned up the level of violence to expose him to all those things that I knew would influence his ability to make a decision."
FX President John Landgraf was supportive of the direction of the show and its violent elements, Sutter said. "He understood those decisions creatively, but we wanted to make sure it was handled in a way where we could tell the story without being grotesque. This isn't 'The Walking Dead.' That world is fantasy. And I'm a big believer in the belief that showing less is much more horrifying."
Sutter was intimately involved with the season's most stomach-churning scenes -- he plays Otto, the immate who stabs the prison guard and later bites off his tongue.
"I had pitched to my staff early in the planning of the season that I wanted to find a way to bite Otto's tongue off" as a demonstration not only of defiance, but of how troubled the character is.
"It was a way of writing myself out of having to learn more dialogue," he quipped. "Now Otto can only communicate by grunting and writing on paper."
What do you think? Has "Sons of Anarchy" become TV's most violent show?
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