Mark Boone Junior, Tommy Flanagan, Charlie Hunnam, Sons of Anarchy

Rest in peace, [spoiler redacted for those lazy people who have yet to watch last night's game-changing episode of Sons of Anarchy]!

Well, that one really hurt. FX's hit series packed one heck of an emotionally devastating punch last night when it killed off a fan favorite character in a particularly gruesome fashion (we expect nothing less from the gritty drama).

Sons of Anarchy's evil mastermind of a showrunner Kurt Sutter talks with reporters on a conference call this morning about the shocking and brutal death and what it means for Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and the series as a whole moving forward.

Sons of Anarchy, Ryan Hurst

Prashant Gupta / FX

No, Opie (Ryan Hurst), no!

"I started thinking about it towards the end of season three, and then I think it all came together with the death of Piney (William Lucking) last year. I got to the end of the season and realized that there was this circular dynamic that was happening with Jax and Opie that was very difficult to get out of," Sutter explains of the hard decision to kill off the fan-favorite character. "Ryan is an extraordinary actor. As we came into this season, knowing where I want to take my hero...Jax needed that emotional upheaval, that one event that happens in a man's life that can change the course of his destiny, and I think the death of his best friend is such an event."

Opie's death via a brutal whack to the back of the skull was particularly hard to watch ("That's what we do on the show," Sutter says of the brutality), but it was his choice. "I wanted Opie to go out a warrior, with nobility and a sense of protecting the people [he still loves]," Sutter explains.

While some fans were pretty upset over the death (that's putting it mildly, though Sutter jokes someone wanting to fistfight him is "better than death threats. I'll take fistfights any day"), Sutter stresses that it wasn't a decision he made lightly.

"I don't do things arbitrarily or just for shock value. I think there's a sense of how deeply committed I am to the show and to the fans as well...I do think that there is a sense of [the fans] understanding why it happened and where it will go," he says. "What I would say to them is that yes, it's incredibly sad, but the death of Opie will color the rest of the episodes for the rest of the series. It's not a death that will happen in vain."

Sutter adds that the "emotional impact" of Opie's death "will always be there."

SOA fans can breathe a sigh of relief as Sutter hints that the rest of the season, including the finale, might not be as insane as last night's episode. "I don't know if things will get more insane," Sutter explains. "Jax will be greatly influenced by the death of Opie, and perhaps that loss, that emptiness, will color him throughout the rest of the season."

As for Hurst, Sutter assures that the actor "was looped in. I didn't just send him the script. I did that even before we started writing. I brought Ryan in, and it's a difficult thing. He's very plugged into the show and loves the character. Ryan's a super-sensitive dude and it was difficult, for both of us."

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