Please be advised that this post includes major spoilers from Episode 3 of Sons of Anarchy's fifth season.
Sons of Anarchy fans, we had fair warning that we'd lose a major character in last night's episode "Laying Pipe" (an allusion to how the episode's victim would meet his end). The worst part of this death wasn't the emotional blow of realizing that sweet, tortured Opie (Ryan Hurst) was the man about to meet his maker — and not the obvious candidate, cancer-stricken Unser (Dayton Callie). No, the worst part was the way Opie was sent to his grave as his best friend Jax (Charlie Hunnam) looked on with teary eyes. That was the real kick to the gut.
Fairly early on in the episode, it was made clear that one of the deaths would be a SAMCRO boy, and one of the four currently wasting away in the clink. Luckily, Jax secured their safety inside county lockup through the Galindo cartel, but what they weren't counting on was Pope's (Harold Perrineau) infinite reach. He calls a meeting with Jax and lays out three steep demands like a cutthroat Rumplestiltskin: He wants a 50 percent cut of everything they make from running drugs for Galindo, he wants Tig (Kim Coates) to rot away in prison for the rest of his natural life, and he wants one of the other three — Opie, Jax, or Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) — dead. Of course, it falls on Jax to make the impossible choice of who goes to his death.
Unfortunately, his indecision gives Opie a chance to seal his own fate. When the warden comes looking for a volunteer to enter a prison death match in what they refer to simply as "the box," Opie attacks the guards and makes sure he's the one with the short straw. As he's dragged to his doom, we're faced with two unbearable sights: Jax, tearful and inconsolable as he realizes he's about to watch his best friend die and the fact that we, too, are about to witness the same.
As he's thrown into the dark, dingy room and is outnumbered by inmates that appear from the shadows at every turn, the warden gives him only one item to defend himself: a lead pipe. He tells him to "keep it interesting" as Jax and Tig beat the glass in their adjoining cell and watch as the thugs beat this man who's already lost so much. As they hulking men wrench the pipe from Opie's resigned hands and begin using it to beat him to a pulp, it's impossible not to think of Opie losing his wife to Clay's unsure trigger finger and losing his father to Clay's very deliberate, violent strike. And Sons doesn't let the emotional impact be our only blow. No, that would be too easy. And Sons never, ever goes easy on us.