If you're reading this before watching the Season 6 finale, I'm going to warn you now to close this page. Don't be mad if you're spoiled on things otherwise.
So ... many people were probably left sitting there muttering to themselves: "What just happened?" Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) is dead. Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) is dead. There's no more Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), what with him being shot in cold blood by Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam). What direction can this show go in with so much of the original cast gone? It's a big shift. It's going to probably start off with Jax in prison and the kids in state custody. Unless Jax's mother, Gemma Morrow (Katey Sagal) is able to get her hands (more like claws) on them. She wound up in the arms of Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie), the man who inadvertently set off the whole last chain of events.
While the show has always been fairly grim, this is probably the absolute darkest and most violent I have ever seen it. There was that stunning scene with Gemma skewering Tara with a fork-like instrument. (I admit that I had to turn away about two seconds into that, it was that bloody.) Then Juice Ortiz (Theo Rossi), who had been condemned by Jax, shooting Roosevelt and then covering for Gemma by dumping the evidence. Of course, Jax, who had been spending time with his kids before turning himself in, was found cradling Tara's body by the prosecutor, Patterson. The show ended with a literal wail by Jax before it went to black with the Sons of Anarchy Grim Reaper.
Of course, the show has never been afraid to kill off characters. Clay killed Piney, one of the original members of the biker gang. That was a big one, but before this recent turn of events, I think the biggest one was Opie's death in the fifth season. He was a major figure in the life of Jax Teller, his closest friend, and as Jax wrote in his diary in the season finale, it was his death that really pushed him off the edge into this ball of self-loathing that he had become.
What the show always seems to love to do is offer a glimmer of hope that things will resolve themselves and then have things go wrong. This, though, was not just things going wrong. It was a complete and utter derailment, a catastrophic chain of events that probably left a lot of people feeling numb.
Fans of the show will hope that Season 7 leads to some kind of redemption for Jax. He's going to be in an abyss so deep that only someone like Walter White could comprehend what he feels. They will likely hope that Gemma meets some kind of painful end herself. (The Gemma that garnered any sympathy for enduring that brutal assault in Season 2 is long gone.) Who might extract that vengeance? It might be Jax, finally breaking the emotional chains that his mother holds him in. It may be Nero (Jimmy Smits), her former beau, who saw how dealing with her was extracting a toll on his own life, including the murder of an innocent woman. But the people that the fans should be rooting to have some sort of happy ending are Jax's two sons. They have been through so much too.
There will also be the fate of the SAMCRO bike gang. Will Chibs Telford (Tommy Flanagan) and Bobby Munson (Mark Boone Jr.) be able to keep it going without Jax? What will become of Juice? There will be a lot of threads to sew up in the end.
As for next season, there's going to be two camps. The first is going to be comprised of those who want to rake creator Kurt Sutter over the coals for how it all played out, especially for his seeming desire to keep his wife (Sagal) on the show as long as possible. To be fair, Sagal is an excellent actress in her own right, to the extent that I couldn't see anyone else even close to playing Gemma. The naysayers may see this Season 6 finale as being completely too contrived. Others may opt to take a big-picture view and want to see how it all plays out, given that they have derived so much enjoyment from the past six seasons. Of course, no one will be 100% pleased.
Either way, Season 7 will be quite the thrill ride. Put on your biker helmets and get ready.