The sixth season of Sons of Anarchy is set to return to FX next Tuesday, September 10th with a 90-minute premiere. This season will be the penultimate season in a planned seven-season series, so things will likely begin to head toward their inevitable conclusions. Why is it inevitable? Because, as Kurt Sutter has mentioned often, Sons of Anarchy is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Ron Perlman has even suggested that Sons will maintain the Hamlet structure, and as anyone knows from Hamlet, damn near everyone dies.
Obviously, Sons is not a 1:1 equivalent with Hamlet, and the series has clearly steered off the Hamlet narrative, but perhaps we can expect that the series will drift back toward its Shakespeare origins as it nears its conclusion? If so, how can we expect the series to end? Death, death, death, murder, death, murder, death. Who will kill who? And who will be left standing?
Here’s my best stab at lining the Sons of Anarchy characters up with the Hamlet characters and predicting an Kurt Sutter’s endgame.
Hamlet (Jax Teller) — Son of the former King (John Teller), and nephew of the present King (Clay Morrow). Like Jax, Hamlet had early opportunities to kill Claudius, but hesitated to act on them. Hamlet feigns madness in order to plot his revenge against Claudius. I don’t know if you could call it madness, exactly, but Jax — who began the series as the charismatic prince of SAMCRO, dutifully waiting his turn to take a seat at the head of the table, has increasingly become drunk with power over the course of the series. He’s now in that grey area between anti-hero and full-blown villain.
Ghost of Hamlet’s Father (John Teller) — The Ghost of Hamlet visited his son and told him that he had been killed by his brother, Claudius, prompting Hamlet to avenge his father’s death. This is precisely what has happened in Sons, with John Teller’s letters acting as the Ghost of Hamlet. It’s those letters, too, that played a central role in the death of Piney.
Claudius (Clay Morrow) — King of Denmark, and Hamlet’s uncle. Claudius killed Hamlet’s father and took his seat, much like Clay killed John Teller and took his position. Hamlet/Jax sought revenge upon Claudius/Clay, while Claudius/Clay sought to assassinate Hamlet/Jax assassinated to protect his power. Both failed.
Gertrude (Gemma Morrow) — Queen of Denmark, and mother to Hamlet. In the original Shakespeare play, Gertrude was not part of the plot to kill John Teller, although subsequent iterations have incorporated that element. Here, Gemma was part of the plot to kill John Teller, but she’s backed away from it, pinning it entirely upon Clay, although Jax — like Hamlet — is suspicious of his mother. Similarly, at the beginning of the play, Gertrude lies more with her husband than her son, as Gemma sided more with Clay in the early seasons. Gertrude is killed in the end by poison meant for Jax, which I assume means she’ll probably be an accidental victim of crossfire.
Polonius (Piney/Unser) — Lord Chamberlain, Claudius’s chief counselor, and the father of Ophelia and Laertes. He is killed by Hamlet. This is where Sons begins to stray from the 1:1 Hamlet equivalents, although I think that Piney best fits this part. Polonius is killed suddenly because he overhears Hamlet arguing with Gertrude. Piney is killed because he and Gemma have a secret. I also think that Unser fills some of this role, too, as counselor, not only to Clay, but to Gemma.
Ophelia (Opie Winston) — Daughter to Polonius, lives with her father. She is in love with Hamlet. While it is not a romantic relationship, the parallels with Opie are obvious. Even his name evokes Ophelia. Also, after the death of Polonius, Ophelia goes mad and kills herself. Likewise, after the death of Piney, Opie loses his way, and ultimately sacrifices his own life, essentially killing himself out of loyalty to Jax.