SPOILER ALERT: Avoid reading the following if you don't want to know what happened on Tuesday night's episode of "Sons of Anarchy" ...
After shocking viewers with the grisly and heartbreaking death of Harry "Opie" Winston (Ryan Hurst), Kurt Sutter, the show's creator and executive producer, defended the gut-wrenching plot twist in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
"I came into this season thinking about the end game and knowing where I wanted to take my hero and how to get there," he explained. He went on to say that Jax (Charlie Hunnam) needed to experience "a major emotional upheaval -- the one moment in a man's life that can change the course of his destiny," and that he wanted it to happen
In the story line, Jax was ordered by Oakland criminal kingpin Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau) to chose one of his imprisoned club members to die. Jax resisted, but Opie, his best friend, stepped forward and sacrificed his life in a brutal prison death match, eventually taking a lead pipe to the head.
"I wanted him to go out a warrior and with a sense of nobility," said Sutter, who added that it was Opie's way "of being of service to his club and his family."
Opie's demise, Sutter said, will color the show from here on out and will have a profound effect on the members of SAMCRO. Even so, the death of a beloved character -- so beautifully played by Hurst -- caused major rumblings on social
A reporter pointed out that one angry viewer had even tweeted that he wanted to engage Sutter in a fist fight.
Sutter responded by saying he refuses to read online commentary about his show because "I don't want my feelings hurt." As for the prospect of a fist fight? "That's better than death threats. I'll take fist fights any day."
Sutter did add that he believes most fans will understand why it was done.
"(They know) I don't do things arbitrarily and I don't do things for shock value," he said. "Yes, it's incredibly sad but ... it's not a death that will happen in vain. I would hope that people stay plugged in."
Sutter said he began thinking about the stunning plot twist toward the end of Season 3 and it came together with the death of Piney last year. He brought Hurst into the loop even before the script was penned.
"It was a very difficult thing," Sutter said of his initial conversation with the actor. "He was so plugged into the show and loved the character, and Ryan's a super sensitive-dude. ... But he understood the importance of it in the mythology of the show."
As for the graphic nature of the scene, Sutter said, "That's what we do on the show ... it's a bloody show and it's a violent show and sometimes it crosses into the absurd," but with great writing "you can still be moving, emotional and powerful."
That said, the scene might have been even more graphic, but Sutter and his collaborators backed off showing things like a "cracked-open skull."
"I've learned what I can get away with and what I can't," he said. "... To me, it's almost more powerful (limiting the depiction to) what you don't see, or what you think you see."