Every Season Of Sons Of Anarchy Ranked Worst To Best

On December 9th, 2014 after seven seasons on the road, FX's "Sons of Anarchy" took its final ride. Show creator Kurt Sutter's series about a biker gang from Northern California follows Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the heir apparent to the titular motorcycle club, and his manipulative mother Gemma Teller Morrow (Katey Sagal), the club's matriarch. After stumbling upon memoirs written by his late father, Jax begins to question the direction of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) and challenges the leadership of his stepfather Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), the club's current president. 

Loosely based on Shakespeare's "Hamlet," much of the core drama centers on the struggle between Jax and Clay for the direction of the M.C. with manipulation behind the scenes from Gemma and Dr. Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff), Jax's eventual wife. "Sons of Anarchy” has always prided itself on its authenticity, with most cast members riding their own motorcycles and adopting their own signature weapons. Inspired by the legendary Hells Angels, former club member David Labrava served as a technical advisor before joining the writer's room and the cast as SAMCRO assassin, Happy. Hunnam also developed his own character with time spent getting to know a real-life biker who tragically died before the show aired. 

The social landscape in the fictional town of Charming, California goes through many changes over the six years of the show's run as the Sons drift through various allegiances and partnerships. As viewers, we've weathered some violent storms and devastating goodbyes on the roads with these biker brothers. In honor of Jax's final sacrifice, let's ride through the world of "Sons of Anarchy" ranking each of the seasons from worst to best.

7. Season 5

On a series known for violence, Season 5 manages to top the list in terms of grisly deaths and appalling murders. The season premiere concludes with Tig Trager (Kim Coates) watching as his daughter is burned alive as retribution for an accidental death in Season 4. This depravity sets the tone for a season that will include more heartbreaking deaths, like the grisly murder of the incarcerated Otto (Kurt Sutter) and one of the most gut-wrenching moments in all seven seasons. 

While in prison, the Sons are forced to sacrifice one of their own to settle the score with a rival crime syndicate. With a heartbreaking "I got this" as his final words, fan-favorite Opie Winston (Ryan Hurst) takes the decision out of his friends' hands and volunteers to be executed by a vicious group of prison guards. As upsetting as this scene was for audiences, it was even more emotional for the cast. Three months after wrapping filming, members of the fictional M.C. gathered for a ceremonial beard cutting, a tear-filled swan song for the beloved character.

Season 5 also marks a turn into the indulgent with episodes ballooning to 90+ minutes long. While this flexibility allowed Sutter more creative freedom, it also opened the floodgates to overly ponderous monologues and a seemingly endless stream of musical montages to close every episode. Despite some happy moments like Jax and Tara's wedding and the introduction of Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits), the season is a grim and upsettingly violent installment in the Sons saga.

6. Season 6

The penultimate season of "Sons of Anarchy" continues the trend of brutal violence and tragic deaths, edging into political waters and presenting increasingly salacious content. Season 6 begins with a school shooting involving a gun that can be traced back to SAMCRO, triggering another crisis of confidence in the club's direction and added attention from law enforcement. Clay finally meets a bloody end, closing the door on a tumultuous chapter in the club's history. 

Beginning the season in prison, the former SAMCRO president spends most of his remaining time on the show either behind bars or working against the club he once led. While his comeuppance is satisfying, seeing him spend so much time laid low and without his iconic sleeveless biker jacket makes the once-powerful leader feel weak and out of place.

Season 6 also sees the tragic end of another major character, Tara. Imprisoned for conspiracy to commit murder in Season 5, the young doctor, mother, and frequent voice of reason for her husband Jax, also spends a significant time behind bars. This arc feels even more bizarre than Clay's time in lockup. The season ends in one of the most horrific moments in the entire "Sons of Anarchy” run. Convinced Tara is preparing to take her sons away from the club, Gemma beats and stabs her to death in her own kitchen. There's little else of note in this downer of a season, making it a frustrating and depressing slog with a heavy dose of heartbreak thrown in for good measure.

5. Season 7

A series based on "Hamlet" was never going to end happily, but the final season of "Sons of Anarchy" concludes with a bloodbath. We catch up with Jax in full revenge mode after Tara's death. Gemma's misdirection about her part in the murder leads to a lot of unearned violence and death. The deception doesn't last long and Gemma's murderous secrets are finally revealed, leading to a mother/son showdown that's been brewing since the show's first episode. 

Unable to return from the dark place matricide takes him, Jax settles his affairs and makes arrangements to send his own sons far away from the club's violent legacy. The finale's final moments see Jax make the choice to end his life, sacrificing himself to make sure Abel and Thomas have a chance at the normal life he was never able to find.

When speaking to Collider, Kurt Sutter touted a seven-season plan to conclude his bikers' stories. While the violent conclusion proved divisive among viewers, there's no doubt we were able to see his original vision through to the bitter end. Unfortunately, the series finale was inadvertently spoiled by the early release of a fan book containing a list of Season 7 deaths, including the club's long-suffering president. Jax and Gemma's deaths were perhaps the only logical conclusion for the overall saga, but it takes way too long to get there and after seven seasons of heart-wrenching kills, it's difficult to muster the same energy we once had for the dysfunctional biker family.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

4. Season 3

Season 3 is a bit of a mixed bag with extremely satisfying highs bookending some of the lowest moments in the show's history. The premiere episode picks up with Jax's search for Abel who was kidnapped in the final moments of Season 2. A significant portion of the club tracks the toddler across the ocean to Ireland in a tumultuous reunion with the SOA Belfast charter. While picturesque and interesting in theory, this leads to a tedious stretch of episodes that divides the cast for way too long. 

Gemma spends a significant portion of the season in hiding with her infirm father. Granted, this leads to a fun cameo from "Sons of Anarchy" superfan Stephen King, but Gemma's entire arc is odd and depressing. Combine it with Jax secretly working against the club with the infuriating ATF Agent June Stahl (Ally Walker,) and you've got an incredibly frustrating stretch of episodes. Season 3 would be the lowest entry on this list, if not for a season finale that delivers some long-awaited comeuppance. 

After three seasons of playing a vindictive thorn in SAMCRO's side, Stahl finally pays for all of the heartache she's caused. Watching her crumble in fear as Opie gets justice for his wife's accidental murder makes the entire frustrating season worth the wait. Her death precedes a genuinely shocking and joyful moment with the revelation that Jax's deal with Stahl was a long con to secure the Sons a much shorter prison sentence. Free members honk as they drive by the prison van signaling Stahl's death and completion of the deal. The infectious smiles that break out on the Sons' faces as they realize they're in the relative clear is the cherry on top of a fantastic season finale.

3. Season 4

Season 4 sees the imprisoned Sons finally released after 14 months behind bars. They're greeted by Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar), the new sheriff for the tiny town of Charming, and Thomas Teller, Jax and Tara's infant son. Opie gets himself a new "Old Lady," and the Sons seem to be shaking off the stressful dust of the past. But old grudges die hard and Season 4 concludes with the end of Clay's run as SAMCRO President. He's replaced at the head of the ornate table by Jax who finally has the opportunity to take the club in a more positive direction. This signals a bit of a reset for the show and posed a question from Kurt Sutter: "Can he replace Clay without becoming Clay?"

This shifting of the guard comes with a rather problematic arc. Trying to find a vulnerability in the club's defenses, Roosevelt tries to blackmail Juan Carlos 'Juice' Ortiz (Theo Rossi) by threatening to reveal his African American heritage to the club. The frightened young biker attempts to die by suicide to avoid what he fears will be painful consequences when the truth of his parentage is revealed. 

It's a frustratingly mishandled storyline for a likable character and Juice's justified fears only serve to create more problems for him down the road. But despite this misstep, Season 4 amplifies what Kurt Sutter sees as one of the show's overall throughlines emerge in full force: "if people just told the truth the first time, things would be so much better. But, innately, there's just that sense of people needing to protect themselves with deceit..."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

2. Season 2

The show's sophomore season opens with the Sons' reckoning with the death of Donna Winston (Sprague Grayden). Clay and Tig must deal with the guilt of their tragic mistake while Opie and Jax struggle to process their grief and move on. The boys don't have much time to linger on old wounds, though, as a new threat has moved to town. A white separatist group led by one of the show's best villains, Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin), tries to wrestle control of the small town from SAMCRO and control the flow of illegal commerce through the area. 

In Season 1, the Sons are painted as nuanced outlaws, sometimes villains and sometimes antiheroes. But here they are firmly on the side of virtue, as saviors for the town rather than an insidious crime syndicate causing turmoil and violence. The Season 2 premiere concludes with one of the most horrific moments in the show's history. Gemma is kidnapped and brutally assaulted as a warning to Clay to stop selling guns to minorities. It's a surprisingly nuanced look at the lingering effects of sexual assault, the retraumatization that comes with reporting rape, and the ways women are often used to hurt men. 

This season also explores Luann Delaney's (Dendrie Taylor) involvement with the club as Jax pushes to use her pornography studio as a legitimate earner for SAMCRO. When describing his creative process, Kurt Sutter told Collider, "Ultimately, we're viewing this world through the eyes of the women," a dynamic that fully emerges in this action-packed season.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

1. Season 1

Despite stiff competition, the season that started it all ultimately takes the number one spot on this list. It's in these 13 thirteen episodes that we first meet the endearingly flawed bikers who will come to feel like friends over the next eight years. True to form, the first episode begins with an ominous blow as Jax's heavily pregnant wife Wendy Case (Drea de Matteo) overdoses on heroin and gives birth to a premature son. In the hospital, the new father reunites with his former flame, Tara, the love of his life and future "Old Lady." This also leads to Jax's defining conflict. While looking through storage for baby clothes, he happens on his father's memoirs, a text that will guide his conscience for the show's entire run.

Season 1 contains elements of everything we will come to love about the series: thrilling motorcycle chases, shocking acts of violence, and heartbreaking deaths. When a former member is discovered to still have his iconic club tattoo, the Sons use a blowtorch to remove it for him. Donna's death in the season finale is a tragedy that will cause ripple effects throughout the next six seasons, as well as set the stakes for Tara's relationship with Jax. The star-crossed couple having sex next to the body of Tara's dead stalker is a salacious bit of gross fun. 

What makes Season 1 such a delight is the fun of getting to know the characters, building the world of Charming, and expanding the SAMCRO lore. The seeds of dense mythology begin to take root, and Kurt Sutter is able to set a transgressive tone without pushing the envelope too far into depravity.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).