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The Real Reason You Never Saw The Sons Of Anarchy Prequel

Few cable dramas can pride themselves on having attained the level of popularity and fan devotion that FX's "Sons of Anarchy" did throughout its run. Created by Kurt Sutter, the series follows Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam), who is first introduced to us as the vice president of Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (SAMCRO), an outlaw motorcycle club based in Charming, CA. 

What started out as a resourceful deployment of typical crime thriller narrative structures — in service of a deep dive into a highly specific and fascinating subculture — soon became, over the course of seven seasons, one of TV's most engrossing character dramas. Jax and his family members, friends, and associates at SAMCRO grappled with mounting crises both professional and moral, all while trying to honor the organization's legacy and dealing with the soulless megacorporations and corrupt powers encroaching on their small town of Charming.

The show was a big success for FX, so it's no wonder that a while after it concluded in 2014, FX gave the go-ahead on spin-off series "Mayans M.C.," following the eponymous Latino gang. But, as "Sons of Anarchy" fans have known for a while, that wasn't the only extension of the show's universe Kurt Sutter had in mind — as at one point, he also had plans for a prequel series. Unfortunately, those plans don't seem to have panned out.

Kurt Sutter has long had plans for a prequel

Official word of a potential "Sons of Anarchy" prequel first surfaced in 2014, when Sutter discussed the project during a live chat with fans. At the time, Nerdcore Movement remarked that Sutter had previously discussed the notion of telling a story about the original nine members of SAMCRO, referred to as "The First 9."  As fans will recall, the event that kicks "Sons of Anarchy" into proper motion is precisely the discovery, by Jax, of a manuscript written by his father before death, in which he details the honorable, long-since-distorted mission statement of the Sons of Anarchy. To some degree, all of the show consists of Jax's attempts to set the organization on a course that would do John Teller proud.

Sutter had at one point considered releasing the manuscript in question as a book titled "The Life and Death of SAMCRO," but chose instead to hold it and unleash the prequel series first. Per Nerdcore Movement, he told fans, "As we started thinking more and more about this prequel on the First 9, at this point I'm thinking more of a one off like a miniseries, like maybe 10 episodes or two 8 episodes seasons. I felt like to put out that manuscript with his history before that aired was going to handcuff me too much."

Sadly for fans of the Teller family saga, tribulations that occurred behind the scenes appear to have made that idea very hard to carry out.

Sutter had a falling out with Disney

Things began to go south on the planned "Sons of Anarchy" spin-off in March 2019, when the Walt Disney Company bought 21st Century Fox, resulting in FX being absorbed into Walt Disney Television (via CNN). That, in itself, did not make it impossible for Kurt Sutter to bring his vision for the new series to life. After all, FX has largely remained faithful to its brand of edgy, adult-oriented content even while operating under Disney oversight. However, Sutter's personal working relationship with Disney has been a strained one.

As Sutter told Deadline in October 2019, "It all started with a joke." 

An original draft of the "Mayans M.C." episode "Xbalanque" featured a shockingly dark throwaway joke in which El Coco (Richard Cabral) referred to a desolate rundown playground as "Disneyland," prompting EZ (J. D. Pardo) to reply, "Yeah? Guess this is where Walt buried all the Jews he had killed." To no one's surprise, Disney requested that the Walt Disney line be removed. In a change that amounted to intentional trolling on Sutter's part, the line was swapped out with a different explicit and inflammatory line about Mickey Mouse and Pluto. Eventually, Sutter had to cave to pressure and remove that line, too. But from then on, corporate oversight over "Mayans M.C." increased dramatically, sending Sutter into an informal quasi-war with the Disney executives, which eventually led to his decision to cut professional ties with the Mouse.

Sutter believes the odds of the show happening are slim

Asked specifically about the future of the "Sons of Anarchy" prequel series, Kurt Sutter remained as candid as ever.

"As of now, the possibility of doing that doesn't look that hopeful," Sutter confessed to Deadline. "It's their property. They're not going to let me take it somewhere else. Right now, that relationship is in flux. With time and a shift in attitude, will we be able to do it? I don't know. Hopefully. Maybe."

In other words, the prequel series is not officially dead or anything, but it currently appears to be very, very unlikely to happen in the near future, seeing as Disney now effectively owns the "Sons of Anarchy" franchise and any potential spin-offs — Sutter's prequel included. In fact, the show never seems to have gotten too far past the idea stage, as Sutter revealed: "I never sat down and started breaking story. I just knew, that's where I wanted to begin, that's where I wanted it to end and I knew it was a one-off. Right now, the possibility of that is not going to happen. Over time, who knows?"

"Mayans M.C.," meanwhile, is now fully in the hands of co-creator Elgin James as far as showrunning duties are concerned (via TheWrap). Sutter confessed to Deadline that he felt the need to apologize to James for the way his exit played out, but he emphasized his belief in James' ability to keep the show at its best.

The plans for the prequel were highly intriguing

Kurt Sutter may not have gotten the chance to develop a John Teller-focused prequel series according to his vision, but, if his comments to Deadline are anything to go by, that vision had an enormous amount of potential. For starters, "I knew it wasn't a long series, that I wanted to do a limited series," the writer said. "Ideally, it was nine of ten episodes. The model I love is the 'Sherlock' model. I love the idea of doing four two-hour episodes." Given that the original "Sons of Anarchy" gained a reputation for having episodes run as long as 90 minutes at a certain point into its run (via Variety), the extra per-episode time would certainly befit a new series — and stay consistent to the franchise's prior approach.

With that notion of doing four feature-length episodes in mind, Sutter planned to start his prequel in Vietnam, focusing on the connection of John Teller and Piney, then using the rest of the series to build up SAMCRO as a whole. The ninth member, then, would be Clay (Ron Perlman). Once Clay came around, Sutter wanted to plant his flag, call it a series, and avoid getting too tangled in stories that he'd already told in the main series.

Perhaps the most enticing element of a prequel series, however, would have been the opportunity to see the universe of "Sons of Anarchy" through the lens of a different era. As Sutter revealed, "[I]t takes place in probably one of the most tumultuous periods, politically and socially, in the 60s with the Vietnam War. I wanted to really let the time and place and politics influence story."

Maybe Sutter will one day get to tell his story, but for now, fans will have to hold their breath.