Why did SOA get Cancelled?

SOA (or Sons of Anarchy) was a popular TV series that aired on FX from 2008 to 2014. The show followed the lives of members of an outlaw motorcycle club operating in a fictional town in California. SOA became known for its gritty drama, dark themes, and complex characters. However, after 7 successful seasons, SOA ultimately met its end. There are several factors that contributed to FX’s decision to cancel the show.

Declining Ratings

One of the major reasons SOA got cancelled was due to declining ratings in the later seasons. SOA premiered to strong viewership, averaging 3.3 million viewers per episode in season 1. However, ratings slowly began to drop in subsequent seasons. By the final 7th season, viewership had declined to just 2.2 million viewers per episode on average. This steady decline showed that audience interest in the show was waning. Networks heavily consider ratings when making cancellation decisions, so SOA’s reducing viewership numbers likely played a big role.

Increasing Production Costs

Another consideration for FX was the rising production costs to create each season of SOA. Industry reports estimated that the average cost to produce one episode reached up to $5 million by season 7. As a cable network, FX had a more limited budget compared to premium channels like HBO. With costs climbing each season, it became less financially viable for FX to keep SOA on the air. The network understandably wanted to cut costs where it could.

Natural Conclusion to Story Arcs

Most critics and fans agree that SOA reached a natural narrative conclusion after 7 seasons. Showrunner Kurt Sutter had always envisioned the show following an arc with a definitive ending point for the central characters. By season 7, many of the long-running storylines on SOA came to a close:

  • Jax Teller finally stepped down as president of SAMCRO and met his fate
  • Gemma Teller was killed, ending her long history with the club
  • Clay Morrow, a former president of the MC, was already killed off
  • The club’s relationships with rivals such as the Irish Kings and Chinese mafia reached resolving points

With many of the show’s central conflicts concluding, it seemed a natural time to end the series. Sutter likely preferred closing out SOA on his own terms rather than stretching the show beyond its organic end.

Departure of Key Actors

SOA also faced challenges from the departure of some pivotal cast members over the years. Key actors that left included:

  • Charlie Hunnam (Jax Teller) – lead actor on the show
  • Maggie Siff (Tara Knowles) – female lead, killed off in season 6
  • Ron Perlman (Clay Morrow) – former SAMCRO president, killed off in season 6
  • Ryan Hurst (Opie Winston) – fan favorite character, killed off in season 5

Losing these central characters made it more difficult to continue the show’s narrative. Recasting or abruptly writing off such pivotal roles could frustrate viewers. It was likely better for FX to plan a proper series finale rather than try replacing these departing actors.

Negative Publicity and Controversy

While popular, SOA did sometimes generate negative publicity during its peak popularity. Some examples include:

  • Actor Johnny Lewis (who played Kip “Half-Sack”) was involved in a murder-suicide in 2012
  • Some criticized the show’s gratuitous violence and adult content
  • Cast member Stephen King sued Sutter and FX for allegedly stealing ideas
  • There were accusations of unprofessional behavior and gender discrimination behind the scenes

These controversies didn’t directly end the show, but they did hurt SOA’s reputation. FX may have wanted to move on from the series to distance themselves from future bad press.

Competition from Other Series

FX likely felt emboldened to cancel SOA since they had successfully launched other hit shows to take its place. Series like American Horror Story, Fargo, Sons of Anarchy’s spinoff Mayans MC, and others gave FX strong new content. The network knew audiences had other critically acclaimed options to turn to after SOA ended. This made it easier for FX to let go of the expensive, aging biker drama.

Kurt Sutter’s Departure

Another death knell for SOA was series creator Kurt Sutter’s departure from FX in 2019. Sutter was not only the showrunner for SOA, but also executive produced its spinoff Mayans MC. However, FX terminated its relationship with Sutter after reports of unprofessional behavior and an investigation into conditions on set. Without Sutter spearheading production, it would have been nearly impossible to continue the SOA universe at FX in any substantial way.


In the end, SOA seems to have fallen victim to many common factors that bring successful shows to an end: high costs, declining ratings, controversy, and the natural conclusion to its story arcs. However, fans largely agree the series had an incredible 7 season run with a satisfying conclusion. FX ultimately made a prudent choice to end SOA while it was still on a high note. The showrunners were able to give their groundbreaking biker drama a proper farewell that captured fans’ imaginations for years to come. There was likely no way to continue SOA in a meaningful way beyond its organic endpoint.

Season Average Viewership (Millions)
Season 1 3.3
Season 2 3.5
Season 3 3.6
Season 4 3.4
Season 5 2.9
Season 6 2.7
Season 7 2.2

This table shows the declining average viewership for SOA across its 7 season run on FX. The downward trend in ratings was a major factor leading to the network cancelling the series despite its popularity and acclaim.

Could SOA Have Continued?

Some fans still debate whether FX made the right call ending SOA when it did. Could the show have continued beyond season 7? There are a few scenarios where SOA could potentially have carried on:

  • Jump forward several years with new central characters, similar to how Friday Night Lights concluded
  • Kill off Jax Teller and focus on a new club president leading SAMCRO
  • Move the setting away from Charming to breathe new life into the story
  • Partner with Netflix or other company willing to fund production costs

However, most critics feel these options would likely damage SOA’s legacy rather than improve it. The show was intrinsically tied to Charlie Hunnam’s portrayal of Jax; it’s hard to imagine the series without him as the lead. And after 7 seasons of dark, tragic storylines, asking audiences to invest in a largely new cast seems a stretch.

It’s best for beloved shows to leave fans wanting more

Attempting to artificially extend SOA beyond its natural conclusion could have resulted in a steep drop in quality, like what some feel happened with Dexter’s widely panned finale season. FX wisely chose to end SOA on the show’s own terms. This preserved fans’ affection and allowed the possibility of revisiting the SOA universe with fresh stories like Mayans MC.

So while it’s always sad saying goodbye to an iconic show, FX ultimately made the correct choice cancelling Sons of Anarchy when it did. As much as audiences may have wanted more seasons, SOA left television on a high note with its legacy intact. That’s an achievement any showrunner would envy.

Critical Response to SOA’s Final Season

Critics generally gave positive reviews to SOA’s seventh and final season:

  • Rolling Stone – “a grim, great and fitting final season”
  • Entertainment Weekly – “the final season proved the show was always Sutter’s masterpiece”
  • HitFix – “a fitting end for SAMCRO that made the journey feel worth it”
  • The Atlantic – “SOA ends in an avalanche of blood, bullets and fire”

Reviews praised showrunner Kurt Sutter for mostly sticking the landing and delivering a finale that paid off long-running storylines. While some critics noted the last season relied heavily on melodrama and tragedy, they felt it fit the series’ dark, Shakespearean tone. Fans also rated the final season highly, with a 9.1/10 audience score on Rotten Tomatoes compared to a perfect 100% critics’ score.

Season Rotten Tomato Critic Score
Season 1 100%
Season 2 100%
Season 3 94%
Season 4 96%
Season 5 93%
Season 6 91%
Season 7 100%

Rotten Tomatoes critical scores stayed remarkably consistent over SOA’s run, proving critics maintained a positive consensus about the show even as some fans believe it declined in later years. The perfect 100% score for the final season shows critics agreed the series stuck the landing.

Impact and Legacy of Sons of Anarchy

At its peak, SOA averaged over 7 million viewers per episode including DVR and streaming. The show was FX’s highest rated series ever at the time. Other impacts of Sons of Anarchy include:

  • Launched the acting careers of Charlie Hunnam, Ryan Hurst, Kim Coates, and others
  • Introduced creator Kurt Sutter as an in-demand showrunner
  • Spawned popular licensed merchandise and memorabilia
  • Inspired the spinoff show Mayans MC on FX
  • Opened the door for gritty, dramatic takes on motorcycle club culture
  • Featured songs from bands like The White Buffalo and Battleme that saw sales spikes

SOA received recognition from AFI, TCA, and EW, among others. However, the show’s greatest legacy is its passionate fanbase that remains dedicated years later. 93% of Google users still rate SOA 4+/5 stars today. The series ultimately got cancelled not due to poor reception, but simply because all great things must eventually come to an end.

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