Fans of 'Sons of Anarchy' well know that the FX biker drama is famous for its shocking, often brutal violence, and last night's "Laying Pipe" was no exception.  Though series creator Kurt Sutter himself warned fans in advance of an impending tragedy, last night viewers said goodby to a fan-favorite character, one who it seems has long been destined for nothing but heartbreak at the hands of SAMCRO.  So, why does Sutter say the character had to go?

As much as it still hurts to type, 'Sons of Anarchy' fans were forced to - SPOILER ALERT -  say goodbye to series staple Ryan Hurst, as last night's "Laying Pipe" saw Hurst's character Harry "Opie" Winston nobly offering himself up as a sacrifice over best friend Jax, when Damon Pope arranged to have one of the Sons beaten to death in prison.  With a final crack of the lead pipe, Opie was no more, but 'Sons of Anarchy' creator Kurt Sutter wants you to know Opie's death wasn't without meaning.

Sutter spoke to reporters Wednesday, elaborating on the death's role in Jax's journey, and how he felt Opie's life came to a fitting end:

This is really the first season I’ve had to think about the end game, and knowing where I want to take my hero, and knowing how I wanted to get there, the road I wanted to travel, Jax needed that emotional upheaval – that one event that happens in a man’s life that can change the course of his destiny.

I don’t do things arbitrarily, or for shock value.  Yes, it’s incredibly sad, but the death of Opie will color the rest of the episodes for the rest of the series. It’s not a death that will happen in vain.

More than that, Sutter wanted to make sure that if Opie had to go, he'd die a meaningful death as opposed to some of the other more random acts of violence the series has featured over 5 seasons.  “I wanted Opie to go out a warrior,” says Sutter. “I really wanted him to go out with nobility and a sense of feeling like, ‘I may not have a lot to live for, but at the very least, I am going to go out doing something noble and protecting the people I still love.' "

One thing's for sure: three episodes in, and "Sons of Anarchy' season 5 has featured some of the most shocking, tragic deaths to date, showing no signs of stopping as the series continues with next week's "Stolen Huffy."  Watch your back, SAMCRO.

What say you?  Were you sad to see Opie's death, or had the character run his course?  Do you agree with Sutter that his death still had meaning?  Give us your reactions, and pour one out for Opie in the comments below!