Tag Archives: Sons of Anarchy

The Roller Coaster that was Tig Trager

Tig_709I have a confession—I binge-watched Sons of Anarchy. That’s right, I neglected work, my family, my nutrition, all of it for SOA. I had seen the commercials and was intrigued, but held off watching even a single episode until the finale hit Amazon Prime. Then I gave episode one a shot. And a few days later, I felt the overwhelming loss when there were no more episodes in my cue.

*Spoiler Alert*

Initially, Tig Traeger was my second most favorite character (following Opie). Later he became my favorite for the entire season.

At first, I liked TIg’s personality. He was funny and sensitive, but he could pull the trigger and kill as if it was second nature. He was also loyal to the club.

So loyal in fact that he accepted the assignment to take out Opie who was being framed by the ATF as a club snitch. (Something Opie would never do).

As the story unfolds, we see it coming. Opie’s wife Donna takes Opie’s truck. Tig mistakes Donna for Opie and performs the hit. This act was so heinous, so reckless, and wrong.

Donna was a great person, trying to raise her kids and keep her husband righteous while respecting his loyalty to the club. She was one of the good guys.

anarchytigopie110918123517Opie was also one of the good guys. He ends up giving his life for the club that betrayed him. Opie didn’t deserve the hit but Clay, the club president, acting in ignorance, called on Tig who executed without question. In so many ways the hit was preventable. Tig could have looked harder, but he was already tore up about offing one of his brothers. And Clay could have showed more intelligence.

As soon as he killed Donna, I hated Tig. I wanted to see Tig die. I expected the writers to end his short involvement with SOA within the next couple episodes. But they didn’t. They kept him until the end.

They took Tig on a journey of redemption. Seasons later (or a couple days later) I reminded myself that Tig had killed Donna. But now I felt sorry for the guy. He had been ordered by the real offender, Clay. Yet, that was no excuse. I couldn’t love Tig again. Not after what he did.

Tig tries to make amends and eventually confesses to Opie. Opie forgives and this helps me forgive too. Then Tig finds a dog, badly beaten and almost dead. Tig takes care of the dog and nurses it back to health.

Then Tig’s two daughters are tortured and killed, burned alive in front of him. His pain and grief are so pitiful, I couldn’t help but care for the man.

Tig’s journey reinforced a few important key points to character development. First, Tig was not all good or all bad. He had traits in both arenas. Sometimes it was his good traits that got him into trouble and sometimes it was his bad traits that got him out. The writers carried us on a journey of emotion as they told Tig’s story. It wasn’t easy and it took time for Tig to recover from what he had done, but two main things helped Tig toward redemption—pain and kindness.

Characters become more likeable when they suffer. The death of TIg’s daughters caused a great deal of suffering. Characters become more likeable when they “pet the dog.” Showing kindness to animals (especially dogs), genuine concern even at the character’s own expense, and adherence to some sort of moral code, show us that they are really good people, or at least they want to be.

This worked for Tig. I’m glad the writers didn’t take the easy road and off this character in the first season as I suspected they would.


jace 1I live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and two little dogs. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with some short horror on the side. I’ve got an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can visit my author website at www.jacekillan.com, and you can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page.

Petting the Dog

A few months ago I took one of David Farland’s workshops where he introduced me to a concept known as “Petting the Dog.” He explained that in Hollywood, writers would introduce a scene to sell a character’s likability to the audience by petting a dog or kissing a baby or something of that sort. Since the class I have taken note of those scenes in film and in writing.

In past Disney films, many of the characters were all good or all bad and of course their actions reflected this. From Cinderella and the mice, Aurora and the fairies, Snow White and the Dwarves, Mary Poppins and the blue jay and Ariel and the crustacean band, these characters gained likability by showing that they treated other critters and creatures well and by doing charitable and kind acts.

In later years, characters have not been so “traditional” and one-dimensional. Aladdin for example was a thief but he shared his bread with the street orphans, in essence “petting the dog.” That’s how Disney sold Aladdin’s likability in spite of him being in an unlikable profession.

shrek birdShrek was another that didn’t follow tradition. They even took the “petting the dog scene” of Mary Poppins and Snow White, singing with a Blue Jay. I never laughed so hard at a movie when the bird exploded; it was completely unexpected and yet endearing.

Maleficent had to go through some rebranding in the recent Disney film. How did they take a terrible witch sorceress that threatened to kill Prince Charming and make her likable? They showed her as a child and a guardian of the woods, kind to its critters and creatures and as an adult, kind and caring to Aurora.

Villain protagonists or hero antagonists are becoming more popular in film and literature. Entire television series are based on the dichotomy present in such characters doing bad things for righteous reasons, like The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, House of Cards, The Sopranos, Almost Human, Deadwood, Justified, Revenge and so many more. Each of these relies heavily on “petting the dog” scenes.

Tig and DogIn Sons of Anarchy, Tig a member of the MC and up until a certain point was one of my most favorite characters, mistakenly killed another member’s wife. I hated him for it. I hated the writers for it. I resented going to that place that they took me, but I went all the same. I expected that the writers didn’t care about the character as much as I did and were going to kill him off. But in following episodes there were many scenes that showed a tender side to Tig. In one, he walked into a dogfight and rescues a pit bull about to be put down because it lost. This reminded me that Tig was human and not a monster. The writers brought him back by “petting the dog.”

House of Cards opened with a “petting the dog” scene. The villain protagonist, Frank Underwood tends to a dog is hit by a car. He pets the dog then kills it, supposedly for a righteous reason, but the scene gives us tremendous insight into this Underwood’s character.

Of course, these scenes do not always involve a dog. As David Heyman pointed out in an earlier post, NASA was able to endear the public to a couple of machines through their twitter feeds.

In the Shield, the series opens with a dirty cop, Vic Mackey, killing a righteous officer. The writers needed to sell the viewer that Vic was worth investing into with enduring emotion, even though he did something so heinous. I’m not sure they ever really pulled it off, but the “petting the dog” scenes involved a prostitute with a small child. Vic went out of his way multiple times to help this woman and her son.

Good storytellers endear us to characters, not by showing them doing what everyone else would do, but by showing us the exception. By allowing our characters to “pet the dog” we can offer great insights to their moral codes and personal thoughts, even if they are a psycho killer.

What other examples of “petting the dog” have you seen?