The shocking moments didn't land on the viewers entirely without warning, however. According to KNBC-TV, the superintendent of schools in Newtown, Conn., site of the horrific school shooting late last year, sent an email to parents warning them.
In the email, he wrote, "I have learned that on the season premiere of the show 'Sons of Anarchy' which airs at 10 PM tonight on the FX cable station, there will be an episode in which a teenager enters the school with a high-caliber semi-automatic and opens fire. While you don't see the visual impact of this, you will hear the shots and cries from the victims."
He continues, "For obvious reasons, this program could have a very harmful impact on parents, children and staff members. I wanted you to have this information so that you can plan accordingly for you and your family."
Reaction to the scene was mixed among critics, with the Daily Beast's Jason Lynch writing that the shooting scenes went too far in making the show and its characters too repulsive to care about.
While Time's James Poniewozik cautioned that the violent moment could actually be an opportunity for some unflinching looks at the consequences of violence, he said there was no way of knowing exactly how the scene should be judged until the show had played out for a few weeks.
"I hope it's not just another plot twist to be one-upped by even bigger shockers," he wrote. "It would be a missed opportunity if, after a few weeks of horror at this scene, SoA moves on and forgets -- even if the real world sometimes does just that."
That sense of wait-and-see seemed to be the overriding feeling among fans, such as Ben Phillips, who tweeted, "I'm going to need more time to process whether or not the ending of Sons of Anarchy last night was a good idea..."