It’s hard to imagine that, after all of his murderous and greedily underhanded deeds, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) would be able to evoke any kind of emotion other than anger or hate. But that’s precisely what he does as Sons of Anarchy takes the show’s defining antagonist and blots out his affiliation with SAMCRO like Happy does the ink on his body. That’s all there is to it; Clay’s days as an official part of the MC are over, but he remains among the living – something Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), in his increasingly savage state, simply cannot abide by.

‘Darthy’ picks up a short time after the events of last week’s ‘To Thine Own Self,’ and almost immediately answers the question of just what Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) was doing paying a visit to Clay after Jax dropped such a bombshell on him. Clay spills his guts to the table in return for Bobby’s no vote on an introduction with Mr. Mayhem. MC justice is swift with a unanimous vote for Clay to lose his patch, and Bobby the lone holdout regarding Clay losing his life. And so, Clay Morrow dodges the reaper once more, but Jax still manages to get his hands on the old man and give him a righteous beating. It’s unclear where the rage is ultimately coming from: all of Clay’s past misdeeds, or the utter frustration over the fact that he’s still drawing breath.

Both men lose it. Jax in front of Bobby while the VP tries to explain his motivations, and Clay after he dismisses Gemma (Katey Sagal) post-beat down. But as Jeffrey Lebowski said: “Strong men also cry…strong men also cry.” In the hands of a lesser actor, it could have felt superficial and false, but Perlman manages to give the scene some real heft that spells out the sheer magnitude of what just transpired. Everything that has defined a man, driven him and given him purpose has come to an end – and despite losing all of that, Clay knows he’s lucky to walk out of there alive.

Jax, meanwhile, is all but consumed by hate and the need to exact his revenge. What Bobby did was for the good of the club; Jax is the leader SAMCRO needs right now, but the man is still suffering. How does Jax balance being what the club needs with the needs of the insatiable beast growing inside him?

He turns to Pope (Harold Perrineau) for a little guidance. And as such, Pope is his usual frighteningly placid, yet insightful self when it comes to the topic of revenge. He’s been there before – heck, he’s there now with Tig (Kim Coates) – and, if he lives to see the end of season 5, he’ll be there again. Pope understands that, to be a leader in the kind of business he and Jax are in, one has to acknowledge the need to satisfy one’s baser instincts – otherwise it’ll eat away at the person making the decisions, that individual will lose focus and, as a result, the whole herd will collapse.

Perhaps that’s why guys like Lee Toric (Donal Logue) decide to go it alone when it comes to seeking vengeance. The blowback can only fall on one person, instead of a whole family or MC. Because that’s how revenge works: it’s a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself through others raging at injustice, and sweeps up everyone who’s even remotely involved until there’s nothing and no one left. Tara (Maggie Siff) and Nero (Jimmy Smits) are perfect examples of this.

As Wendy (Drea de Matteo) quickly learns by the end of ‘Darthy,’ people who have messed with Jax in the past and walked away, don’t fare too well next time their paths cross. So Jax injects her with heroin for daring to threaten him and his family. It’s a vicious bit of work for a man who has come to believe brutality is his ally, and will keep all that he holds dear from a similarly cruel fate. When a guy like Tig thinks you might be taking it too far, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate.

In terms of dramatic punch, ‘Darthy’ may have set the new standard for Sons of Anarchy. Here’s hoping it continues through next week’s season finale.

Various other items:

  • Is Jax planning to make an offer to August (Billy Brown) for his part in whatever is going to go down regarding Pope and Tig?
  • Somehow, Clay managed to make a two-month trip to Belfast to avoid Jax’s vengeance sound like a pretty sweet deal.
  • Is Toric simply a fan of Artaud, or is his reading of Watchfiends & Rack Screams a sign of things to come?
  • Galindo suddenly storming the Barn of Illegal Arms Deals may have been extremely convenient, as far as the episode’s storytelling goes (as did Galen’s kidnapping of Wendy), but the payoff in reaction from Jax and Clay more than makes up for it.

Sons of Anarchy will end season 5 next Tuesday with ‘J’ai Obtenu Cette’ @10pm on FX. Check out a preview of the episode below: