[This is a review of Sons of Anarchy season 6, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
For the past few weeks, Sons of Anarchy has been building toward something big with its dual storylines involving Tara's fight to finally escape the poisonous confines of life within the MC (and Gemma) and Jax's increasingly desperate push to move the club out of the gun business at seemingly any cost. Of course, the latter also involves the Irish Kings' staunch refusal to work with anyone other than Clay Morrow at the not-so-polite request of Galen O'Shea – despite his current status as a guest at a California State correctional facility.
Now, in typical Sons of Anarchy fashion, nothing is as it seems, especially when the show takes the time to depict Jax making a deal with a public servant or anyone in a position of authority (in this case, DA Tyne Patterson). If anything, the show and its writers are fairly consistent with how much they love keeping the audience in the dark, so they can then portray the MC's betrayal like some kind of genius long con. And, in the case of 'Aon Rud Persanta,' that long con happens to close the chapter on one of the show's longest running storylines with the sudden and rather unexpected death of Clay Morrow at the hands of Jax Teller.
"Clay Morrow should have been dead a long time ago," Tara tells Nero after they drive away from Clay's execution with a surprisingly emotional Gemma breaking down in the passenger seat. In a sense, Tara's statement, which follows a laundry list of Clay's most recent transgressions, manages to say a lot about Clay Morrow as a character, and the kind of turmoil he was generally capable of producing. But the notion that he should have been dead a long time ago also says a great deal about the show, and how it has handled the back and forth between Jax and Clay for nearly six full seasons now.
As a dramatic device, Clay's death had been teased by Sons of Anarchy so many times that the series began to resemble the boy who cried wolf, or, as the case may be, Mr. Mayhem. The idea of Clay facing certain doom had been seen or intimated to the point that when he was staring down the barrel of Jax's gun, the only drama the moment seemed capable of producing was tied to the question of whether or not the writers would actually follow through with it this time. As Clay Morrow, and more to the point, Ron Perlman, has been a major part of the success of the series, all the tension surrounding his inevitable end felt like it had been used up a long time ago, resulting in him going out with more of a whimper than the bang he deserved.
Rather than building apprehension around his contentious relationship with Jax, Gemma, and the rest of the club, Clay has been rotting away in jail, largely out of the picture for the majority of the season. And with his stake in the MC already gone, and Jax largely concerned about things other the death of his father or Tara's near death experience, Clay's arc had essentially become dramatically inert. As a result, there is no void begging to be filled by his sudden absence now, because, for all intents and purposes, Clay Morrow's importance to the story of Sons of Anarchy season 6 was never really developed outside of an excuse to involve the Irish.
At the same time, at this point in its run, the show makes its biggest strides by eliminating familiar, well-liked characters, and doing so in generally secretive ways that are meant to be as enormously impactful for the audience as they are for the characters involved. Only time will tell, but perhaps the impact of this event will have more resonance sometime down the line.
While the episode was certainly successful in the way it handled Jax's double-crossing of Tyne, and especially of Galen and the Irish Kings, it seems odd that the major dramatic tension comes not from Clay's sudden death, but from Tara's potentially devastating (or liberating) choice, which again begs the question of whether or not the writers will follow through with what they are setting up.
Sons of Anarchy will continue on Tuesday, December 3 with 'You Are My Sunshine' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX