Kurt Sutter did it. He finally did it.
For all of its shoot-outs and orchestrated slayings, Sons of Anarchy has always been about the tease. Any character played by an actor listed in the opening credits is, more often than not, safe. Yes, brokenhearted Opie (Ryan Hurst) sacrificed himself in prison early into season five, which was a shock and made for some remarkably powerful television, but it was an anomaly.
This season, during the sixth and potentially the show's best run yet, Sons creator Sutter has been dangling his latest probable victim before audiences: Tara (Maggie Siff), Jax's (Charlie Hunnam) wife/baby mother/consistently mistreated ball-and-chain. Through her elaborate but ultimately botched plan to secretly divorce Jax and get her children the hell away from their unstable battle-ax of a grandmother, Gemma (Katey Sagal), Tara has pulled one too many fast ones on Jax, the worst of which was faking a pregnancy and miscarriage. At the end of last week's episode, Tara realized that she'd backed herself into a seemingly hopeless corner when District Attorney Tyne Patterson (CCH Pounder) dropped an immunity offer to help Tara out (in exchange for giving up SAMCRO) because Jax had worked out a deal to give up IRA gun runners in exchange for SAMCRO's immunity.
Heading into last night's episode, "Aon Rud Persanta," it seemed that Kurt Sutter was on the verge of finally offing one of the show's main characters. Tara appeared to beyond hope. But, then again, so did Clay (Ron Perlman) all throughout season five, after murdering one of his fellow SAMCRO elders, putting hits out on Tara, and privately backstabbing Jax and the motorcycle club beyond any conceivable repair. Yet there Clay was, still alive week after week, with Sutter basically fucking with his loyal audience's expectations—OK, you think Clay should and will die, huh? Great, I'll just keep finding ways to keep him around, to keep you all hooked and guessing. Yes, Opie died last season, but did anyone really think Sutter and his creative team would do the same to Clay, the show's No. 2 after Jax? Hell, they didn't even kill off Juice (Theo Rossi) after he butchered a fellow SAMCRO member. There was no way they'd get rid of the almighty Ron Perlman. Right?
Well, be damned, Sons naysayers, because Kurt Sutter, episode co-writer Chris Collins, and director Peter Weller did what seemed to be the impossible last night, midway into "Aon Rud Persanta": They killed Clay Morrow. And, true to the show's grisly yet often visually poetic form, they did it oh so powerfully.
After completing head Irishman Gaylen's (Timothy V. Murphy) plan to bumrush Clay's prison transport and bring him, unscathed, to the Irish, so they could ship him off to Belfast under their employ, Jax fires a bullet into Gaylen's head. His SAMCRO brothers follow suit and gun down Gaylen's associates. Once again, Jax pulls an elaborately staged and dutifully executed fast one on an enemy. It's not exactly shocking, since, yes, the bull's-eye on Gaylen's head has been growing larger by the week, but the assassination's quickness hits harder than expected. Jax typically enjoys delivering a you've-been-got monologue before offing a rival; with Gaylen, there's no small talk.
Nor, even more surprisingly, is there much chatter for his next victim.
Clay tells Gemma, in response to her asking about the dead Irishmen, "I think there's another plan." Clay knows what's coming. To the love of his life, Clay then says, "I'm glad you're not alone, Gem," referring to her new relationship with Latino badass Nero (Jimmy Smits).
"The vote was unanimous," Jax informs Clay shortly after that. And there's no mystery as to what SAMCRO voted on: the inevitable.
In the office where Gaylen and the other bodies continue to bleed out, Clay stands alone in the corner. Jax, Juice, Tig (Kim Coates), and Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) line up in front of him—the firing squad, but there's only one gun. "Is this good?" Clay asks. Jax coldly says back, "Yeah," then takes the gun from Chibs' hand. There's no music. No audible interruptions of any kind. Gemma can see Clay, and only Clay, through the window; they make eye contact, a faint smile flashing across Clay's face. She sees the bullet from Jax's gun rip through her husband's neck, sending his large body tumbling to the ground. She then sees her son empty the rest of the handgun's rounds into Clay's dying body. Clay pays the ultimate price for his past transgressions. No deus ex machina's around to save him again.
"What went down today was us burying the last piece of a very broken past," Jax tells Nero afterward. It was also an '80s-era-Tyson-caliber right hook to the gut for anyone who'd previously thought Kurt Sutter didn't have the stones to kill off Clay Morrow. In other words, to bring some semblance of logical reality back to Sons of Anarchy's aggressively heightened "reality," in which all-too-convenient, closed-door deals with cartel leaders and DEA agents keep SAMCRO's biggest turncoats alive, just because. In "Aon Rud Persanta," though, Sutter defied the show's usual leniency, or, depending on which viewers you ask, its inability to let go of characters who should be long dead. All bets are off, and it feels right.
And to think, there are still two episodes left this season. Is Tara next on Jax's hit list? That brief but affecting hand-hold she gives before leaving Clay's death setting hints at her staying alive, at least for the time being. At this point, though, who gives a damn if Tara lives or dies before season six wraps up? Last night, Kurt Sutter silenced every Sons of Anarchy fan/critic who'd chastised the show for never fatally punishing its dirtiest characters just because they're on the main slate, the marquee, including yours truly.
For the first time in a long time, it really does feel like nobody's safe in Charming. It's back to at least a semi-reality.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
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