KAITLIN: There are certain times that call for long-winded, but eloquent introductions. Right now is not one of those times. Right now is when we cut right to the chase, because holy sh*t, Clay Morrow is dead. Like, really dead. Deader than dead even. Did you see that shot to his neck and the way it was basically a fountain of blood when he fell to the ground? Kurt Sutter is a sick, sick man. And I am girlish enough to admit I screamed and clasped my hands over my mouth when it actually happened, even though it was quite obvious for a good five minutes that it was going to happen. This is something I've been waiting for since Clay shot and killed Piney in Season 4, something I've been actively championing and yet, here I am on the other side of "Aon Rud Persanta" wondering, "Why now?"
I believe, like most fans, that Clay should have met his demise by Opie's hands at the end of Season 4. Or at the very least, sometime in Season 5. To kill him in Episode 11 of Season 6 feels a bit like "too little, too late." In fact, damn it, I kind of felt bad for him in that moment! He accepted his fate and walked to his own execution willingly after Jax and the club had sprung him from his prison transport. As vindicated as I feel right now (especially since I rightfully called that Clay and the Irish would be dealt with in one swoop and some guy named Tim told me I was pretty much a crazy person), I feel bad for Clay Morrow. Curse you, Sutter, CURSE YOU. I should not feel bad for Clay freakin' Morrow!
TIM: Wait, Clay died? YES CLAY DIED! And you know what, I stand by my thought that I wasn't crazy for saying YOU were crazy for thinking the Irish and Clay would be taken care of in one fell swoop because it would seem out of place! You said it yourself, "Why now?" And I say, "Who cares!?" HE'S DEAD and GALEN IS DEAD and SAMCRO is finally out of this stupid gun business! This was awesome and the deaths went down exactly as they should have. Galen didn't get a second to register his demise. GOOD. Screw him. And Clay got his proper sendoff. He respected Jax's play. I don't think the actual murdering could have gone better.
And now here's where I become the party pooper. Your "Why now?" is a totally valid question. This was probably the most overdue thing in all of television, and having it just out there was really bogging this series down. SAMCRO wanted to kill Clay for forever (okay, a few seasons at least) and they had been wanting to get out of guns and the Irish proved to be terrible business partners. The solution was simple: kill them all. Nevermind the little loopholes Sutter put in there to keep them alive, the solution was SIMPLE: KILL THEM ALL. And that's what Sutter did. So why now? Because we didn't it expect it now. Well, I didn't. Even when Clay was putting it all together, I wondered how he would get out of it, because SOA has done this to us so many times before. So bravo, Sutter, I was not expecting that to happen now. If that was the goal, mission accomplished. But does it mean it was the right time? I don't know.
KAITLIN: I didn't necessarily expect it to happen now, because for all my talk, there was still a part of me that was worried Sons of Anarchy's final scene would be a close up of a pile of ashes with bones and broken bikes parts, and as the camera panned up we'd find a proud and bloody Clay Morrow sitting atop the ashes smoking a cigar. All of this with a sad song playing, of course. But I definitely let out a breath that I'd been holding for two seasons when Clay died tonight. I'll probably always wonder, though, if Sutter had this planned all along or if sometime during the middle of production he just walked in to the writers' room, kicked over the nearest easel holding a white board and was like, "You know what? F*ck this. This isn't working. Let's just start over in the middle of the season by finally killing Clay and making everyone happy so we can put an end to this bullshit." Because if he's had it planned all along, you have to ask yourself, what purpose did Clay serve this season? On the one hand, you have Ron Perlman, who's got a presence that you don't want to lose, but on the other, Clay did so little this season. He languished in prison. He provided Otto with a means to finally end his traumatic and depressing life. But mostly he was a footnote in the Irish story. I think Sutter wanted to redeem him a bit, and while I felt a bit bad when Jax finally took aim and shot him, I don't think he was actually redeemed in any way.
TIM: Nope, he was in a holding pattern all season long, only to be broken out when at the right time to put an exclamation point on the whole season that's been dragging. His death felt like it gave this season its memorable moment rather than served his character's life. Last season will be known as the season Opie died, this will be season Clay died. But man oh man Opie's death resonated a lot more with me emotionally than Clay's did, and felt way more important to the series. I'm sure there was back and forth about how and when to kill Clay in the writers' room, and at some point they came up with something else that they figured would anchor the final season, so it became "See ya, Clay, let's make fans happy." But Clay was a man who deserved more than just death, he deserved something more. In many ways, Clay the character died when he had his ink blacked out last season. And make no mistake, with Clay gone, Season 7 HAS to be the final season now.
While I'm happy Clay is dead, there are two other things that I have reservations about. Was this really the fan-friendly ending to the Jax and Clay saga? There wasn't much tension to Clay's death. There was zero build up. He was in prison for 10 episodes, he was out of prison for about 5 minutes, and he and Jax only had a few words before he took a bullet in the throat. It was a sad old unarmed man versus the new king with all the power. It wasn't the ending to the chapter that I think this tumultuous relationship deserved. And this after Clay even stuck up for the club. Again, I certainly don't feel bad that Clay is dead, in fact, I'm doing backflips over it, but it would have been nice to see this villain get a proper death. He was sort of swept under the rug. And the other thing: I'm really going to miss Ron Perlman. God damn he's been so great on this series for six seasons. I hate Clay, I love Ron.
KAITLIN: And as monumental as Clay's death was to the overall story of the series, it came midway through "Aon Rud Persanta." There are two ways to look at that. The first ties into what you're saying: The death was treated like it was so inconsequential that it was sort of swept under the rug and buried. Yes, it was treated with severity and stern faces galore, but didn't Clay at least deserve a cliffhanger death? The second way to look at it is: This story is so much bigger than Clay now. Jax has new battles to wage. He still had to meet with Connor and the Irish Kings after the fact in order to finalize the gun stuff. And he also had to transport an injured Bobby to the cabin so his wife, who wants to divorce him, could begrudgingly play mob doctor once more.
And speaking of Tara, she's the one who earned the episode cliffhanger, when after meeting up with D.A. Patterson—who wasn't too happy that Jax delivered Galen and the guns along with four dead bodies—had to figure out if ratting on the club and handing over the bullet she pulled from Bobby was the right thing to do.
TIM: And you know what? I love that cliffhanger. Narratively, I think that's the difference between Clay's death and Tara's decision, and why–and this is going to sound crazy–Tara's decision holds more weight than Clay's death did while we wait between episodes. We got to see Tara weigh this decision, we've seen everything that led up to it. Clay's death was SURPRISE! We're killing Clay now! And then it was over. All the decision process for that was done behind the scenes and out of our view. That doesn't mean it wasn't important, it's just a matter of the way the audience perceived it. God, I feel like we're going to be torn to pieces for diminishing Clay's death, and I don't want to give off that idea! It's as important as anything that has happened in the series. But we've been waiting for it for so long, that I wanted it to be more than just a way to wrap up a club inconvenience–the Irish and stupid Galen–in a tidy way. Clay's death felt more like a way to wrap up the Irish story than a way to kill Clay.
KAITLIN: Maybe we should just start over, because I don't want to give off the vibe that his death wasn't important or that I didn't like the episode, because I did. Maybe the fact that we've spent this entire time discussing Clay proves that, I don't know. But if his death wasn't monumental, then my reaction to it wouldn't have been so strong. I was actually shaking when it happened. I screamed when Jax pulled the trigger. It matters. It just doesn't affect much of the story going forward, because Clay was no longer a threat anyway. Tara's decision is what's going to affect the series going forward, and that's what matters. In fact, it's giving me anxiety just thinking about it. When Jax told her he understood why she did what she did and when he apologized to her, something in Tara changed. Jax was blaming himself for what she did, and at this point, I'm not sure what Tara's going to do. Once again, just like last week, I'm going to bed excited to find out what Tara's going to do next. Good work, SOA, good work.
– As much as I criticized the way Clay's death was dealt with, my heart was pounding from start to finish during this episode. I was filled with anxiety in a way that I haven't felt all season, even though it used to be a regular thing while watching this show. It reminded me of the good ol' days, of the bold series I used to love. (Kaitlin)
– Not me! I was giddy and clapping my hands and shouting, "PULL THE F-ING TRIGGER JAX!!!" (Tim)
– There were some nice references this week to Piney, Opie, Half-Sack, and Phil (who's death feels like it was ages ago now). And there was also something sweet about that last nod and hug between Juice and Clay.
– Clay: "Where the hell are the Irish?" / Jax: "In Ireland."
– Tig: "Why are we pink?"
– Tara: "Clay Morrow should have been dead a long time ago." Hey, there's the old Tara, the one who used to speak for the audience!
– Nero: "No offense, mama. I've seen what happens to your husbands."
– Jax: "After this it's all white hats and tight pussy." Amen, brother.
– The ride home in Nero's car after Clay died was brilliant! Gemma was crying, Nero was still a little unclear about what'd just happened, and Tara recapped everything terrible that Clay had done, without an ounce of sympathy. Just in case anyone was sad about Clay's death, Tara was there to remind us why we shouldn't be.