It's been eight months since the smash hit Sons of Anarchy ended it's seven season run, and there's been chatter aplenty about the possibility of a spin-off and/or prequel series emerging in it's significant wake. With the spin-off now reportedly in pre-production and creator Kurt Sutter still interested in doing a prequel later down the line, it's looking good for Sons of Anarchy fans at the moment.
One of the things that will be missing from these follow-ups though will be the man everyone loved to hate, SAMCRO President and anti-hero Clay Morrow, portrayed by the indomitable Ron Perlman.
Clay was a controversial character; starting off as the patriarch and president of SAMCRO his character rose and fell season by season, eventually becoming one of the most violent and terrifying characters on the show.
Clay as Anti-Hero
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone Perlman spoke about his time playing Clay on the popular show, discussing his anti-hero status.
"[Antiheroes] are flawed. An antihero is a hero who is fighting against his own demons in order to do things that are ultimately altruistic; that's an interesting thing to watch. The struggle to overcome the darker sides of yourself and then ultimately doing something that leads to self-sacrifice is basically the definition of heroism." - Ron Perlman on Clay
The anti-hero archetype has been gaining a lot of momentum in modern television, Breaking Bad's Walter White perhaps being the best example of such. It refers to a central or primary character in a narrative who has generally moral motivations, but goes about them in an immoral way, or otherwise lacks typical heroic qualities like bravery, kindness or morality.
For the first couple seasons of Sons of Anarchy Clay is, for better or worse, one of the protagonists. Initially he's a bit of a vigilante as well as SAMCRO president: most of his actions are done to benefit the town. He's adamant about keeping Charming drug free, which is why it's a shock when he gets the club into running heroin in Season 4. He helps Elliot Oswald (Patrick St. Esprit) take revenge on the man who raped his 13-year-old daughter (though not without his own plan to exact leverage on Oswald), tries to keep the white supremacists out of town and struggles with remorse over his part in Donna's death. During Season 1 we already know that he's not a good person by his actions, but his motives do tend to err on the side of the greater good.
The Downfall of Clay Morrow
This all changes as the seasons progress, and he starts losing his grip on the club. His relationship with Gemma has always been one of the saving graces of the character; the two as fierce and as strong as lions at the head of their pride. That all breaks down when Gemma discovers that he tried to have Tara killed, and they have their violent altercation at the end of Season 4.
This was one of the more shocking events in what was consistently a pretty shocking series, as Clay beats Gemma very badly. With this, and Opie discovering that he was the one who killed Piney, he loses his place as president, the respect of his crew and almost his life.
His worsening arthritis provides an insight into his mind as it progresses to the point where he can't grip the handles of his bike and Jax has to tie his hands on for him. If he can't ride he can't lead SAMCRO and losing that, losing face, would be akin to losing his life for Clay. As his arthritis gets worse so does his state of mind, he loses sight of what he's been fighting for up until then and loses his wife, his club and eventually his life.
Perlman Still Believes He's Good At Heart
Perlman himself reportedly wasn't too pleased with Clay's character arc in the latter seasons of the show, believing that his actions took him further away from what he believed was his inwardly noble cause. But then again, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Perlman's next anti-hero role is as Judge Pernell Harris in Hand of God, which releases on Amazon Video today, so if you liked him as Clay Morrow in Sons of Anarchy, there's worse things you could do with your evening than check that out.