Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller-Morrow, left, and Ron Perlman as...

Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller-Morrow, left, and Ron Perlman as Clay Morrow in a scene from "Sons of Anarchy." The series airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on FX. Credit: FX

THE SHOW "Sons of Anarchy"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night at 10 on FX

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The fifth-season finale -- "J'ai Obtenu Cette" (I Got This)" -- was not available for preview, but here's the story until now: Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) has been permanently banished from the club for many crimes, notably the devious plot that enlisted a rival gang to perform home invasions -- which would force the SAMCRO board to oust Jax (Charlie Hunnam) as president and reinstall him.

MY SAY Last week's episode closed with a shot of Charming's newest avenging angel, Lee Toric (Donal Logue) -- brother of the nurse whom Otto (series creator Kurt Sutter) brutally murdered with a crucifix -- with his nose deep into a book called "Watchfiends & Rack Screams." It's by French playwright and Theater of the Cruel proponent Antonin Artaud, and from the name alone one can infer this is not bedtime reading.

But it may be a clue to the dark soul of "SOA," a vicious series where vicious people do terrible things to one another. Over five seasons, "Sons" has consistently featured some of TV's finest performances -- Perlman's in particular -- and quite often TV's sharpest writing. But endless (and escalating) cycles of violence would threaten to blow any show apart, and that's what almost happened to "SOA" this season.

As a condition of keeping this increasingly insane world afloat, it sometimes fell back on the oldest convention of them all -- the soap opera -- which occasionally pulled the show into places that were crazy even by "SOA" standards. In the early days, "SOA" almost demanded that you recall every twist of the plot, every bit of a character's history. Now, it's probably a good idea just to forget everything and live in the moment.

That moment, by the way, is scary enough, while "SOA" -- as usual -- got great performances out of newcomers, like Harold Perrineau, Jimmy Smits and Logue. But there really is no one left here to root for or care about -- Jax, in particular, has become just another version of Otto, with a better haircut.

BOTTOM LINE Great acting, as always, but those soap bubbles . . .


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