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'Sons of Anarchy:' The end of Clay Morrow/Ron Perlman?

Charlie Hunnam, left, and Ron Perlman in

Charlie Hunnam, left, and Ron Perlman in "Sons of Anarchy," airing Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010 at 10 p.m. on FX. Credit: FX

"Sons of Anarchy" without Ron Perlman is like "The Sopranos" without Tony, or "Hellboy" without Hellboy. It doesn't add up in some fundamental and obvious way  -- or maybe not so obvious with "SOA" which is already brimming with stellar leads or quasi-leads.

But there he lies tonight on his death bed as the fourth season ends. His fate appears foretold: Clarence "Clay" Morrow must pay for crimes against SAMCRO, and more specifically against Piney and John Teller.

It's all wound down to this final scene in a biker "Hamlet" -- Claudius about to die for crimes against the rightful king while Gertrude plots her own escape. Kurt Sutter, "SOA's" (umm) colorful creator and of course Otto Delaney -- also about to die -- has scheduled an unusual conference call to talk about something tomorrow.

Could it be the death of Clay? I haven't yet seen tonight's final episode for a few reasons -- primarily to preserve the suspense that all "SOA" fans are feeling right about now. But in my years of watching television and likely yours, too, I've never seen a finale set up so front-loaded with a grim sense of the inevitable -- as if this were a series finale as opposed to a mere season one.

Bobby and Juice are in jail; Juice has turned; Gemma has plotted the death of Clay; Tara has provided her the means; Jax is getting ready to do the deed; Tig is marked for death by LaRoy; Opie tried to kill Clay, and wait until Tig finds out about that; and Ray McKinnon's quirk-writ-large assistant DA Linc Potter now appears to have every tiny last piece of information he'll need to put away SAMCRO and the real IRA for ever and ever.

How on earth is Sutter going to pull this one off and still have something left for a fifth -- when it's apparent that SAMCRO is broken forever, and that faithless, malicious, malevolent, and the murderous Clay Murrow is to blame?

Could all this then, be his end foretold? Almost certainly not. But still . . .

Finally, here's the point of this blog post, aside from hyperventilating about an extraordinary end tonight: Perlman needs to get nominated for a best actor Emmy this year, and once that is secure, he needs to win. This is vital, essentially to preserve the integrity of the TV Academy, more than to simply bestow another award on this celebrated actor.

To ignore "SOA" -- as ATAS has done over these years -- is bad enough, but to ignore Perlman is much worse. This reflects willful ignorance or a certain inscrutable sort of senescence -- as if an entire voting body were so sclerotic that they wouldn't or couldn't recognize one of the standout performances on TV this season. Perlman has occupied this character so fully and completely that I'd argue he's the most completely alive character on TV -- as pure an incarnate of evil, in every breath and every step, as there is to be seen. Evil is hard, good much easier, if the goal is to make a viewer care about the core of a character vital to the core of a show, and Perlman has done exactly that. We,  or at least I, care about him despite ourselves; he makes this show what it is -- a Peckinpah western where good has been trampled into the dust, and the anti-hero is he who has done the trampling. Perlman's that guy; his Emmy awaits him just as Clay's fate awaits him.

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