There are cases when someone on a show is just bad since their character arc is insanely boring and doesn’t do much for anyone, and then those times when they’re the worst character since their character is well-played, but they’re still the type of individual you can’t wait to see get their comeuppance. Ron Perlman was a great addition to Sons of Anarchy since he played the perfect part as the president of SAMCRO and the surrogate father figure to Jax Teller, at least for a while. He was a tough and very stern individual, but he was also a liar and conniving force that threatened to tear the club apart at one point along with his wife Gemma, Jax’s mother. The biggest secret that they shared, or that was implied at least, had to do with the death of Gemma’s husband, Jax’s father John Teller, or JT as he was known. Despite being good friends with JT, who founded SAMCRO, Clay had no intention of going completely legit as JT wanted, which meant that he would have to get rid of his friend and club president.
Worse than that though, Clay was in love with Gemma, and he convinced Unser and the only mechanic that JT trusted to work on his bike to help with the conspiracy that would not only get JT killed but would make it all look like some tragic accident. The facts of JT’s death were spread across the several seasons of the show in a manner that had a lot of people guessing and a lot of others convinced that Clay and Gemma were both insanely scandalous no matter that they were integral to the club. That’s one of the biggest problems with Clay really is that he was needed in the club, or at least he made it known that he was needed and then made that a reality since he made the club dependent on the deals he made with the Irish, the same deals that JT wanted to steer the club away from.
One has to think that a person who would betray their best friend over the woman they covet and the ideas that their friend opposes isn’t much of a buddy at all, but a snake just waiting for the right time to strike. And Clay picked his spots quite often since on the outside he appeared to be as dedicated to the club as anyone, but when it came down to business he was ready to do pretty much anything to anyone in order to keep things running the way he needed them to. The fact that he killed Piney during the course of the show, was ready to kill Opie and was even ready to eliminate Tara made it clear that Clay was all about tying off loose ends and protecting what he believed was the sanctity of the club. When Jax found out what had happened he came close to killing Clay, but relented, figuring it was better to keep him around to deal with the Irish. Even then Clay couldn’t stop himself from looking out for his own personal interests, but eventually, this would get him killed finally by Jax, as the club voted to finally get rid of him.
Some might think that Gemma is the worst character on the show since she caused so much damage that by the end she had to be taken out as well and the damage was more or less irreversible, but the fact is that Gemma, despite being a manipulator, was a loose cannon that reacted to the world around her and was far more of a follower than Clay ever was. Clay was a schemer, a person pulling strings because he knew how and knew he could. Every underhanded thing he ever did was done with a purpose and it was usually done to make sure that his interests and involvements were kept tucked neatly away where no one else could notice them. The fact that he conspired to kill his friend is bad enough, but to think that he was openly deceiving his own club for years was even worse since it meant that he knew he was doing wrong and didn’t care.
In terms of playing the character, Ron Perlman was great, and in fact, was irreplaceable. Some would openly state that once Clay was dead that the show lost something that it couldn’t get back, but if anything it feels as though it was an intentional spiral leading to the end. Once Clay was gone there was still a great deal of uncertainty in how things would proceed, but while he was there his presence slowly but surely became a constant danger to the club after he was outed as president. Once his real nature was revealed, it became a matter of time before he was finally taken out.