Fathers and sons have been the subject of some of the most complex relationships in all of fiction. In Sons of Anarchy, the filial interactions between Clay Morrow and his legally-adopted stepson Jax Teller leads to a tangled web indeed.
They are hardly alone in such family strife when it comes to genre storytelling. Consider, for example, the crazy drama between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy— not to mention how Kylo Ren deals with Han Solo in The Force Awakens. Slipping into a slightly less fantastical sphere, a father’s absence in Batman changes Bruce Wayne forever. Delving more closely into what crime families look like, The Sopranos often found Tony at odds with his wayward offspring A.J. It then comes as little surprise that similar tropes dog both Clay and Jax as they free ride through the winding paths of their respective outlaw biker lives.
Contradictions seem to sprout like desert flowers on the side of the road, blooming into anything from incredibly close bonds of love, to the worst kind of violence imaginable between them. This dramatic pendulum swings back and forth throughout the series. As they struggle both together and against each other, audiences can grow confused. Do these guys really care about each other? Or are they the worst of enemies? Improbably, both turn out to be true. Sometimes, the facts are tough to add up. These are complicated characters, but we are going to do our best to sort them out.
20 Clay’s Complete Trust Of Jax
Watching Sons of Anarchy through its volatile story arcs, even a casual glance at Clay Morrow reveals a cold-hearted master tactician. His main interest is in maintaining power. Inside, he is a truly scared man who can never allow a loosening of his grip. To those ends, he has found anyone and everyone to be expendable. This was proven time and again as he engineered the end of many of his club brothers’ untimely demises.
How is it, then, that the son of the man he himself had dispatched lives under his roof? Surely, he must suspect that Jax will one day find out the truth of Clay’s betrayals and seek revenge. Still, Clay keeps him as close as possible, treating him as his most trusted right-hand man. Ultimately, this mistake costs Clay his life.
19 Jax’s Complete Trust Of Clay
Jax Teller may be a young man, but he is no fool. Over and over, we witness his impressive wiles and his undaunted determination. He will walk into danger and can anticipate people and their motivations. How in the world did he trust Clay Morrow for as long as he did?
Jax had many reasons to suspect Clay’s hand in the offing of his friends and even his father. Could love have created a blind spot– until we are reminded of how Jax coldly deals with anyone who betrays him. It’s hard to understand how Jax offered Morrow the benefit of the doubt for so many years
18 Clay Let Jax Investigate John Teller
Early on in the series, Jax is seen actively exploring this hidden past – including reading his dad’s secret journals – and Clay has more than a few indications that the process is in motion. Why would this brilliant strategist miss his many opportunities to end Jax’s personal investigation – or even end Jax? Clay has often been much sharper than that, and indeed, cold enough in his heart to do whatever deed needed to be done. That he did not act in this instance is a mystery.
17 Their Competition Over Gemma
The glue between Jax and Clay – and arguably, the glue for the entire Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals (aka SAMCRO) is Gemma Teller-Morrow. As both the wife of first John Teller, a co-founder, and and then Clay Morrow, the current president, her word carries a lot of weight. This is even more the case when it comes to her husband Morrow, with whom she conspired to get rid of John, and her beloved son Jax.
The two men are often found competing for Gemma’s blessing when were at odds in matters both large and small. Both men were hard-headed enough to seek their own counsel and sidestep the unofficial queen of the club. It didn’t always make sense that this competition for Gemma’s approval was no prominent.
16 Clay Thought He Could Manipulate Jax Forever
Clay Morrow knows Jax Teller as well as anyone, perhaps as well as Jax knows himself. After all, he helped raise Jax since he was a 15-year-old boy. Morrow knows full well the extent of Jax’s talents and capabilities. Even still, he miscalculates just how much he can string this headstrong tough guy along.
Clay should have known he couldn’t pull the wool over Jax’s eyes forever. Was it pure hubris that made him think otherwise? Maybe, but since he was pretty consistent in sizing up every other opponent he faced, this seems unlikely. Maybe it was, once again, a blind spot created by love.
15 Jax Believed So Many Of Clay’s Obvious Lies
On the other hand, Jax actually did quite a few of Clay’s lies for a long stretch of the series. Whether it was about the obvious secret deals he was making with rival gangs and gun runners, or probable implications in the offing of everybody from Opie’s wife to Piney Winston, it’s really hard to see how Jax could be so blind for so long.
It’s only when these misdeeds start getting too close to his immediate family that Jax starts to wise up. By then, his own partner, Tara Knowles, ends up paying a painful price that ends her career as a surgeon. For a guy who often is one step ahead of everybody else, Jax often seems to be one step behind Clay.
14 Clay Using Gemma To Control Jax
Is anything stronger than a mother’s love? Yes, Gemma Teller-Morrow is almost entirely committed to keeping her husband Clay as top dog of SAMCRO. This ensures her personal security and access to the power she holds over the club and even much of the town of Charming, CA.
However, it was much to audacious of Clay to assume that he can talk Gemma into putting Jax at a disadvantage or even into harm’s way. Over and over, this leads the woman to question who she is first: mother or wife? This is not to say that Gemma always makes the right choices, but Clay playing with that sort of uncertainty reeks of a desperation he should know better than to engage in.
13 Jax Went Along With Clay’s Criminality For So Long
John Teller never really wanted SAMCRO to become an outlaw motorcycle gang. He wasn’t about the gun-running and substance-dealing. He was more interested in creating a code of conduct which would allow his extended family of biker brothers to live with dignity and freedom. Jax shares these ideals, especially after discovering his father’s secret writings.
And yet, Jax spends a lot of time supporting all of the cruel and violent “mayhem” which Clay leads the club into. Yes, eventually Jax changes his way, but he went along with it for far too long, considering what his own character is really all about.
12 Clay Let Jax To Take Over As Leader
Once the conflict between Jax and Clay kicks into high gear, the stakes raise exponentially. An external factor hindering Morrow is the fact that his own health is deteriorating, and he suspects he will soon not be strong enough to maintain his grip on power. Trying to manage this process, he works to drive his own chosen candidate into his his place so he can maintain control by proxy. Jax one-ups him, making a play for club prez on his own terms.
From what we know about Clay, he was clever and uncompromisings enough to sidestep this effort – even if it meant taking Jax out the hard way. Clay’s efforts were weak, at best, which didn’t really make sense considering his resources and cunning.
11 Their Uneasy Alliance
Even once all the cards are laid out on the table for all to see – Jax and Clay are in open warfare that could likely end up ending either of their lives – there are still certain areas in which they need each other. Certain aspects of the gun-running business require both men to play a role.
Their conflict of interest gave way to common cause, and yet their ability to continue working so closely together and even trust each other’s word is hard to accept and, especially for Clay, rather foolhardy. There was always another play to try, and this “uneasy alliance” felt like a convenient plot point which was inconsistent with both men’s characters.
10 Jax Doesn’t Eliminate Clay After He Beats Gemma
For most of Jax Teller’s time on Sons of Anarchy, he is 100% committed to being at his mother Gemma’s side– until she finally goes to far. We also know that Jax is prone to extremely violent reactions when it comes to any threat to his family. So when Clay ends up beating Gemma up one day, it’s just downright hard to believe that Jax would not kick his butt from Charming all the way to Stockton!
Jax doesn’t, partially because Clay claims that what happens between he and his “old lady” is nobody’s business. While this does contribute to the deterioration of Clay and Jax’s relationship, it should have led to a severe pummeling.
9 Clay’s Feelings For Jax
Clay Morrow is an extremely complex character who makes choices based on everything from calculated self-preservation to what can seem like a series of whims. When the show first begins to explore his relationship with Jax, it truly feels like the most loving of father-son relationships. You can hear the pride in his voice when he refers to Jax as “son” – even though he’s not the biological father and hides the fact he had John Teller dispatched.
Some of his early choices seem to be made in the interest of helping Jax, with some sacrifice on Clay’s part. How does this cold-blooded creature also seem to have a warm place in his heart for the man who is almost destined to be his most hated rival?
8 Jax Took Bad Advice From Clay
Clay Morrow spins such a tangled web of deceit around just about everybody – friends, enemies, families – that his ability to keep all those lies straight is amazing. In many instances, Jax seeks Clay’s counsel, even after he begins to see the destructive misdirection his stepfather is capable of. Why does he keep going to him for advice? He must know there’s at least a 50-50 chance that Clay is leading him in the wrong direction.
This is especially the case after Jax learns C lay had Opie’s wife taken out, based on a hugely mistaken assumption Clay made that she was a snitch.
7 Jax Assisted Clay’s Dealing
One of the illegal activities that was always more controversial to the members of SAMCRO than running guns was dealing illegal substances. The members saw the destruction of lives in their own community from substances far more directly, while firearms were more likely to affect faraway urban areas than Charming.
It was Clay who made a decision to get into this dark business. Jax objected at first, but Clay made his arguments and convinced him. At this point in the series, Jax had little motivation to trust Morrow with anything. It just seems like something Jax would have found a way to avoid at all costs.
6 Clay Stuck Around After He Lost His Patch
Once Clay is revealed as the deceitful and treacherous monster he has always been, he is finally excommunicated from the club. That meant losing his patch, which signified his status, losing his “cut” which expressed his membership, and most unpleasantly, having his tattoos blacked out under the needle in thick ink. This included a back piece, so you can imagine the pain involved.
After all this, Clay had to know it was over for him. He must have known Jax would be coming for his very life soon. While his options were slim, he had to know that getting as far from Jax Teller as possible was imperative. Surely, he had other allies. He could even have tried to go snitch and get witness protection. Not getting clear of Jax was totally out of character for Clay.
5 Jax Didn’t Predict The Hit On Tara
There was no going back once Clay put a price on Tara’s head. He was convinced Tara was going to expose his crimes to the law in order to protect herself. There were many clues abound that this attempt to take Tara out was coming. Jax knew not to trust Clay at that point, and Clay dropped hints about his concerns. Jax surely knew by then what his stepfather was capable of.
Somehow, he didn’t see this move coming. While Tara survived the attempt, she was hurt in the process, and her ability to continue as a surgeon was taken away from her as a consequence of the injuries she suffered.
4 Jax Didn’t Know Clay Was Behind The Nomad Attacks
In an effort to make SAMCRO look bad in Charming – and by association, make Jax look bad – Clay got a bunch of Sons of Anarchy charter members– aka Nomads– to commit break-ins all over town. Eventually, those Nomads’ luck runs out as a confrontation with Unser ends their lives.
By this point, it’s pretty obvious that Clay was behind the whole scheme. Jax somehow keeps giving the benefit of the doubt to his estranged stepfather. Sure – he’s usurped his throne at the club, and he’s successfully ostracized the old man, but he still doesn’t find Clay dangerous enough to deal with immediately.
3 Clay Didn’t Escape When Jax Sprung Him From Prison
Clay Morrow eventually had to face the music. Once he was forced into a corner, he finally ended up back in custody. Survival in jail became harder and harder as enemies closed in around him. Finally, when Jax Teller had one more use for him, a plan was sprung to liberate Morrow from the law, in a brazen ambush on the armored truck transporting him to a court. The plan worked, and Clay served his purpose before Jax played his final hand and forced his stepfather into the end of his days.
Surely, Morrow should have seen it coming. He should have known that allowing himself to stay in Teller’s hands would be something he couldn’t survive. Nonetheless, he played along. The shrewd strategist missed the most obvious danger of all – and it cost him everything.
2 Clay Waited Too Long To Take Out Jax
For a man like Clay Morrow – a man who has no qualms about eliminating his enemies and burying his sins deeply – it should have been a no-brainer very early on that Jax Teller was the single biggest existential threat he faced. With the contacts he kept, Clay could have turned to many allies from Mexico to Northern Ireland for a “solution” to the “problem” of Jax.
Since offing “loved ones” has never been much of a problem to him, it’s just plain odd that he didn’t make a final move against his adopted son before it was too late for him.
1 Jax Waited Too Long To Take Clay Out
Jax was a natural leader. He had the genes for it, handed down by his biological father, John Teller. He was groomed further for the role through being surrounded his whole life by an extended “family” of SAMCRO members.
Jax saw what Clay Morrow was doing. He knew it was costing the lives of his friends and threatened the lives of his family. He realized that Morrow was capable of causing too much destruction to ever repair. Nonetheless, Jax waited for his final days to end the reign of Clay in a way he could never return from. Had Jax acted sooner, perhaps he himself could also have found an ending better for himself.