It’s possible no well written show since Ozark has depicted human destruction, both physical and spiritual, quite as well as The Sopranos. In fact, the malign instances of skullduggery were so many, like the body count in Scarface, they are difficult to fully enumerate.
What was the Sopranos based on? In a nutshell, Vincent “Vinny Ocean” Palermo (born June 4, 1944) was an Italian American former mobster. De facto boss of the New Jersey DeCavalcante crime family he became a government witness in 1999. Fictional mob boss Tony Soprano, the protagonist of the HBO series The Sopranos, is said to be based upon Palermo. In the series the DeCavalcante crime family is renamed the DiMeo crime family, but there are many similarities, specifically the North Jersey locale.
Let’s look at some treachery, in the name of Omertà or just plain cruelty, from this classic .
Christopher gassing up his hummer at a Garden State gas station imagines his future life with Adriana on the run. That’s if he betrays his oath and joins witness protection with her. Sound appealing? Lost in America wearing tattered clothes, with no money and two brats in tow they can’t get away from obviously would not be good.
A picture speaks a thousand words, but more often a hundreds fewer words can do the job just as well. And For Christopher ‘Many Saints’ Moltisanti, after seeing Sr. Mullet and Co. those words were probably ‘Better Call Sylvio’ to get rid of Ade. As painful as it was for him to face facts, Adriana was on the fast track to nowhere.
Sure, she was beautiful, sweet, and though slightly unfaithful, she doted on Chris. But a snitch is a snitch and this can not be emphasized enough.
Summarizing her deficient life choices she 1) had an ongoing relationship with the F.B.I. , 2) was mum about this until the most inopportune time, and 3) covered up a murder at the Crazy Horse. Things were not going to turn out well for this mob gal with ulcerative colitis and dwindling options. On the other hand, Chris was a made man and would definitely survive. His future just did not include her.
2. Tony and the gang kill Sal.
On the subject of people who talk to the F.B.I. that should not, some people just cannot absorb that it’s a bad idea to abandon your friends. If anybody manifested this misstep tue most in the DiMeo crew it was Salvatore ‘Big Pussy’ Bonpensiero. Initially unsuspected for his treachery, originally the wrong man Jimmy Altieri was killed as a consequence of Tony’s rash decision. Emotion colors judgment and Sal, a longtime friend of Tony, got through round one. However, under earning and busted selling heroin, he was apprehended by the F.B.I. so his mob life had an expiration date. Enter the Faustian bargain. As it was with doomed mol Adriana, Sal faced prison if he did not inform. Tony had it figured out so unsuspecting Sal was lured into the Stugots with his friends. It was on this excursion Tony, Paulie, and Sylvio planned to kill Sal.
What finally clued them in to Sal’s selfishness? At some point, suffering from Arti Bucco’s unintentional food poisoning, Tony had a semi humorous dream of a talking fish who spoke in Sal’s voice. Oh yes, there was also the microphone wire he found in Sal’s bedroom. How he ended up there is another topic, but with the crew anchored off the coast, they did the deed. In a not entirely unkind manner, Sal was informed the gig was up, and he only pleaded not to get plugged in the mug.
Murdered for his treachery, I still felt bad for the guy. Up against the wall, in chronic pain, and in a bad marriage, he was unlucky in life and thought that would change. Would informing have helped his sorry situation? Maybe in life, but if there is a great strip club in the sky the crew isn’t catching up with him for lap dances there.
Interestingly, the end of the episode features a clip of Atlantic Ocean waves breaking with some futility on the Jersey shore. Such were the intentions and culmination of the misguided Sal.
3. Ralphie murders his pregnant girlfriend.
To me this was the saddest, most heartbreaking things to watch on the show ever. Tracee (Ariel Kiley) was a sweet, drug addicted kid and down on her luck and working at the Bada-bing club. Watching the tragedy of her life unfold, I wondered whether David Chase made a connection between her and Kartoum the famous, but doomed horse in Godfather pt 1. After all Sylvio Dante had called her a thoroughbred.
In the episode ‘University’, the stories of two young women from very different backgrounds intertwine. There is Meadows’ depressed Columbia University roommate Caitlin (Ari Graynor) and the doomed stripper Tracee. Story lines are interspersed throughout the episode and in the finale, Tracee emasculates Ralphie in front of his friends. Not a wise choice for her as he explodes with lethal rage, and murders her and his unborn child in front of everybody. Naturally, it rubs everybody wrong, especially Tony, and in another episode Tony murders Ralphie. His anger seemingly motivated by Ralphies killing of his own thoroughbred, it was probably heavily motivated by Tracee’s murder. By the way, Caitlin only earned herself a restraining order by the shows end.
4. Tony tells Janice she’s a bad mother.
It started out such a nice family dinner. What happened? The Sopranos family happened, to borrow loosely from Hanibal Lecter. Tony, Janice and seldom seen Barbara are the offspring of Lydia and Giovanni ‘Johnny Boy’ Soprano, a match made in Hades. Johnny Boy, a professional criminal and Lydia a toxic manipulator, there was no safe haven for the abused children. So this was basically a doomed and terrible family; petty, violent, and dysfunctional. Where there should have been forgiveness, there was resentment. Where there should have been hugs, there were insults. David Chase created a darkly humorous moment in the episode when Tony rips on Janices’ ego trip, but a brother reminding a sister she abandoned her own child is just not nice.
5. Bobby Bacalao beats up Tony.
On a family vacation, over some drinks and a game of Monopoly, Tony begins singing a popular 50’s tune, but with some saucy substitutes lyrics about his sisters love life. Something like ‘Under the boardwalk, Janice sucking…’
How unfortunate was this brother sister bond of Tony and Janice? Not for the first time he picks on his big sister, fans are left to wonder if the rivalry was fueled by Johnny Boy taking her to a local amusement park, where he was arrested in front of her, or about something more toxic. Either way, the situation rages out of control quickly and the normally diminutive Bobby tunes Tony up.
This defeat by his brother in law would not go unnoticed as later in their vacation, when given the opportunity to contract murder for hire, Tony happily volunteers Bobby. The target, a new father like him embroiled in a child custody battle with his ex-wife, clearly weighs heavy on Bobby. The murder, cold and impersonal, is only in order to secure an illegal pharmaceutical trafficking of a truckload of expired medications, and at the cost of a father-daughter bond. Compliant, Bobby dutifully executes. The job takes an immediate toll, as is visible on actor Stephen Schirripas’ face as the episode fades out to This Magic Moment, Bobby holding his own daughter close. A poignant, brilliant, touch.
6. Junior and Livia nearly wack Tony.
On line for a movie, with fall gusts blowing, Lydia and Junior discuss removing Anthony Soprano from his position as mob boss. And by removing, it didn’t mean sending him to Florida. So later on, in a haze of depression and thirst for orange juice, Tony Soprano evades a slug humming his way which pulverizes his morning orange juice. Soon overcoming this amateurish attempt on his life, he dispatches the car jacking thug sent for him by his own family. Perhaps it was through help of a buxom Fortuna type Goddess of Luck he imagines high on Prozac, he survives. Survives only to discover it was his own mother, and his beloved uncle Junior who were behind it.
After months in the womb, birth, and all the affection necessary though but delivered, it’s nearly impossible not to imagine what could possess Lydia Soprano. In fact, plot of a mother against son may be one of the more heinous inventions of the creative imagination in the shows seven years. Yet that’s why we enjoyed watching it, and it went six more seasons; because no one normal could think this stuff up.
7. Father Intintola hits on Carmela.
Being a Catholic, and from a Catholic neighborhood and family, I have to give Fr. Intintola a thumbs down. Sure he was kind, social, and put money in the church coffers but his house calls are highly irregular. Even the issue of flirting with a married woman is not all bad – in the right context, as seen in the photo above.
Fr’ Intintola’s may be considered brave, given Carmela’s husband is Tony and he could have vanquished him from the face of the earth. Despite this nerve, it’s the matter of Carmela’s individual needs and personality being neglected that bugs me. This is where the venal sin lay, in my opinion. Carmela is a very imperfect person, and in a bad marriage with an arch criminal. That left her vulnerable, yet she still seemed to stifle her own tirades before anyone was harmed, children, or husband alike. Neither did she follow the murderous habits of the DiMeo family. In other words she committed no mortal sins and was a good, but not great, Catholic.
Now about the ‘house calls’ Intintola made. It seems a priest drinking and making house calls is a bit like drinking and driving or anything else mixed with alcohol- hazardous. A harbinger of bad consequences, a doctor drinking before a house call.
8. Christopher kills N.A. sponsor J.T.
What’s maybe the worst thing to tell a Mafioso in emotional distress? How about ‘You’re in the Mafia!’ J.T., ever hear of Omertà? Pow Ping! The rest is history.
Seriously, aspiring screenwriter Christopher met J.T. at at Twelve Steps and they formed a partnership. Their goal to create a moderate budget slasher film named Cleaver. The problem being, after production the villain in the movie played by Daniel Baldwin, resembled Tony Soprano a bit too much. In fact, the entire plot seemed loosely based on the notion Tony Soprano had slept with Christopher’s deceased ex fiancé Adriana
What could make this worse? How about J.T. waltzing into the Bada-Bing one day and without gifts or any ring-kissing, attempting to set the story straight- it was he who created this suspicious story so similar to mobster reality. Well this didn’t sit well with the powers that be, and J.T. into Chris for a shylock debt, he was suddenly not the most popular guy around anymore. In fact with his work on Cleaver ‘in the rear view mirror’ as Tony liked to put it, Chris had no use for J.T. now.
9. Junior Shoots Tony.
What adjective best describes Junior Soprano? Kooky? Eccentric but lovable? Try begrudging, murderous, and oblivious to the notion of family bonds. As we saw in The Many Saints of Newark, (spoiler alert) with a only a snub came the wacking of Chris Moltisanti’s, father Dickie. So Junior, who is easy to anger and ruthless. was not someone to be on the wrong side of. In my view, there was no cause but pure evil to shoot his nephew, maybe other than jealousy. Junior never successfully ran things in North Jersey as well as Tony. In all likelihood, he was also jealous his brother Johnny Boy had a son and he did not. In any case, Junior was determined and made two attempts at ending his nephews life, none successful. In the end, Junior got what he deserved, including a final visit from Tony at his hellish, final destination of a state run sanitarium.
10. Sylvio calls Adriana the ‘C’ word before he kills her.
I, for one, thought Springsteen’s guitarist was better than this. It appears he was not.
Which brings us to the saying ‘there are no small parts, only small actors.’ I’m not referring to Stevie Van Zandt, although he delivered. It was Drea De Mateo who blew my mind in ‘Long Term Parking’. Her great skin and beauty aside, fans should have been grateful De Mateo brought so much of herself to the episode.
Any newbie to The Sopranos should sit down and seriously watch this episode again. Given David Chase set the stage, This was a true to life portrait of a young human being who’s hopes for life are dashed ruthlessly, if not suddenly. An ignorant, gullible human being betrayed by her own bad choices and deficient judgement, she still seemed a sympathetic character.
11. Tony kills Christopher.
Love Tony Soprano or not, he was a mass murderer that could not stop killing. Maybe it was his mothers fault, maybe his own, or maybe he was the victim of circumstance he often claimed he was when he saw Dr. Melfie. Either way, bodies piled up around him after a while and it wasn’t pretty. Tony was a pragmatist, and Christopher’s murder shared elements of mercy and preservation of the family business. See, despite attempts at rehab Chris was an out of control murdering drug addict. Tony understood if fool enough to drive high, crash his car, and demolish a baby carrier in the back seat, how could he handle family secrets? Look at Cleaver, did that keep Omertà? By maybe a twisted logic of mine, killing Christopher was a multilayered tragedy. Besides being a father figure to him and a boss, it demonstrates that like any killer who says they are in control, Tony was not on the end whatever thought process he used to justify.
12. Everything goes black.
Probably the biggest shocker of all, there were clues this was coming in one of tue final episodes. Back in 2007 at my ‘End of the Sopranos’ bash there were a lot of ‘wtf’s?’ and ‘is there something wrong with your plasma TV?’ As we all watched the screen go black it was only the enlightened few who recalled a certain conversation between Bobby and Tony as they vacationed in The Catskills. Years David Chase revealed indeed Tony was murdered, but this fate was alluded to heavily. Musing about what the end is like, Bobby says ‘everything goes black.’ Our minds functioning normally who sensed that was an important detail?
It also makes you wonder, weren’t things pretty dark already? Had all this treachery not submerged their souls years ago?
The Editorial Staff at Mitten Maid