Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 4, 2007
POP CULTURE: Penultimate Sopranos

Now, now, we are really in the home stretch. SPOLIERS from last night's Sopranos included, so don't go below the fold if you are still waiting to watch it.

S
P
O
I
L
E
R

S
P
A
C
E

David Chase has done a lot to keep us guessing throughout the series, so in a sense it was a surprise when last night's episode followed the most conventional path from the plotlines laid out the past few weeks - Melfi dropping Tony over the study about sociopaths, Phil deciding to whack Tony and the rest of the remaining leadership of his crew, and the whackings proceeding apace. Thoughts:

*I assume this is it for Melfi, as a Tony on the run won't have time - nor does the show - to have a final encounter. My wife and I debated whether Melfi should have been less angry and more clear about having revisited the literature and decided that she couldn't do anything for him, but (1) Tony respects anger and needs confrontation, (2) there's no good way to say "you're a hopeless sociopath," and (3) she was obviously frustrtated at feeling she'd been used all those years. Will Tony nonetheless draw on his experiences in "terapy" to survive his looming encounter with Phil?

Melfi's shrink acted unethically in opening the issue of Tony at a dinner party, even if the others at the table are all psychiatrists (so much for patient confidentiality) but it did force Melfi, who we have seen as the moral counterweight (i.e, unlike Meadow with Coco she refused to tell Tony about the rape and trigger his vengeance, or Carmela who takes the money and looks the other way) to confront the fact that she has been taking Tony's money and the vicarious thrills he provides and enabling his behavior.

It was, of course, amusing to see Tony, who has gotten away with so much, get called on swiping a recipe from a magazine, and ironic to call her "immoral."

*Bobby's death was telegraphed clearly the second he walked away from the ringing phone - I had no doubt he would not make it, especially given the contrast between his gentle, wistful love of classic model trains and the brutality of mob life finally tracking him down. Of course, you have to feel for Bobby's kids, who lost both their parents and are stuck now with Janice.

As for Silvio, he almost made it out of the Bing parking lot - and might have, if he hadn't spent time unloading the cash from the safe and collecting receipts. In a way I was sadder about Silvio's death, since he's been with the show longer and it wasn't as obviously coming, but he is not a sympathetic character, as we've seen from his murder of Adrianna to the guy he garroted at the opening of the episode.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Silvio is the embodiment of the Soprano crime family as an organization (in addition to being Tony's most reliable and least self-interested counsellor). His death makes clear that whatever happens to Tony and Phil, Phil's side wins.

*What was the place Tony was hiding out? Junior's house? The porch reminded me of the Kevin Finnerty house and the upstate place where Tony B met his end. And was it just me or was there a big cardboard cutout of Silvio in the corner?

And I could not advise sleeping with that huge gun - right at hand, yes, but you don't want to startle out of bed and shoot your own guys. Note how that closing scene mirrors the season that ended with Tony waiting in his backyard for the bear.

*AJ is still a whiner to the end, and while I momentarily expected Tony to give him a gentle farewell, he really did need to be smacked out of his therapy-talk and made to understand the urgency of the situation. Note that the family had taken his belt and drained the pool - the pool that always meant so much to Tony - but of course there are still lethal weapons everywhere at hand.

*The final insult to Paulie - Phil doesn't think him worth killing. Silvio and Bobby were within their rights in letting Paulie know that he wasn't entitled to hear confirmation that the boss had ordered the hit on Phil (deniability vs Paulie's big mouth), whereas I have to assume that Al, the third guy at the table with Phil and Butchie, is Agent Harris' source. Unfortunately, Harris' uncertainty means they didn't have Al wearing a wire, or Phil would be in huge legal doo-doo for ordering multiple murders accross state lines. (For this reason, when I saw Al open a store, I was sure we'd see him get gunned down).

*We got one more Artie scene, plus a further offscreen humiliation for Junior. (Janice says they don't have the money to pay for Junior's care, but Bobby has $8 grand to blow on model trains).

*So where does this end, now? I guess it's possible Tony could turn in to the FBI, but right now everything is pointing to a continuation along this week's path, with Phil's crew hunting down Tony and Paulie and possibly Tony's family (recall that Phil doesn't respect limits - he tried to have an FBI agent raped - he's still bitter about his brother, and now they killed his girlfriend). Tony is cornered now like a king on a chessboard with one rook and some pawns facing an opponent with a full set - there's no way he can win this against Phil, even if he takes out Phil personally.

UPDATE: A couple of thoughts, keying among other things off the TWOP forums:

*Melfi's shrink, Elliott, mentioned in an earlier episode that his dad was an Untouchables fan - so we should conclude that he's named after Elliott Ness?

*It's not clear what house Tony is hiding in - some people seem to think Livia's house - but it does seem dumb that they are ordering out pizza from there.

*Yeah, Silvio should have had his gun a lot handier. A few people pointed out the parallel between Silvio crawling in the car for his gun and the way Adrianna was dragged from the car and crawled when he shot her.

*Anybody think Janice is going to kill Phil? (I didn't notice that Tony failed to warn Janice about the coming war with Phil).

*Tony still does, or at least had been doing, illegal business with Phil. Is it wise of Harris to tell Tony that Phil has a rat in his organization?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:22 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

The one thing I'm pretty curious about is whether Chase plans to bring this to a guns-blazing conclusion, or whether he will again zag when the audience expects him to zig, and spend the last hour on dream sequences or something, while leaving a lot of things unresolved.

Posted by: Jerry at June 4, 2007 9:42 AM

I love the word penultimate. it's an easy way to say, "second the last," which is too awkward.

Posted by: steve at June 4, 2007 9:51 AM

Jer, if I were a betting man, I'd bet on the latter. Chase has never been about conventional story-telling, which is part of both the brilliance and frustrating nature of the show.

On the other hand, he might pull the ultra-rare zig-zag-ZIG, and give us the conventional ending just for that reason... :)

Posted by: Thom at June 4, 2007 9:57 AM

They're keeping the spoilers on the last episode well under control, but the one sentence synopsis I've seen suggests that they're going to close the circle, take things back to something we saw in the very first epsiode.

The most obvious thing is the way Tony and the crew were upset at mobsters going into witness protection. Is that a hint about Tony's future or a red herring?

Of course, Little Carmine (now listed in the credits as the more serious sounding Carmine Lupertazzi) , might decide to take Phil out and leave Tony sitting at Satriale's counting money. Who knows.

What I wonder is, with all the intense speculation, will Chase really be able to both surprise his fans and make it a satisfying ending to the series. Tough job, that.

Posted by: Strick at June 4, 2007 10:15 AM

Wow. Just read a speculation that Tony goes into witness protection and literally becomes Kevin Finnerty of Kingman, Arizona, the person he became in the dream sequence after Junior shot him.

That would finally explain what that whole thing was all about. And there might be some justice in having him wind up in what for him would be a living hell. :D

Posted by: Strick at June 4, 2007 11:48 AM

Don't think that was really Phil's goomah that was killed. Synopsis on HBO's website indicates it was his housekeeper. Not that this matters much.

Also, don't think Silvio is dead yet, he's in the hospital. However, since he's clearly incapacitated, doesn't seem like he can figure in the future action much anyway.

Seemed like a tactical error to hit Bobby and Silvio first. The subordinates are not nearly as important as Tony since neither is really strong enough to rally much resistance.

Don't understand how Tony would be useful as a witness. He's at the top of the food chain for most crimes he could testify to. Besides, this would not be in his nature.

Most likely scenario is that someone in Tony's crew sees the writing on the wall and rats him out to New York. Paulie is certainly a candidate. The only other scenario I can see is that Phil makes a mistake, Tony gets him, Little Carmine finally steps up to take over New York and a reconciliation occurs. But, this seems unlikely since Little Carmine does not have the stomach for the business. In this scenario, just when Tony seems to be in the clear, he could still get it from Janice if she blames him for Bobby's death.

Posted by: Kirk H. at June 4, 2007 2:01 PM

the bright light in the distance in the episode where tony is klingman has never been explained...anyone have any thoughts?

Posted by: bob mcc at June 4, 2007 2:16 PM

I think Silvio is dust. And Tony will go down like Cagney (Jimmy Cagney, not Lacey's partner), yelling, "hey ma, I'm on top of the world!" amid a hail of bullets.

The war gives him purpose and focus like nothing else. He believes he is a soldier and this battle is a noble one. His character sees much around him as BS and has hated the concessions he has had to make. He will go completely overboard when given the opportunity to act out in the full rage that he has kept (mostly) bottled up.

Families and lives being destroyed does not matter to him. This war with Phil is what therapy could never be. His depression and anxiety will be cured.

Posted by: Zufall at June 4, 2007 3:29 PM

In the end, Tony wakes up and realizes the entire series was a dream. The reality is he is an oilman living in Texas...

Posted by: Mark at June 4, 2007 4:49 PM

"And was it just me or was there a big cardboard cutout of Silvio in the corner?"

I thought it was Christopher actually, although I'm not sure why any of them would have a cardboard cutout.

I'm personally hoping for the Godfather ending, regardless of what happens to Tony I'd like to see the remnants of his family take out Phil and several of his underlings. One last hurrah.

Posted by: andrew at June 4, 2007 6:53 PM

"And was it just me or was there a big cardboard cutout of Silvio in the corner?"

I thought it was Christopher actually, although I'm not sure why any of them would have a cardboard cutout.

I'm personally hoping for the Godfather ending, regardless of what happens to Tony I'd like to see the remnants of his family take out Phil and several of his underlings. One last hurrah.

Posted by: andrew at June 4, 2007 6:54 PM

I did wonder if that was Livia's house. It would, perhaps, be fitting if Tony wound up hiding in the place he spent his childhood.

Posted by: Jerry at June 4, 2007 10:48 PM

Just saw it last night. My thought was, "How did the 2 assassins from Italy end up in front of the wrong house and kill a guy who looked a lot like Phil?" Clearly these guys were told where to go (it is not like they knew where Phil lived). Who was in charge of that? I doubt that Phil lived right next door to that guy so it would seem that there was a willful intent to have the operation botched. Paulie Walnuts?

Posted by: jim at June 5, 2007 11:48 AM

It was the right house, that was Phil's "gumar" (sp?) they killed (she is also his maid). It's just that he wasn't there, and her father - who looks like Phil (creepy, I know) was.

These were the same guys from Italy who did a sloppy job killing Rusty. They aren't your prototypical superefficient TV hit men.

Posted by: The Crank at June 5, 2007 11:53 AM

That is really Phil's point I think. That Tony and company aren't competent. That they don't respect the NY families is one thing, but that they are also lousy hoodlums is more than he could take. Furio would not have missed.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at June 5, 2007 1:29 PM

Following up on my point from earlier...

AJ embraces all that therapy offers and poo-poos the violence and action that Tony wants. Therapy can't help Tony, but it is just a crutch for AJ to use to avoid any action.


If Chase always knew how it would end, then the end must have something to do with the beginning. His view of therapy has existed from the get-go.

Posted by: Zufall at June 6, 2007 7:02 AM

I don't think that was Phil's house. Sure did not look like the house he was in in the previous episode when he was yelling down at Tony through the window. My impression was that they thought it was his "gumar" but it was just the wrong guy totally.

Posted by: jim at June 6, 2007 11:42 AM

Jim, it wasn't Phil's house, it was her house.

Posted by: The Crank at June 6, 2007 2:35 PM

"I thought it was Christopher actually, although I'm not sure why any of them would have a cardboard cutout."

I've seen it a couple of times now. It was a cutout of Silvio. Didn't it play in an early episode? I have vague memories of something like it.

Posted by: Strick at June 7, 2007 7:54 PM

Phil should have the Feds so far up his ass he can taste the Brylcreem. If someone had a wire on, the Feds would be bound to tell Tony of the hit on him and his crew. Agent Harris said that there was nothing definitive or the head office would have told Tony about it. So I don't think that the informant is anyone close to Phil like Butch or Albie so it is most likely one of the Lupertazzi/Leotardo soldiers.

Is Silvio visiting his own personal Hell while in his coma? And who is the doorman? Speaking of Hell I wonder if Christahfah ever made it to that Irish bar? You know the one, the Emerald Piper, where it's St. Patrick's Day every day forever and the Irish, they win every roll of the dice. What will happen at 3:00 o'clock? (From Where to Eternity - EP 22)

I don't think that Tony was manipulating Melfi at all. Melfi's comment on bigotry was just her paranoia. Jennifer was already in defense mode and feeling humiliated because of the comments made by her elitist, snobbish, colleagues about treating sociopaths. Italians are not known for big noses, the man that said that was referring to the "nose" or bouquet of Italian red wine. Melfi completely misunderstood the comment because she saw it as an attack on her ethnicity. Kupferberg set her up for an ambush at that dinner. He just sat their nibbling his food and slyly watched the trap that he set up spring on the unsuspecting Doctor Melfi.

That scene with Janice and the kids sitting in that big empty house reminded me of the Biblical passage about the sins of the father afflicted unto several generations. Those kids are at the tender mercy of Livia's daughter. She is most likely looking for a way out, a way to become the "Exile on Main Street".

On my Creep-o-meter Richie Aprile is far and away number one. Janice and Walnuts are tied for second. Ralph Cifaretto is in third place. Butch is a very close fourth and Kupferberg comes in fifth.

About The Safe House:
Soprano Sue Sopranos filming locations
http://www.sopranosuessightings.com/sighting2-9-2007.html

Posted by: Angel Elf at June 8, 2007 9:14 AM

Phil should have the Feds so far up his ass he can taste the Brylcreem. If someone had a wire on, the Feds would be bound to tell Tony of the hit on him and his crew. Agent Harris said that there was nothing definitive or the head office would have told Tony about it. So I don't think that the informant is anyone close to Phil like Butch or Albie so it is most likely one of the Lupertazzi/Leotardo soldiers.

Is Silvio visiting his own personal Hell while in his coma? And who is the doorman? Speaking of Hell I wonder if Christahfah ever made it to that Irish bar? You know the one, the Emerald Piper, where it's St. Patrick's Day every day forever and the Irish, they win every roll of the dice. What will happen at 3:00 o'clock? (From Where to Eternity - EP 22)

I don't think that Tony was manipulating Melfi at all. Melfi's comment on bigotry was just her paranoia. Jennifer was already in defense mode and feeling humiliated because of the comments made by her elitist, snobbish, colleagues about treating sociopaths. Italians are not known for big noses, the man that said that was referring to the "nose" or bouquet of Italian red wine. Melfi completely misunderstood the comment because she saw it as an attack on her ethnicity. Kupferberg set her up for an ambush at that dinner. He just sat their nibbling his food and slyly watched the trap that he set up spring on the unsuspecting Doctor Melfi.

That scene with Janice and the kids sitting in that big empty house reminded me of the Biblical passage about the sins of the father afflicted unto several generations. Those kids are at the tender mercy of Livia's daughter. She is most likely looking for a way out, a way to become the "Exile on Main Street".

On my Creep-o-meter Richie Aprile is far and away number one. Janice and Walnuts are tied for second. Ralph Cifaretto is in third place. Butch is a very close fourth and Kupferberg comes in fifth.

About The Safe House:
Soprano Sue Sopranos filming locations
http://www.sopranosuessightings.com/sighting2-9-2007.html

Posted by: Angel Elf at June 8, 2007 9:15 AM

Phil should have the Feds so far up his ass he can taste the Brylcreem. If someone had a wire on, the Feds would be bound to tell Tony of the hit on him and his crew. Agent Harris said that there was nothing definitive or the head office would have told Tony about it. So I don't think that the informant is anyone close to Phil like Butch or Albie so it is most likely one of the Lupertazzi/Leotardo soldiers.

Is Silvio visiting his own personal Hell while in his coma? And who is the doorman? Speaking of Hell I wonder if Christahfah ever made it to that Irish bar? You know the one, the Emerald Piper, where it's St. Patrick's Day every day forever and the Irish, they win every roll of the dice. What will happen at 3:00 o'clock? (From Where to Eternity - EP 22)

I don't think that Tony was manipulating Melfi at all. Melfi's comment on bigotry was just her paranoia. Jennifer was already in defense mode and feeling humiliated because of the comments made by her elitist, snobbish, colleagues about treating sociopaths. Italians are not known for big noses, the man that said that was referring to the "nose" or bouquet of Italian red wine. Melfi completely misunderstood the comment because she saw it as an attack on her ethnicity. Kupferberg set her up for an ambush at that dinner. He just sat their nibbling his food and slyly watched the trap that he set up spring on the unsuspecting Doctor Melfi.

That scene with Janice and the kids sitting in that big empty house reminded me of the Biblical passage about the sins (iniquities) of the father afflicted unto several generations. Those kids are at the tender mercy of Livia's daughter. She is most likely looking for a way out, a way to become the "Exile on Main Street".

On my Creep-o-meter Richie Aprile is far and away number one. Janice and Walnuts are tied for second. Ralph Cifaretto is in third place. Butch is a very close fourth and Kupferberg comes in fifth.

About The Safe House:
Soprano Sue Sopranos filming locations
http://www.sopranosuessightings.com/sighting2-9-2007.html

Posted by: Angel Elf at June 8, 2007 9:20 AM

Don't know about the rest of you, but I liked the ending.

Posted by: abe at June 10, 2007 10:38 PM
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg