Week 3: Tomatoes, Oranges, and Other Bad Omens

Sopranos Final Season

Week 3: Tomatoes, Oranges, and Other Bad Omens

Sopranos Final Season

Week 3: Tomatoes, Oranges, and Other Bad Omens
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Talking television.
April 24 2007 12:16 PM

Sopranos Final Season


The Sopranos. Click image to expand.
Edie Falco and James Gandolfini in The Sopranos

Dear Tim,

Do I know that there are at least nine slang terms for pussy in Italian? Of course I know. What do you think I am, anyway? Jewish?


I had the great advantage of growing up among Italians—some real cugenes, as well as the sort of Italian who could pass for Jewish (we also had a few Jews who could pass for Italian). By advantage, I mean culinary advantage, cultural advantage, and linguistic advantage. My classmates enriched my vocabulary, sometimes in unfortunate ways. Once, in shop class, a friend of mine asked me for a particular tool, the name of which I didn't recognize. But he knew all the tools, and I didn't. Since he was busy building whatever it was we built in shop class, he asked me to ask our teacher, who was a young Italian-American woman named either Pizzuto or Rizzuto (well, it wasn't Rizzuto—I would have remembered that). And by the way, how hot is it in 1980 to have a female shop teacher, right? So I ask her for this tool: "Miss Puzzulo, could you give me the fangul?"

She gave me the fangul alright.

Before we go any further, a quick visit to the Department of Corrections: An acute reader, one with immense knowledge of Long Island's complex highway system, wrote in to note that Sonny wasn't gunned down off the L.I.E. but at the toll plaza on the Meadowbrook Parkway near Jones Beach. I know to a Californian such as yourself this doesn't much matter, but believe me, it matters to us Long Islanders. So watch it, buddy boy, or no $2,000 espresso machine for you come Christmas.

Another reader, named Jack Jeziorski, a person who apparently knows more about the role of citrus fruit in Mafia movies than anyone else alive, wrote in to say that my understanding of tomato-based foreshadowing was incorrect. It is oranges, not tomatoes, that stand for death in both the Godfather trilogy and on The Sopranos. He pointed out, correctly, that Vito Corleone stuffed an orange rind into his mouth just before he collapsed and died, and he noted that Tony was carrying a bottle of orange juice when he was nearly killed by Junior's gunmen in Season 1. (It was the orange juice bottle, you'll recall, that got the worst of it.) However, I stick with the notion that tomatoes play a symbolic role as well, if for no other reason than that they symbolize Tony's still-unexpressed desire to retire from the mob.

And now I will correct myself: I have to agree with you that Junior is in no position to kill Tony, so we should scratch him from the list. I would tend to believe that Paulie will play a role in Tony's end, should there be an end to Tony, except that David Chase excels at not doing the thing you think he's doing. In an e-mail, my goombah David Segal suggested that Paulie was actually wearing a wire in this last episode. Segal notes that Paulie "drove Tony to the scene of his crime and got him to confess that this was where he committed his first murder." He also points out, as you did, that Paulie is having guilty dreams about Big Pussy, the "Ur-snitch."

It's possible, but so is anything else. I still tend to believe that Janice will have the strong hand in Tony's downfall because Tony's female relatives have always been his downfall. But now I'm having another suspicion, which is that Tony has no downfall at all. I don't think we leave the series with Tony triumphant, but I also think that David Chase might just do the truly unexpected thing, which is to say, nothing. An unsatisfying anticlimax would be very Chase-like. And David Chase doesn't seem like the sort of person who would condescend to the audience by allowing good to triumph over evil.

Your paesan,

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.