Sopranos Final Season

Week 4: Searching for Artie Bucco
Talking television.
May 1 2007 10:54 AM

Sopranos Final Season

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Dear Scatman Noah,

In re: shit, you asked me if it is any more disgusting to see a kid bake a brownie in the shower than to watch an eye shot out or a corpse carved up with an electric knife.

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Yes, it's more disgusting.

Analyze that, Captain Underpants.

I'm glad you didn't notice Southside Johnny, either. I saw his name roll by in the credits as well, and I couldn't figure it out. Maybe he was playing Hesh's girlfriend, who, by the way, I thought might have been killed by Tony as payback for Hesh's kvetching, until you informed me otherwise. It would have been more interesting to see Tony take revenge on Hesh through his girlfriend. Her death was needless, it seems, and  uninteresting. Unless, of course, Hesh sees Tony's hand in it and decides to take revenge. How he would do that, I don't know, given the modern-day dearth of Jewish hit men.

I have no particular objection to new characters, and I don't—Freud notwithstanding—have a need to see this show tidied up in its final week. In fact, I think it will be disappointing if the show ends too neatly. We don't want to see Tony clutching his chest, moaning, "Is this the end of Rico?"

It would be artful, obviously, to end ambiguously, Tony still trapped in the purgatory of his own making, living with his pettily corrupt wife and his idiot son and fearing the FBI at the end of the driveway. It might not be satisfying, but it will be understandable. This, of course, has been the great virtue of TheSopranos—it's as messy as life. I'm not denying, though, that there's a part of me that wishes the Russian will emerge out of the mud of the swamps of Jersey and kill Tony, just so we can undangle that dangling episode. And by the way, Tony dropped Slava's name in passing Sunday night, so who knows? Maybe the straightforward thing will happen. That would be a fantastic trick on the audience: David Chase doing something obvious for maybe the first time in six seasons.

And you are absolutely right: Carter Chong's role added a great deal to last week's Junior-centered story (and here, let me officially note to the many interlocutors who doubt my television-watching abilities that I did indeed notice that the Junior episode featured a rage-filled Asian-American, and that, yes, on Sunday night's episode, there was a direct reference to Columbine, but I will also say that I'm not inclined to dwell on this overly much). My objection is to the underutilization of long-term characters. I mean, where's Artie Bucco? He's been so central for so long, and he plays a crucial moral role in the story—the meek, law-abiding civilian who fantasizes about the mob life. He is really one of the most layered, interesting characters in the show and truly a stand-in for all of us earth-bound schlemiels who don't generally break the law. And where's Meadow? She's done absolutely nothing this year except ditch the pathetic Finn, and that happened off-screen.

The Nancy Sinatra appearance was odd, and not just because of her supersized lips. It seemed a betrayal of her father to re-associate his name with Jersey mobsters (of course, Frank Sinatra Jr. also appeared in an earlier season, in a card game, and was famously called "Chairboy of the Board" by Paulie Walnuts). Mario Puzo once told me (sorry for the name drop, but I can't help that I'm semiconnected in my own mind) that Sinatra treated him like garbage whenever he ran into him, but what Sinatra objected to in TheGodfather was not so much being the model for Johnny Fontaine but that Fontaine cried in front of Don Corleone ("Is this how you turned out?" the Don asks the Sinatra stand-in. "A Hollywood finocchio that cries like a woman?")

Anyway, I guess if you're Nancy Sinatra and HBO calls, what are you gonna do?

OK, on to the Tony's Demise Sweepstakes: I still think Janice will play a key role in Tony's downfall, and I assume she will betray Tony because Bobby's DNA showed up on the guy he killed in Canada, and the Mounties have his number (the Mounties are very fastidious about physical evidence, I'm told). But I'm beginning to shade in Christopher's direction, not least because there's a whiff of the rat on him now. And I still think Phil Leotardo's anger issues are a diversion. But I've been known to be wrong. Any thoughts?

Jeff

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