Week 6: A.J.'s Rodney King Moment

Sopranos Final Season

Week 6: A.J.'s Rodney King Moment

Sopranos Final Season

Week 6: A.J.'s Rodney King Moment
Talking television.
May 15 2007 11:30 AM

Sopranos Final Season


Dear Jeff,

Comfortable with his numbness, comfortable with his evil. It amounts to the same thing. Tony's capacity for evil has expanded. He is no longer that nice mobster who, back in Season 1, used to fret about the ducks paddling in his swimming pool. If Chris " God Is Not Great" Hitchens were here, I think he'd agree with me that you don't have to believe in God to believe in evil. And even in a godless universe (where I happen to believe we dwell), the utilitarian logic of cooperation (aka "morality"), which Tony clearly violated when he nose-pinched his beloved nephew to death, generally prevails. What goes around comes around. As you note, Phil Leotardo may be the guy who supplies Tony's comeuppance. (I gather you don't know any better than I what entitles Phil to claim a piece of Tony's no-questions-asked asbestos-removal business.) Who needs God when you've got Phil Leotardo? Not to mention Paulie Walnuts, Hesh Rabkin, Janice Soprano, A.J. Soprano, and—who knows?—a tanned, rested, and ready Uncle Junior. Plus those Arabs, who were very quiet this week. A little too quiet, if you ask me.


We've discussed in the past how A.J., one of the few characters on The Sopranos who is not a murderer, is nonetheless the least sympathetic character in the series. He's spoiled, he's stupid, he's narcissistic, he's a whiner, and he's mean. But maybe not as mean as we thought. He seems genuinely horrified when Jason Gervase and his thug pals beat up a black bicyclist who crashes into Jason's car door. (Needless to say, the Italians call the bicyclist something a good deal less civil than black.) The violence and hatred that A.J. is witnessing with this new crowd is escalating, and he can't take it. "Why can't we all just get along?" A.J. tells his shrink, echoing Rodney King. Is series creator David Chase rendering A.J. more sympathetic so that we'll miss him when he gets killed, the outcome you suggest? Perhaps. But I prefer your alternative notion that, instead of dying, A.J. may kill someone. Or, being A.J., that he will witness a murder.

Here's how I see it going. The cops nab A.J., and he immediately confesses to being an accessory. The district attorney prepares to lock the kid up for years. But there is one way A.J. could get his sentence shortened. Tony could confess to two or three of the many murders the cops suspect him of ordering or committing. "Look, Tony, we know your kid isn't a criminal. He isn't the one who should do hard time. You are." Carmela and Tony fight bitterly over this proposed deal. Tony says A.J. can beat this rap. Carmela is horrified that Tony is willing to sacrifice his son to save his own skin. "You are a murderer, Tony, and if you won't tell them, I will!" The words are too much for Tony to bear. He pummels Carmela with his fists, really beats her up, for the first time in his life. (Unlike a certain recently departed HBO chief I could name, Tony has never assaulted a female.) Bruised and bleeding, Carmela calls the cops. They arrive, and Tony realizes he has no home left to defend. He confesses to three murders to save A.J. to whatever extent he can. The price turns out to be not only Tony's confession, but also Tony ratting out the whole gang—Silvio, Paulie, Bobby, Hesh, Janice, maybe even Uncle Junior. The only Soprano left unscathed is Meadow, who heads off to medical school in a daze, leaving Carmela, black and blue, alone in the house. Carmela's cherished delusion of sustainable mob-funded affluence is dashed. She will lose her house, she has already lost her husband and son, and Meadow may never again want to admit she even has a family. Goodbye, Bloomies; hello, Filene's Basement. Fade to black.

That isn't a prediction. It's just a way I can see the series ending. I doubt that it's Chase's way.

With respect to "Comfortably Numb," I see that I cast the pearl of my exquisite literary and historical analysis before swine. Your punishment for failing to groove on it is that I will not pretend to agree that Carmela Soprano would ever read your book. It's a great book, but it's not Carmela's kind of book. Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck, maybe (not that Ephron needs the sales). But Carmela wouldn't really appreciate it because she has no sense of humor. Surely your wicked passion for Carmela hasn't blinded you to the lady's humorlessness? That has always limited my sympathy for her.

Before I sign off for the week, I want to alert you that my son, Will, e-mailed me yesterday afternoon from the basement (I was three floors up in my home office) to complain that while I gave lengthy consideration to the meaning of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," I gave unacceptably short shrift to the meaning of the album whence it came, The Wall, and to how "Comfortably Numb" fits into that larger work. For enlightenment, Will referred me to this Web site. The Wall is all about self-imposed isolation, Will explained, and there are many parallels between The Wall'sprotagonist, "Pink Floyd," and Tony Soprano:

The easiest one to see is that they both have traumatizing mothers. Tony has also been involved with drugs. Now, by killing Christopher, Tony is isolating himself from everyone because he obviously sees the situation differently. … Or, if you wanted a slightly simpler reason why the song was used, you could just note that one of the voices in "Comfortably Numb" is a doctor, foreshadowing Tony's trip to the hospital and Christopher's trip to the morgue.

Can't argue with that. Further exegesis about the music in last night's Sopranos can be found under the heading "About Last Night" on the Web log of our erstwhile correspondent, Brian Williams. In addition to "Comfortably Numb" (which he identifies, a shade too rashly, as "perhaps among the top three Van Morrison recordings of all time"), Williams also cites the Pretenders' "The Adulteress" and "Outta My Head" by M. Ward.


Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.