- Interview by
- Ben Burgis
Michael Brooks died three years ago today. He was one of the most energetic human beings I’ve ever known and his sudden loss was a deep shock to everyone who knew him — and the far larger number of people who listened to his shows.
There’s no doubt in my mind that he was the greatest broadcast talent produced by our generation of the Left. I’ve written before about my personal and professional relationship with Michael and about his politics. Something I’ve never had much opportunity to talk about, though, was his deep love for HBO’s The Sopranos.
The show was probably the single most frequent nonideological topic of our conversations. In late June 2020, I was texting with him about the idea of doing monthly Sopranos recap conversations on The Michael Brooks Show with our friend Wosny “Big Wos” Lambre. He died before that could happen.
About a year before, though, we recorded a conversation about The Sopranos as a bonus for subscribers to my Patreon. We’d just spent the day in his apartment in Brooklyn, working on his book Against the Web. He had a nice microphone, but it was the only one in the apartment. We put the mic between us on his table, and the audio ended up being essentially unusable.
For years, this lost conversation was a source of frustration and sadness for me — a tiny piece of Michael’s legacy but one I would have loved to be able to share with the world. Thanks to the writer and oral historian Matthew Vernon Whalan, who stepped up and offered to transcribe it for me, we can share it now.
I’m here with Michael Brooks. We are not doing this as a YouTube Livestream, because, one, we’re recording in advance, and two, Michael is worried that his face is not going to be beautiful enough for the camera.
Thank you. It’s always beautiful, but my apartment is never camera ready.
We are going to be talking about probably the most interesting show that’s ever been on American television, and definitely the most interesting show about gangsters in New Jersey that’s ever been on American television. There’s no question.
Boardwalk Empire was not good.
No, no. The first episode that Scorsese did felt promising, but it didn’t hold up.
I actually just recently went back and rewatched the first season of The Sopranos, which, I’ve got to say, was better than I remembered in many ways. I’ve always loved it, but I think, in my memory, it had taken a little bit longer to maybe find its feet and turn into the show that it became. That’s maybe true, in some ways. I think that the plot structure of episodes was maybe a little bit more conventional in that first season. They played with the format a little bit more later.
To be fair, sometimes incredibly successfully, and sometimes reminding us that format is actually a good idea. As much as I love that show, there were a few episodes that were like, “Meh.”
You weren’t into the hourlong dream sequences and all that?
I wasn’t actually that mad at the dream sequence per se. There were a couple of episodes in that season where the dream sequence went on a bit too long, but it was interesting. But there are others like, “Does Tony need to talk to the wise old man at the hospital for that long?” [Laughter.] There were just a few things that felt like water treading, but it was a show I’ve basically rewatched in full three times, so I barely have any criticisms of it.
Yes. When it was originally on, I was still living in Michigan, and me and my friend Richard would go over to our friend Les’s house, because Les was the only one of the three of us to have HBO, and we’d watch the show there and make a VHS tape and —
Yeah, and I’ve certainly gone back and watched all of it multiple times since then. In the later seasons — I don’t necessarily disagree with all of these criticisms — but I do think that when the way it played with structure worked, there was something amazing about it. Some of those episodes felt like the structure of really interesting, literary short stories, where you can’t quite pin down what the arc is or why it works, but it definitely hits that feeling of release.
What is your interpretation of the dream sequence? I’m actually curious.
To be really clear, when you’re talking about the dream sequence, you’re talking about when Tony is in the coma there at the hospital? That wasn’t the only one.
Tony is in the coma at the hospital after Uncle Junior shoots him.
Yes. One thing I remember thinking was really interesting about it was that even that version of him, where he’s legit, he still seems to be kind of a scumbag. It’s a little vague about what he does for a living, but he seems to be some sort of defense or national security contractor. It seems like it’s probably pretty shady. And honestly, that’s a point that was hit in a pretty on-the-nose way in dialogue several times over the course of the later seasons of the show: how all of that stuff seemed reminiscent of the mafia.
And it fits because, talking about literary structure and arcs, one of the larger things about the show is that it felt like this several-seasons-long meditation on, “People don’t really change.”
I think even David Chase has basically said that. In fact, the thing that he said, which I don’t even necessarily completely agree with but certainly was true in the universe of that show, was that even AJ and Meadow — people have all of these problems with them. His point is like, “At the end of the day, Tony is a better parent than his parents, and AJ and Meadow, sure, they’re basically gross New Jersey brats, but they’re not going to kill people,” so you just have this slow, steady, upward progress, and that’s the best you can hope for. It’s kind of like [Sigmund] Freud. What does Freud basically say, that you can boil it down to —
He said the goal of psychotherapy is to “reduce hysterical misery to ordinary unhappiness.”
Which I’ve also seen used to talk about the point of socialism.
That’s a very Sopranos worldview.
It totally is.
It is funny the way you watch that show and it’s also like, “Yes, actually, human beings are not always that terrible.” That’s there too, right? A lot of them are that terrible, or they can be, for sure, but it’s not always the way they break.
What do you think of the old Jewish therapist that Carmela sees in season three? Because I actually think he is like David Chase. He pretty much is telling you, and he just drops it in the middle of the show like, “This is it.” There’s been all this other shit about how Tony can evolve, and this guy is like, “No, people are a bunch of delusional narcissists. You need to leave your husband immediately. He’s a murderer. I won’t even take payment for the session.” Not like most of the other characters on the show, even characters that would initially say something like that, but then you’d see them at Tony’s card game or something a couple episodes later. No, he really was the guy who wasn’t down with it.
Yes, absolutely. If I recall correctly, there’s a line in that conversation where Carmela is like, “My priest says that maybe I can work on trying to make him a better man,” and the therapist says, “How’s that going?”
Yes, right. [Laughter.] He’s like, “How’s that working?” Then she goes antisemitic. She’s like, “We put more of a premium on the sanctity of marriages.” And he’s like, “I’ve been married forty years.” [Laughter.]
Absolutely. It feels like maybe the coma dream is really reinforcing that point — that, like, “Yes, this is about as good as Tony is going to be,” even if you take the mafia out of the equation. It’s really interesting because sometimes he does superficially seem to have breakthroughs. I’m thinking of that episode in the first season when he almost kills the soccer coach for sleeping with one of Meadow’s teammates, and then Artie Bucco basically talks him out of it, and then Tony just gets really drunk and Carmela is guiding him to bed. He’s like, “I didn’t kill anyone.”
“Honestly, I didn’t hurt nobody.”
Yes, he’s almost reduced to this really childlike weepy thing. But, of course, that doesn’t really mean anything about —
Does it not mean anything, or is there a descent? That’s what I wonder about the show. Of course, from the beginning, there was a clear arc, and it’s like, “He’s a psychopath.” Part of the show, to me, is historical. Maybe it’s in the first wave of immigrants from Italy. We’ll take it as an example, but it would apply to any group.
Or take another example, Bumpy Johnson, the famous Harlem gangster who was also — maybe it was just his public branding — he was a poet, and he was very supportive of local politics. You look at somebody like that, and you’re like, “It’s super likely, if the public representation of him is true, that in today’s world, with a slightly less apartheid state America, he would be a community leader, or he’d own a chain of businesses that didn’t have any underworld connections, or he’d be a politician or maybe a newspaper editor,” or whatever.
Similarly, you’re getting off the boat from Italy, there actually aren’t job opportunities. You’re an economic underclass. In the late ’90s, if you’re a suburban Italian guy in your thirties involved in this, you’re absolutely a fucking dirtbag. Even though, yes, Tony grew up sort-of ’60s and ’70s, it’s still that kind-of old-world ethnic thing. It’s also like, “Meh, you’re an upwardly mobile baby boomer. You chose to do this. You’re probably pretty much a piece of shit,” which is basically all of these guys. At the same time —
He did have that semester and a half at Seton Hall.
Yes, he did. He took a semester and a half at Seton Hall, and it’s funny, because Tony is smart.
Definitely a smart guy, but I feel like he . . . I don’t know. Is there a descent? He’s not always a complete psychopath. I know some people probably think, “In the beginning, he’s charming, and he has some breakthroughs, but really, he’s always just a totally coldhearted whatever.” I don’t exactly look at it like that. I do think, in the beginning seasons, there’s a little bit more of a sense that he’s trying to reclaim a moral universe for himself. I don’t know. What do you think?
I can’t imagine him killing Christopher in the first season.
That’s what I’m saying. I think that that is such a clear departure point, where it’s . . . yes, I can’t imagine that either.
I think that’s right. And yeah, he could’ve stuck with Seton Hall the whole way. The whole thing about the early Italian immigrants, at some point, does start to feel like bordering on, “The Irish were slaves too.” [Laughs.]
Yes, it gets a little bit like, “All right, guys. By the time . . .” By Tony’s time, you could theoretically still deal with people making asshole jokes because you’re Italian, but it’s absolutely not going to affect your job trajectory in any way, shape, or form. Then obviously, by the time you get to Christopher’s generation, he probably would tell somebody who asked about that, like, “What are you talking about?” It’s one of the tragedies of Christopher though. Christopher has got such an old-school mentality, like he was put into the wrong time. Even though he’s totally ’90s New Jersey scumbag, in other ways —
Yes. Heroin problem aside, Christopher seems like one of the people who is the most sincere about the organization’s bullshit about itself.
He’s got an earnest streak, they do a good job with him, but Christopher has his own lines that he crosses where you’re like, “Meh, fuck him too.” [Laughter.]
I’ll tell you what I thought, rewatching this. Maybe it’s, as I get older and I’m not . . . I’ll be careful of what I say here, but when I first saw Tony do that to Christopher, it was like, “What the fuck.” Then this time, I was like —
Now you’re like, “No, I might have to do that to David Griscom some day.”
Yes, that’s what I’m saying. I might have to plug his nose. No, I’m just kidding. No, but you just get. . . . It’s like watching Godfather II for the second time, and you’re like, Mikey, stop being a drama queen and get over it, but then you get it a little more . . . there was this element of, “Now you’re going to crash the car?” It’s like, “Ugh, enough of this.” (Laughter.)
Although, to me, actually, where the real departure point with Tony is the fact that he would fuck Adriana. That is like, “You’re just gross. You have no . . . there’s nothing to restrain your pure humanness.” Almost in the same way that in the first season, he was still light enough that he could actually be mobile a little bit, and then by the third or fourth season, he’s . . .
A bag of gluttony. [Laughter.]
Most of the characters are genuinely pretty loathsome people, but who do you think, in the crew, and in the broader world, who is the least objectionable and most sympathetic?
Yes, that’s a good question. Hesh isn’t that bad, although . . . [Laughs.] He’s actually guilty of the serious and bad kind of cultural appropriation. That’s how they established he made his money, by ripping off young black artists as a producer, and he certainly knows what his associates are capable of, and he’s extremely comfortable with it.
Not only is he comfortable with it. He benefits from it.
Yes, that’s right.
Yes, let’s be clear about that.
Right, so Hesh, maybe just by virtue of not being directly involved in any of the violence, Hesh doesn’t seem quite as bad. Plus, he has a very —
Isn’t he directly involved though? There’s that scene in the first season where, basically, there’s that insurance guy that they’ve already totally beat the shit out of, and they’re basically explaining to him that how he’s going to get himself from out of the hole is by committing claims fraud for them, and they’re walking, and they’re in Patterson, New Jersey, at this amazing waterfall, and they’re walking along, and the guy basically realizes that actually nobody is around. The ice cream truck that was there has driven off. Hesh is being really nice and talking about his antidepressant that he’s taking — the psychiatric theme in the show is another obviously really important one — and then Hesh starts saying, like, “Hey, I like to come out here and go into my thoughts,” and then Big Pussy just throws his ice cream wrapper over the railing, and you see the thing hit the rocks below, and you get the point. So I don’t know. He could still be the least worst. I’m just saying, he’s a fucking —
He’s in it. He’s an asshole.
There was also the episode with the Hasidim where he has the breakthrough about how he should threaten to cut his balls off.
That Hasidic kid is one of my favorite characters in the whole show. He had such balls and such heart. [Laughter.] People need to watch it, because we can’t give the backstory for everything. In that scene where they go intimidate him on behalf of his father-in-law Shlomo, and the kid says, “You know from a nickname like Shlomo, he sucks.” [Laughter.] Remember when Paulie and Sil come in and they’re like, “We’re friends of Shlomo’s,” and he goes, “You’re bragging this?” That was the best. “You’re bragging this?” [Laughter.] It’s so amazing, the way they pulled it off, actually. . . .
That’s another thing that’s so funny about the show, how they gave you like, “I am totally certain that Shlomo is a slumlord.” But then there’s this other part of Hasidic culture that is so fucking charming and lovable, and actually, contrary to a lot of people’s stereotypes, actually very warm, even to outsiders, and the way they have total scumbag Shlomo and this fucking awesome son-in-law, they did a really good job of painting those two strains. As always.
Absolutely. It had one of the most memorable lines in there too, when he tells the story about the Zealots holding out against the Romans, and he says, “Where are the Romans now?”
You remember what Tony says? He goes, “We’re here now, asshole.” [Laughter.]
[Impersonates] “You’re looking at them.”
Yes. “You’re looking at them, asshole.”
Exactly. [Laughter.] Without trying to go through the whole roster, maybe on the other end, the person who probably stands out to me as the worst is Ralphie.
Yes. Wait, so not Phil?
Phil is pretty bad.
Yeah. No, but Ralphie —
Certainly Phil —
Ralphie killed his goomah.
That was also a really interesting moment because Tony, in his usual emotionally stunted way, actually has an appropriate human reaction, and then his toadies are trying to justify it in terms of mafia professional ethics.
To this day, I always fast-forward through that scene, and I can’t watch that scene — where Ralphie, basically, he beats this girl to death. It’s not like she had much of an arc leading up to that, but they did a very good job of this horrific, total structural abuse, misogyny, culminating in this truly obscene thing, and as you say, it is one of those weird scenarios where Tony is the only one who is absolutely rightly disgusted and enraged by this, and all the rest of the guys are like — [impersonating] “Yeah, he disrespected the Bing.” [Laughter.] The big thing is not that he beat an innocent —
[Impersonating] “You disrespected the Bing!” And then Tony says, “And she was nineteen.” Silvio is like, “Yes, that too.”
Yes, yes, yes, “That too, Tony. That was pretty bad.” [Laughter.] That she was also. . . . Obviously, in a way, again, the whole arc is about her victimhood, but she’s pretty awful. They felt no need to . . .
Or take Meadow’s boyfriend at Columbia, who Tony is a racist asshole to. The kid sucks! [Laughter.] They felt no need to . . .
“We don’t need to make the victims of this behavior sympathetic to make this point.”
“We can absolutely show that, in one case, it’s the worst kind of homicidal misogyny and dehumanization imaginable.”
In another case, half of the jokes in those episodes are basically, “Tony is a racist piece of garbage,” and even more so, Carmela. Carmela just sucked.
Absolutely. They were also having a lot of fun with, one, the absurdity of Tony when he’s getting on Meadow for dating a black guy, being like, “They commit all the crimes!” [Laughter.] It’s great too, because she doesn’t even really call him out on the hypocrisy. She’s just like, “No, Dad. That’s not true.” [Laughter.]
That was great. And even the way they joke about Meadow, it’s like, thank God Meadow is going through a college woke phase, because her parents were abominable, but they really get at what’s annoying about it too. That touch, when Tony gets food poisoning and Carmela doesn’t mean any . . .
I can attest. I recently had food poisoning from Indian food, and oh my God, is it awful. Anyway, Carmela is like, “Your father has food poisoning. It’s from Indian food.” And Meadow just goes, “That is so racist!” [Laughter.] And she storms off to her room. [Laughter.] It was like a million Twitter comments compressed into one ridiculous freshman year. Like, “(Some pop culture thing) was awesome.” “That is so racist!” Storms off. [Laughter.]
Something else that was interesting — I think this was intentional — is that there’s a scene where Meadow and Noah are lying side by side in bed, and their skin tones don’t even look that different.
And they really like to underline that. David Chase, I’m sure, being an Italian guy from New Jersey, wants to address that. In addition to general Northeast ethnic white racism, part of the particular insanity of the Italian bullshit is because of the other white assholes calling them black and “dark-skinned” all the time. That’s another interesting thing about this show. These characters are totally racist, obviously, but they don’t exactly identify as being white, which is really interesting. Like, “You’re Italian.” That’s how they see themselves. On the flip side, when Tony hangs out with his regular neighbors, what did he call them, “Wonder Bread wops”? He thinks they’re fucking lame and they have no flair. Which is true.
What about the bigger parts of the show? With a lot of shows, it’s a stretch to say that they have those dimensions. Unless you’re Mark Fisher. Mark Fisher could probably glean something from a TV show or a movie that wasn’t even exactly intended in it, let alone when he was dealing with something that was really good that drew him in.
Then there’s The Wire, which is a really good show. I don’t think, to me . . . I don’t know if it would age as well as The Sopranos, but it is an incredible show. It can be a novel about Baltimore, and it is literally about politics and economics and race and policing and drugs.
The Sopranos isn’t really about that stuff in the same way, but it does seem to me . . . I’ve watched and been like, You could kind of use this to understand Clintonism, the Bush era, and Trump. What do you think about that?
There isn’t much room for Obama.
Obama’s too hopeful.
Too hopeful and too classy. But the late ’90s overabundant, self-indulgent Boomerism is super Bill Clinton.
The Wire is also interesting, because in a way, the racial dynamics are very different from most television, because you don’t have one black character who stands in for all of blackness. You have a myriad of black characters where they’re different from each other, et cetera, but then McNulty is like a papier-mâché Irish cop. You can tell that the producers of the show have listened to the same two Pogues albums I have, because McNulty is constantly listening to them as he’s waving around a bottle of Jameson and he slurs words, because that’s about as far as anyone involved in the show seems to have thought about what Irish people might be like.
Totally. He’s got attitude problems, and he drinks way too much. That’s it.
I think I agree with you about The Wire. It’s a great show but maybe it’s ultimately a little bit less interesting than The Sopranos — maybe because the commentary is more straightforward.
The Wire is, on its face, very explicitly, about late capitalist decay. It highlights different aspects of it with every season. The second season of The Wire was when they brought in the dockworkers, right? I like to think of it as they’re both about this late capitalist decay, and the vibe of the first season is N. W. A., and the vibe of the second season is Bruce Springsteen.
Yes, that’s true. Although I would actually say Illmatic more than N. W. A., because it’s so bleak and it’s so terrorized that there isn’t true valor. It’s like, “What the fuck are we going to do?” That, to me, is one of the reasons Illmatic stands out as an album. It’s journalistic, and you can feel, viscerally, like, “This music is wrestling with being terrorized in so many different ways, along with this whole mechanical city.”
The Sopranos is not the same —
But it’s definitely there. It’s there in a pretty on-the-nose way in the very first episode where Tony has that rant to Melfi about how “it’s better to get on the ground floor of a thing, but I feel like I’m coming in at the very end,” and she says, “I think a lot of Americans feel that way,” and —
Of course, in context, The Sopranos is kind of about the mafia but it’s kind of about America in general. It’s about a lot of things. [Laughter.] And you definitely get that sense, like, “This is the end of history, and it’s not that great,” from The Sopranos.
The show also does a really good job of both totally not romanticizing the mafia at all, obviously, but still giving you how satisfying it would be to be able to act like that. “Some asshole, egomaniac doctor is treating your uncle poorly? You go to the golf course and terrorize him!” But in a really funny way. Again, Tony is smart. You don’t start with slashing his tires or whatever. You start with, like, “You’re going to treat my uncle well, and I’m actually so totally not concerned about the consequences of people knowing I’m doing this today that I’ll do it right on the golf course in front of your friends, and my friend who is absolutely terrifying and looks like some fucking guy who . . .”
We’ve got to wrap up in a minute, but I do want to talk about Furio because he was such a great character.
Yes, he was. Furio is amazing.
Tony picks up Furio on his big trip to Italy, which is great in every way. That trip really underscores the way that all of these guys have this connection to what they half imagine Italy is, based on stuff from generations ago. So, obviously Italian food is a big thing in the show, but then when Tony is on the phone with Carmela, she’s like, “How is the food?” He’s says, “Meh, it’s okay. A lot of fish.” [Laughter.]
Before we go any further, we’ve got to talk about Paulie.
Paulie’s whole experience in Italy is fucking hilarious. Chris is tragic, because Chris just does heroin the whole time and doesn’t achieve anything, so it’s just sad, but Paulie . . .
Paulie goes to a hooker, and he insists that it’s special that his ancestors came from the same hometown as her. She doesn’t care. [Laughter.] She has absolutely zero interest in anything he has to say, which is super funny, and then he gets super into this “commendatori” thing, because that’s what the bellhop says to Tony, but he thinks it’s, like, Italian, so it’s like, that’s just what you say to people, and whenever he says that to people when he first meets them, it leads to these really unpleasant interactions, including the guys in the café who ignore him, and he goes from “Commendatori!” to them ignoring him to “Cocksucker!” [Laughter.] Then the food thing with him…
Yes, he tries to just order . . . [Impersonating.] “Oh, yeah, give me some spaghetti. . . .”
[Impersonating] “Can I just get some gravy?” The guy is saying, like, “And we thought Germans were classless pieces of shit!” [Laughter.] Anyways, back to Furio.
Absolutely. Tony picks up Furio from Italy to take him back to be a soldier for him in New Jersey, and Furio is great on many levels. He’s way more casually brutal than any of the rest of these guys.
Yes, way more brutal.
And then there’s just the basic fact that he actually does come from Italy; it’s not just Itallianness as an identity. There’s a much-maligned episode when they’re obsessing about Christopher Columbus because of the Columbus Day protest. . . .
I thought the episode was ok.
It was all right.
I get why people have problems with it, but —
It definitely had its moments, and one of the best of them was when the guys are all getting furious about these anti–Columbus Day protests and the denigration of Italian American heritage. There’s a beautiful moment where Silvio is trying to rough up the protesters and the cop is apologizing to him. [Impersonating.] “I’m sorry, Sil. They got a permit!” [Laughter.]
Right. “They got a permit,” and Tony’s corrupt city councilman or state assemblyman is literally a guy who is so dirty that he’s in on conversations about, at the very least, every piece of a RICO charge, and then he’s like, “I’m not bankrolling this. Fuck that.” [Laughter.]
The beautiful thing is that Furio is totally indifferent to the whole thing, because Columbus came from the wrong part of Italy.
Yes, and he’s like . . . [impersonating] “The Northerners, they look down on us. Fuck them,” and they all kind of look at him like, “Huh?” [Laughter] Then, of course, there’s Furio and the Survivor thing, which is one of the best moments in the whole show.
Yes! Furio comes up with this scheme . . . [laughter] . . . watching Survivor.
When Furio isn’t literally putting a bullet in somebody’s kneecap, he’s this really nice . . . [laughter] . . . wide-eyed innocent, and he’s super-stoked about the immensity of American cable TV packages, so that leads to the Survivor plan.
To rip off the reward from Survivor.
25 percent of it!
Yes, that’s the best part. [Laughter.] He’s like, “No, no, you can’t get greedy here.” [Laughter.]
He’s like . . . [impersonating] “Take this show, Survivor. You go up to them with fucking guns and say, ‘How you gonna survive this? Give me 25 percent.’”
What’s great is, in that scene, Paulie is . . . in a way, Paulie is the other wide-eyed simpleton, and he’s, like, contemplating it, and he says, “Meh, it could work,” and then Tony is in a super bad mood, but the conversation puts a little smile on his face like, “Aw, you guys.” [Laughter.] It’s adorable, and you realize, literally, this plan for a big score is to stick you in the universe of Survivor and go, “Give me 25 percent!” [Laughter.]
There are so many scenes like that, where you can rewind and watch six, seven, eight times, and it’s always hysterical. It’s one of the best comedies ever made. That’s the other part of it. It’s super brutal, disturbing, psychologically twisted, all of those things, but it’s also incredibly funny.
It is! Every episode, consistently, there are going to be big parts that are very funny.
Do you think it’s a comedy, at the end of the day?
For sure. I was listening to a podcast where they were going over some of the tangled prehistory of the show and it being batted around at HBO, and there was a point where the idea was to get the rights and do a TV show of The Godfather, which, of course, Chase rightly thought would be a terrible idea.
Not a good idea.
Then there was a point, I think before the mafia element even came back into it, they were just kind of talking about it as a family comedy, and they were actually talking about it as a “live-action Simpsons.”
A big part of the inspiration was that Chase wanted to talk about his own apparently horrible and toxic relationship with his mother. I guess a lot of that went into Tony and Livia. By the way, Livia? That actress is amazing.
The way she conveys that endless black hole of a mental world she’s living in.
Even there, the way there’s occasionally a few glimpses, I guess with her grandchildren, that she might be capable of something more.
We’ve got to wrap up, but did Tony die at the end?
Wow. You’re super confident.
At the restaurant?
At the restaurant, he dies.
Did all of the rest of them get killed too?
I don’t know about that, but I think that the —
Do you think he got shot in front of his family?
I think he got shot in front of his family.
What makes you think . . . who? Who would’ve done that? Things were already wrapped up in New York.
Yes, I don’t know. Maybe the Russian guy finally got out of the woods, and he tracked him down.
Shit. I missed that, bro. I have no idea who kills him.
No, I’m half-joking about that part but —
Why did you say you were certain about it?
Because there was a lot of stuff about death leading up to it, and the way that it suddenly goes black was very. . . . It seemed to me that what they were trying to indicate was pretty clear.
Some guy came into the restaurant and popped him?
I think so, yeah. You’re not so sure?
I think that they gave themselves all the room in the world there. It’s super David Chase. He leaves it open in his interviews. He’s always like . . . [impersonating] “It’s a fucking show. It’s your imagination. We were with them for a while. Now we’re not. You really have no idea. It could’ve been they went home. It could’ve been whatever.”
I did a little bit of film stuff in college, and I’ve heard enough from people who know more than me to think he might have died at the end. Because there is a lot of stuff about death in the episode, and the way it’s shot does seem like . . . it starts to look like somebody is looking at Tony. It goes black. I wouldn’t be surprised if the person who wrote it was conceiving it as, “He got killed.”
At the very least, it seemed like they wanted to implant the idea in your mind as a viewer, whether or not they were really committed to it.
Yes, and I think Chase also says that. There’s a way the show is very moralistic. Like, even if he didn’t get killed at that moment, the guy is probably not going to have a nice retirement somewhere. Probably, sometime in the next couple of years or months or weeks, he’s going to get killed.
Yes, and —
Maybe he’s going to prison.
It would be interesting to see how Tony hacked that, because from the beginning of the show he’s very critical of these guys who can’t handle “the carceral experience,” and of course, he has his tremendous guilt about his cousin, who was arrested and imprisoned because of a job that Tony wasn’t there for. He tells Melfi he was 4H, and his cousin went to Vietnam. That’s his metaphor for it, so it would be really interesting if all of Tony’s bravado about prison was ever actually tested, and he actually had to go to prison. I have a hard time imagining him informing, but it would be interesting to see what happened.
I really don’t think Tony is alive. I don’t. I think he died.