What’s interesting about the constant search for Sopranos spoilers — a big source of traffic for this blog recently because I wrote a post a year ago that had the words “Sopranos spoilers” in the title — is how irrelevant they turn out to be, even if they’re true.
Go onto some of the forums I’ve linked to, and you read these almost operatic endings that “my cousin who works at HBO” or “a guy who worked at an ice cream shop they’re using for a location” convey with gleeful certainty. Most of these spoiler scenarios are frauds, I suspect. They’re written by the same people who compose the e-mails we get from deposed Nigerian royals who want to give you a $3 million reward.
Even the ones that have a possible ring of truth always omit the ironic, dream-logic context that makes these events meaningful. What actually happens on the show is usually telegraphed far in advance, or easy to predict if you follow the story. But how it is presented — that’s where the surprises are, and no spoiler can convey that.
Like when Big Pussy’s betrayal was discovered and he was murdered. In most of these spoiler discussions, it would have been described just that way: Tony finds proof that Big Pussy has been wearing a wire for the FBI, and along with Silvio and Paulie, murders him on a boat. That was not a surprising outcome. We knew Pussy was wearing a wire for months. It was grimly inevitable. What made it interesting was Tony finally gave in to his subconscious suspicions. Remember? Tony was suffering from food poisoning, had feverish dreams in between attacks of vomiting and diarrhea. In one of those dreams, he’s in a fish market on the boardwalk. A fish starts talking to him. It’s Pussy, who says that, deep down, Tony always knew he was working for the government.
I could just see how that would’ve gone over on one of these Sopranos spoilers sites. “My cousin delivers bagels to HBO, and the climax of the episode is Tony having this weird dream.”
In last night’s episode, what really happened?
- Tony’s on a losing streak. He’s lost a lot of money gambling. His gambling debts cause conflict with his old friend Hesh and with his wife.
- Tony feels responsible for the family of the slain gay mobster Vito. He tries to figure out how to help his widow deal with her son, who is acting out in extremely peculiar ways.
- Phil (who had murdered Vito in rage over his homosexuality) refuses to assist Tony, even though Vito’s widow is his cousin, and it was in the name of “family honor” that he killed Vito.
- Tony and Carmela resolve their argument with an admission that they’re both worrying about whether Tony’s going to die or get arrested.
- Hesh’s girlfriend dies mysteriously. Tony consoles him by repaying a debt he incurred from gambling.
- A.J. proposes to his girlfriend and she accepts, but soon afterward, she breaks it off.
- A “tough-love” organization — paid for by Tony — comes to Vito’s widow’s house late at night and takes Vito Jr. to a camp somewhere out west. He’s terrified.
But if you saw the episode, was that really what you saw? Are any of those plot points so compelling? If anyone had told you in advance that these things were going to happen, would you have really “gotten” the episode without seeing it? For most TV series, like “24,” if someone tells you what’s going to happen, you don’t really need to see it. But “The Sopranos” is a violent mob story as reimagined by a hybrid of Edith Wharton and James Joyce. And, like those authors, the events they describe can be kind of ho-hum, routine, life creeping forward sorts of events where the significance is all in the subtext.
Yet last night’s episode seemed incredibly significant. Fear of death or imprisonment looms over Tony now like never before. The scene in which Vito, Jr. is taken away evokes one of Tony’s biggest fears — the late-night knock at the door. Vito Jr.’s mother wanted to move her family to Maine to get her son away from the rumors about her dead husband’s sexual orientation — a clean getaway. But Tony won’t let himself get away that easily, so he doesn’t let Vito’s family either.
In an earlier episode, Tony expressed knowledge that 80 percent of his peers are murdered or imprisoned — terrible odds that he’s beaten so far, but he keeps on betting, his money and his life. In their argument, he tells Carmela that, having survived a gunshot wound that should have killed him, he’s still “up,” even though he’s lost a lot of money. What’s he going to do with his winnings? The awkward scene when he repays Hesh seemed like a concession — Tony clearing the ledger, resolving things while he’s still got a chance. He had planned to pay him off with proceeds from a big gambling score; instead he uses working capital, taking chips off the table.
A.J.’s proposal scene was pathetic, and you know this sad kid’s humiliation will become Tony and Carmela’s heartbreak. Plus, there’s an ironic contrast: Tony commands loyalty under pain of death and damnation; A.J.’s fiancee won’t even stay engaged to him for a week.
I’ve only watched this episode once. The second time is always more rewarding and revealing, which is more proof that spoilers for this particular show are meaningless. But, hey, keep looking for them — I like all the new visitors!
* Edited, 5/1/07