Tuned In

Sopranoswatch: Beware of Flying Apples

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HBO

“My estimate, historically,” said Tony Soprano in last week’s episode, “80 percent of the time [a boss] ends up in the can, like Johnny Sack. Or the embalming table.” Having experienced one of the outcomes, last night Johnny Sack experienced outcome number two. It was an excellent performance and sendoff for Vincent Curatola, and while “Stage 5″ wasn’t as strong by my lights as “Sopranos Home Movies,” it moved the mob-families’ plots forward much further, for fans who are especially interested in those things. I’m still puzzling over Phil Leotardo’s resolution in the penultimate scene–is he resolving to take control of his family, to finally properly avenge himself for his brother, or both?

Certainly the Godfather-esque christening scene seemed to telegraph the idea that, if the situation with New York spins out of control, Christopher is the one who shouldn’t be making any long-term plans. I’m not convinced, as I think it’s totally in David Chase’s character to flout the expected and end up killing no major characters before the series ends. But if Chris ends up being a target, maybe the strongest indicator is that, for once, it looks like he actually is starting to change his life: not only has he made his movie, but he’s sobered up, with some success, even staying away from the Bada Bing and distancing himself from Tony, Paulie and Sil in order to avoid temptation. In The Sopranos, people don’t change: the series is one story after another of supposedly life-changing moments that lead the characters to false, self-deceptive epiphanies. (“Every day is a gift!”) Chris’ story arc may show us that, if it’s not a character’s essential nature that prevents him from truly changing, then his external circumstances–the life and associates he’s chosen–will get him killed first.

Or not, but last night’s episode reminded me of what I’ll miss about Chris when he’s gone. [Update: By which I mean that he'll be gone after seven episodes one way or another, not that he's definitely a goner; I haven't seen any episodes beyond last night's.] I’ve never been crazy about the movie subplot, which I’ve always thought was too self-referential and self-indulgent, but I can accept it now that it’s paying off in terms of the larger storyline (raising the buried tensions over Ade and Tony’s legacy). And it did yield some classic Christopher lines last night: “It was an idea. Who knows where they f___ing come from? Isaac Newton invented gravity because some a__h___ hit him with an apple.”

I hope I’m wrong, but I think flying produce is the least of Chris’ worries over the next seven episodes.