TV Club

Desperate Characters

Dear Jerry,

Great minds think alike; I’ve been overthinking that Valachi Papers reference from last week as well. Your interpretation is probably the correct one, but since when does the FBI flip a boss? You’re Mr. Gangland—isn’t the idea to flip the captains in order to take down the boss?

Of course, the FBI—in The Sopranos, at least—is so fantastically incompetent, its agents would flip Paulie Walnuts to get Father Phil. These agents, over the life of the show, have lost, by my count, four cooperating witnesses to Soprano family killers. (Someone will correct me, I’m sure, if I’ve undercounted.) There’s Masserone, of Masserone Construction, earlier this season; Jimmy Altieri, who ended up with a rat shoved down his throat; Pussy, of course; and now—alas—Adriana. And true, Silvio’s contribution was not at all insignificant last night; not only did he kill Adriana, but, a half-hour earlier, he offered her the all-time greatest piece of consigliere advice I’ve ever heard: “Maybe you should be a vegan.”

Did we note, for the record, just how monumental the loss of Adriana is? This is the biggest whacking in five seasons; it signals to me that the show is coming in for a landing (though since this IS The Sopranos, the sixth and final season won’t be landing until 2006). Drea de Matteo, who played Adriana, has been integral to the show from the start; she was in some perverse way a voice of morality and common sense. She was also entertaining; her earnest monologue on Mattoosh the Dealer’s religious awakening was worth my entire cable bill. (And didn’t you just love the way she walked us right up to the precipice of a terrorism subplot, and then walked us back again—thank God, because the day Tony Soprano goes hunting al-Qaida on the Newark docks is the day I drop HBO.)

Before I praise Terry Winter, who wrote this episode (and who would be praised in this space even if he hadn’t once participated in this dialogue, though it certainly helps), let me note for the record that I have Internet access (DSL, even), and so I noticed last week that you and Jerry Shargel were slagging me in my absence. No bark and no bite, huh? What did Tony Soprano say, Jerry? Revenge is like serving cold cuts?

But let me say before I forget: Terry Winter provided us with a hugely amusing moment last night. Tony asks Christopher why he is once again late for a meeting, and Christopher answers, laconically, that the “highway’s jammed with broken heroes, on a last-chance power drive.” And he delivered this line in front of Steve Van Zandt. It was Garden State harmonic convergence.

Did you notice the echo, in last night’s episode, of what is, to me at least, the most affecting and powerful moment in Goodfellas? If you recall, Henry Hill returns home, after his arrest on drug charges, and storms through the house, looking for the cocaine he needs to sell in order to stay semisolvent. His wife, Karen (Lorraine Bracco, your favorite), announces that she flushed the coke down the toilet, fearing its discovery by the police. Henry collapses in a heap, wailing, and Karen collapses as well, crawling into his arms. All their money is gone; their world has gone completely dark; their pain is absolute. What always struck me about that moment was how much sympathy it created in me for these two despicable characters—it was proof, as if I needed any, that Scorsese is a genius. Last night, after Christopher stopped choking Adriana on the couch, I think we saw this same phenomenon; two comically self-destructive drug dealers in a train wreck of a relationship hit bottom, and your heart just aches for them. That’s great acting, and great writing.

Two other observations: I’m finished with Carmela; she’s a whore (and a pricey one, at $600,000). But I have to say, her hair looked great last night. And Tony Soprano has redeemed himself as a boss, protecting his cousin Tony B. from certain torture.

The question, then, is this: Is Johnny Sack going down?

Back to you,