The main problem I’ve had thus far with these last episodes of "the Sopranos" is that it seems like very little has been done to move the show towards a satisfying conclusion. While there have been occasional flashes of brilliance within the episodes, the stories haven’t done a very good job of giving the characters any kind of set path so when the final episode does roll around, we reach some real closure along with the Family. Too much has seemed like filler and it’s been the biggest downfall of the season.
Last night’s episode, however, changed that in a big time way.
Last night, Tony killed Christopher Moltisanti.
And I couldn’t be happier. That’s not because I don’t like Chris and wanted to see him go (like A.J. or Janice whose deaths would result in me grabbing the first passerby I saw and doing the Happy Dance from "Perfect Strangers"). Or even because I thought his death was particularly shocking (after last week the writing, along with the brain matter of the guy from "Wings", was pretty much on the wall). It’s because finally, we’re moving in the right direction. Finally, we’re getting some closure on these characters. Finally the show is reaching levels of intensity that made us all watch it in the first place. Let’s recap.
Following a meeting with the New York family over a questionable asbestos removal racket (Phil wants a 25% cut on the action, Tony wants Phil to go fuck himself), Tony and Chris head back to New Jersey. All seems well as Tony and Chris discuss Phil and how maybe life is more important than money. Both want to take more time to "stop and smell the roses". Slowly, however, Tony suspects that something might be wrong with Chris as, during this two minute conversation, Chris changes the radio station approximately 750 times. He finally settles on "The Departed" soundtrack and for the second time in as many episodes, we hear Pink Floyd’s "Comfortably Numb" (Tony was singing it at the beginning of last week’s episode before A.J.’s eventual descent), signaling a big change is about to happen. Chris, much like that drunk guy at every party ever, again has to touch the stereo, loses control of the car, and swerves over the yellow line, practically into a head-on collision with another vehicle. Much like Al Capone’s final undoing was tax evasion and syphilis, Chris is brought down not by a bullet in the brain from a rival but from a 16 year old girl with her learner’s permit. Tony reacts quickly, yanking the wheel and swerving away from the girls and causing the car to flip and roll down an embankment. The pair, while not dead, are not exactly in the greatest shape either. Chris asks Tony for help, telling him that he’ll "never pass a drug test" and asks for a taxi, not an ambulance. Tony slowly begins to realize what this means (assisted by the fact that he spots a huge pile of drug paraphernalia in Chris’ car that only seemed to be missing a bong and a pair of tickets to a Dave Matthews’ concert). As Chris begs for help, choking on his own blood as he does (pleasant imagery for early Monday morning, no?) Tony decides that maybe he’s better off without Chris around. After starting to call 911, he changes his mind and snaps his phone shut. Tony clamps Chris’ nose closed and chokes him to death, thus fulfilling the promise he made to Chris at the beginning of the series that if he ever caught him using again, he’d kill him. Hey, Tony might be a murderer, but at least he’s a man of his word. And just like that, brutally (although somewhat anti-climatically), Chris is dead.
The Family is plunged into mourning as they prepare and attend Chris’ funeral. Even Paulie seems genuinely upset (until that is, a funeral for a family friend is upstaged by Chris’ service. Then he’s ready to take out the entire Family for their disrespect). Chris’ family and friends (including Julianna Margulies, Chris’ former flame and the woman Tony refused to sleep with during the hour and a half that he wasn’t cheating on Carmela) show up to pay their respects. Not so respectful, however, is Tony standing in the back of the room, cracking jokes about the other mourners. No one seems to notice that Tony has a "Yeah that’s rough. Pass the meatballs," kind of attitude about him over Chris’ death. This is because, of course, he’s relieved at the fact that Chris is no longer around. Despite being groomed for the Head of the Family once upon a time, Chris had proven too weak to take over and would probably eventually have ratted on Tony to the FBI. While Tony clearly feels justified in his decision (as proven by his conversation with Dr. Melfi), he also feels like an outsider among those legitimately in mourning. So where does one go when they’ve just killed their pseudo-son and told countless lies to their friends and family because they’re dead on the inside? Vegas, baby, Vegas!
Tony flies out to Sin City and decides that the best way to celebrate Chris’ life is to bang his former flame/drug buddy Sonya and then do peyote. Interesting choices there. Now high, they wander around the casino floor and Tony then hits it big at the Roulette table before falling on the floor in hysterics, finally realizing that Chris is really gone. Perhaps his luck is changing after all. The pair then drive out to the desert to watch the sun rise. Slowly, Tony has an epiphany as he stares at the rays of light dancing over the horizon, screaming "I get it! I get it!" To paraphrase a line from Jake Blues, "Yes! Yes! Jesus H. Tap-dancing Christ! He has seen the light!" If oranges symbolized death in "the Godfather", then light just might symbolize life in "the Sopranos" (there were several "guiding lights" during this episode, and you’ll remember Tony seeing the doctor’s flashlight above his head while he was in the coma in the first half of this season). It’s the dawn of a new day and with Christopher out of the picture, Tony seems to legitimately think he’s going to be ok. He’s going to live.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be spending his life in prison, as even with Chris out of the way, the FBI still has a case against him. And it’s not like there isn’t a plethora of other people that might lead to his downfall. So even though Tony thinks he’s figured it out, for us viewers his fate is still very much up in the air. After this episode, I’m excited to see how the story continues. Finally.