Holy Shit! Christophah!
You know, in Italian, Chris's name, Moltisanti, translates to "many saints." I guess he ended up one short though, didn't he? Maybe I should write a eulogy of sorts for Chris, but as ever, the show was much more about Tony than it was about Chris. Last week was, essentially, Chris's downfall and swan song, and this was just the garbage removal of the whole mess that ended up his life. And I'm hoping we haven't seen the last of Michael Imperioli; maybe he's written one of the final episodes.
If there was ever any doubt that David Chase had created the story and character arc of The Sopranos as a complete drama from the very start, all those questions should be vanishing. The recalls back to the first season just keep piling up as things come full circle, even if it did take an extra couple of seasons to get there.
This season, we've seen Tony adopt one of his mother's traits that used to annoy the piss out of him -- talking about children's death. At least three times this season, Tony has worked some gruesome and depressing stories of infant carnage into otherwise normal conversations. Back in the first season, Livia Soprano had an alarming propensity for derailing polite conversation with such morbid topics. But this episode, "Kennedy and Heidi" (<--I get the Kennedy part, what with Kelly Moltisanti looking like Jackie, but can someone please explain Heidi to me? or the title as a whole? ), written by Mathew Weiner and David Chase, saw Tony using the trick as a piece of retro-fitted, deflective camouflage -- both for the sake of others and his own mental equilibrium -- and it goes over about as well as it used to for Livia.
Back when Livia used the trick, she was plotting the murder of her own son. In this episode, Tony suffocated Chrissy in cold blood, and then made multiple allusions to the shattered child seat when telling people about the car accident. Tony was both justifying his actions in his own mind and secretly trying to turn off their grief by making Chris the villain of the situation, but no one wanted to hear about it.
Tony's reaction to Chris's widow at the wake was also no surprise. He suddenly found her incredibly attractive, and then later spied her breast-feeding her infant daughter, a visual callback to the "Isabella" episode where he was on a Lithium bender and manufactured the mysterious beautiful woman and had dreams of her tenderly breast-feeding a child.
As if that wasn't enough -- again, with the fucking ducks. Did you just love that at the end, when they started dumping the asbestos trash into the pristine waters, the ducks were quacking off in the distance. Tony's adopted family, once in his own backyard, the little water fowl that introduced us to this whole crazy circus in the first place, now getting poisoned even though they're out of sight, lost to Tony. As poor AJ sits with his therapist, his taste for violence already making him depressed and unsatisfied.
Tony always has had a sixth sense about impending danger, and though his instincts in this episode were deadly accurate, he's also always had at least a shred of humanity in his reserves for his family. But his decision to snuff Christopher's life came quickly, and with seemingly no remorse. While even Carmela and Paulie grieve and suffer remorse for the way they'd treated Chris in the past, Tony justified and then even reveled in his victory. It was, for me, the moment of pure evil finally bubbling to the surface of his conflicted soul.
Though the routine is well practiced, the way he so efficiently turns the tables on his victims and is able to allocate the blame on them, there's always eventual repercussions upon his peace of mind. But this time, all those repercussions seemed to be external. He couldn't stand it that he couldn't admit the truth to Melfi, though he took as much pride in it as he could, saying that he'd finally corrected the biggest error of his career. He tried to get Carmela to admit to some relief at the news of Chris's death, revealing his own emotions and seeking a conspirator. But he found nothing there, either. So what's a guy to do when he just gets away with murdering his surrogate son, to whose child he's Godfather, and yet everyone mourns the kid's passing? Well, he goes to Vegas, of course!
Seeking solitude and a subconscious desire to slip into Chris's skin, Tony jets off to wiseguy's paradise. Caesars Palace. Slurping wine at Guy Savoy, sunning himself at the pool, playing the existential game of roulette (seriously, it is existential, just ask Dostoyevsky), getting acquainted with Chris's stripper friend, and, ultimately, having a revelation on peyote.
It was more than a glimmer of jealousy I had for the second half of this episode. Disturbing as Chris's murder was, that's fiction. But the reality is this: James Gandolfini was tromping around Caesars Palace for probably at least a week, and I wasn't there. The fuck? That's MY place -- Caesars. That's my man -- Jimmy G! Oh, it just made me so mad. I remember back when they were shooting "Ocean's Eleven" and I stalked Andy Garcia for two weeks. It was the time of my life! The fun I could've had leering around corners and lingering in front of elevators, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Gandolfini the Great? FUCK!
But even though I didn't have my fun, Tony Soprano had his. He's at an impasse with Phil Leotardo on the asbestos disposal, so he eats peyote with a stripper and after Tony literally "sees the light" (harkening back to his time in Indiana as Kevin Finnerty) they hit the casino. He lingers briefly before a slot machine with the face of a devil on it, but even that doesn't freak him out. But it sure did remind me of another scene from the first season, back when Chris got shot and had a near-death experience on the operating room table. Remember how freaked he was when he became conscious again? Remember what he said? He said he went to hell. He knew it was hell because "Every day was St. Patrick's Day. Forever." And he shot dice, and "the Irish were winning every roll." The devil image on the slot machine is a bit more straightforward than that, but it does all tie together somehow. When Tony was trapped in his coma, he was "Kevin Finnerty." Clearly, the Irish play a large role in the afterlife of this crew. Paulie has seen glimpses into his future in hell. And now, it suddenly looks like Tony's the demon that's sending them all on their merry way?
I'm not sure. But I do know that once again Tony proved why he's top dog, because he handled that shit without even blinking. Five seasons ago, he'd have passed out. But now, drooling on himself and out of his mind on mescaline, he's not even fazed.
Even better, Tony's gambling luck has suddenly changed, as he hits a 35:1 payoff three times in a row. It's a tour-de-force in his own mind, and he cracks up. Instead of remorse, utter relief and even some joy bubbles out of him as he falls on the floor laughing and says, "He's dead." Lucky for Tony, he's a rich bastard so this outlandish behavior only gets slightly raised brows from the staff. Then, as the over-the-top topper, just as the toxic trash is fucking it all up for the ducks back in Jersey, Tony sees a brilliant flash of light in the desert landscape and stands up and declares, "I get it. I get it!"
So I guess he's got it all pieced together. Maybe all his existential angst has finally congealed into an inky black nihilistic outlook where he's ready to embrace his evil.
I don't quite get it. But for the first time, I got an inkling of a strange possibility for Tony's fate. When it comes to mob morality tales, we've seen almost all of it before: they turn rat or they get murdered or they go to jail. Over the years, Tony's survived and thrived because although he's uneducated, he's also got supreme intuition and cagey intellect, combined with a ferocious survival instinct. This was, for all intents, his greatest victory. But it was also, up to this point, his greatest tragedy. And for the first time, he was unable to see the tragedy in it all. It's no accident that the song "Comfortably Numb" keeps repeating through the episodes this season. Maybe this reaction to Chris's murder is like a temporary anesthetic that'll wear off over the remaining episodes, and the devastating effects will finally cripple Tony. Or, maybe Tony will be able to survive this season, somewhat in tact. And maybe that's the most blood-curdling possibility of all.