‘The Sopranos’ Doesn't Need Your Effin' Pity

Photo: Courtesy of HBO

"You go about in pity for yourself," Tony Soprano berates Vito Jr., the pathetically messed-up goth son of the boss' murdered lieutenant. It's been the refrain of the season, an Obijwe Indian expression Tony picked up during his recovery. And self-pity, cut with generous doses of paranoia, has become Tony's signature trait: With each episode he cuts himself off from another companion — first Bobby, then Chris, then Paulie, now Hesh. It's death by revulsion; by slicing away at both his family and his "family," Tony guarantees he will be left alone.

Which brings to mind the show's final scenes: Did Tony order the death of Hesh's wife, Renatta? We say no — wouldn't that be awfully Alias, to poison someone silently in the night? — but a few paranoiac online posters disagreed, likening Renatta's death to The Godfather's famous horse's head.

On Television Without Pity, poster joeyguse had this to say: "I think the episode purposely had an ambiguous ending so the viewer could ask themselves the question, 'Is Tony petty and vindictive enough to do something like that?' We're seeing Tony now stripped away from his money and his prestige, and we are being forced to ask ourselves what it is exactly we liked about this psychopath. In many ways I think this is [creator David] Chase's brilliance … he is showing the viewer the villain stripped of all of the trappings that made him desirable."

That analysis also applies neatly to the series itself, which — unlike other flagship TV shows, which traditionally drip with sentimentality in their final days — seems coldly stripped of its charm. At what point does something as brilliant as The Sopranos become so hard to watch that we, like Carmela, pull back in horror from the commitment we've made? — Emily Nussbaum