So Long, Bobby Bacala

Courtesy of HBO


Unlike his compatriot Silvio Dante, who at episode's end last night was still breathing — if unlikely ever to awaken — Robert Baccalieri Jr., a.k.a. Bobby Bacala, was shot to death last night on The Sopranos, whacked by two hit men doing the bidding of New York capo Phil Leotardo. Bobby was always the sweetest and weirdest of the Sopranos regulars, a nebbishy model-train enthusiast ill-suited to the role of heavy. Henpecked by his wife, Tony's sister Janice, and hopelessly devoted to Tony's Uncle Junior, Bobby suffered at times from Tony's transferring his aggression for those two difficult figures in his life onto Bobby. Just before the shooting, in fact, Tony threatened to freeze him out when Janice asked Tony for help paying for Junior's medical expenses.

In the end, Bobby was a victim of his own love of routine. As Junior's driver (and, later, his nursemaid), Bobby Bacala became a creature of habit, useful because of his steadiness and unwavering nature.

As the phone rang, unheard, in his car — with tidings from on high to change up routines, because Soprano lieutenants were being targeted — Bobby made his regular visit to the hobby shop where he purchased his beloved model trains. Cradling a lovely blue locomotive — the Blue Comet of the episode's title — an unsuspecting Bobby was hunted down by two shooters, shots of Bobby alternating with POV shots of the hobby store's display train hurtling down the tracks. His death was long and grisly but also a bravura cinematic moment, a death of more grandeur than we ever expected for a goofball like him.

Uncommonly among his peers, Bobby had never killed anyone until earlier this season, when Tony assigned him to kill a guy in Quebec, partly in retaliation for Bobby's punching Tony in a drunken family brawl. Returning from that bloody deed, Bobby was greeted by his daughter, who leaped into his arms with a joyous cry. The haunted look on Bobby's face at that moment will remain our most vivid memory of Bobby Bacala, the biggest sad-sack, nice-guy murdering mobster we've ever met.