Uncle Junior and Carter ChongCourtesy of HBO
Last night’s Sopranos episode would have been memorable if only for its succinct description of Dick Cheney: “a powerful man all too familiar with accidental gun play.”
But it was more notable for a plot torn out of the headlines (or, actually, vice versa, since it was filmed long before the Virginia Tech massacre): A mentally ill Asian MIT student named Carter Chong bonds with, then throttles, Uncle Junior. Played by Ken Leung, Chong had trouble making friends, academic-pressure issues, and a seething desire for violent revenge
— making him a perfect protégé for the institutionalized mobster and an uncomfortable ringer for Cho Seung-hui. On Television Without Pity, posters called the coincidence “just too spooky” and an “astoundingly awful coincidence,” and one poster who had lost a family member found it hard to watch at all.
This is hardly the first time a TV show has been freakishly prescient: A Buffy episode was pulled after Columbine, and as Roger Catlin points out on TV Eye, an episode of Bones was temporarily spiked for its similarities to Virginia Tech.
For most viewers, the parallel was just a coincidence — but a few brave souls tried to mine it for profundity. “Both Carter and Jun had cold, distant immigrant fathers who brutalized them to one degree or another growing up, to toughen them up for success in America,” wrote GreenSD. “Both of them turned out badly damaged, incapable of normal human relations and prone to fits of homicidal rage. Carter’s career as a murderer was short and pathetic while [Junior’s] was long, lucrative, and, in some eyes at least, heroic, but in the end they both wound up as inmates in a hospital for the criminally insane. Are their stories really that far apart? How big is the difference, really, between a Mafia boss and the VT shooter?” —Emily NussbaumJunior Soprano’s Link to the Virginia Tech Killings