TalkLeft points me to this piece by Jay Caruso about the most recent episode of The Sopranos. I'm going to put this post under the More link, since it's got a major spoiler if you haven't seen the show yet (I just finished watching the tape from Sunday). Don't go to Jay's link if you haven't seen the show yet, either.
Jay writes about Tony killing Ralphie:
It's a risk to kill off such a central figure in the middle of the season. It's even more ironic that it happened not long after Tony admonished Paulie for wanting to kill Ralph for playing that practical joke on Paulies Mom. "This is a business!", Tony said. So what does he do? He goes and kills Ralph over a horse.
It also gave us insight into Ralph's mind. Here his son is in the hospital with an injury that may keep him in a vegative state for the rest of his life, yet he's vindictive enough to go and kill a horse because Tony was banging Ralph's ex-girlfriend.
Given that, I found Ralphie's action to be coldly logical. However beautiful the horse was, who wouldn't put their kid's welfare first? Not that his arson was justified - even if no other horses had been hurt, he should have sold her instead of killing her. Ralphie sees his action as logical, too - "It was a fucking animal!" he yells at Tony, reminding Tony that he's not exactly a vegetarian.
What I find fascinating about this show is how the characters make moral distinctions. There are accepted rules for when you can and cannot kill a business associate, and you'd better not break them, as Johnny Sack nearly found out.
In season 2, in the episode where Christopher is in the hospital after being shot and he has a vision of hell, Tony is asked by Dr. Melfi about whether or not he thinks he's going to hell:
Tony tells Melfi how Christopher thinks he had a near-death experience. He says that it was some bullshit dream from the morphine, but now Christopher thinks hes going to Hell. Melfi asks if he thinks Christopher will go to Hell. Tony says that Christopher doesnt deserve Hell. Melfi asks who does. "The worst people," Tony says. "The twisted and demented psychos who kill people for pleasure." Child molesters. "The Hitlers." Not his nephew.
Melfi asks Tony if he thinks hes going to hell. "You been listening to me?" Tony asks. "No. For the same reasons. Were soldiers. Soldiers dont go to hell. Its war. Soldiers, they kill other soldiers. Were in a situation where everybody involved knows the stakes. And if youre gonna accept those stakes, youve got to do certain things. Its business. Soldiers. We follow codes. Orders."
Melfi asks if that justifies everything he does. Tony says that Americans didnt let the Italians in to help them. They needed subways built and worker bees to help the economy. He says that some of them werent happy just being workers; they wanted to stay Italian and keep things that were sacred to them, like honor and family. Tonys leaning forward, squinting and sweating, carefully choosing his words. "And some of us wanted a piece of the action. We werent educated like the Americans, but we had the balls to take what we wanted. And those other fucks, those other, the, the, the, the JP Morgans, they were crooks and killers too, but that was the business, right? The American Way."
It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out. Just as Paulie had no cause for killing Ralphie, neither did Tony. Killing him will be judged harshly, not only because of the lack of justification but because Ralphie was a big earner (another reason why Johnny Sack was ordered to leave him alone). You definitely don't mess with these guys' livelihoods.
I'd been a bit ambivalent about the season so far, but the story arcs are really cooking now - will Furio be dumb enough to make a pass at Carmela? - and I think we'll be at full speed for the climax. Stay tuned.Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 14, 2002 to TV and movies | TrackBack