December 03, 2002
The allure of blaming the victim

This post discusses the most recent episode of The Sopranos, the penultimate episode of Season Four. This blog is a spoiler-free zone, so the rest of this post will be underneath the More link.

As soon as Min Mitrone caught Paulie trying to steal her money stash under her bed, I was certain she was going to end up dead. Not because I thought Paulie would want to kill her, despite their mutual antagonism, but because I was pretty confident she was going to put him in a position where he felt he had to kill her.

Sure enough, that's how it played out. Paulie, having forced her deadbolt and been confronted while searching under her mattress, tries the I-just-dropped-in-for-a-visit gambit. Min, who's known that Paulie was a bad boy since he was a boy, has none of it and after an aborted attempt to call Mrs. Galtieri (who doubtless would have been too disconcerted to have understood a word of what was being said to her, not that Paulie was taking any chances) starts screaming for help. They struggle, and Paulie eventually smothers her with a pillow.

What actually disturbed me about this sequence was that the whole time I was practically yelling at Min to stop acting so stupidly. All she had to do, I knew, was to play along with Paulie's dumb story, brew a pot of tea, and she'd survive to get her lock fixed. But no, she had to call his pathetic bluff and got herself killed for her trouble. How could she be so dumb?

How could I be so harsh on a little old lady who's been brutally murdered in her own home?

It's hard, I think, to watch that scene and not blame the victim at least a little bit. How could she not realize that once he was discovered, all Paulie wanted to do was get out of there? Did she really think that she could call the cops or hit her I've-Fallen-And-I-Can't-Get-Up button or attract a neighbor's attention without being attacked? Why didn't she just tell him to get lost?

I never know how to deal with a situation like this. No one deserves to be killed like that, yet you can't escape the feeling that she had some measure of control over her fate and she botched it. If only, if only, if only. I come away wanting to avenge her and berate her at the same time.

There's another issue in this episode, which is that by all rights Paulie should be arrested for this crime within a couple of days. Little old ladies getting killed in their homes by strangers is the sort of high-profile crime that should light a fire under the collective butts of the local gendarmes. All they have to do is dust for prints, then ask themselves what a known do-badder like Paulie Walnuts is doing in the victim's house. A five-minute chat with Min's friend Cookie Cirillo and they'd discover that Paulie disliked Min and knew about her stash. Once they note that the stash is missing, they should have enough evidence to take Paulie downtown for a nice long conversation. Heck, the Feds would probably step in at this point and make their dealings with Adriana look cordial. The ease with which these guys get away with no-brainer crimes like this sometimes gives me a pain in my suspension-of-disbelief mechanism.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 03, 2002 to TV and movies | TrackBack