Safe House of Cards
In David Chase's world -- where the cruelest, most lethal relationships often lurk beneath one's own roof -- perhaps no single term is quite as oxymoronic as "safe house."
For six riveting seasons, we've borne witness: In one's castle looms attempted hits (beware even your own mother and uncle), successful hits, suicide attempts, even Monopoly throw-downs. A well-informed mobster isn't even safe venturing to the end of the driveway for the newspaper (this season, it's been particularly dicey picking up the newsprint, it being a bad-news bellwether of getting 'cuffed or fatally cuffed; in a mobbed-up household, does no one close to Newark but AJ think to click on starledger.com?)
Yes, inside the David Chase model home -- the one fronted by the fall-of-Roman columns -- you're lucky to get off with just a character assassination.
Yet it's precisely in a safe house where Tony Soprano now lies alone in a room, save for his semiautomatic and a host of personal demons (from which there's no hideout). Downstairs is a ragtag crew, perhaps harboring a Brutus or two. And for safety's sake, there's no Carmela, Meadow or AJ inside this safe house. On Sunday, Agent Harris said the anti-terrorism beat means not sleeping and not seeing one's family. That apparently holds true, too, when one leads a life of domestic terror; as Tony sits awake in the moonlight, we hears the strains of the Tindersticks: "Running wild through my mind that I can't sleep tonight..."
The lion may yet sleep tonight, but what will happen come morn, in the cold light of the finale? For that, we turn to addressing yesterday's "Ten Burning Questions"...
1. Has Paulie turned traitor? If he's not a rat on a sinking ship, then at the least Paulie's a mentally scurrying rodent (still looking every part the skunk) weighing whether he'll stay loyal or find a fat towrope across the river. Something unspoken is on his mind, because last Sunday's episode was positively loaded with his furtive glances -- toward the "cousins from Italy," around the safe-house car he oddly parked on the street, even over his shoulder at the other foot soldiers in the hideout. Paulie may ultimately decide to side with T., but this typically chatty vermin has become suspiciously calm, right down to noticing "the stems on blondie." Chase may be toying with us (dare we say it: cat-and-mouse?). But as the final face-cards are dealt, the hole card could well have Paulie's face on it.
2. Have we really seen the last of Melfi? We may not see her again, but no way is her presence gone for good. The doc mocked Tony and his rageful penchant for putting his wingtips up other people's lower bowels. So when he retorted that she was being a wifelike nag by saying "If the shoe fits," well, that was enough of a direct insult for Melfi to finally kick Tony to the therapeutic curb. As such, it seems doubtful they'll have another office session (though that would make for one crackling last scene). Melfi, though, is flat-out too integral to the show's "Spiritus Mundi" not to reappear -- be it by dream, flashback or one last desperate phone call in Tony's final hour.
3. Have we seen the last of Agent Harris? With a certain near-omniscience, Harris has become a vested observer in the gangland "End Times" as the storm builds on the horizon. Be it Arabs or Leotardo's Ahab on his mind, he peers out the Satriale's window, waiting for the Rapture -- or rupture -- to play out. He's too fertile a plot figure not to come back into play somehow. The question remains, though: Will he next tip Tony to the location of Phil? (Which in Agent Harris's previous WWII analogy might be the equivalent of Hitler's bunker.)
4. Must a child die for the sins of the (god-)father? Yes, but only because one of Tony's virtual sons (Christopher) has already been pinched (literally) and his literal son, AJ, has been rendered emotionally dead. Also, Tony has newly lost two women doctors in his life (Melfi and Meadow, the latter by career switch), but that doesn't mean Meadow must fall. Virtually untouched by direct-storyline tragedy this season, however, she's conspicuously positioned to play a pivotal role -- as one of the last face-cards in this "Safe House of Cards."
5. What will be the show's last big water moment? Chase's metaphorical "falcon" must return in some form -- be it ducks, dove, raven or vulture -- and where there are birds, Chase will also invoke a body of water. Beyond that, the big waterworks will be the tears of the viewer.
6. Will we get a cinematic showdown a la "High Noon"? Yes, but it may not be one-on-one. Paulie getting his ticket punched on the NJ Turnpike, perhaps (a la Sonny Corleone). True to our times, Chase highlights references to insurgent fighters on a small, desolate road. Somewhere, if Chase chooses to stitch back on that metaphor, we will get a long, fatal "moonlight mile" -- shot in the style of a modern Western.
7. Will Parisi live up to his name and really end up the patsy? Just don't see it. Chase has had multiple references to the Kennedys this season, but Parisi won't be his Lee Harvey.
8. Will we see the sudden return of a long-lost character? Yes, but perhaps only in dreamscape. And in my often-humbled opinion, I don't see Ade or Valery returning from their eternal woods...
9. Would whacking Tony be too, well, cliched? Yes. And cinematically, I'd like to see him live. But no-whacking doesn't mean he won't die of unintentional cause.
10. And what will be your last classic-rock track? TOMORROW, we'll list our Top Ten songs for a "Sopranos" finale. So tune in then. Meantime -- as we encourage your thoughts and theories -- we go out today to the strains of Dylan's "Desolation Row" ...
--- Michael Cavna,
TV Editor, Style
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