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

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

By Maura McCarthy |  June 6, 2007; 2:20 PM ET  | Category:  Theories
Previous: Ten Burning Questions | Next: Sounds of 'The Sopranos'


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Foist again.....

Posted by: "T" | June 6, 2007 02:53 PM

My prediction for the ending:

Somehow or other, Phil is going down. He is either shot & killed, or picked up by the feds à la Johnny Sack. Little Carmine will then be appointed boss, and he will restore good relations with NJ. Tony will suffer a significant loss - perhaps the death of Carmela or Meadow or AJ - but he will live, and his career as a mobster will go on.

The end.

Posted by: Lincoln | June 6, 2007 03:37 PM

1) Paulie's the rat, but gets it from Tony near the end.

2) Little Carmine tells Tony and Phil to meet in a sort of duel; it's the only way to end the feud, and Carmine doesn't want to take sides. "Two men enter; one man leaves." Phil gets it; Tony survives.

3) Melfi realizes she did something wrong, and calls Tony to apologize. He rebuffs her.

4) Tony emerges victorious--and is positioned to take over--but decides to hang it all up. He retires to Florida (or some such) with Carmela; Meadow stays to go to law school, and takes in AJ. Tony and Carmela start a business building houses.

5) Final scene: Tony in the waiting room of a new shrink in Florida or Vegas, or wherever he winds up. The door opens and the new shrink (a woman?) says, "Come in, Mr. Soprano." Just before he goes in, he tears the recipe page out of "Departures" magazine, in full view of the new shrink.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | June 6, 2007 04:09 PM

Tony will die, preferrably in some pathetic, selfish, brutal way (jaw on a table?), all alone, so as to shake any residual sympathy.

I disagree that Melfi will return. Her change of heart was a final declaration that Tony can not, and should not, obtain redemption. Beautiful.

BTW, note the promise that "they never touch the families." We'll see. But rest assured, if any go, it's all Tony's fault.

Posted by: V | June 6, 2007 04:11 PM

Has Paulie turned traitor?
I don't think so. He has shown real remorse for most of his betrayals. If anything he'll try to redeem himself somehow. The only contrary tip is that as Tony's top soldier, he was not on Phil's hit list.

Have we really seen the last of Melfi?
Melfi will follow a mirror of her own advice to Tony: quit the profession. She'll also fire her therapist. Elliot recently referred to Tony's treatment of Junior as "Omerta"; Melfi knew it was actually love. He's incompetent, and that's a sad situation. She'll free herself.

Have we seen the last of Agent Harris?
He's staring to look like the only force that can pull Tony out of the fire, so I hope not.

Must a child die for the sins of the (god-)father?
No way. Too GF3, the writers won't get sucked into that, unless it's a suicide.

What will be the show's last big water moment?
Good question. Maybe Tony and his biological family lam it on the boat.

Will we get a cinematic showdown a la "High Noon"?
Yup. Whatever happened to Gary Cooper?

Will Parisi live up to his name and really end up the patsy?
I doubt it, he did escape on foot from the Bing hit, which is fishy, but I think that's a red herring a la Valery.

Will we see the sudden return of a long-lost character?

Would whacking Tony be too, well, cliched?
If Tony's going down, I'm sure the scene will stand on its own cinematically.

And what will be your last classic-rock track?
They've tapped Smoke on the Water twice, and the Stones more times than that, though Gimme Shelter might fit. I'd go with "Oh Sweet Mary" by Janis Joplin!

Posted by: Dick Barone | June 6, 2007 04:18 PM

2 words: "American Beauty"

Posted by: Rob Iola | June 6, 2007 04:29 PM

Look for another "Departure" Sunday, IMO.

The soundtrack Christopher was listening to before he died? "Departures."

The magazine Tony tore a page from while waiting for Melfi? "Departures."

I have to think the one making his departure for good on Sunday is Paulie (found out to be the snitch) or AJ (after picking up Tony's mannerisms and fatalism, commits suicide as a symbolic representation of Tony's death as a person).

Tony lives and turns informant; he, Meadow and Carmela go off to Witness Protection, world without end. Amen.

I'm just sayin'...

Posted by: dirrtysw | June 6, 2007 04:42 PM

Here's one of my lingering thoughts: What was that throwaway comment (probably the only honest one) that Carmela made during the dinner at Artie's when like all parents do, they pretended to be relieved about their children's decisions and actions -- it was very off-handed about Meadow not really being very compassionate and therefore medicine probably wasn't the best choice for her? And Tony gave Carmela a low-key but very surprised/confused/taken aback sideways look.

An echo of the Sociopaths study reviewed that very night by Melfi and referred to by her mentor/therapist on the previous episode. So what's that all about? Confirming that it's a whole family of sociopaths or something more revealing/sinister/telling?

Remember the very first episode began with Tony driving Meadow to check out a small college and on the way he just happened to garrott a mob sell-out. Meanwhile Sil just happened to garrott a T. sell-out....parallel themes within parallel themes.

God I'll miss this great show all about murderous sociopaths, psychopaths and families (a small microcosm standing in for our very own culture, nation, world)!

Posted by: | June 6, 2007 04:48 PM

Why am I reminded of Springsteen's "41 Shots"?

Posted by: | June 6, 2007 04:51 PM

I think AJ's going to kill Tony, then turn the gun on himself.

Magazine's Shot By Both Sides is the final song.

Posted by: Uppie | June 6, 2007 04:53 PM

Phil gets it, and little Carmine takes over NY, restoring good relations. Carmela has had enough, and tells Tony that she is taking AJ with her out west.

Tony agrees to go with her, but just can't tear himself away...and stays a lonely mobster

Posted by: Finale | June 6, 2007 05:01 PM

My prediction: Tony announces that he's giving up the "family business" in order to begin a new career as a Fox News commentator, but all the other characters talk him out of it on the ground that he's not mean-spirited enough for the job.

Posted by: John B. | June 6, 2007 06:27 PM

It's been said that the Sopranos is all about family. So as the Sopranos comes to its bitter end, we'll witness the destruction of Tony and his 2 families. Remember, blood is what matters to T. (last week we saw a lot of it).

My hunch is that the final episode will be about Tony's real blood. AJ has had his brakedown but I think there's more in store for him. Meadow will be killed. Ironically, she's been the saviest & strongest of his blood. So the Sopranos will conclude with her death whether by mistaken idenity or by the NY gang's intent, but Meadow dies next Sunday. Tony might even witness her killing but survive to live in a Meadowless world.

And AJ? My hunch is he'll become so distraught about Meadow's death that he'll kill himself. Thus Tony and Carmela will live in a lifeless, childless bleak world.

Out, out damn spot.

Posted by: bajamary | June 6, 2007 09:17 PM

Here's how it ends.

Ala GODFATHER III, Carm or Meadow (probably Meadow) dies in the crossfire of an attempt on Tony. Paulie dies too. Tony kills Leotardo. Agent Harris shuffles Tony into witness protection.

Tony and Carmela wind up in an anonymous upscale neighborhood in Bettendorf. The final scene is Tony in confessional: "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."

Posted by: plstepp | June 8, 2007 09:57 AM

We may all want Tony to live but both Chase and Gandolfini want this to end. While the arc of the drama calls for him to live, killing him off may well be the only way to ensure that there is no follow-on movie. What can't happen, however, is a victory for Phil. At the very least, the Feds will step in to stop that.

Is Pauli the rat? I don't think so if only because, if he were, he would be more confident and not tossing sideways glances wondering who is out to get him.

As in the Godfather, watch for the character who proposes a peace conference with Phil. Tony will see through that and set a counter ambush. The problem now is that he has no one who can pull it off and he goes down in a gun fight.

Doctor Melfi is gone as are all the other secondary characters such as Christopher and Sil. This is Tony's final scene and he will play it essentially alone. Just him and, of course, his demons.

The denouement will show that the family was not hit. They are all damaged enough. Carmela deals with her fate, and has money stashed away. Meadow goes on with her life and law school. AJ continues to sink into a swamp of self pity. And the closing song: think opera not rock. This time, the fat lady will sing.

Posted by: elcalvon | June 9, 2007 07:16 AM

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