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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
“You probably don’t even hear it when it happens, right?” — Bobby Bacala
No sad music, no slow motion, no teary funeral, no time for condolences. When the blood-dimmed tide finally rolled in during last night’s penultimate “Sopranos” episode, an eerie quiet settled in. One minute, Bobby was deciding to splurge on a particularly expensive model train engine, the next, he was on the floor of the store, full of bullets. Sil made a hasty escape from the Bing with a bag full of cash, but he was still caught reaching for his gun. Even when Sil was shot, though, his expression hardly changed: He’s always looked ready to take a bullet for Tony, after all, whether he was facing down a disloyal element in the crew or gluing together a broken lamp.
These weren’t romantic assaults on the mob battlefield. No violins soared as the bullets flew, no crafty, carefully considered plan was set into motion. Tony’s hit on Phil was bungled by strangers, leaving Tony exposed and forced into running for his life. And what better way to demonstrate Tony’s vulnerability than to drag everyone in the Bing — customers, bartenders, naked dancers — out into the unforgiving light of day, to witness the attack on Sil in the parking lot?
And of course it’s not just the main targets that go down: A father and daughter die needlessly earlier in the episode, and then a motorcyclist is run over by an SUV when Phil’s assassins pull back into traffic outside the Bing. Creator David Chase has always forced us to reckon not only with the mundane realities of death in the mob, but also with the fact that organized crime has countless victims outside the immediate circle of criminals, from fallen bystanders to victims of pointless acts of rage (Christopher’s murder of JT) to innocents like those poisoned by the huge, dusty piles of discarded asbestos.
Dr. Melfi is just now waking up to the ramifications of her involvement with a criminal for the first time, thanks to the unrelenting prodding of her therapist and colleague, Elliot Kupferberg. At the start of the episode, Elliot again brings up the study he read, which asserts that sociopaths are only enabled by talk therapy. “I only suggested you reevaluate your work with… Leadbelly, or be prepared to deal with moral and possibly legal consequences,” Elliot tells her in front of a large crowd at a dinner party. Then, when the others inquire, he can’t resist giving clues that make it obvious he’s talking about Tony Soprano.
When Melfi expresses her horror at this, Elliot shows his usual sensitivity: “Chill out, we’re among friends, we’re all professionals.” Of course, these don’t seem like friends, and Elliot is hardly being professional. Even so, Melfi finally breaks down and reads the study.
“The criminal’s sentimentality reveals itself in compassion for babies and pets,” she reads, with a look of horror on her face. At their next session, she abruptly tells Tony he should find help elsewhere. Even though he condescends to her, comparing her to Carmela and saying that her feelings must be the result of “female menopausal situations,” it’s hard not to side with Tony, particular given how unfeeling and dishonest Melfi is in handling the situation.
Tony: So wait a minute. You’re telling me, after all this time, after everything we’ve shared in here, you’re cutting me loose, just as my son got out of the hospital, for trying to kill himself?
Melfi: Since you are in crisis, I don’t want to waste your time.
Tony: You know, to be fucking honest, as a doctor, I think that what you’re doing is immoral.
Tony leaves in a huff, but we can see that his downfall has begun: The protective bubble that he’s been living in all these years has finally burst, and now he is truly alone.
Recognizing that Phil is out for blood and won’t back down, Tony stomachs the news of Bobby and Sil with the same grim look he’s had on his face for weeks now. He’s forced to gather a few things and say goodbye to his family, since his presence will put them in danger.
Carmela is panicked but gathers herself together; Meadow is at her mother’s side; AJ is, of course, another matter entirely. Tony urges him to help Carmela out while Tony is gone, but this is lost on AJ. All he can think about is himself.
AJ: Uncle Bobby’s dead. You know, this is really depressing to me.
Tony: He was a good guy.
AJ: I was already having so much trouble maintaining!
AJ bursts into tears, and Tony gets that murderous look in his eye and grabs him and throws him onto the floor. Tony’s rage and displaced self-hatred is palpable — there they are again, his “putrid fucking genes,” making his kid too self-involved and stupid to notice that when someone dies, no one’s losing sleep over how it might affect the mood of his depressed nephew.
Bobby’s words to Tony out on the lake turn out to be prescient: Death is everywhere, but Tony’s world is disconcertingly calm and still. In the last scene of Sunday’s episode, lying back with a massive rifle on his chest, Tony is more alone than he’s ever been, listening closely for what comes next.
What do you think? Which will it be for Tony — death, prison or witness protection? Since it seems unlikely that Tony’s former associates are actually terrorists, could the Feds have contacted them so they would testify against Tony? Does Detective Harris actually care about Tony, or does he want him to stay alive so they can arrest him and finally present their case against him? Does AJ’s obsession with terrorists and suicide bombers foreshadow some final act of sacrifice, in which he saves his family from harm? Give us your final predictions!
* * * * For more coverage of the season finales of your favorite TV shows, click here.
Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky. More Heather Havrilesky.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)