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The Sopranos are singing, just not in the way we thought

The Baltimore Sun

If you watched the return of The Sopranos on HBO last night, you know the notorious New Jersey crime family has sunk to a new low.

Forget the whackings and beatings and witness intimidation.

Forget the drug dealing, loan sharking and extortion.

No, this is truly unforgivable.

Now they're into karaoke.

OK, was that painful to watch or what?

Carmela with a snootful of wine swaying in front of the teleprompter and screeching the lyrics to "Love Hurts"?

Look, if we have to put up with any more of that in the next eight episodes, it's going to be a long, long season.

Hey, if I want karaoke, I'll go to $1 Heineken Night at some joint on Pulaski Highway and see people who can really sing when they're drunk.

Actually, the final episodes of The Sopranos got off to a rousing start: Tony busted on a gun charge, a drunken fistfight between Tony and his brother-in-law Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri at a lakeside cabin in upstate New York, Bobby whacking some guy in a Laundromat in Canada on a contract job.

And Tony cheating at Monopoly!

Was that wild, too?

The big lug celebrates his 47th birthday with wife Carmela, his sister, Janice, and her husband, Bobby, happily blows out the candles on his cake, gets all misty-eyed over his good fortune and tells everyone how much he loves them.

Then they sit down to a friendly game of Monopoly.

And he cheats!

He tries to palm an extra $500 from the bank!

Oh, you couldn't make this stuff up.

Only the show's producer and creator, David Chase, could make this stuff up. And it's sad to think he's going to kill off this brilliant series and this wonderfully dysfunctional family in a couple of months.

From the feel of last night's show, it looks as if The Sopranos' final episodes will explore familiar themes: middle-age angst, greed, rejection, betrayal and revenge.

And who does revenge better than Tony Soprano?

Are you kidding?

This guy is the Leonardo da Vinci of revenge.

He makes Michael Corleone look like Mahatma Gandhi.

That's why I'm not getting a good feeling about Christopher Moltisanti, Tony's nephew, who, you'll remember, forgot to call Tony and wish him a happy birthday.

When Christopher finally did call, Tony hung up on him.

Uh-oh. Not a good sign.

If I were Christopher, I'd go buy a birthday card at Rite Aid, stuff it with about 10 grand, and run it over to Tony, pronto.

Plus, in a dark corner of Tony's mind, he's probably still ticked at Christopher for moving in on that real estate-selling floozie Tony himself had been interested in.

So even a nice Hallmark card filled with cash might not save Christopher this time.

I'm also not real optimistic about Bobby living to a ripe old age, either, after last night's brawl.

Let's just say this: Getting plowed on grappa and sucker-punching your boss, who happens to be the head of a powerful crime family and famously cranky anyway, is probably not a great career move.

Even if the boss did say some horrible, degrading things about your wife (who is also the boss' sister).

So, if there's an over-under line on Bobby still being around to collect Social Security when he's 62, I'd definitely go with the under.

In addition to anticipating the usual number of whackings this season - the body-count-per-episode might be higher than the Orioles' ERA this spring - Sopranos fans are hoping some big questions are answered before the series says goodbye.

Will Carmela ever learn that Tony had Christopher's old girlfriend, ditzy Adriana La Cerva, whacked when she started singing to the feds?

What'll happen to this budding relationship between Tony and Carmela's sullen kid A.J. - is there anyone who doesn't want to smack this kid? - and Blanca, the older, Puerto Rican single mom he's been seeing?

Will rival mobster Phil Leotardo and Tony square off in a final murderous showdown? (Also, where did Leotardo get his teeth whitening done? The guy's choppers look fabulous!)

Will Tony himself get whacked before it's all over?

Or will he end up doing life-plus-60 in a federal slammer, blowing up on starchy prison food, listlessly thumbing through old copies of Hustler and whining about his RICO conviction to the other cons until he leaves this mortal coil?

And the biggest question of all: There won't be anymore karaoke, will there?


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