"One thing about us wiseguys, the hustle never ends...."
Tony Soprano whispers those words to Fabian Petrulio (aka Frederick Peters, a former member of the fictional New Jersey mob family, who flipped.)
The two -- Tony and Fred -- had been effectively hunting each other for the past day. Fabian blew his chance to kill Tony the night before at the motel where the New Jersey mob boss was staying with his tiny young daughter. Too many witnesses.
The next morning however he was still trying. Petrulio (or Peters) tries to hire a junkie to kill both Tony and his daughter. "Gray Lincoln town car. New model." But not even a junkie and his girlfriend will cross that line. They are not going to commit murder. Fred Peters then begins to work the phone (our rat hasn't changed much since Witness Protection. He deals drugs and participated in an arson...)
|In "College," Tony brutally murders a rat, Fabian Petrulio.|
It is precisely this ambiguity which David Chase so wisely worked into the very fiber of the show, using it to provide justification for Tony's actions.
Well, he wanted to kill Tony -- and his daughter! The rat deserves what he got!
David Chase played a game with us during the show's entire run.
He did all he could do to make Tony as evil as possible, while also stacking the deck in such a way -- against us, the viewers -- that he was able to render us complicit in Tony's criminality.
|One of Tony's most brutal murders on HBO's The Sopranos. He's driving his daughter to visit colleges.|
Tony was in the clear. He could've just left with his daughter, unmolested. Instead Tony has tasted blood. He wants to kill. And so back to the beginning:
"Jimmy says hello from hell, you fuck!" He yells and fiercely yanks the cord, pulling Petrulio off his feet, then leaping forward, Tony lands on top of him, the makeshift garrote ripping the sides of Tony's hands as he growls and strangles the life out of Petrulio.
Tony even places a finger on his neck afterward, checking for a pulse.
This Soprano's episode -- from season one, episode 5 -- called "College", is a personal favorite (though Pine Barrens is the greatest single episode of all). See the above described segment on YouTube here.
The plot involves Tony driving his daughter upstate so she can visit colleges (and "get over this Berkeley kick," as Carmella informs us). In the process he encounters, quite by chance, a turncoat -- a "rat" who testified against Tony's crime family.
It's during College that, for the first and I believe only time, Tony has an honest discussion with his daughter, Meadow, so small and vulnerable beside him.
"Are you in the Mafia?" she suddenly asks, bluntly, during the drive.
Tony is obviously startled and in a flash we see the myriad thoughts blooming in his head before he swiftly composes himself. (ADDED: This is the great (and, sadly, deceased) James Gandolfini at his best, showcasing his storied acting ability. The above link is to the YouTube clip of the "Are you in the Mafia?" conversation, for which embedding was disabled.)
"Am I in the what!" Tony's words sound phony initially, fabricated, a speech prepared long ago.
Meadow reveals to him that she knows a lot more than he may think. She reminds him of all those times the police showed up at casa Soprano with warrants, how many times she saw him leaving home at 3 a.m.
"I'm in the waste management business, everyone automatically assumes you're mobbed up!" he soon barks at her. He offers a bouquet of cliches. "It's a stereotype and it's offensive! And you're the last person I'd want to perpetuate it!"
Then the final indignity: "There is no Mafia!"
Brief silence looms as Tony understands he needs to reel his argument back in a few notches.
"Look, Meadow...." he starts. Then a glib excuse to directly address her evidence: Some of his money comes from "illegal gambling and whatnot."
Meadow is wise enough to see through his paper-thin argument, he realizes. His little girl has grown up.
Then it's Meadow who, likely unknowingly, begins to justify her father's criminal lifestyle, noting that other dads she knows are hypocrites, holding positions in "big tobacco" or, even worse, as lawyers.
Tony, perhaps sensing the potential harm he's inflicting on her mind as she starts down the long, dark path of denial, doesn't join in. Instead, he changes the subject. "Some of my money also comes from the stock market--"
"Dad, don't mealy-mouth now."
In the end Meadow carefully calls her father out every single time he mysteriously disappears.
"What's wrong with the phone in our room," she asks, catching him on the payphone on the street.
On the drive home she even quite dramatically asks about the bloody bandages on his hands, the rich brown mud still wet on the tips of his nice Italian shoes. She also noticed her father's earlier interest in Petrulio, at a gas station, though she knows nothing more than the fact something attaches him to her father.
Does she know she's seeing evidence of cold-blooded murder? Tony of course can't go anywhere near this. He offers nothing more than a cursory story about a "missing" wristwatch. Imagine these instances, clues, basically, accumulating in Meadow's subconscious for the entire length of her life at home.
This is an excellent episode. The Sopranos, overall, is probably the most realistic viewpoint we will ever have of daily life for families with members involved in organized crime.
The Mafia foremost is a secret society composed entirely of males. The wives, daughters and sisters are not part of it -- but can be complicit based on the extent of their knowledge, what they will condone or not condone. In the end, while living with a Mafioso father or husband, the woman lives off "blood money" whether she knows this or not. This is all weighty stuff -- and the countless flashes of knowledge the daughter or wife experiences throughout life only serves to further damage them, mostly psychologically. In the end we all choose our own beds.
It's a troubling psychological issue for everyone involved but I'd say the daughters and wives are inflicted with the worst psychological torment of all. They don't know if daddy will leave the house one night and turn up dead in car trunk a week later. (Parents with abusive or alcoholic fathers/family members probably go through a similar PTSD-type of experience, I believe. What's different? Really, the trappings of the lifestyle... In the mobster's case, it historically meant untold affluence. These days....?)
This is not an indictment of the wives and daughters (nieces and grandparents, not to mention the young males, who face an entirely different moral dilemma); it's an acknowledgement of what some may endure....
It is the showcasing of this very dynamic -- the "women of the Mafia" that made Mob Wives such an interesting show, at first....
You honestly didn't think I'd let Mob Wives reach the end of the road without weighing in, did you?
The majority of us, who know nothing about what the true mob wife or daughter goes through, were promised a view into this very lifestyle. Only the show wasn't what it was billed to be. (And it couldn't possibly be. Real wiseguys and their women wouldn't go near such a show. And they didn't. Yes, Renee and Jennifer Graziano's father was a Bonanno capo, but he was shelved over the show. And he's never been seen or heard in a single episode and is rarely been mentioned.)
In fact it's been established that the Five Families, quite literally, are furious with the show. I am not saying that at any point anyone on the show is or was targeted by the Mafia, but there's been some consequences.
One incarcerated wiseguy or associate (not sure what his association was) was nearly killed over something related to Mob Wives, as Gangland News reported
Go read Linda Scarpa's book, The Mafia Hit Man's Daughter, if you seek a true, realistic and accurate depiction of what it's like to live with a mobster in the family.
|Click image to purchase.|
Still, the show could've evolved in a number of ways -- though it ultimately took the approach of most reality shows -- the formula for reality-show success, which calls for fighting and arguing.
Who better to engage in such activities than so-called mob wives?
The boiled-down essence of this formula is: one larger group goes after the one or two "characters" who somehow don't fit in or don't want to fit in with the rest.
Last year, it was Natalie Guercio -- and this year, quite clearly, it was (or is) Brittany Fogarty.
This blog is about the mob; the show nicely converged with my coverage at the time.
This year the dynamic just wasn't there. Instead we have.... Marissa Jade? I mean, c'mon, Marissa Jade?
She comes across as a minor, first of all. And I love the way we are told "she is a model" and we then get to see a photographer take photos of her -- wow, she's a real model!!
The model conceit is how they have been introducing a lot of Mob Wives onto the show the past few years. Even our beloved Natalie Guercio, who quickly caught our attention after Alicia slipped away from the VH1 show for legal reasons...apparently.
This year though, they have a bona fide real model -- Brittany Fogarty. She walks down runways clad in cutting-edge designer apparel.
Yet you wouldn't have known that until later in the season. This I believe was the tip-off that Brittany was on the outs with the most important person on mob wives....
To be continued later today..