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[This story contains spoilers for The Many Saints of Newark.]
One of the biggest questions from The Sopranos has finally been answered in The Many Saints of Newark. But the answer may not sit well with some series die-hards — and, in proper David Chase style, raises even more questions.
For those who are not fanatics of the iconic HBO mob drama that changed television history, discovering who killed Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) is probably not that jaw-dropping. For a good portion of the Warner Bros. picture, directed by series alum Alan Taylor, it appears Dickie will be taken out by associate-turned-rival Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.). So, when it turns out that the hit on Dickie was ordered by Corrado “Junior” Soprano (Corey Stoll), there is a surprise element — but certainly not an “OMG!” turn of events.
However, for those who have watched the Chase series repeatedly over the years and know every little detail about “the Family,” discovering the mastermind — and reasoning — behind Dickie’s demise — is shocking. So much so, it will likely polarize fans who have been filling message boards for years, debating who murdered Dickie and why.
In Many Saints, Dickie is shot dead by an unknown assassin as he is getting TV trays out of his car in front of his home. Shortly after the hit, Junior is shown walking to a payphone where the person on the other end of the line informs him, “It’s done.” Junior, for the most part, appeared to like and support the Soprano soldier. But it was clear he did not care for the teasing. And he became incensed after Dickie got a huge laugh out of his embarrassing fall on wet steps, resulting in a severe back injury. Junior, no doubt, was also jealous of how respected and revered the “great” Dickie was to the crew.
Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) was just a baby when his father, Dickie, was killed. In the fourth-season episode “For All Debts Public and Private,” Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) has Christopher kill Barry Haydu, a recently retired cop whom Tony claims killed Dickie at the behest of Jilly Ruffalo. Jilly, as Tony tells it, was in prison with Dickie and murdered Dickie’s cellmate. Dickie, years later, gouged out Jilly’s eye for revenge. Then Jilly, as Tony tells Christoper, hired Barry to kill Dickie. Barry, begging for his life, tells Christopher he knew nothing about the situation.
After Many Saints, fans know Tony’s version of events was a lie, leaving more questions to debate. Tony loves Christopher as a nephew as he loved Dickie as an uncle, a relationship that is explored more deeply in Many Saints, with Michael Gandolfini playing a version of the character his father made a legend. So, it stands to reason Tony believed the tale about Jilly; that is just the story he was told, maybe even by Junior. And since the actual killer in the film is not seen, there is a chance that Barry was the gunman.
The likely bone to pick for a portion of Sopranos fans: Junior ordering the hit, especially out of anger and hurt pride, may be seen as out of character and unsatisfying. In the series, Junior (Dominic Chianese) was not afraid to order a hit — even against Tony — if it involved business. But he was often shown to be a wise tactician, such as when he chose to divulge to Tony in “The Knight in White Satin Armor” that Richie Aprile (David Proval) was going to make a move against him because Junior determined that Tony was the best for his future. And in the first season’s “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” when Christopher was actually interfering with Junior’s trucking interests, he ordered a mock execution to send a message. Yes, Brendan Filone (Anthony DeSando) was actually killed. But, again, the orders were about business, not a knee-jerk emotional response.
That said, there is an argument for the Many Saints move, as Junior from the series was bitter that his star did not rise faster. He could also be a hothead who snapped at others when irritated. He went so far as to smash a pie in the face of girlfriend Bobbi Sanfillipo (Robyn Peterson) after she gossiped about his bedroom prowess, for which he was mocked by Tony in season one’s “Boca.” Clearly, Junior never liked to be seen as weak and perhaps was far more reactionary in his younger years.
In the total 86 episodes of The Sopranos, Junior never once mentions Dickie. He talks about his frustrations with Christopher being a “loose cannon” in the season one episode “42 Long” and tells Tony in “The Strong, Silent Type” that Christopher’s heroin addiction is a serious problem that must be met with strict consequences — “Heroin? You got only one option: A dog you love catches rabies, you put it out of its misery.” But, never a mention of the father. Perhaps Junior protected the secret by never speaking of the elder Moltisanti.
And that raises yet another question: Who told Christopher his father was an addict? In Many Saints, Dickie has a problem with drinking but is not shown doing drugs and certainly is not a “junkie,” as Christopher refers to him in the sixth season’s “Walk Like a Man.” He makes the remark when talking to Tony about his own struggles with addiction. Tony is baffled by the statement, which squares with the Many Saints version of Dickie. In fact, it has been a long-running fan theory that Junior’s “rabies” remark, and later Christopher saying his father was a “junkie,” pointed to Dickie being killed by the Soprano brothers because he was a liability.
No matter the case, the Many Saints turn will have fans once again debating while they go back to the series, exploring every mention of Dickie to determine whether breadcrumbs were overlooked.
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