Tony Soprano Is Going to Hell
For six seasons, 'Sopranos' fans have been asking what will happen to Tony. The answer: He is going to hell.
The opening image of "The Second Coming," the third-to-last episode of "The Sopranos," is a steaming pile of trash. The camera lingers on the image for a moment, then cuts to a wide angle of the refuse at the edge of a New Jersey marshland. The waste is seeping into the water, contaminating a whole region, a whole people.
"Sopranos" devotees know that this isn't just any trash—it's Tony Soprano's trash, a pile of asbestos produced by a workers union the Sopranos are extorting. Tony's mob-chief rival, Phil Leotardo, will no longer allow Tony's crew to dump in one of Phil's waste sites without paying a steep price. So Tony passes on the cost of doing business to thousands of Garden State residents.
The trash is a fitting image for Tony's decline as northern New Jersey mob boss and patriarch of the extended Sopranos family. "Waste management" has long been Tony's cover for his crime syndicate, but more importantly, trash has been a way for "Sopranos"-creator David Chase to make literal the ways in which the Mafia, as imagined by popular culture, is in the business of disposal. Mobsters don't just execute victims; they make them disappear—dark plastic bags; cement shoes; Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, and Ray Liotta digging a midnight grave in "Goodfellas." Being a good mobster means being a good custodian.
But we're in the End Times for Tony Soprano, which could mean he's headed for an apocalypse, a complete unveiling of his crimes as the FBI finally gets their guy. That's not likely to happen, but Tony's past is still present. He hasn't been a good enough manager of waste. Earlier this season the FBI discovered the resting place of Tony's first murder victim, a man Tony killed more than two decades earlier. The murder of Adrianna, fiancé of Tony's nephew and surrogate son Christopher Moltisanti, continued to haunt Tony and precipitated his decision to murder Christopher. These and other debris from Tony's past keep filtering into his life like refuse into the New Jersey marsh.
The image of burning asbestos, then, is the answer to what has always been the most pressing question for fans of "The Sopranos": What will happen to Tony?