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Dedicated “Sopranos” fans were shocked last week by the end of episode, the surprise shooting of Tony Soprano by his Uncle Junior (who’s gone a bit senile in recent years). Last night’s follow-up show focused–of course–on the aftermath of the shooting, as experienced by both Tony, through a series of coma-induced dreams, and as experienced by his family in their intense grief at the possibility of loosing him.

After last season’s downward turn in Tony’s character–when he was forced to live without Carmela’s constant presence and her capacity to keep him at least somewhat grounded despite his criminal tendencies–I can’t help but wonder: Is this shooting the beginning of Tony’s path to redemption? Is his suffering in a hospital bed a painful penance for his sins? Is Tony’s spilling of blood–something that often happens on the show to others but never in any significant way to Tony before now–a kind of Jesus-like giving of his own blood as payment for his past digressions and even those of his captains and heavies?

Two significant things in last night’s episode raised this question for me. First were the dream sequences Tony experienced. In his dreams, Tony was a regular salesman with no criminal past who’s stuck on a sales trip trying to get back to his perfect-sounding family. In other words, Tony’s fantasy is of being a regular guy, not a mobster who is continually juggling his role as a hardened criminal and dedicated family man. What will happen if he comes out of this coma? Will Tony express the same desire to turn away from mafia life and set himself on a straight and narrow path like in his dreams? Will this near-death experience allow him to finally free that sympathetic, caring man we can all see glimpses of here and there throughout the entire run of “The Sopranos”?

The second significant moment came from Carmela, whom I’ve always regarded as the moral compass and central religious figure on the show. Carmela recalls, while weeping at Tony’s bedside, when several years earlier, while she and Tony were fighting she told him he was going to hell. Tears fall down her face and onto her husband’s body as he lays there in a coma, and Carmela tells Tony that he’s a good man, that he’s not going to hell, that she is sorry for ever saying that. Are Carmela’s confessions, her forgiveness, and especially her tears a kind of “christening moment” for her husband? A renewed welcoming back into not only her family’s life, but also a baptismal renewal for his life and path in general?

Maybe I’m too optimistic. But maybe there’s hope for Tony yet.

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