The Sopranos 20th Anniversary: The Whack That Changed Everything (2023)

Over a lifetime of television watching, scores of startling images and striking lines have lodged in my brain. But it’s the sight of Adriana La Cerva crawling on her knees through a sun-dappled forest, begging for mercy, that carved a Sopranos-shaped scar across my heart.

During the two decades since The Sopranos premiered, a legion of critics, fans, and scholars have pored over the HBO series with Talmudic intensity, analyzing and debating every moment. Humming Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” is all it takes in certain circles to trigger a cascade of ferocious arguments over the show’s anti-ending: is Tony Soprano dead or alive? Was this one of the great TV finales of all time, or pop culture’s biggest cop-out? (I fall in the former camp, don’t @ me.)

(Video) ‘The Sopranos’ Cast Reunites For 20th Anniversary: Full Interview | TODAY

Shredding the rulebook, The Sopranos set new standards for serious purveyors of television. Over 86 hours, the series dared us to love—or, rather, arranged it so we couldn’t help loving—the magnetic, existentially troubled Tony Soprano and his henchmen. But it laid down narrative tripwires and trapdoors to periodically remind us that we were locked in a deal with the devil—just like Carmela Soprano and the other women who orbited these mobster monsters. As a therapist told Carmela early in the series, “One thing you can never say, that you haven’t been told.”

David Chase, the show’s creator, threw down the gauntlet in the fifth episode of Season 1, when he had Tony murder a snitch with his bare hands in the midst of a college tour with his daughter, Meadow. Then-HBO chief Chris Albrecht wanted to cut that brutal scene, worried that it would make it hard for viewers to relate to Tony. But Chase insisted, “If we’re really gonna believe this guy is a credible mobster, he’s gotta kill people.” Over the next four seasons, blood splashed the screen at regular intervals, as moles got whacked and rival gangsters eliminated.

(Video) The Sopranos: Ending Explained

But it was the murder of Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) in the Season 5 episode “Long Term Parking”—regarded by many Sopranos aficionados as one of the series’s absolute best—that chilled me to the bone and changed my relationship with the show forever. Which is just what the writers intended: a wake-up call to viewers who had grown so fond of characters like Tony (James Gandolfini), lost in his midlife muddle, or Adriana’s fiancé, Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), with his self-deluding dreams of being a screenwriter. The flickers of tenderness and humor could only mask for so long the corruption and cold-bloodedness at the core of the world inhabited and created by these men.

“Long Term Parking” draped the remainder of the series in black. It won Terence Winter a best-writing Emmy—he would go on to create Boardwalk Empire—and probably clinched Emmy statues for de Matteo and Imperioli, as well as a best-drama award for the show that season. There had been a few precedents for killing off key characters on TV series before The Sopranos, but after Adriana, the act became almost de rigueur for high-end cable shows, from Game of Thrones’ Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), to Dexter’s Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), to The Good Wife’s Will Gardner (Josh Charles).

(Video) James Gandolfini - Saturday Night Live

Adriana’s brutal termination was all the more shocking and painful because she had been the show’s closest approximation of an innocent. Optimistic and go-getting, sheisa mob boss’s vision of a glamour girl, with her scraped-back, bleach-blonde ponytail, spackled-on makeup, and tight leather pants and miniskirts. But by the fifth season, the veneer is starting to crack. Adriana is on Prozac and has been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, her bowels wracked by stress.

(Video) James Gandolfini Funeral: 'Sopranos' Star Tony Sirico Says 'We Lost Family'

(Video) What The Hell Was That? The Sopranos 20 Years Later | NYT


Why did they whack Adriana? ›

Attempting to avoid a fate given to other informants like The Sopranos' Jimmy Altieri by only giving away information that she didn't deem crucial, Adriana hopes that she can appease both sides. Unfortunately, her efforts are to no avail, since Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) eventually finds out and puts a hit on her.

What is the meaning of the final scene in The Sopranos? ›

It's clear, though, that the sudden cut to black represents the end of Tony Soprano's life. Earlier in the series, Tony's friend Bobby said to him, “You probably don't ever hear it when it happens, right?” And that's it, a cut to black and silence, no explanation as to exactly what happens.

Did Tony get whacked? ›

And, yes, Tony gets whacked. "At the beginning of every show, he came from New York into New Jersey, and [I thought] the last scene could be him coming from New Jersey back into New York for a meeting at which he was going to be killed," Chase told Feinberg, explaining his original concept for the mobster's undoing.

What did David Chase say about the ending of The Sopranos? ›

Chase admitted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Tony Soprano's death was going to be in a fashion similar to the show's iconic intro. "Because the scene I had in my mind was not that scene. Nor did I think of cutting to black.

Did Tony sleep with Adriana? ›

Adriana and Tony never technically hook up, which is the only reason she is not higher on this list. However, unlike some other women who reject Tony's advances (such as Dr. Melfi), Adriana and Tony absolutely would have become entangled with one another except they were interrupted - twice.

Do they ever find Adriana in Sopranos? ›

In the 12th episode of the fifth season, “Long Term Parking”, Adriana's shocking death occurs at the hands of Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt). After she's discovered as an FBI informant, her boyfriend Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), is forced to cope when she's killed by Tony's right-hand-man.


1. Steve Schirripa and Michael Imperioli Remember James Gandolfini
(JRE Clips)
2. New York Capos Talks About The Hit On New Jersey - The Sopranos HD
3. Steve Schirripa & Michael Imperioli Got Advice from the Mob While Filming The Sopranos
(Late Night with Seth Meyers)
4. Carmela Is Warned (Most brutal scene in entire series)
(shona Boy)
5. The Sopranos Emmy Win (season 5)
6. 30 Sopranos Actors who have died


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