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The biggest unanswered questions in The Sopranos

13 years have passed since The Sopranos faded to black. Since that unforgettable ending, questions have proliferated wildly. What happens to Tony? What wider themes is the ending gesturing towards? Why would the creators end the show in such a strange, ambiguous way?

Ending on an odd, subversive note like this has become something of a trend since The Sopranos' shocking final shot. The reasoning is different for each show. Some creators can't stick the landing, as it's hard to cram years worth of material and memories into a neat, presentable package — see Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, and Seinfeld. Others seem to be the result of sloppiness, like Game of Thrones. Then there are shows like The Sopranos, that, frankly, nail the ending, but not in the way the audience expected.

Indeed, this legendary mob drama leaves many unanswered questions. Here are some of the biggest plot points we're still pondering, years later.

Meadow's roommate meltdown, and the bugged lamp

College is hard, as evidenced by Meadow Soprano's roommate, Caitlin. Caitlin, to put it lightly, is a ticking time bomb. She parties hard, takes drugs, struggles with self-harm, then seems to end up on a better path in which she gets help for her anxiety. We assume she's okay, but the show fades her character out — which is admittedly similar to the way college works.

But still, questions linger. For instance, what happens to the bugged lamp in the Sopranos' basement that Meadow takes? The FBI went through so much trouble trying to bug Big Tony's basement. One would think they could learn important information about Tony through Meadow. But hey, maybe not. Maybe they didn't continue with that plotline because the FBI didn't have the authority or reason to spy on a college girl.

Like many storylines in The Sopranos, the creators left these two plot threads dangling. But that's not unrealistic, really: Friendships end, people leave, and lamps get lost.

Svetlana vs. Janice: Why doesn't Tony retaliate?

There are many scores to settle in The Sopranos – it comes with the territory of being a mob show. One of its most intriguing conflicts is the beef between Svetlana Kirilenko, the manager of a home care nursing business, and Janice Soprano, Tony's sister. To make a long story short, Livia Soprano, Tony and Janice's mother, gives Svetlana her prized records. Janice believes these relics belong to her. Svetlana refuses to give them up as they were given to her specifically. Janice retaliates by stealing Svetlana's prosthetic leg. Svetlana, who has ties to the Russian mafia, sends goons after Janice and puts her in the hospital. Tony visits her and angrily tells Janice that he's now forced to retaliate and risk a war with the Russians, or lose respect and appear weak.

From the audience's perspective, Tony does nothing. While events are implied to happen off-screen, this seems like a situation the creators could have really sunk their teeth into: A battle between the Russian mob and a little-yet-powerful New Jersey crime family would have been fierce. Yet it never happens.

What happens to Furio Giunta?

Furio Giunta is a feared enforcer. But when he's not cracking skulls and collecting payments, he is remarkably tender-hearted and classy. Tony trusts him with his life and even welcomes him into his home on a routine basis. Unfortunately, this psychopath-turned-lover falls for Tony's wife, Carmela Soprano.

Furio begins to resent Tony because of Carmela and even goes as far as almost pushing Big Tone into a helicopter blade. Realizing he can no longer do his job to the best of his abilities, Furio flees to Naples.

So let's recap. Not only did Furio nearly kill the boss and harbor feelings for his wife, he leaves New Jersey without notice, which screams he did something to deceive Tony. Heck, just by leaving, he also deceives Tony. You don't cross Tony Soprano. Fuggedaboutit. Right?

Wrong. Furio's deception is forgotten about and we never hear from him again. As the leader of a mafia family, Tony doesn't have to squash all beefs, on or off the screen, and acting on this particular beef would mean Tony would have to go to Italy to ensure the job is done. Let's all just assume Furio got over Carmela, and is enjoying some fine Neapolitan pizza.

Dr. Melfi's trauma

In a disturbing scene, Tony's therapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi is raped in a parking garage. The show, on more than one occasion, gives the impression that she's going to tell Tony so he can take care of her attacker, mob style. But she never tells him about the attack. Dr. Melfi is allowed to handle and deal with this situation however she wants to. However, by not telling Tony, the horrifying event becomes a jarring plot development that didn't need to happen.

Of course, just as fast as people scream at the screen for her to tell Tony about what happened (and she appears to come close), they'd likely be screaming in discussion boards about how out of character she'd be if she had told him. When the audience doesn't get what it wants, it defaults to acting as a higher and all-knowing being. There are significant consequences to people's actions in this series, and the right choice is not always obvious. For better or worse, Dr. Melfi didn't act the way the audience wanted her to, and every fan has to figure out if that was a good choice or not for themselves.

What happens to the Russian mobster Christopher and Paulie try to kill?

Fan favorites Christopher Moltisanti and Paulie Gualtieri head to Russian mobster Valery's place to make a collection. This is supposed to be a simple errand, yet turns into a typical "dead guy in an apartment, wrapped in a rug" case, despite Valery being close to Slava Malevsky, an associate of Tony's and the Russian mob boss.

Chris and Paulie take Valery to the Pine Barrens. Valery, actually alive, is forced to dig his own grave. He manages to escape when their guard is down, but is supposedly shot in the head as he's running away. While trails are found, they eventually stop, and there's no further sign of Valery. We never hear from him again. It's assumed that Valery takes Paulie's car and  likely tells Slava what happened, creating another mess for T to clean up. But, other than the missing car, that never happens.

Eventually, Paulie's actor, Tony Sirico, disclosed one possibility to the New York Times: "We had a scene this season when Chris and I are talking in the bar about whatever happened to that Russian guy. And in the script we were supposed to go outside and there he was standing on the corner. But when we went to shoot it, they took it out. I think David didn't like it. He wanted the audience just to suffer."

The Pine Barrens' mystery continues through the years

Writer Terence Winter meant to make Valery's story ambiguous "That's the question I get asked more than any other. It drives people crazy: 'Where's the Russian? What happened to the Russian?' We could say, 'Well, he got out and there's a big mob war with the Russians,' or 'He crawled off and died.' But we wanted to keep it ambiguous. You know, not everything gets answered in life."

Series creator David Chase added, "They shot a guy. Who knows where he went? ... This is what Hollywood has done to America. Do you have to have closure on every little thing? Isn't there any mystery in the world? It's a murky world out there. It's a murky life these guys lead. And by the way, I do know where the Russian is. But I'll never say because so many people got so pissy about it."

In a 2012 interview with the Actors Guild, Chase told his version of what happened at the Pine Barrens: "OK, this is what happened. Some Boy Scouts found the Russian, who had the telephone number to his boss, Slava, in his pocket. They called Slava, who took him to the hospital where he had brain surgery. Then Slava sent him back to Russia."

Does Sil ever come out of his coma?

Silvio Dante, one of the highest-ranking members of Tony's crew as the consigliere of the DiMeo crime family, as well as one of Tony's most trusted friends and advisers, survives an attack by the Lupertazzi family — but his gunshot wounds leave him in a coma. The doctors say he's not likely to ever regain consciousness, forever remaining in limbo. And that's the state the show leaves Sil in. It's safe to assume he either never regains consciousness or passes away from his injuries. Either way, it's a bleak way to go out.

But, like so many other loose ends and events of this series, the audience will never truly know what happened to him. Of course, as is now abundantly clear, uncertain fates are a hallmark of The Sopranos. If Sil were to survive and Tony did, in fact, die, then Sil would become the new boss of the family. But that, of course, is pure assumption and wishful thinking.

With Phil Leotardo now dead, who takes over the Lupertazzi family in New York?

New York boss Phil Leotardo's death is brutal, featuring gunshots and him getting run over by his own SUV. But it is hard not to cheer as it happens, as it means Tony is safe ... for a while, anyway. Leotardo's death also leaves a huge hole: Who takes over the dysfunctional Lupertazzi family?

Carmine Lupertazzi Jr. (aka Little Carmine) has passed on the job before, despite being the son of a former boss and having the best case for the throne. He is presumably alive at the end of the show. However, he doesn't want the job, which leaves underboss Butch DeConcini the likely heir to the kingdom as he's the closest to the top when Phil dies. Not to mention, he subtly gives Tony approval to take down Phil. Just to further keep the mystery and intrigue going, Little Carmine sits at the head of the table at the final sit-down. It might just be out of respect ... or something else.

Is Tony Soprano dead?

Sadly, the most likely answer is yes.

There's no definitive answer, because Tony isn't actually shown being killed when the final scene fades to black. But there are many reasons to believe Tony is killed and many people who would want him dead. Debate continues to rage as to Tony Soprano's ultimate fate and isn't likely to stop any time soon.

The only thing we know for sure is that the show ends with T and his family eating dinner at Holsten's. Bobby Baccalieri's previous summation is chilling in this moment: He tells Tony that a gangster's demise can happen without him hearing a sound.

The camera shows several suspicious people throughout this scene. Everyone's a suspect. Well, Meadow, Carmela, and A.J. Soprano can probably be eliminated as suspects, assuming they weren't killed. On that note, since Meadow is the only family member who isn't seen in the diner, perhaps she's the only one who survives? Other than building tension, having Meadow see her father die, or rounding out the scene, why else have her take so long to park and not be sitting with her family?

Although peculiar, the odd ending can mean whatever the viewer wants it to mean, from Tony being alive to him being killed before the song on the radio ends.

If Tony Soprano is dead, who killed him? If he's not dead, does he go to prison?

If Tony is dead, who killed him? And if he's not dead, does he end up going to prison as a result of Carlo Gervasi's testimony? No matter what information is released after the show, we'll never know for sure, unless a spin-off series, the upcoming movie, or some other form of continuation hits viewers' screens. With that said, a lot of gabagool has been spilled since the final episode aired.

Chase has had plenty to say on the matter, most notably referring to the final scene as the death scene in an interview with Digital Spy. He later clarified he was referring to an earlier idea, not the final scene that aired. It's hard to take that at face value as Chase also told Vox that Tony wasn't dead with a simple shaking of his head and the words, "No, he isn't."

In 2012, Chase told USA Today, "If he didn't die that night he's going to die very soon. And the problem is the same: There are the number of minutes in life and they go like this." Chase then made a ticking sound. "They're gone. And you don't know when it's coming. That's all I wanted to say."

Who kills him? Is he killed at all? What happens to his family? These questions are unanswered, and that's exactly how Chase likes it.

Who becomes the boss after Tony?

If Tony is dead, Paulie Walnuts is his likely heir. However, Meadow is engaged to Patrick Parisi, the son of Patsy, who's also part of Tony's crew, making for another intriguing claim to the throne.

While Christopher or Bobby would have been wise choices, neither make it to the end of the show. Corrado "Junior" Soprano, who was once the boss, is still alive, but suffering from dementia in a state facility. Another notable option is Sil ... if not for his comatose state, but hey, you never know, miracles happen. Although Tony's son spends the entire show staying away from the family business, even he could end up taking over — see: The Godfather. But really, it wouldn't be surprising if the family ended dismantled, or swallowed by another family entirely.

Alas, people will discuss the abrupt, ambiguous ending forever. And that's okay. That is, in fact, the point.