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Questionable Things We Ignore In The Sopranos

A kingpin mafioso rarely gets his own hands dirty. Tony Soprano exercised this power to great effect during the life of "The Sopranos" series on HBO. During his reign over the DiMeo crime family, plenty of blood and carnage was had at Tony's behest. Like most of us trying to scrape by day-to-day, Tony was simply in the business of making money – albeit via illegitimate means, of course. Any obstacles that proved to interfere with that operation were ripe for execution. While sitting at the head of the crime family table certainly has its own perks, it also has a few drawbacks. Much of the drama in the series involves Tony's interactions with his own crew attempting to keep them satisfied with a livable influx of cash while straddling the line of the ruthless tyrant to ensure that fear kept would-be opposition at bay.

It's a fascinating narrative, and one that has stood the test of time since its airing. Alongside clever writing and storytelling driven to subvert viewer anticipation, James Gandolfini's performance as the semi-unhinged and entirely conflicted mob boss, Tony Soprano, stands as a crowning achievement in the world of acting. However, despite the talent behind the show's creator David Chase and the other brilliant writers involved, there are still some notable aspects of the series that inevitably have us scratching our heads. Let's dive into some of the more questionable aspects of the series at large.

Where did Ralph come from?

"The Sopranos" is famous for adding characters as the show progresses and writing the narrative as if they've always been around. Who knows, maybe Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano) was skulking around offscreen despite his alleged notoriety in Tony's crew. For being one of the top earners in the DiMeo crime family, Ralph wasn't well-liked. He was often brash and downright vindictive. He mercilessly beat his goomar, a stripper at the Bing, when she retaliated for him making a horrid remark about their baby that she was carrying. While Ralphie would move on to new ventures in the show, the stink that he tainted himself with over that moment wouldn't soon leave the memory of viewers everywhere. It also becomes painfully clear that Tony despises him for it.

Ralph would go on to take the spotlight in several other major plot points including his involvement with Jackie Jr., obtaining the prize-winning horse Pie-O-My that Tony would become infatuated with, and even falling for Tony's sister Janice. Even if he was "away" during the first two seasons, it's rather odd given his deep connection to the crime family and his impact on the show at large. Furthermore, it becomes clear that Tony doesn't just let top earners "step away" to lead new lives elsewhere. This was especially evident in the sixth season when Eugene Pontecorvo requested Tony to allow him to leave and he was denied.

What happened to A.J.'s girlfriend, Devin?

Just as easily and suddenly as new characters appear, current characters can also disappear without a trace. A.J. Soprano's (Robert Iler) girlfriend, Devin (Jessica Dunphy), who first appears in the fourth season is one such individual. While A.J. and Devin are trying to find some solitude in order to have sex, they end up learning more about each other and their own community at large. They attempt to use Meadow's (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) apartment, but when his big sis denies that plan, they head out on the town witnessing the poverty-stricken neighborhoods that Meadow is aiming to help by interning at a firm that offers free legal counsel to the impoverished. A.J. then learns that Devin comes from a wealthy family, complete with a decadent home adorned with pricy original paintings and artifacts. The two lament their wealth realizing that some people in this world have nothing.

We see the couple again in Season 5 at a party that A.J. has thrown in an effort to make some money. In fact, the whole affair gives Carmella the idea that A.J. could become an event planner. Regardless, Devin is never seen from or heard of again for the remainder of the series. Sure, A.J. could've broken it off with her in between Season 5 and 6. It's just simply a detail that's never addressed.

Why would Dr. Melfi treat a Mob boss?

"The Sopranos" regularly pivots to Tony's therapy sessions with Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). Often, these moments provide context for Tony's innermost thoughts and motivations. The show expertly conveys the mafioso as a contemplative man. Gandolfini rises to the occasion in several moments where the expression on Tony's face or the look in his eyes are meant to tell the audience everything without uttering a word. Still, however, the minutia of Tony's feelings is important to provide the character and narrative with extra layers. Understandably, Dr. Melfi's therapy sessions are the catalyst for showing that detail.

What's not entirely understandable, however, is that someone of Dr. Melfi's stature and moral rigidity would take Tony on as a patient. Throughout the series, she's always refrained from "unethical" discussions or decisions. She even justifiably has the opportunity to wreak brutal vengeance on a man who horrifically violated her if she were to simply cue Tony in to her own personal tragedy. However, she doesn't ever color outside the lines as far as her own code of ethics is concerned. Her willingness to hear Tony speak weekly about his exploits that are likely fraught generic speech about criminality or plain murder is one decision that never exactly lines up with her character.

Why would Dr. Melfi decide treatment is pointless after several years?

The series actually begins with Tony Soprano seeking therapy. Dr. Melfi understands who and what Tony Soprano is. She often considers his criminal life when discussing his feelings and temperament toward certain situations. Early on, Dr. Melfi was uneasy with her role as Tony Soprano's therapist. The two even parted ways on occasion only to be reunited by Tony's need to flesh out the details of his chaotic life with someone. Once one of Dr. Melfi's colleagues, Elliot Kupferberg (Peter Bogdanovich), discovers who she had been treating, he encourages her to drop Tony as a patient. Time and time again, she refuses and even rebuffs him for his constant infringement upon her career, her patient, and the decisions she makes.

Finally, in the penultimate episode of the series, Elliot surprisingly breaks ethics and reveals Dr. Melfi's patient's identity to her peers. They then attempt to have her acknowledge a recent study claiming that sociopaths are actually emboldened by talk therapy. After Dr. Melfi reads the study for herself, she comes to the determination that it makes sense, and she callously drops Tony as a patient. Despite the study, it's rather difficult to understand why she'd suddenly drop her patient after seven long years of understanding exactly who he was as person despite her own initial trepidation over the whole ordeal. Quite frankly, this decision is just as baffling as the one in which she decides to take him on as a patient in the first place.

Jackie Jr. erratically destroys the poker game

The son of the former leader of the DiMeo crime family, Jackie Aprile Jr. (Jason Cerbone) doesn't do himself many favors breaking into a life of crime. In fact, Tony tries hard to push Jackie Jr. away from the life in an effort to look out for the son of his late friend and confidante, Jackie Aprile. When Jackie Jr. gets romantically involved with Tony's daughter Meadow, Tony uses that to really twist Jackie's arm telling him that he can't date Meadow if he's not staying straight as an arrow. Ultimately, the call to follow in dear old dad's footsteps was simply too great.

Ralphie told Jackie and Dino (Andrew Davoli) a story about a time when Jackie's father and Tony robbed Feech La Mana's poker game. They made amends but were granted respect and quickly became made men because of the incident. Jackie draws inspiration from this and attempts to do the same thing to Ralphie's game. Unfortunately, the help he brought along the way had itchy trigger fingers and a shootout resulted in death and injuries to made men – a big no-no in the mafia world. Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) was present and killed two of the assailants. This moment sealed the fate of Jackie Jr. He understood the gravity of his actions as he even hesitated just prior to the botched heist. Including inexperienced help and not controlling the situation was also a big mistake. Regardless of Ralphie's story, assaulting a mafia-run poker game was only going to end poorly.

What's the story behind Tony's strait-laced younger sister?

It's no secret that Tony Soprano wasn't an only child. Janice (Aida Turturro) plays an integral role in Tony's life, often causing an annoyance in some form. She also isn't afraid to be involved with the family's criminal business. She has blood on her hands and regularly courts men that report to her brother, Tony. The two also share a younger sister, Barbara Giglione (Nicole Burdette). The show doesn't delve deeply into the relationship Tony and Janice might or might not have with their younger sibling. However, she does appear on occasion, usually to attend funerals or big events like the time Tony was hospitalized after Junior shot him.

What we do know about Barbara, however, is that she is married to a man named Tom Giglione. Of course, it's easy to see that he is Italian like the majority of the show's characters. However, he is not connected to organized crime in any way. Barbara and Tom live in Brewster, New York. Barbara's presence obviously shows that she still cares for her family, but the distance she keeps and the infrequency of her visits also show that she has no interest in getting mixed up in the family business. It makes one wonder, what led Barbara to living a normal life away from the DiMeo crime family? Tony, Janice, and Barbara all grew up in the same household with the same parents. The only difference was that Tony and Janice were close in age and Barbara was at least six years younger than Tony. Perhaps, her experiences during childhood were different. It's a question that we may never have an answer to.

Bobby randomly appears in Season 2

Another big, but random appearance is that of Bobby Baccalieri (Steve Schirripa). He's a major character whose prominence only increases with each season as he grows closer Tony. Initially, however, he was part of Junior's crew. For quite some time, he acts as Junior's caretaker and Tony often mocks him. Although he's Junior's go-to guy, he eventually has to help Junior when he begins succumbing to dementia. Later, he becomes close with Tony's sister Janice, and the pair get married and have a child together. He eventually gains Tony's respect and becomes one of his capos.

The Baccalieris were prominent fixtures within the DiMeo crime family. Bobby's brother and father also led careers being apart of the organization. Bobby, however, isn't anywhere to be seen during the first season of the show. Junior even played a much heftier role in the first season than he does in the latter seasons. Being Junior's go-to guy makes one wonder why he wasn't present during the shows earliest days. Bobby suddenly appears in the second season as if he's been a part of Junior's crew for quite some time. Like Ralphie, it's another unexplained appearance of a new character.

Tony sells Livia's house but its inexplicably still on the market in season 2

Tony and his mother Livia have a strained relationship. In fact, it's pretty clear that Livia despises her own son, plotting his assassination with Junior in the very first season. Tony eventually understands how much his twisted his mother is and puts her in a home. He commits to selling her house, a move she absolutely abhors (and possibly one reason she plotted Tony's demise). Tony actually tells her that it has been sold and that the buyers "accepted the counteroffer."

In Season 2, it's almost as if none of that ever happened. Janice comes to town to care for her ailing mother. Ultimately, Janice has other motivations for being in town, like taking control of their mother's home. When merely suggesting that she stay in their mom's house while she's in town, Tony explains to her that's not going to happen. He says that he just "put her house on the market." Without any explanation, Livia's house goes from being sold to once again being placed on the market for sale. Granted, there's always a possibility that Tony lied about the selling of the home in the first season in an effort to put the matter to bed, but it doesn't seem likely.

How did Silvio and Artie not know each other?

Tony's friends go way back. Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) has been on the DiMeo crime family payroll since Tony was a young lad. In the prequel film "The Many Saints of Newark," we even see Silvio in action during his younger days as Tony becomes more involved with the criminal activity surrounding the family business. Artie Bucco (John Ventimiglia) is a close friend of Tony's and their relationship stretches all the way back to their childhood. In "The Sopranos," Tony's former coach in school claims that Artie was the troublemaker causing Tony and the other kids to get into trouble. Tony finds the humor in that as Artie is now a restaurant owner and leads a (mostly) clean life opposite of Tony's criminal one. "The Many Saints of Newark" follows that up by depicting Artie at Tony's side getting into trouble, relieving a poor ice cream man of his truck.

While we may have never seen Artie and Silvio truly interact in that prequel film, it's hard to imagine a timeline where the pair never formally met until they were full-blown adults as they were both major influences in Tony's life. But that's exactly what happens when we see Silvio introduced to Artie for what appears to be the first time in "The Sopranos."

The timeline confusion over Sal's cooperation with the feds

Tony often has to watch his back ensuring that his crew stays loyal. If anyone flips and begins speaking to the FBI whether under threat of indictment or for personal vindication, that could very well be the end of the mob boss's career. Unfortunately for Tony, one of his closest confidantes, Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore) is revealed to be an FBI informant in Season 2 of the show. Tony learns the truth and takes Sal for a boat ride along with Silvio and Paulie (Tony Sirico). When Tony asks how long Sal has been under the FBI's thumb, he claims that it's been maybe a year and a half or possibly less.

However, later during an episode where Bobby suits up as Santa for a Christmas toy drive, Tony remembers a time back in 1995 when Sal did not attend a sitdown with the rest of the crew. He begins to believe that's when the FBI flipped Sal. That year he dressed up as Santa and Tony believes he must've been wearing a wire at that time. If Tony's memory is correct, then that directly conflicts with Sal's statement of only being with the FBI for a little over a year. With the timing of the show being set around the year 2000, that would've placed Sal's connection with the FBI in 1998 at the least. Either Sal was lying, which is odd considering he understood his death sentence, or Tony's memory is a bit hazy.

Paulie and Chris's missing Russian target

The "Pine Barrens" episode is, perhaps, one of the most popular episodes of the series simply for the episode's basis rooted in a bit of dark humor. Tony directs Paulie to take up one of Silvio's collections while Silvio is ill. Paulie and Christopher head to the home of a Russian by the name of Valery. During the process, Paulie inexplicably taunts Valery. Eventually, a fight breaks out and Paulie and Chris overpower Valery apparently killing him with a lamp. Panicked by the mess Paulie made, they head out to the Pine Barrens in order to dump the body.

When they arrive, however, they find that Valery is still alive. After attacking with a shovel, he flees and Chris and Paulie open fire. Paulie thinks he hit Valery in the head as the man disappeared into the snowy woods. With the man injured, they attempt to track him down but get lost along the way. Tony tells them that the Russian is an ex-commando and a capable fighter, which seems to explain a lot. The pair spend the night in the blistering cold bickering and reflecting on the day's events. Eventually, Tony is able to find them and bring them back to civilization. Paulie tells Tony that he thinks the Russian died, as there is no way he could've survived out in the cold with that injury. However, Tony tells Paulie that if the Russian problem returns, it's his responsibility to take care of it. Audiences never heard from Valery ever again. To this day, even David Chase won't share his view as to whether Valery is alive or dead.

Why Tony would risk trouble having Chris kill a retired cop

Tony has a soft spot for his self-proclaimed nephew, Christopher Moltisanti. Christopher's own father, Richard, or Dickie as he was known by his friends, was a major influence on Tony as he came of age. In fact, "The Many of Saints of Newark" basically shows that Dickie held more influence on Tony's criminal future than his own father, Johnny Soprano. Much of what Tony told Chris about his father was true. However, the prequel film seemingly revealed that Tony fibbed about Dickie's killer.

In a pivotal scene, Tony shows Chris a cop who had just retired and explains to him that he is the very person who gunned down his father outside his home when he was just an infant. Chris does what Chris always does and invites himself into the cop's home. After getting some words off his chest while the retired cop denies that he committed the murder, Chris shoots and kills him. Tony knew what the outcome would be. In this series, Tony has often been the level-headed leader (mostly) berating his underlings for making reckless or impulsive decisions when it comes to murder or mayhem as it always has the potential to bring down the federal heat. Tony would frequently bring in outside contractors to do the dirty work and keep his crew clean. Yet, his reason for prodding Chris into murdering a recently retired and innocent cop is befuddling. Did he simply want Chris's respect and loyalty? Did he hold a personal grudge against the man? The motive is elusive.

Killings like Dolan that were never covered up and just disappeared

Regardless of what Tony or his crew might believe, blood is ultimately the crime family's business. Killing is the only way these mafiosos can gain an edge over one another or keep sensitive and valuable information quiet. Because Tony's crew is so well-acquainted with the business of taking life, it sometimes comes too easy for them. Christopher is one such individual who quickly gains a taste for bloodshed. He's killed multiple people, including the screenwriter of his own film, J.T. Dolan, simply out of anger. Silvio and Carlo even once killed one of the New York mafia's crew simply because the man was cutting deep with his words.

Most of the time, the show depicts the cover-up of the mafia's victims. Sometimes, however, like the case of J.T. Dolan, a body is just left behind where it fell and nothing ever seems to come from it – no additional FBI attention or law enforcement recourse. While showing every single cover-up might cost valuable screen-time, showing the killers actually leave bodies exposed is questionable at best.

Chris doesn't receive any consequences for the Mob's portrayal in his movie

Christopher Moltisanti is an aspiring filmmaker. Throughout the series, he dreams of a different life where he helps create the very art and entertainment he thrives on: movies. Early on, he makes attempts to work with Jon Favreau on creating a film about mafia life. He also attempts to bring Sir Ben Kingsley on board to star in a movie he has in the works. Ultimately, those connections don't pan out, but Chris does follow through with the production of "Cleaver," a fictional horror-slasher film rooted in the life of mobsters.

The film presents a depiction of sensitive correlations to Christopher's actual life in the DiMeo crime family and his dealings with Tony. It even appears to depict a love triangle where the hero takes bloody vengeance on the villain acting as a sort of revenge fantasy for Chris's belief that Tony and Adriana slept together. There are several odd similarities that Tony doesn't notice at first until Carmella starts pointing them out to him. Eventually, Tony laments the idea that Chris hates him. However, the film also could provide the FBI with additional sensitive information regarding their targets within the family and elements that could be exploited like the apparent tension between Chris and Tony. It's a wonder that Tony didn't punish Chris for both the apparent insults and his potential negligence spilling his guts on paper for a film.