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The Ending Of The Sopranos Season 5 Explained

The fifth season of "The Sopranos" dropped at the height of the show's success. The New Jersey-based mob series had become a cultural milestone and was raking in Emmy Awards for HBO, and this penultimate season was explosive in the challenges it threw at Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his crew ahead of the show's homerun stretch. 

It's a bit shocking how strong the fifth season ended up being, considering the fact that Gandolfini himself delayed its production after suing HBO, demanding a higher salary for the massive series (via CNN). It all worked out though, with the actor and the rest of the cast and crew firing on all cylinders once they got going, as usual. 

The fifth season of "The Sopranos" ends with Tony being forced to turn on his own blood, and just about every character feeling the financial and emotional squeeze from a potential mob war between New York and New Jersey, which is all but guaranteed with the episode's final moments. Multiple major deaths occur in Season 5, but the ending of this season is mainly about setting up a slippery slope for Tony that will end in a series finale still heavily debated today.

The reality of Adriana's death is setting in for Chris

In the penultimate episode of the "The Sopranos" Season 5 ("Long Term Parking"), Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) is murdered by Sylvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) after Chris Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) informs Tony that she has been ratting to the FBI. Now, while it's true that "The Sopranos" doles out deaths like sitcoms try for laughs, Adriana's death was about as painful as it gets — particularly because she is about as close to innocent as one can be on the series. So heavy was the impact of the loss of Adriana that in 2017, over a decade after the episode aired, Entertainment Weekly still referred to the moment as being "TV's most heartbreaking death." In that same article, "Sopranos" writer Terence Winter said that, in regard to the death scene, "You don't realize how much you start to think of these characters as real people. It was really tough to write."

In the season finale ("All Due Respect"), Chris is dealing with the loss of his girlfriend by recommitting to his sobriety and loyalty to Tony. The fact that she is gone, though, really sets in for Chris as he is forced to lie to Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco), explaining Adriana left him without explanation. It's the first of many times he'll need to lie about the massive hole turning on her left in him. Adriana is not discussed too much in the finale, but her loss is felt every time we see Chris. 

In any case, the Season 5 finale shows that her death is truly the moment of no return for Chris. He's lost everything except Tony ... and as the finale shows, Tony's loyalty only goes so far.

Tony deals with his Tony problem

Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi) becomes a massive problem once he's released from prison. We watch as he crashes and burns trying to go straight with a masseuse job and runs back to the easy money of mafia life. Things come to a head after Blundetto, who is cousins with Tony, takes revenge for a friend's death by killing the brother of Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent), a captain in New York City. 

By the finale, Blundetto is in hiding and Phil is demanding revenge, an all-out war only being stopped by the fact that Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola) remains in charge. Tony refuses to give up his cousin, much to the ire of his men who begin penny pinching as New York cuts off joint projects. Tony solves things by eventually crossing yet another moral line — killing Blundetto himself, with the only mercy in the act being that he kept him away from Phil and whatever his sinister plans were. 

In Season 5 Episode 11 ("Test Dream"), Tony has a dream about Blundetto killing Phil, and we know then Blundetto is a problem that needs immediate solving. After all, a past dream informed Tony one of his best friends, Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore) was ratting on him. Blundetto is a problem, but not one we expect his own cousin to solve with a shotgun. 

Phil has become Tony's newest and biggest threat

In one of the final scenes of the fifth season of "The Sopranos," Tony seems to have finally come to an understanding with Sack about the situation with Phil. The problem is only moments later FBI agents are jumping out of the woods — and Tony is then on the run.

He's informed not long after that he's not included in the indictment with Sack, but this creates another issue for Tony. With Sack gone, Phil is positioned to take over in New York, and Phil has made his feelings about Tony more than clear. With Phil at the head of the New York family, war is all but a guarantee. Phil is also incensed over Tony taking his own cousin's life, having wanted revenge himself. Sure enough, by now, we have seen that his 20 years in prison have done him no favors in adjusting to the new ways of doing business. Phil shoots first and asks questions later, an unpredictability Tony doesn't like when it comes to business, but it's something he's set up to deal with head-on, since Sack no longer a middleman between the two forces.

Tony also narrowly escaping the police is a reminder that things are closing in. The sting on Sack occurs not long after Tony discovers Adriana has been ratting, making legal issues for the mob boss more of a potential than ever, and he's got plenty of skeletons in the closet to hide, one of them being his cousin.

Junior is in limbo and no longer support for Tony

Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) may have commissioned a hit on his own nephew in the past, but Tony still often relies on the veteran mobster for advice.

In "All Due Respect," however, we see signs of dementia from Junior as he struggles to follow the dilemmas that Tony is trying to explain to him. As he explains when talking about Phil (before he kills Blundetto), he's painted into a corner and doesn't know what to do. Tony tells his uncle he's gone "squirrelly," stuck in his house all alone, but written on his face is a great deal more genuine concern than he lets on. That's because not only could Tony be losing a family member, but Junior is the closest thing to a living father that Tony has. 

Who knows the advice Junior would have given Tony considering his own past, but when Tony leaves, his relationship with his uncle has changed irrevocably. Junior has become a man requiring his nephew's help, rather than the other way around. Tony is more isolated in his leadership and one could argue he's now more prone to make wild decisions that could have big consequences ... like killing Blundetto.

Junior is still a major part of the family, but the signs of decline are clear in the finale where we see he's more concerned with ordering a fruit basket than trying to help prevent a mob war between New York and New Jersey.