The Sopranos: HBO’s Realistic Crime Drama Actually Had… Magic? - Bliteoc

The Sopranos: HBO’s Realistic Crime Drama Actually Had… Magic?

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The realism of The Sopranos was a defining feature of the series, distinguishing it from many of the mob dramas that came before it by grounding its characters and its world in a tangible setting viewers could inhabit. From the seemingly chaotic nature of its plotlines to its endlessly intriguing psychologies, there was much in The Sopranos that made TV more real than ever. That is why it can be so startling to come across the moments in The Sopranos where the supernatural definitively exists.

One of the most haunting moments occurs in the second episode of the third season, “Proshai, Livushka.” The episode deals with the death of Olivia Soprano, Tony’s mother who provided a manipulative and antagonistic force through much of the series to that point. There is a blink-and-you-miss-it moment at her wake when Tony and Furio are talking. Tony opens a door with a mirror on the back of it, and when the reflection faces the camera, the image of Pussy Bonpensiero stares out. There’s one problem: Pussy Bonpensiero is dead.

Tony earlier in the series killed Bonpensiero for ratting on their crew to the FBI, and the image shows how his death haunts Tony. While later appearances of Bonpensiero would occur in Tony’s dreams, what is notable about the mirror reflection is that Tony himself does not see the image. There is a similar moment with Paulie Gualtieri toward the end of the series, in the sixth season’s “The Ride.” There, Paulie sees a vision of the Virgin Mary that looms over his Catholic guilt, and again the audience sees the image before Paulie does.

Both instances show that these are not just hallucinatory images representing the character’s psyches, but actual supernatural occurrences. Even before either ghost appears, Paulie has a run-in during “From Where to Eternity” with a medium who channels the spirits of those Paulie killed in his criminal career. In true Paulie fashion, he calls the spirits a slur and storms out of the room, but the truth was that the information the medium presented truly did include details they could not have known outside of supernatural intervention.

If those occurrences weren’t enough, even the latest installment in The Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark, includes an ominous moment during the prequel setting. Faced with the infant Christopher, Tony languishes at how the boy constantly cries in his presence. He is warned that newborns’ time before coming into the world of the living grants them the knowledge of the afterlife, and as the film itself notes with Christopher’s post-death narration, it was Tony who would later go on to kill Christopher. Christopher’s status as narrator, and the moment showing his discomfort as an infant toward his future killer, underlines the importance of the supernatural and the afterlife in the world of The Sopranos.

In its own way, the series mimics classic tales like those of Shakespeare, where ghosts and soothsayers intervened in the otherwise un-magical events of the story. For as much as The Sopranos digs into the realism of the criminal underworld and the psychological toll it takes on its cast, there is also a message there about a deeper moral fabric to the universe underlying every sin its characters commit. It may be one of the most realistic dramas to ever dazzle audiences, but The Sopranos also knew how to integrate its supernatural elements to perfection.

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