First, apologies if this long post isn't very well written. This is the first time I'm actually trying to collect all of these thoughts in a coherent statement, so please bear with me.
I think it might be relevant to state up front that I'm working from the presumption that, where there's enough proof, it's safe to assume that things that seem coincidental are not. To support this I'll point to Season 6 in the episode "Stage 5." In that episode Larry Barese's wife is heard saying: "Larry and I hung out at the set. I don't know if you know this, but the actors, they don't make up what they say." Larry replies "That's true, even De Niro the girl told me." Chase is telling us specifically: "I wrote this, everything that happens in here I decided would happen. This isn't real, I made it up and am in control of what happens in this world."
Obviously there's some real world limitations to the absolute control this statement is trying to represent. I'm not saying some things that happen in the series aren't coincidence, and this could all fall under that heading, but I thought it would be a good idea to preface the following with that so you know where I'm coming from.
So, I was rewatching the series this week when I noticed this. It really struck me as odd and I wasn't sure whether it was really coincidence or whether it was deliberately placed there, but after a little consideration and digging I'm almost 100% certain that it was purposeful. I could be completely wrong, and this could all just be one step too far, but here's what's leading me to that conclusion:
There were a series of events in the episode which really stuck out and bothered me. In fact I think that this is one of the pivotal episodes in the series because I believe that Chase was telling us via this episode what the eventual outcome of the series would be, though we didn't have all the pieces to put it together when it was first aired. The events are:
- Tony tells Melfi there are only a few ways things usually end up for guys like him: 1. jail; 2. death; 3. working only through family.
- The conversation between Tony and Bobby Bacala in the diner about Nostradamus
- The reference to Finnerty on Magnum P.I.
- Christopher killing the cop & subsequently placing the $20 on his mother's fridge.
- The song used over the closing credits (also over the opening scene)
Going through each individually and how I think they fit together:
- Tony tells Melfi that there are only a few ways things turn out for guys like him. Either he gets whacked, he goes to jail, or, what he says he's in the process of doing, giving orders only through family. This is the first thing in the episode that makes me think the larger theme of the episode is either the future or foresight. In that scene what Tony is doing is looking to his future. He sees the way things have gone for those before him and sees what his options are going forward. Tony is choosing what he wants for his future and making predictions about how that will turn out. He says he knows a guy who lived into his old age in Florida giving orders only through his son. That's what Tony wants to do. He can't go through his son though, he has to go through Christopher his nephew. Of course, we know how this turns out. He kills Christopher.
- The conversation between Tony & Bobby Bacala about Nostradamus really just struck me as odd. When it aired I'm sure it seemed very relevant. Season 4 was the first time any episodes had aired since 9/11, and if you remember around that time (generally around all major disasters) Nostradamus was being referenced a lot because he supposedly predicted the disaster. Seeing it more than a decade later, though, it just struck me as weird. I think the purpose of the conversation was twofold:
1. In the conversation Bobby & Tony are talking about the promotion Bobby is about to receive. Tony is asking Bobby if he's mentally prepared, Bobby says yes and that he thinks it should have happened sooner. After this scene though, Bobby looks like a complete moron, both to the audience and to Tony.
2. Again the theme of the future or foresight is invoked by the use of Nostradamus. Chase could have made Bobby look stupid in so many other ways, why did he have to use Nostradamus?
When I came back and looked at this scene again, two things really brought it home for me that this reference wasn't just coincidence:
1. The entire scene is sandwiched between the cop Christopher is going to kill getting home, and the actually killing by Christopher. Again if we go back to what Tony told Melfi, that being his prediction for his future, and this act that Christopher is about to carry out cementing that future by beginning the process of bonding Christopher to Tony, the juxtaposition of the two scenes seems both important and purposeful.
2. The end of the scene in the diner is Bobby talking about the "coincidence" of "the back thing" where there's a hunchback of notre dame as well as a quarterback and a halfback of notre dame. Bobby says "it's interesting the coincidence. What you gonna tell me you never pondered that?" This is just before the reference to Finnerty on the television, which I'll address next. I really think that Chase is giving us a clue here about the reference to Finnerty and its purpose, as there are a lot of strange coincidences that spring from that reference within the series.
- The reference to Finnerty. This is from Magnum P.I. as someone pointed out. In specific, this is Season 4, Episode 13, "No More Mr. Nice Guy". Before I get into the coincidences I mentioned, I want to point to Season 5, Episode 2 of this series in which Tony Blundetto finally gets released from prison and is given a party at Vesuvio. When Tony goes to pick him up, he's in a white suit with a baby blue undershirt. Presumably this is the only suit he owns after having just gotten out of jail, a holdover from the eighties when he was arrested. When he walks in the restaurant, Artie asks him "Where's Tubbs?", a reference to Miami Vice.
Also remember that Tony Blundetto was the man outside the house where the family reunion was being held in season six during Tony's dream. Obviously that was a specific reference to death and the afterlife. It was a "family reunion", Tony Blundetto, who was dead, was there as well as the mysterious woman in the doorway, which is a reference to Livia.
In that episode of Magnum P.I., if you care to track it down and watch it, you'll find out that there are a few things which are very surprising:
1. Carol, who is a recurring character on the show, is shown in several scenes wearing a white pant-suit with a baby blue undershirt, suspiciously in the style of Tony Blundetto's.
2. In the episode, "Special Investigator Finnerty" is in fact a dirty cop. He's colluding with a criminal named "Clinton". In essence he's leading a double life; one in which he's a straight laced cop and one in which he himself if is a criminal. In his coma dream, Tony knows that he's Tony Soprano, but is forced to live as Kevin Finnerty because he's lost his wallet. In the dream Tony is a straight laced precision optics salesman (foresight anyone?), and Finnerty is a solar heating salesman (possible reference to hell?). We do see, however, than there's a criminal element to Finnerty in that he's supposedly defrauded a group of monks. In the dream Tony is forced to lead a double life, pretending to be Finnerty so that he can use the man's credit card to pay for lodging, all the while knowing he's Tony Soprano and continuing to communicate with his wife and children as such.
3. Both Magnum P.I. and Miami Vice feature prominently Ferrari's as the vehicle of choice for the main characters.
4. Both Magnum P.I. and Miami Vice feature a black sidekick.
5. Both Magnum P.I. and Miami Vice are set in glamorous coastal locales - Miami and Hawaii.
6. Both Magnum P.I. and Miami Vice were originally run in the 80's.
7. In this episode in specific, while Magnum is not a cop, T.C. has him impersonate a cop while driving the Ferrari. That scene is actually on the TV during the scene with Christopher. You hear Magnum blow the horn and then T.C. says "Pull Over! Police!" and Magnum replies "In a Ferrari?!?"
That's a whole lot of coincidence. I think that the reference to Finnerty on the TV was purposefully placed to tie together the events in this episode, events in Season 5 surrounding Tony Blundetto, and events in Season 6 during Tony's coma dream.
- Christopher kills the cop and takes $20 from him. He later places this on the refrigerator in his mother's house. While this in one way is Christopher telling his mother that he got the guy who got her husband, as well as an affirmation that the "bonding" that Tony has begun is in fact working in that Christopher feels a sense of satisfaction that will create gratitude in him toward Tony, I also think this is another invocation of foresight. If you'll remember, the end of this episode has the camera zoom in on the bill until the only visible thing on the screen is Jackson's eye. The credits then run on top of that shot. In no other episode does this happen. It's always either fade or cut to black and then credits. Chase is telling us that this holds significance. Again, foresight in that we're looking at an eye, which has the ability to "see". The bill, coincidentally, it taken from a dead man.
- The song that plays over the credits is "World Destruction" by Time Zone. In it, again we hear a reference to Nostradamus.
To bring everything together:
I really think Chase here is using the theme of foresight as shown through both the session with Melfi and references to Nostradamus and this reference to Finnerty to tie together the final elements that will eventually lead to Tony's death. Remember, Tony tells Melfi what he thinks his future will hold: Working only through Christopher so that he can live a long and fulfilled life. That doesn't happen, Tony kills Christopher. That only leaves two other possibilities according to Tony, death and prison. There's the tie in to Tony Blundetto with the reference both to Miami Vice, which is suspiciously a lot like Magnum P.I., and all the "coincidence" that surrounds that, which Chase has explicitly told us to think about, as well the tie in to Tony's coma dream, via "Finnerty" in Magnum P.I., where he's at the "Finnerty" family reunion.
Tony Blundetto's actions are what ultimately leads to the discord between Tony and Phil Leotardo, which I personally believe leads up to Tony's death (Phil's head being run over, disfiguring his body, enraging his crew and causing them to reinstate the hit on Tony). The dream itself, again, where Tony is a precision optics salesman, which, again, invokes foresight, and the clues that this dream is about Tony's ultimate death (finnerty = infinity, "family reunion", the presence of the dead in the dream - mother figure, blundetto) round out the "coincidences" that I think are just a little to convenient to ignore.
We know for sure that the plan to work only through Christopher is going to fail. If we assume that the Finnerty reference was intentional, it becomes pretty obvious that Chase was explicitly telling us that Tony was going to die and the Blundetto plays a major role in that.
I could be wrong, you may think I'm just grasping at straws, but I believe that the reference to Finnerty was deliberate.