Before I get started, I should warn everyone that this is likely to be a long post so I apologize in advance.
As I sit here on the eve of the final episode, I can't help but think of one constant, underlying theme that has been present in the Sopranos: The concept of sons paying for the sins of their fathers.
It's a theme that, the more I thought about it, the more surprised I was to keep finding examples of it. Here is a list I put together, if I missed any, please add them.
For the purposes of this list, I considered those that played the role of surrogate fathers as well.
Tony Soprano: An obvious choice. Tony is exposed to the world of the Mafia at an early age, and the fact his father, and those that Tony has acknowledges as having had fatherly type influences on him (Uncle Junior, Dickie Moltisanti) left no real doubt that Tony would one day follow in their footsteps.
We learn that Tony's first murder (Willie Overall) was commissioned by his father. Regardless of the ultimate price to be paid by Tony Soprano, through 6 seasons we have seen Tony trying to cope with his insecurities and justifications for the life that was chosen for him.
Christopher Moltisanti: His father and the man who was a father figure to him (Tony) inspired and promoted Christopher's inclusion to the Mafia. From the outset, Christopher is pushed by Tony, and rises fast through the ranks, ultimately becoming a Captain. Towards the end of the series, we see how fickle the bond is between Tony and Christopher, as Chris feels ostracized by his "family" as he tries to get his life in order, and Tony comes to feel that Chris hates him.
Christopher ultimately pays the price with his life.
Paulie Gaultieri: While never knowing his real father, Paulie fills the void with the closest thing to a father he has know, Johnny Boy Soprano. As we see in Remember When, Johnny Boy was largely responsible for showing Paulie the ropes and bringing him along. Again while we don't know yet how the story ends for Paulie, we see the danger he was in in "Remember When" and how fickle his surrogate family can be.
A.J. Soprano: We are seeing in Season 6, what growing up Soprano has meant for A.J. He is deeply conflicted about what he feels is expected of him as Tony Sopranos son (his botched attempt to kill Junior, his reaction to putting acid on the feet of the deadbeat gambler, and to seeing the Somali boy beaten by his new friends), and his true nature. As Tony tells him after the attempt on Junior, "You're a good kid, you're not like that." Being a Soprano had other implications as well, as we see him being stuck with large tabs while out drinking with Arnan and his gang. Most people that A.J. seems to come into contact with see him as Tony's son, and not A.J.
Bobby Baccalieri: Perhaps the most tragic example. Bobby doesn't fit the prototypical mobster profile. Until season 6, he had never whacked anyone; he suffered ridicule for refusing to take a goomar. Bobby was part of this world because his father Bobby Baccalieri Sr. was a prolific hit man for the Mob.
He liked toy train sets, adored his wife and while loyal, did not seem to have the hard disposition of his peers. Bobby also paid the price with his life for his involvement in the family business.
Little Carmine Lupertazzi: Little Carmine is the son of one of the heads of the 5 NY Families. As such he follows dad into the family business. Little Carmine also seems to be a bit out of his element as a mobster. Much of Little Carmine's time on the series has been as intermediary in disputes, as a broker of peace. When the battle for control of the NY Family ensues after the death of Carmine Sr., Little Carmine seems to lack the willingness to be ruthless and do what is necessary to win the battle. We don't yet know what the ultimate price will be for Little Carmine but he does seem a fish out of water in the world of the Mob.
Jackie Aprile Jr.: Jackie was determined to follow in his father's footsteps, despite Tony's efforts to dissuade him. Jackie even attempts to copy his father's big move as a youngster by knocking over a card game of made guys. Jackie's other fatherly influence, Ralph Sifaretto does little to discourage Jackie’s involvement, even giving him a gun at one point. While Jackie continually tries to play the part of the mobster, he clearly does not command the respect of the real mobsters, as witnessed by Junior's complete dismissal of him in his meeting with Ritchie Aprile ("What's that, do you hear someone talking?").
He also tries to demonstrate his importance by trying to gain access for a drug dealer into the Crazy Horse, but is summarily dismissed by Christopher.
Jackie's attempts at playing mobster end with him being shot in the back of the head by Vito Spatafore.
Vito Spatafore Jr.:We see the implications of Dad's decisions on Vito Jr. as we see him transform from a naive kid who believed his Dad was away because he was a spy, to the tormented, angry kid who is subjected to ridicule because of his father's homosexuality. The last we saw of Vito Jr., he was being whisked away to a behavior modification boot camp/
Jason Barone: Jason Barone is a naive, innocent young man whose mistake was in believing he could sell his Dad's sanitation business after his death.
Jason failed to understand or appreciate the implications of his fathers association with Tony Soprano. When we last see Jason, he suffers a beating from Paulie, and is left with orders to pay a weekly tribute to Paulie or to suffer the consequences.
Sons of Carlo Garvasi and Patsy Parisi: On the surface, these look like two young men headed on a road very different from that of their fathers. They are in college, and Tony feels they might be good examples for A.J. We come to find out though that these boys are not so different from their fathers' as they are running a bookmaking business. We also see these guys viciously attack two young men, leaving little doubt as to where their future paths will take them.
This series has focused a lot on Tony’s relationship with his Mother, but it is clear also that the relationships that these men had with their fathers, or those who filled that role, played a significant role in who they became, and what ultimately happened to them.
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