Evidence that Tony Killed Renata

#1
There are several clues in Chasing It that suggest Tony killed Renata.

First, the idea that Tony would resort to murder over his debt to Hesh is explicitly raised throughout the episode. 1. Tony mentions to Hesh that all his key guys are "murderers." (11:22 in DVD) 2. Hesh suggests to Eli that Tony might kill him rather than pay the debt (Scene at 20:50). 3. Hesh is concerned about Renata's safety as well (Scene at 30:47). 4. Tony is concerned only with how it will "look" if he doesn't pay Hesh---morality is not factoring into his decision (32:29).

Now the less obvious clues:

1. We see horses and horse heads throughout Hesh's house. These seem to reference the horse-head scene in Godfather 1. In Godfather 1, the Corleones had someone cut the head off Woltz's horse, sneak into his house, and put it in his bed. This scene established the horse head as a symbol of the mafia's callousness and sinister tactics.

There are parallels between Woltz and Hesh: both are Jewish, rich through entertainment, and love horses. We see several horse statues/pictures in Hesh's house. But more importantly, there is a specific emphasis on horse heads in Hesh's house. There is a small one on the table between Hesh and Tony when they sit down at 10:37, and another is to Tony's left in the foreground. In the same scene, when we see close-ups of Hesh, a horse statue is behind him, with the horse's head protruding out behind Hesh's. Later, we see a horse head statue over Hesh's right shoulder when he's reading, before Tony and Bobby come to his door (30:47). In the final scene, when Tony drops off the money, there is: (1) a horse head statue in the foreground, (2) a horse statue to Hesh's right, where the head is emphasized by the reflecting light; and (3) when we get a close up of Hesh, we can see the head of a horse statue protruding from behind his right shoulder.

The Godfather reference suggests that Tony may have had someone sneak into Hesh's house to kill him. There is circumstantial evidence to support this. 1. Tony knows the house well enough to give instructions; we've seen him there multiple times throughout the show. 2. We see Hesh sleeps with a glass of water next to his bed (13:17). This could be used to poison him. 3. The unexplained meeting with Carlo (41:49), immediately after Tony loses $100k on the Eagles/Dolphins game. What were they discussing? 4. Tony just lost again on the Mavericks/Spurs game---he must be down BIG at this point---in the scene immediately preceding the one where Hesh finds Renata dead. 5. As Tony leaves Hesh's house at the end of the episode, the door doesn't shut properly, suggesting that it's not secure and that the house is easy to break into.

2. There are allusions in "Chasing It" to the Season 1 Episode "Nobody Knows Anything" (NKA). This is important because in NKA, Sil and Tony joke that they would kill someone rather than pay off a $30k gambling debt (but are they joking?). The allusions to NKA in Chasing It: 1. In Chasing It, Carm tells Tony he goes about life as though there isn't a piano hanging over his head. In NKA, at the Soprano's house party, we learn that the Sopranos are moving their piano because AJ doesn't use it, and Tony has to move it; in the next scene, we see Tony tell Melfi that he feels as though there is a safe hanging over his head---a sense of "pending doom". 2. In Chasing It, we see Tony get physical with Carm, and she ends up throwing a vase at him; in NKA, Makazian tells Tony at the brothel that when he was a kid, his dad would hit his mom and his mom would inevitably throw the closest thing she could find at him. 3. In Chasing It, we see Tony leave Carlo outside the pork store after an unexplained meeting---this scene is shot from across the street; in NKA, we see Paulie watching Pussy leave Tony, Chris, and Sil outside the pork store after an unexplained meeting---this scene is also shot from across the street. (Also, when Paulie pulls up to Pussy, he blows his horn, which plays the Godfather theme (see discussion of the Godfather above)).

In sum, there is a good deal of evidence suggesting that Tony had a hand in Renata's death. Now some people would say: Why would Tony kill Renata AND pay Hesh? It could be that Tony attempted to kill Hesh, but accidentally killed Renata. Specifically, Tony could have sent someone to Hesh's house to poison him, but that Renata was poisoned instead---it's not far fetched that she would drink from the cup next to her and Hesh's bed. (Later in the same season, we see another botched murder attempt: Tony's crew ends up killing the innocent Ukrainians instead of Phil.)

I don't claim that Tony DEFINITELY killed Renata. I think the writers wanted this to be ambiguous. In NKA (a fitting title), we wonder: Is Pussy a rat? We don't know (at least not then). In Chasing It, we wonder: Was Renata's death random or planned? We don't know. Further, this latter question parallels another question that is raised in "Chasing It" in combination with "Kennedy and Heidi": Is Tony's gambling luck random or planned? (Logically speaking, it's of course random, but while Tony is tripping on peyote, he "sees" that it is planned by "something else").

Chasing It, and its ambiguous ending, is typical of David Chase. So much so that I suspect that the title of the episode, Chasing It, is actually a reference to Chase himself.

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