"Stage 5" as reputation and legacy - "tough prick" vs happin

Throughout this episode I noticed a recurring theme of the reputations left behind by the characters. Chris' movie is certainly something he leaves behind. Tony sees his own reputation left in that movie - a portrayal by Danny Baldwin, described alternately as "a tough prick" and "a mean fuck", always as a compliment. This is something Tony has been striving for the entire series. But then we see him in therapy, getting teary-eyed while describing that his nephew doesn't love him anymore. Remember way back in S3 he told Chris "You don't have to love me, but you will respect me." Nearing 50 and still feeling the effects of his gunshot wound and brief pseudo-epiphany, he's starting to regret this. Deep down he would rather be loved than respected or feared.

Johnny Sack, dying of cancer, asks his brother in law how he will be remembered on the streets. Anthony responds that he was well-respected, but considered a bit of a "hothead". One could imagine that Johnny Sack would be proud of this, but he's not. Why should he be proud, really, to leave behind a legacy of violence? Johnny Sack, unlike most of the characters, is truly at a point where his mob boss rep means fuck all to him. He asks his doctor "There's no stage 5?" And there isn't at least from his perspective. Stage 4 is death, Stage 5 is what you leave behind. And in the end, all that really matters to John is his wife and daughters, who are at his bedside during death.

Warren the inmate/orderly also provides a smaller example of this. He was a smart doctor, but he too is leaving behind a "mean fuck" reputation, having shot three people while high on coke. You can see him trying to redeem himself to some degree, offering advice and help to doctors and patients, but ultimately everybody judges him on his crime.

There's also Carmine and Little Carmine. Carmine the boss has left behind what some would consider a great reputation. Johnny Sack amazes the other inmates with an anecdote about Carmine's ice-cold calculating nature. But if you look back on Seasons 4 and 5, none of this really mattered to Carmine. He was a miserab. Most of the time he spoke in tightly wound monotone, and briefly interrupted this with a childish outburst of rage on a golf course - "I hate this fuckin' shit!" His death was a creepy and unpleasant one. He appeared as a ghost in Tony's test dream expressing his loneliness in the afterlife.

Little Carmine, however, is managing to escape this trap. He never had much of a reputation. He has always been considered a retard, and most likely even the audience found themselves rooting for the crafty, ruthless Johnny Sack over this milquetoast back in S5. But as I've said many times, none of this shit matters, and Carmine has realized this. He also had a dream about his father, one that inspired him to forfeit and essentially retire. Little Carmine has a lot of good in his life, and he realized that there's no need to keep chasing respect in his old age.

On the opposite end of this spectrum from Little Carmine, we finally have Phil. He's an old man, a grandfather with a loving wife. He's had a heart attack, no doubt brought on by the stress of the mob lifestyle, and now has every reason to settle down and enjoy his golden years. But Phil isn't satisfied. He looks at his reputation, and he keeps finding flaws in it. He can't live with himself if he doesn't have that respect. He's holding grudges against people that are long dead. He holds a grudge against some abstract concept of Americans who botched his family name. He hold a grudge against Tony for killing his own cousin rather than letting Phil torture him. Before his death Gerry Torciano expresses that Phil's lost his balls. Phil senses this blow to his reputation and he can't stand it, so it's back to the grindstone with him. Ironically, of course, any respect that Phil might have earned in these last episodes is completely obliterated in "Made In America" in his obscenely hilarious death scene. Phil is the ultimate example of a "tough prick", and also an example of why that is not a good thing to be.

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