Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie

Throughout the run of The Sopranos, there was obviously much discussion between Tony and Dr. Melfi on the influence Livia had on her son, both in his formative years but so too in her last years. There can be no doubt that she was an "albacore" on his neck, but what was explored but never fully fleshed out was the relationship and true formative influence that Tony's father figures might have had on his life. It was something he never really wanted to talk about, though it was explored briefly at times during his therapy. More so, we see it through flashbacks and now through this film The Many Saints of Newark. I use the plural above and in the title of this thread as question. Who indeed was the true male influence in Tony's life? I'd be a poor attorney because I don't know the answer to the question posed. But it does seem to me that one could look at three men - his father, his uncle and then his "uncle."

I have maintained in the past (you can see many of this here on this forum) that Tony's inability to reckon with the memory of his father has much to do with his inability to "be prepared" in his future. He'd much prefer to discuss the troubles with his still living and then dead mother than he was to talk about his father. SHE was the easy target for his unanswered questions about himself or why things troubled him rather than actually looking at those that actually formed him mentally and most especially, as a mobster. Sure, Livia did a number on him emotionally (as she did with all of her children) but for a man like Tony, he had three men to look up to and so how did they truly influence him?

In an effort to come to a conclusion, I've gone back to watch the series once more. From my review of the film, you might know that I'm not certain what Tony could have learned from Dickie Moltisanti, but we can guess I suppose. And from the show, we can see what he actually says himself about both Johnny and Junior (and Dickie.) There is what is shown and assume that is either something he said to Melfi or what he was thinking about from his dreams. I'm still early on again in the run, but from the very first season it is discussed. Again, Livia is the focus in his therapy (as far as his parents are concerned), but some of the weeds are pulled as they continue to talk and he continues to grapple with his psyche.

So what I want to do here is go bit by bit as we move through and see how these three men contributed to the formation of Tony and really get down to who and how they were an influence as his male figure. To be sure, I've no doubt that his friends in the mafia - Sil, Paulie, Pussy, etc. - have had some formative influence, but these men were older brothers rather than father figures. I still have some question as to actual ages with all of these because I was under the impression Tony was closer to age than is presented in the film, but so be it. Let us assume that his peers in the show were of an age that Tony could both look up to them in his teens and then be their leader as an adult. Some of that likely has to do with his name and some might be that he was an actual leader of men, despite his lack of preparedness and the suggestion that he never had the makings of a Varsity athlete (debatable.)

In this, we begin at the beginning as it were. Season 1. I will look at all three:

Johnny - The most impactful has to be Down Neck clearly. It's in this episode that we hear Tony tell Melfi about the first time he saw his father smack someone around. The same man that Johnny wants to move the family to Reno with to start up a new business before Livia shoots him down. This is 1967, according to the episode. If it is true that Tony was born in 1959, he would have been 8. One could say that he finds a respect for his father here, but so too recognizes that his mother was far more formidable as she not only tears Johnny down but has already threatened to poke Tony's eye out with a grilling fork. More to that, he then witnesses his father taking Janice to the fair (I called it a circus before, but it's actually 'Ride Land' in which Johnny, Junior and others are using as a meeting place and get busted.) He sees his father get arrested and another mobster get shot but not killed as they run away. Heady things for a young boy. Scary even. The film recreates this later bit.

The second thing we find from season 1 is just a simple notion. Johnny was a silent partner along with Hesh in the music business. It doesn't really say much other than fill in more backstory. Hesh does not feature or cameo in the film, which may say something. Yet given that Hesh also features as an influence on Tony over the years, we must look at it.

Junior - Obviously the events of season 1 as it relates to Junior are huge. His own uncle puts out a hit on Tony! A failed attempt but that Tony does not get the retribution he declared he would get says something. Of course, Junior gets arrested before Tony can exact said revenge, but he never tries to do anything about it after Junior goes into house arrest. Clearly Tony loves his uncle even with such betrayal. A vestige of his love for his father? A real love for his uncle? I mean, Carmela is more angry about it after the fact than Tony. There is a lot more to unpack here as the seasons move on, but there is no doubt that Tony has some affection for Junior. I'll say that we see little of why during the film, but in the same above episode of Down Neck we see Tony tossing the ball with Junior. There is an interesting moment in the film which I'll discuss below but we can say that Tony has a true familial bond with his natural uncle and so is loathe to truly destroy as he might do to some others.

Dickie - If Christopher's father is even mentioned in the first season, it is in a passing nature and nothing truly said. At this moment in time, Tony does not even tell Chrissy how much he respected or looked up to his father. In the film, however, we see that Dickie was there for some time. Young Tony was there when the Moltisanti pater returned from Italy with a new bride. We see that Tony is out and about with a basketball during the race riots...after SEEING what his father has done...and nearly stumbles along Dickie killing his own father. In the film, we do see that Dickie takes a special interest in the young Tony and especially when Tony gets caught for running numbers at school and Livia would rather Dickie talk to him than Junior because as she suggests, "You just confuse him" when responding to Junior.

So what to make of all this? I need to add one other (perhaps missed continuity) because in the show, Tony talks about his father being sent to jail when he was young and in the film, he goes to jail after the arrest at 'Ride Land.' That was time spent away between father and son and those years, depending on when they were, are certainly formative. By blending the two (film and show) we can see that Johnny remains the impactful figure, Junior remains Junior and Dickie is an influence, but what kind of influence? That remains a question.

I'm already into season 2 and will have more words to say about it when done. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well. We've a great space in which to discuss this amazing creative endeavor so please feel free to offer your own two boxes of ziti.
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza

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Re: Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie

On to Season 2.

Which I will admit does not entirely help in the above discussion. As powerful as the season is, it really deals more with Tony as it relates to his "older brothers" more than father figures. Obviously Richie Aprile but so too Pussy as we see by season's end. Again, it is somewhat a failing of the film that it seems to age Sil, Paulie and Pussy up a bit or does not adequately explain how they became not just an influence on Tony but why they would later consider him the best leader, but so be it. Here we are still trying to sense the father figure or influence on the man he would become. Older male figures can certainly provide that influence, but Tony sees them as peers. So let's get to the ones that might...

Johnny - From this re-watch, the only notion of Johnny from this season is from Big Girls Don't Cry in which we learn that Johnny had panic attacks as well. This will come up later. But that it is learned from Hesh may be telling. Again, a possible fourth father figure which is never entirely explored. Further, Tony is first learning this at his later age. So an influence? I'm not so sure.

Junior - The two have little interaction this season after the failed hit and Junior's house arrest. This will, of course, change as the seasons progress but for now it gives us little notion as to their relationship. Other than Tony never again tries to go after Junior. In truth, he seems to have forgiven him (in some way) which even Carmela never does.

Dickie - The only mention of him throughout the season is after Christopher wakes up from his coma and says he saw his father in Hell run by the Irish. Dickie apparently has a message for Tony and Paulie - "3 o'clock." This obviously unnerves Paulie enough to try a medium and then complain to his priest. If it bothers Tony at all, we don't see it. Further, as the film relates, I don't see much of a close relationship between Dickie and Paulie. They are both just soldiers in the same mafia army. I suppose I could wonder (because neither the show nor film explains precisely) what time Dickie was murdered? Is that the significance of 3 o'clock? Regardless, it does not express how or why Dickie might have been a significant influence upon Tony as it relates to his later being.

I will say, as the film relates, that Dickie puts Tony aside as an attempt to keep him from this world of the mafia or at least his own toxic personality and that may have colored Tony over the years because he did not understand or it was not explained to him. He may hate Dickie for that and so cares little for what his "uncle" may or may not have said in Christopher's coma dream. But here we can only speculate because we have so little proof. What we do have is the show and Tony does not seem to give any credence to the "message" and seems to have little reaction to it.

So overall, and as suggested above, this season is not much of a help. That said, one very interesting tidbit does come out. When Tony and Pussy murder Matthew Bevilaqua, his last words are "Mommy...mommy please!" It does not tell us much, but it might suggest that it this date Chase, etc. are still interested in the maternal influence and not the paternal. To be sure, the denouement of the season shows us Tony having a fever dream about Pussy and then eventually killing him. Most assuredly this was difficult as he says how much Pussy means to him. But as a father figure? An influence, but not one that he is not willing to take out when it comes to his own wealth and well being. As regards Pussy, we do see that Tony is haunted by this betrayal (from both sides) as the seasons go forward, but not enough to change him and certainly not enough to form him in any way. We're still looking at early years and these are later day events.

On to season 3...
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza

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Re: Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie

Finally getting to season 3. Have had some football and baseball on the agenda. (Also had to watch season 3 of YOU on Netflix.)

And a bit like season 2, this one doesn't really deal too much with Tony's father figures/issues. Also different than the previous season, it is more of a look at how Tony himself might be a father figure to someone else, be that his actual son AJ, Christopher and certainly Jackie Jr. There are a few notions which we can cover quickly:

Johnny - The most important episode in this entire discussion (at least from this season) must be episode 3 Fortunate Son. It's a through line from fathers to sons/almost sons all the way. Chris is made and told that Tony is "like a father." Jackie Jr. is starting to try and get into the business even as Tony is trying to steer him correctly. And all the while, Tony is remembering how his father cut off the finger of old man Satriale. The issue with meat. We are meant to think it has to do with his mother's love for meat and the life that provides it for her, but Johnny surely looms large here even if Tony doesn't immediately see it.

Junior - Once again, Uncle June doesn't get too much to do this season as far as Tony is concerned. Yes, we see the concern when Junior reveals he has cancer. And at the end we can see Tony a bit disgruntled when Junior disapproves of the turn out at Jackie Jr.' s funeral, but by and large there is little to explain much of anything other than what we already know of their relationship.

Dickie - It is left unsaid (and/or perhaps not considered at the time) but much of what occurs this season is quite similar to what we are to assume happened between Dickie and Tony. Whether that is the direct relationship with Dickie's son Christopher or the one he develops with Jackie Jr. Of course Jackie has other influences which brings up another conundrum or continuity error. That being Ralphie. We are told he was part of a small crew with Jackie Sr., Tony, and Silvio Dante. That Silvio is aged up in the film and Ralphie does not appear, that is hard to buy. Regardless, Ralphie certainly is the devil over Jackie Jr.'s shoulder as much as Tony might be the angel (if that is even true.) So while Dickie is not even mentioned, we can consider that his previous influence is on Tony's mind as he tried to mentor Jackie Jr and Chris (as well as his own son.) Extra credit for the black crow Chris sees when he gets made that is given a shout out in the film. Still, that has little to do with Tony directly.

So all told, this season is not much of a help to figure who the real influence might have been. It is interesting to see the Tony/Jackie Jr. relationship somewhat mirror what we later see as the earlier Dickie/Tony relationship, but it was left unsaid at the time and certainly unexplored. So too, at this time, that of his relationship with his father. That will at least come as we move forward. And there will be much more with Junior but just not this season. It's one of my favorite seasons, but not terribly enlightening for this question.

Now for season 4...
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza

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Re: Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie

I have not yet moved fully through season 4 (for the thousandth time), but we must highlight the first episode For All Debts Public and Private. It is here in which we finally get some deep background on Dickie Moltisanti. We (and Chris) are told that Dickie "single handed brought down that New England crew" and that he was "a legend." As well, more information is given on his death. That is was supposedly done by Det. Lt. Barry Haydu and arranged by Jilly Ruffalo. From the film, we know this is not quite true. The only thing that does link up is that Dickie was bringing home TV trays (unlike a crib which is what Christopher recalls.)

All of this is what Tony tells Chris in an attempt to tie him closer because, as he's told Melfi, Tony has to keep his family close because he cannot trust anyone else. It seems to work (as we'll see) because prior to now Chrissie has been doing quite a bit of questioning of Tony and his decisions/actions. Even before watching the film, we all questioned if these things Tony says were true or lies. Barry Haydu himself tells Chris that whomever is telling him this is a liar before he's shot dead.

I'll add another interesting level here because the episode ends with a close-up of $100 dollar bill placed on Joanne Blundetto Moltisanti's refrigerator by Chris (and stolen from Haydu after he is killed) and is indeed the reference to the title of the episode and certainly a suggestion that this is what Tony is doing (paying a debt, for Chris, or better causing Chris to be in debt to Tony...and possibly for Dickie even if he doesn't know why.) More to that, this is the same episode in which Junior is complaining about his cut as supposed boss of the family because he needs it for his legal defense.

So what to make of all of this? Once again, it is difficult for me to know or see how Dickie was such an influence upon Tony as mob boss other than what Tony has heard about his supposed considered uncle having not been around him when many of the worst crimes were committed (or any, for that matter.) And much as we see Tony lie to Chris here, it is quite possible that Tony himself was told a series of lies about Dickie. He saw his father cut off Satriale's finger. He saw his father beat down "degenerate gamblers." He saw his father get arrested. Of the crimes Dickie commits in the film, Tony is not around for any of them. The worst we see is Tony accepting the stolen speakers, even if he's conflicted about it. More to that, young Tony then tosses them from his room when the relationship breaks down with Dickie.

As for Junior, one wonders if HE was the one that supplied said lies about Dickie especially being the one responsible for his death? Might he have tried to bind Tony closer to him early on in the hopes of finally becoming boss (as he eventually does even if it's a titular title and not achieved by talent or even real respect)? It is an interesting consideration when looking at both the film and this episode especially. As for Johnny, he barely registers in the episode. If I'm scoring these things, I'd say that Dickie gains some points here as does Junior. Johnny does not. That said, Dickie would be way behind so far as we've moved through these episodes.

Anyway, more later as we move through the rest of the season.

(PS - Please don't be shy in giving comment. I know the place has less folks than before, but we don't bite and enjoy the conversation.)
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza

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Re: Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie

It is interesting to me that after the 1st episode of season 4 seems to revolve around Dickie Moltisanti, the rest of the season really centers back to Johnny (and certainly to Junior but in the modern day.) There is perhaps one more Moltisanti connection but that is more on the Christopher side, certainly. It is in Everybody Hurts that Tony tells Christopher that he's going to be moving into the number two position going forward and all orders will be going through him and Sil. This doesn't happen if Tony has not developed a level of trust after thinking he's bound Chris to him after the Haydu murder.

But from there, the mind turns to Johnny in two episodes particularly. In the amazing Whoever Did This in which Ralphie is murdered, there is an interesting aside when Tony and Chris go to dispose of the body. They go up to old man Palmice's farm but the ground is too frozen for a shovel so Chris hot-wires the digger. When he cannot drive it, Tony hops up and shows no problem with it explaining that his father "let him fuck around on construction sites when he was 13." Not Dickie...Johnny. Now there is a slight timeline/potential continuity issue in this fictional world.

First of all is Tony's age. On most wiki's Tony is listed as being born in 1959. However, in some places it is suggested 1955 if you go by The Many Saints of Newark (I'm not sure where they are getting that because aging him up seems to mess with the look of his age in 1967 - not so much with the 1972 portions.) But let us go by the 1959 date which would place Tony at 13 in 1972 when Dickie is killed (according to the film.) The other is the issue of when Johnny went to prison. It was suggested on the show that Johnny went to prison when Tony was very young and out as he grew older. However the film seems to suggest that when Johnny was arrested at the carnival in 1968 he is sent to jail for 4 years getting out in 1972. In the show, he returns home finally after the arrest. Now both could be true and fits within the timeline if Tony is born in 1959. The legal system could allow for Johnny to post bail and still be sentenced to 4 years in jail.

Further, if we accept all of that as true, it may fit that Johnny becomes far more of an influence over Tony than Dickie around that time. First of all, it is before Dickie is killed that there is a falling out between Dickie and Tony. Dickie is trying to keep Tony out of the world of crime and so distances himself which angers young Tony. As mentioned, he throws the stolen speakers from his bedroom window in frustration. And then, of course, Dickie is killed. So it makes sense that Johnny would return as the father figure/mentor role after getting out of jail at this same time when Tony is 13. It would not be out of the realm of possibility that Johnny got his action back up and running quickly after 4 years away and thus would have construction sites on which Tony could "fuck around."

That is quite a lot to unpack for one line of dialogue, but it remains telling. Prior to and during the events of The Many Saints of Newark, Tony is not involved in crime (other than stealing an ice cream truck and a small numbers racket at school.) It's only AFTER Dickie died that he starts getting involved in small stakes crime before moving up after the theft of Feech LaManna's card game (more on this later.) If it is in fact true that Johnny died in 1986, that is 14 years for him to be an influence as a crime figure and/or boss (though Johnny is never more than a capo.) More to that, we must assume Tony is also looking at Junior during all of this time as he too becomes a capo in his own right. So the idea that Dickie was ever an influence, as far as the mafia is concerned, seems a long stretch.

I'll add one more interesting thing from Whoever Did This which I'd never really noticed or considered before - when Tony brings Carmela to meet Pie-O-My, there is an interesting cut shot from the horse's eye to that of Junior in the hospital after his fall on the court house steps. What to make of that? It would seem certain it was something the director/writers/Chase desired to highlight. I'm not sure what the juxtaposition means other than Pie-O-My would get sick (and die after the fire at the stables) and so will Junior. There is more coming up later as regards Junior, but it does become clear that Tony thinks quite a bit about what he means to Junior and that they have a somewhat love/hate relationship. It's familial, to be sure. And as we've seen, Junior used to toss the ball with Tony and helped raise him somewhat in times when Johnny was gone. He was, no doubt, a male figure in Tony's young life and while the film posits that Dickie was the one that could talk to him while Junior just confused him, there is only one of the two that might have been the criminal mentor. Again, Tony never really sees Dickie work his criminal life. We know he did with Junior almost as much as Johnny.

Finally we have Calling All Cars. It is in the dream section of this episode, Tony is riding in the back seat of his father's car with Carmela driving, Ralphie as front seat passenger and alternately Svetlana and Gloria sitting next to him in the back seat. Better people than I have analyzed this dream (viewtopic.php?f=45&t=53) but for these purposes it is telling that it is Johnny's car. Not Dickie's. Not Junior's. As mentioned in the linked thread, Fly makes point of mentioning the car and suggesting (rightly) that Tony is "pursuing the era or lifestyle of his father."

To be sure, the point of the dream must deal with "change" seen by the caterpillar becoming a butterfly on the back of Ralphie's head. Of course, Ralphie has already changed (from life to death if nothing else) but so too will Tony's marriage with Carmela in the final episode of the season Whitecaps. Change indeed. That the car also includes two former comares (if one can include Svetlana as such even if she is the final catalyst for the split) there is ample evidence that the change has something to do with the lifestyle Tony lives. That it takes place mostly in a car belonging to his father, it then leads to the idea that Johnny was the influence leading Tony into the lifestyle in the first place...perhaps even "driving" him into it. Again, not Dickie. Not Junior.

The dream ends with an allusion to Livia certainly and most of this series involved Tony's psychological issues with his mother, but I have often thought and considered that his more complicated relationship was with his father. I'm not the only one. For the sake of this thread, I don't want to move back into critique of the film but it seems a lost opportunity to more fully explore those early years and his younger relationship with the man that was clearly his influence. Already by season 4 of the show, there can be no doubt that it was Johnny that was his influence. Not Dickie. Dickie may be the idealized figure as Tony saw all the warts of his father and hardly any of Dickie, but the fact remains that the older Tony's mind returns far more to Johnny than it ever does to Dickie or Junior (where those thoughts are more focused in the present.)

We move next to season 5 and we'll see more of the same.
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza

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Re: Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie

Here we get into season 5 and in many ways it is a treasure trove of information for this thread. It does not, however, give us much insight into Dickie. Further, it really does suggest a real continuity error in the film as compared to the show in that Tony Blundetto never appears in The Many Saints of Newark. Now true, there is little Artie Bucco and even less Jackie Aprile, but if the relationship between these two cousins was such that they consider themselves so close as to be brothers you would think there would be some suggestion of this when Tony was a child and certainly as an early teen. That said, it is not relevant for these purposes.

Instead, we get our first purposeful episode with Where's Johnny. In it, all three figures are mentioned. Obviously Junior as he is starting to really suffer from his dementia. Not only does he go off in search of his brother giving the episode its title, but he also needles Tony with the "never had the makings of a varsity athlete" stuff (which is used word for word at one point in the film.) The same thing is suggested by Janice when she said "Daddy always said that" in reference to Tony having small hands. Johnny rather looms large over the episode though he does not appear in flashback. Not only is Junior remembering days gone by with his brother and Tony is more than irritated having to go back and recall things either said about him or perhaps unfulfilled wishes about being an athlete (which of course will come back later in the season.) Instead, he followed clearly in his father's footsteps.

Dickie is also referenced briefly by Ade when the FBI agent is wondering about the actual relationship between Chris and Tony. In explaining how they are really cousins, she also drops the line that Dickie "was like a big brother" to Tony. We see that now due to the film, but no more in terms of how much of an influence. Finally there is that last touching scene between Tony and Junior. Perhaps one of the most open things Tony ever utters on the show was his question to his uncle "Don't you love me?" It clearly hurts Tony and shows that there is a desire for Uncle Junior's respect and affection. I doubt this would be the case if Junior was not an influence and father figure.

There was also an interesting through-line somewhat for the season that doesn't involve Tony directly but could be seen as a thought in his mind as well - in Sentimental Education we see both Carmela and Tony B. looking at life "outside" of their mafia circles but ultimately cannot fully leave it because it's just too good and/or profitable. I think it's possible that Tony may be considering this as well, at least subconsciously if we take some thoughts from bits in his dream later in the season. But we'll get to that.

Because first we must look at perhaps the most interesting episode of the season for these purposes - In Camelot. It is here that Tony meets his father's former comare Fran Feldstein and gains a lot more insight into that time and his father's life. And we learn quite a lot as well. Johnny shared interests in a race track with Hesh and Phil Leotardo. It appears that Johnny gave away Tony's dog Tippi to Fran. We know that Johnny was still with her when he got emphysema as not only was she still smoking around him but also with her when Tony was around 16 as he causes Tony to lie to his mother when Livia had a miscarriage. (It's also interesting that the show clearly makes the house we know from the show the house they were living in by Tony's teen years.)

I'd say there is some interesting bits about Junior in this episode. Apparently he was in love with Fran but Johnny won her affections and caused Junior to "suffer in silence" but Fran disputes this and calls him a stalker. In fact, she thinks it was Junior that told Livia about Johnny and Fran (which might track given that we know he can be vindictive and has little issue hurting his own family or Family.) Dickie, of course, is not involved with any of this other than an assumption. It is clear that Tony has watched and followed many of the men of this world and was surely influenced. Fran knows this as she asks Tony "Tell me about your women..." She knows that men in this life have a wife at home and a comare on the side and in Tony's case it is a "good woman" at home and "very sophisticated" on the side. It's this last that causes Tony often to desire Melfi as much as he loves his wife Carmela. Now, we can look at the evidence and see that Johnny did not have that same kind of thought process for his wife/comare duality but from the film, we might consider that of Dickie. We don't know much about Joanne Blundetto Moltisanti other than she is largely presented as an alcoholic in the show, but not so much in the film. And Dickie's comare (his former step-mother) does show more sophistication as a self-learning immigrant wanting to start her own hair salon. So, without being stated, we can possibly see this as an influence by Dickie on Tony.

Yet the most interesting part of the episode is when Tony is presented these facts about his father. Whether it is by seeing it/hearing it or from Melfi trying to force him to confront those emotions in therapy, he cannot process it. Instead, he is more than willing to once again blame his mother. Livia "drove him into that woman's arms" and tosses out another of Livia's favorite "poor you" in reference to her. When Melfi suggests that Tony "forgive her and move on" Tony can only respond that she "made my father give my dog away...if it was up to her, she would have had it killed." It is quite interesting to me that it is really when Fran starts bad mouthing Livia that Tony starts to sour on her as he's been trying to help her previously in the episode but by the end of the episode, he's talking Fran up to his pals.

Tony is starting to realize the faults of his father (and so perhaps in himself) so he cannot process that and once again pushes it aside in favor of blaming Livia and considering his father the good guy. I'd say this is a rather large flag for Johnny to be that ultimate influence. I'd say there is yet one more bit of "the Kennedy connection" in this episode from the title alone to Fran's fascination/discussion of him - the hat, the hanky, the song. Kennedy often looms over the series from Junior's desire for a doctor with the same name to again Tony owning the hat (and of course much later) but if nothing else Kennedy may come up over and over again because of the father/son angle and the "brother thing" as Janice says earlier in reference to Jesus. Fathers and sons. That's what matters here. We know now that the Camelot suggested about the Kennedy presidency/myth is not as bright as it seemed at the time. But it is easier to remember the myth because of its brightness instead of the truth which is much harsher.

We return once again to Johnny in Cold Cuts. Janice has a choice line when she suggests "At my house, it was dog eat dog" and further, as Tony taunts her near the end, we must wonder where he learned that behavior. Mom or Dad? Or both? Of course, Johnny is mentioned as having a "couple of jars of peaches" up at Pat's farm. But what is truly interesting remains that reoccurring thing - Tony not wanting to fault his father or being embarrassed by him. Melfi mentions the Satriale's finger incident and Tony says "I wish I hadn't told you that. I dress up nice to come in here..." meaning he just doesn't want to realize what he knows deep inside and does not wish to process.

Further, in The Test Dream we once more see Tony in the back seat of his father's car and this time Johnny is definitely driving (and smoking a lot.) He's driving him to the job that keeps coming back up in the dream. Part of that "job" is surely getting back together with Carmela by the end of the episode, but most telling is the Coach Molinaro section of the dream. I have covered in the past the whole "unprepared" part of Tony's psyche, but something else stood out this time. While needling Tony and lamenting that he went down a different path, Tony tells him he's in therapy. The coach laughs and the first thing he says about it - "I suppose you blame it on your father." While Tony corrects and says his mother ("Even better" the coach laughs even more) it would seem clear that Johnny is up there in Tony's thinking even if he cannot get it to the fore of his mind.

Of course, there is also the "Valachi Papers" angle in the dream which many at the time took to be Tony looking at a way out of this life. Subconsciously that may be true. We will see that again as we move into season 6. But we know he never leaves. We know he cannot confront that part of his psyche. Why? Well of course because he is "unprepared."

So all told this entire season has shown us that Dickie is way in the background as an influence on Tony and Junior is certainly an influence (and perhaps a desired one.) But most of all it is Johnny Soprano that is THE influence in Tony's life, both as a man and mafia boss. Tony does not like to admit fault and so those parts of him that were influenced by his father are suppressed or embraced and instead he continues to find fault with his mother and those parts of him that he outwardly says he hates. A very enlightening season for these purposes.
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza

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Re: Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie

Here we cover season 6A and we can go ahead and say outright that Dickie really doesn't play here at all. The closest we come to it is just an assumption. In The Ride, Chris talks of his home life growing up and what a slob his mom was. His childhood friend was going home with dirty knees and not allowed to play there anymore because the house was filthy. Perhaps because Dickie was not there?

More readily, we get much more from Junior and Johnny, and by extension Christopher. There can be no doubt that much of the theme for this portion of season 6 revolves around fathers and sons. Mentors and students. Influences. I've suggested before that each season had an overall theme and this one, in full, was Tony vs. himself. Tony vs. the father figures in his life and what that has made him over time. Tony vs. "the life" which this early section makes great pains to suggest that once you are in, you cannot leave it. Gene, Vito, Paulie, Carmela, even Meadow and AJ.

From the very start, we hear Tony call Junior " in his day" before Junior shoots him at the first episode's end in Members Only. This is after Junior put a hit out on Tony in the very first season. And yet, we've seen Tony trying to reconcile with his uncle for all this time. By the time he has recovered and talking to Melfi about it, she suggests he is trying to prove that he is a "good guy"...a "good boy" that his mother could love. That is why he's continued to "give" to Junior. Stand by him. Melfi is trying her best to turn Tony's attention towards the true source of his anger, resentment...anxiety...towards that which has brought him to this moment rather than the convenient outlet...his mother.

From last season, we know more and more that one of the main thematic elements has been fathers and sons. In this one especially we get just a snippet from Kung Fu as Paulie comes to see Tony in the hospital in The Fleshy Part of the Thigh. We literally hear on the TV, "father and son..." And for these purposes, what lead him to this life but no one other than his father Johnny?! In Moe N Joe, Melfi makes a pointed comment, "You are your father's son." That's what he inherited. In Cold Stones, she says they have been dancing around it for years. Tony admits that he "hates his son" and when she pushes, he says that Johnny would have never allowed that to happen. He kicked Tony's ass so he wouldn't be weak and thus now (per her) feels a need to "dominate and control." Her suggestion is that Tony is bitter because Livia did not protect him from that and perhaps he should look at the true impact, where his bitterness and anger should be directed. But Tony does not or cannot see it.

The "Coma Dream" or whatever you might wish to call it surely suggests that there is some part in Tony's mind that he might have led a different life. That he might be looking to find a way to escape it. That he might be looking for something good rather than the "shit" he continually finds (see Test Dream again and his comments after he's recovering - why does the gift have to be socks...everything turns to shit?) He knows somewhere inside that this life is part and parcel of his dissatisfaction in his life and yet he is unwilling (and unprepared) to do anything about it. Whenever Melfi tries to turn his attention to this, he retreats. He doesn't want to talk of Junior in Mr. and Mrs. Sacramoni Request and he retreats again about the infamous finger chopping incident when Melfi brings it up in Johnny Cakes. Tony accuses her of fixating on that. And for good reason.

What we know now about these various influences show that Dickie provided an older brother/good guy figure. Junior was there when Tony was young, tossing the ball with him, but apparently not enough to truly look up to him. Tony just wanted some love, perhaps, and look what he got from that? Two attempts on his own life (and one successful killing of said considered older brother which he knows nothing about.) And then where is Johnny? That's where he is. In Tony's psyche. The true and real influence. An absentee father (either by choice or jail) that offered a path if not instruction. And yet Tony wants to complain about his mother. His sister that left him to deal with her. His natural son AJ and chosen son in Christopher.

It says something to me that in The Ride, Tony actively tries to sabotage Christopher's attempt to find a good life (even if Tony does not realize what he's doing.) Especially after Chris says to him after getting married that he did so with "the example that you set." Tony then takes Chris with him for a pick up and steals the wine. Which he then goads Chris to drink as a supposed celebration. Which leads to Chris back sliding by the end of the episode. Which leads to Chris and Julianna meeting and then to them becoming junkies together by Kaisha. Even with AJ, while Tony pushes him to get the job which leads to him meeting Blanca (and seems to be fine by the end of this part of the season), there is another side of that when he says (as suggested before) that he hates his son. Tony tells AJ he doesn't want this life for him after AJ fails at making a play on Junior...that he's not made for Johnny it that he really doesn't or that he is embarrassed that AJ didn't take more after him, and by extension his own father Johnny Boy? Fathers and sons indeed.

At this stage, there can be no doubt that THE influence on Tony's life is his father Johnny. It has colored nearly everything he has done since even if he does not realize it.

We'll complete the rewatch soon and then I'll have some further words. But for now, already we've answered the question asked in the first section.
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza

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Re: Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie

Here we finally move to the last 9 episodes and certainly the first Soprano Home Movies is indicative once more of how much influence Johnny had not just on Tony, but so too Janice. Here is where it is told of Johnny shooting through Livia's beehive and Tony is embarrassed enough by the story, he ends up goading the story teller Janice until a fight breaks between him and Bobby. In the show, Janice suggests this scene originally occurred with Uncle June and his comare but in the film, it's Dickie and his wife Joanne. That could easily be a case of forgotten history or inaccurate history being told to Janice and/or Tony but the embarrassment is not over who was with Johnny but for Johnny himself. Janice too is so influenced, she believes that she is more like her father than Tony when she is remembering in her mind her killing Richie Aprile. The man cast a wide shadow over his children, at least the older two.

Dickie comes up again in Stage 5 when Tony speaks of him to Melfi. He's described as "a guy I could look up to...and you pass that down." It it clear that Dickie is idolized by Tony so much that he is nearly disgusted when Chris suggests in Walk Like a Man that his father was "doing coke, vodka whatever else he was squirting of up his harm" and "the great Dickie Moltisanti...your hero...he wasn't much more than a fuckin' junkie." It's hard to square that with Dickie's portrayal in the film unless we get back to unreliable memories or tales told. Was it Joanne that told her son about his father? Bitter, perhaps, that he left her so young and perhaps led to her life as an alcoholic? We do see in the film that Tony looks up to Dickie until Dickie pushes him aside again in the hopes of keeping him out of the life. (Something his father did not do - see below.) Tony, of course, does not realize this and is angry at his considered uncle at the time of Dickie's death. So Dickie is remembered only for the good and none of the bad (which again, Tony never really saw.)

It is worth it to also say that Chris mentions him one other time to JT before he kills him. He suggests his father abandoned him before JT counters, "I thought you said he was killed." Chris was sold a pack of lies or the unvarnished truth about his father. We don't know. What we do know is that he and Tony have vastly different thoughts and memories about Dickie. In many ways, so too does Tony about his own father. Where others like Paulie in Remember When seem to think the world of Johnny, Tony suggests that he "never knew where I stood with him." Paulie replies that he remembers the night Tony was born and was the "only time I ever saw him cry." While the need for the trip between the two of them is the occasion of the digging up of bones from Tony's first murder, it is suggested that it was ordered/sanctioned by Johnny and that Paulie was there to guide him along. That was Labor Day, 1982. Tony would have been roughly 22/23. Not terribly older than AJ in this last portion of season 6. Who but Johnny was the influence here? Paulie was there, sure, but Johnny ordered it/wanted to see it. It's clear it is difficult for Tony to remember (much less fully process) but it is also clear that by this time he's fully enmeshed in the lifestyle. We also see signs that he regrets or at least questions his father's influence when the young girl/prostitute provided by Beansie admits that she thought Paulie was Tony's father at first. Tony replies, "There was a time I wished he was."

Once more, in Walk Like a Man (the last in which Chris is a main figure) there is discussion about addiction being passed down, depression being passed down...poor influences being passed down. Dickie to Chris? Livia to Tony (or Johnny to Tony). Tony again brings up his "rotten putrid genes" as he worries about passing his own onto AJ. It is suggested as well in The Second Coming when Carmela calls it "The Sopranos curse" and purposely (and again) says "Your father...your uncle." Notice she does NOT say Livia. I believe it is also in this episode in which Meadow is trying to counsel AJ and pointedly says that he is "the will always be more important."

We cannot gloss over the previous episode of Kennedy and Heidi and while reams of internet paper have been written on the subject, let us cover just a little of it once more. Of course it is the episode in which Tony kills Chris after they have an accident on the way back from New York. Chris has been using and disgusts Tony when he realizes that Chris could have nearly killed his new born child when he notices a branch piercing the child seat in the back of the car. There can be myriad of reasons for this but none more researched and written on than the one by our fearless leader and Boss FlyOnMelfisWall (read it here: viewtopic.php?f=45&t=2503 .) In it she posits that Tony's murder of Chris was a vicarious killing of his own father...a destruction (or at least act of retribution) of that influence upon his mind...a misunderstood and perhaps even acknowledged act that had he truly understood, might have freed him from much of his anxiety (no matter how reprehensible the act itself was) but was short lived, or would be (because even if he says "I get it" he also says it was there and then gone.) Even if Fly's theory is incorrect (and I do not think it is at this late date) there is much to recommend from her treatise and in no place within does it really involve Dickie Moltisanti. Junior, yes. But by the final episode, Tony finally visits Junior for the first time since his uncle shot him (again, see below.) He's already shown once more how much he idolized Dickie. Much of what she writes on is absolutely about what a huge influence Johnny was on Tony and how much it continues to be an influence to the point that he has transferred his anger over to Livia as he tries to make her the bad guy and keep Johnny pure. Even if she is correct on the vicarious patricide (and again, I think she is) it is still a transference from Johnny onto Chris. Anyone but himself. To me, these excuse his own behavior within his mind as much as it clearly impacts his psyche (and Melfi tries and tries again to pull that out of him. When she realizes she can no longer treat a sociopath, because it does not work considering the psychiatric literature, she drops him as a patient for what we assume is the last time.)

To return to that final scene between Tony and Junior in Made in America, their exchange is interesting. Tony has kept June away from him since the shooting but finally goes to see him at the behest of Bobby (by way of Janice, but not for her benefit.) It's clear that Tony is still hurt (if not physically, surely still emotionally and psychologically.) Junior doesn't remember who he is and admits that he's "confused" but he does remember that they used to play catch. He states, "Me? I never had kids." He doesn't recall that he used to be part of the mafia and Tony tries to remind him that "You and my two ran North Jersey." I doubt seriously that Junior would recall by that time that he ordered the hit on Dickie Moltisanti over a joke made against him, but he was prone to slights. He indeed tried to kill Tony twice! And the first time, he was fully in his mind. It is clear that Tony sees him at this late stage of his life and finds sadness. Even after both shootings! Points for Junior as an influence.

As we wind down the show and get to those last moments, I don't want to rehash all of the arguments about what that all meant. Many words have been spent on it and you can read mine own in my signature. That is not what this thread is about. What it IS about is influences and we've looked at the three that might be the most impactful. But let us not forget the others that might have filled that role. Those other older guys that he might have looked up to. Silvio, who would become his consigliare. Paulie, who we've seen that Tony looked up to when younger. Pussy, to be sure. We know that Tony is haunted by that murder (and was even before he committed it.) By the end, where are they? Sil's in a coma and Tony can only visit once, that we know of. He sits for awhile and never says a word. Paulie is "gifted" the capo of the old Aprile crew and at first doesn't want it because it seems like a death curse. He's not wrong. Jackie to Richie to Gigi to Ralphie to Vito. And of course we know what happened to Pussy.

Much was made of the many songs Tony might have picked as he sat down to dinner at Holstens. I guess I never really keyed on these before, but two that stuck out this time around were "Who Will You Run To" and "A Lonely Place" before he picks "Don't Stop Believing." Let's face it, Tony is not a good person (and we all know it) no matter how much he thinks he is in his own mind. He can speak of the Two Tonys all he wants as he did to Melfi, but in the end there is only one. Even in this final episode, he is once more trying to sabotage his own son when AJ is looking to do something he thinks might be positive in his life (leaving aside whether AJ has a good idea or not) and instead sets him up to work with Little Carmine. Keeping his son close. Just as Johnny did with Tony. To be sure, I think a lot of these guys (and perhaps something Chase was trying to suggest when he did so) feel that duality in themselves and can compartmentalize these horrible things they do in the idea that they are still good people inside. Chapter and verse has been written about things like this (and is offered by none other than Meadow to Finn earlier in the run when she tries to explain how conflict resolution works in Italian society and comes from the old world.) Think of that odd moment when Paulie comes to The Bing and sees a vision up on the stage, and one he relates to Tony in this last episode. What is that but the classic "Madonna/Whore" complex that men may have with women? He tells Tony he saw the Virgin Mary on a stage usually filled by strippers. But it all speaks to that "duality" wherein Tony tries to legitimize his actions and emotions while never fully working to understand it. He won't. He refuses, frankly. He is...what? Unprepared!!!

I'll return to the last episode one more time to point to yet one other thing I never fully understood before but makes more sense after watching the whole thing over again. Why was Meadow parking the car as the rest of the family sat in Holstens? It does not matter whether Tony lived or died that night. Certainly not for these purposes. I will suggest that it goes back to the comment Meadow made to AJ earlier. Sons will always be more important, no matter what a "principessa" might be to an Italian father. See Johnny Sac at his daughter's wedding, Tony's understandable but far too violent reaction to Coco's unwarranted advances on Meadow and perhaps most importantly the dual thread story lines of University in which the stripper Tracee is killed by Ralphie and Meadow is dating Noah. A daughter/girl is to be protected and leads to not just Tony pushing Noah away as an undesired mate for his daughter, but so too eventually retribution by Tony on Ralph for killing Pie-O-My (a stand in for a defenseless animal... the ducks, Cosette the dog, a stripper, and yes...his daughter.)

But what about the sons? As I've gone through this entire series once more thanks to being prompted by the film, it seems clear that a real through line is Fathers and Sons. I think it is clear that Dickie was AN influence upon Tony. He is the idealized hero because he never saw Dickie cut off someone's finger. Did not see Dickie kill his own father (I'm curious when you get to this point, Fly.) Did not see Dickie kill his comare when he finds out she cheated on him. All things Tony might have done...but did not. Instead, Tony kills his "son" figure in Chris, after continually sabotaging his efforts to get sober and while berating him that he should do so. He does much the same to AJ, even if he saves him from suicide. He is as much a poor influence to a male child that his father might ever have been to him.

And what does he do or with to his own father figures? Continually excuses his own father's actions in lieu of his mother (from the very start), allows Junior a reprieve after twice being nearly killed by the same man, and will not cotton any poor words said about Dickie Motlisanti even if the elder pushed Tony away just before he died. (On that score, I'd love your thoughts as regards your earlier thesis after you've seen the film, Fly.) I touched above on Sil, Paulie and Pussy. Even Hesh. Many influences, to be sure. But none more than Johnny Soprano.

I will reiterate that it was a poor or easy decision by Chase to focus on Dickie for the film. It might not have been had there been more between Tony and his father. Because that, to me, is THE most important relationship in his life as regards his influence (and recall that Johnny had panic attacks too) and after a decade of 86 episodes, it seems strange to me that Dickie would be posited as the influence. I never made a numerical point system here, but Johnny is WAY in the lead. Junior comes second (perhaps because he lives.) And Dickie? To be honest, I'm not certain he ranks ahead of the likes of Paulie or Sil. We only see the after effects.

So now this exercise is done, and honestly I've enjoyed every minute of it. I'll watch the film again, but the show is the one. That is "the book." Everything else is judged by it. And I know full well that these are all fictional people, but I spent way too much time years ago going over and over why and what for with these characters. If nothing else, this was enjoyable and I hope anyone reading at this late date finds it so. Please don't fear to respond. We don't whack (unless you deserve it. ;) )
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza

Think Tony Died? Consider this...

Visit my Blog at Hear the Hurd
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