Pine Barrens... Again!

I'm revisiting the series again after a long hiatus. I was deeply interested in the series a few years ago because of how seemingly Chase used heavy symbolism and foreshadowing throughout the series, hinting at the eventual finale. Today I watch Pine Barrens again for the first time on this viewing, and wow! Just wow.

I don't know if it's debated at this point, but in my opinion, Tony is dead. It seems very clear & obvious to me at this point. One of the key plot lines in the series is the struggle between Tony's two families - crime family vs. natural family. Tony solidifies this for us in episode one of season four when he tell's Melfi there's only a few options for guys like him: jail, death or working through family.

One of the ways Chase likes to illustrate this struggle is through the relationship between Paulie and Christopher. Paulie is all in on the crime family. He has no family of his own. Christopher is in both worlds, being Tony's cousin, and represents Tony's natural family in the series. So, for Tony to survive, Christopher has to come out on top in the struggles he has with Paulie. At least, this is the subtext as I read it in the series.

In Pine Barrens we see Tony ask Paulie to do him a favor and collect money from the Russian. Paulie doesn't want to do this, he's not happy. As a result he has a short temper with the Russian and tries to kill him. In a way we could say this reflects the death outcome for Tony with the crime family, as the forces in it are determined to bury him in favor of their own desires.

Christopher is there, but is no help. He goes along with Paulie. When the two find the Russian alive upon arriving at the Pine Barrens, Christopher's bickering with Paulie gives the Russian an opportunity to first subdue Christopher, then Paulie in his bid to escape. This foreshadow's the ultimate failure of Tony's plans to work through family. Christopher does not protect Tony's interest in this situation, and only compounds the problem.

So, there I was, watching this episode, knowing these things very well. And then the Russian attacks. He hits Christopher, then Paulie, then runs. Paulie fires at him, knicks him in the head, and they make chase. They follow the footprints and the blood until they just stop. They've lost him. We cut to the next scene, Anthony Jr. watching what looks like a commercial with an animated milk carton, missing person and all, strutting across the screen.

Wow. I'm shocked I've never seen this before. This is the final scene of the last episode. Tony's own decisions (here putting Paulie on a task he should have taken care of himself, there a culmination of bad blood and poor decisions, including killing his own plan of working through Christopher), have put him in harms way. The Russian here, is Tony. Paulie is the crime family, aiming to kill him. Christopher is his own family, helpless to prevent his death.

And the crime family does kill him. They shoot him in the head. The screen goes black. Or here, the Russian disappears. Now we see the eyes through the people sitting around Tony. It's Anthony Jr. He was at the table in the final scene. All he can see is that Tony is gone, no explanation why, just disappeared from his life. A missing person on a milk carton. Amazing.

The two goons, off in the woods, fighting and bickering, barely surviving. They don't even know what's happened. In their world, the death of this figure doesn't stop anything, doesn't solve anything. They go on like it didn't happen because the violence and harm they cause are their way of life. They don't know anything else. It will just be someone else after Tony.

Anyway. That's my interpretation. I know I read on here in 2013 Chase said the Russian was later found by Boy Scouts. But I think he's just poking fun at everyone. Everyone wants a happy story. Oh well, give it to them. His work is there for everyone to see. If I'm just making more of it than it should be, okay, but I just happen to think there was so much love and attention to detail put into this series. It's really beautiful. I find new things in here all the time.

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