There wasn't much action, says Bruce Fretts, but next year's plot is already shaping up nicely

By Bruce Fretts
May 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Sopranos: Anthony Neste
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Genre rates the ”Sopranos” finale

Well, at least there were no talking fish. For the second straight season, ”The Sopranos” ended with a whimper, not a bang. Okay, there was one bang: Would be goodfella Jackie Aprile Jr. (Jason Cerbone) got shot to death by a hitman on orders from his common-law stepfather, Mob captain Ralphie Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano). But after Jackie Jr.’s ill-advised attempt to stick up a Mafia poker game, who couldn’t have predicted that?

If the finale was short on surprises, it was still packed with dramatic events that set up intriguing possibilities for the series’ next — and allegedly last — season (which may not premiere for nearly a year!). Here’s where several key characters left us hanging.

ANTHONY JR. The none too bright teen (Robert Iler) got busted for cheating on his geometry exam and permanently expelled from his school. Tony (James Gandolfini) threatened to send his son to a military academy, even visiting one strict facility. But after the boy had a panic attack and fainted (just like his old man) while trying on his uniform, Tony realized his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) was right: A.J.’s not cut out to be a cadet.

PAULIE WALNUTS The disgruntled henchman (Tony Sirico) had even more reason to grumble after boss Tony decided to award him only $12,000 of the $50,000 Paulie thought Ralphie owed him from a heist. This meant Paulie couldn’t afford to send his beloved ma to the same high priced nursing home (excuse me, retirement community) where Tony put his late mother, Livia. Paulie shared his complaints with sympathetic rival mobster Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola). Which raises the question: Is Paulie poised to turn his back on Tony and join another Family?

CHRISTOPHER MOLTISANTI While attending Jackie Jr.’s funeral, the Feds’ newest target (Michael Imperioli) was arrested along with Silvio (Steven Van Zandt) for taking Super Bowl bets. Both were quickly sprung, but with an FBI agent (Fairuza Balk) going undercover as a big hair Jersey girl to befriend Christopher’s fiancée, Adriana (Drea de Matteo), the government may stay close on his tail for the foreseeable future.

UNCLE JUNIOR The elder statesman (Dominic Chianese) has officially beaten cancer — and house arrest, after his lawyer convinced a judge the old guy didn’t pose a flight risk. After facing down death, he’s vowed to stop and smell the flowers, and even crooned an Italian tune during the postfuneral gathering at Vesuvio. (The song is included on the excellent new 2-CD ”Sopranos” soundtrack.)

MEADOW Grief stricken over ex-boyfriend Jackie Jr.’s murder, Tony’s daughter (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) had a few too many at Vesuvio and started singing Britney Spears’ ”Oops, I Did It Again” and throwing bread at a clueless Uncle Junior. Tony chased her out of the restaurant and into traffic, perhaps a metaphor for the dangers that lie ahead of her and the other characters come next year.

What did you think of the ”Sopranos” season finale?

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