Antonin Scalia says that his critics have seen too many episodes of The Sopranos. No doubt he's right. After three episodes of The Sopranos I'm going to make a few predictions for the sixth and final season.
Tony Soprano will survive Season 6 and he will probably stay out of jail. He will live to see his empire unravel.
The decline of the mafia is a long-running theme in The Sopranos. At some level, all the characters understand that the glory days mob are over. At this point, Tony looks like the last don. The old traditions are crumbling and there's no clear line of succession. His son AJ is weak and ineffectual and his nephew Christopher is distracted and embittered. So far, Tony has held the family together through cunning and charisma. However, now that Tony has been shot and severely incapacitated, he will be hard pressed to hold on to power.
I expect captains Vito and Paulie to challenge Tony's leadership very soon. They've already been set up as the disloyal schemers who didn't want to kick in their share the Colombian heist to Carmela when Tony was in the hospital.
In the last episode, Vito had Phil Leotardo over for dinner. Phil is the acting boss of New York now that Johnny Sac is in jail. Last season, Tony Soprano thwarted Jimmy's desire to torture Tony's cousin to death. Tony's cousin killed Phil's brother in a clear violation of protocol. Technically Phil was entitled to deal with his brother's killer as he saw fit. However, Tony killed his cousin before Phil could get to him. Phil didn't get closure. So, he's still nursing a vicious grudge against Tony.
Ann Althouse expects Vito to get whacked soon because he's too fat and boring to be a main character. I'm not so sure. Vito is getting a new lease on life in the sixth season. Previously, he was just a fat perv. Now, he's slimmed down and talking himself up as the young healthy man who's ready to lead the Jersey mob. He's clearly sizing up the vengeful Phil as an ally. Vito may get whacked eventually, either by Tony's people or by New York, but not before he makes a major move against Tony.
I predict that Silvio will be the next major character to get killed. Episodes 2 and 3 remind us that Sil is old school and loyal to Tony. As acting boss, Sil safeguards Tony's interests and insists that the other captains chip in for Carmela.
Sil's key decision as acting boss is to come down on Paulie and Vito when they try to hold out on Carmela. The conflict between Sil the two recalcitrant captains establishes Sil as a traditionalist holding the line against the unscrupulous upstarts. Paulie and Vito don't follow the Mafia's moral code. If they did, they would feel an obligation to take care of Carmela and the kids the way Tony took care of Big Pussy's widow Angie.
In an important conversation just before Tony wakes up, Vito and Paulie agree that paying Carm is waste of money if Tony is on the way out. As far as they are concerned, they don't owe
Carm a thing once Tony's dead. They only pay up when they realize that Tony is going to wake up after all.
When Vito and Paulie hand over the cash to Carmela at the hospital they put on a dutiful show, but Carm catches the expressions on their faces before the elevator door slides shut. She realizes that these guys aren't loyal to her or her husband. Now Carm realizes the awful truth: Tony can't command the loyalty of his entourage. She now knows that the code is dead. Tony always told Carm that "the family" would look after her if anything happened to him. Now she's starting to realize that Tony's captains don't care about their traditional responsibilities. If he falters, they will cut her loose.
Sil appears to be sidelined in Episode 3 when he is hospitalized for a stress-induced asthma attack. This is an important development because it shows that Tony's staunchest ally is nearly as weak as Tony.
Nor can Tony expect much help from his nephew Christopher who who's busy making a mobster horror move. In this season, Chris takes advantage of Tony's infirmity to go back on his promise to his uncle to give up the movie business and dedicate his life to the mob. Chris tells the stuporous Tony that he's entitled to do the movie project because he sacrificed his girlfriend Adrianna. (Chris turned over Adrianna in season five when he found out that she was snitching to the FBI.)
When Tony emerges from the coma at the end of Episode 3, a lot of staring and drooling ensues. We are to conclude that the doctors' dire predictions have come true and that Tony is severely brain damaged. No doubt he will recover considerably, but it's going to be a long road back. (We can only hope that Tony's recovery will mean an end to the pretentious "Kev Infinity" dream sequence.)
The writers have been fascinated by the intersection dementia and criminality since the first season. They've already explored this theme twice before: Tony's mother and Uncle Junior. Mafia dramas are about nested propositional attitudes: "He knows that I know that I she knows..." Dementia adds a new dimension. Sometimes it's advantageous to let people think that you don't know what's going on, even if you do. On the other hand, if you are losing your faculties, you've got to hide your weakness from people who might want to take advantage.
A lot of people expect Tony's loser son AJ to die soon. Tony and Carmela always worried that AJ would find his way into the mob. The kid is clearly too soft and stupid to survive for long in the underworld. However, he just flunked out of college and recently set himself the task of executing Uncle Junior for shooting his dad. Tony's associates talked AJ out of it this time. The writers are clearly hinting that Tony's spoiled son is on his way out. I'm sure AJ's character is ultimately doomed, but I'm not sure whether he's in imminent danger.
In a key sequence in Episode 3, Carmela exploded at AJ and told him that he was nothing more than a cross for his family to bear. I suspect that the writers won't kill off AJ any time soon because he's a well-developed character who's poised to get into interesting trouble.
Tony's brother-in-law Bobby is another wildcard. Bobby is one of Tony's captains, but he's also a loyal henchman of Uncle Junior, the former titular head of the Soprano family. Now that Junior is in jail for shooting Tony, Bobby is fighting Tony's other captains for his share of Junior's old turf. Bobby is angry at Paulie and Vito for cheating him out collections in Junior's neighborhood. (I think that the big Colombian heist also took place in a disputed zone. Bobby doesn't know that yet, but it's safe to assume that he'll find out soon.) I'm going to take a flier and suggest that Bobby will side with Tony in the upcoming power struggle with Vito and his allies. By the end of the show, Bobby could easily end up running the Soprano family.
Okay. Those are my predictions. I'm dying to know what uber-Sopranophile Scott Lemieux thinks as we approach Episode 4.