The third season of The Sopranos was still being broadcast while I was writing my Sopranos programme guide in 2001. Each week I'd get a videotape from America of the latest episode and whip together an analysis of that instalment. The goal was to get the book published before the third season aired in the UK, making my guide seem as prescient as possible. To that end, my editor suggested I include some speculations about what might happen in season four. Looking back now, it's little surprise to see how few things I predicted actually came true. We're still waiting for that Russian in the Pine Barrens to reappear. Just for fun, here are my wild guesses...
Speculations on Season Four
What will happen in Season Four of The Sopranos? God knows creator David Chase and his team are not short of plotlines to explore in the forthcoming 13 episodes. Production of the fourth season is not due to begin until October 2001, so what follows can only be idle speculation. But trying to second-guess what will happen next is part of the fun of The Sopranos.
The first question to contemplate is whether Season Four will be the grand finale of The Sopranos. David Chase and lead actor James Gandolfini are contracted to The Sopranos only up to the end of the fourth season and there has been much speculation about whether the show will be extended. HBO will no doubt be happy to pay handsomely for further episodes. The Sopranos is the subscription channel’s greatest asset and directly responsible for a surge in viewers signing up.
David Chase has said many times in interviews that he does not want his creation to become just another TV zombie, dragging on season after season simply to keep everyone making money. He wants The Sopranos to finish at its peak, an understandable goal. When Season Three began with the best ratings yet for the show, Chase seemed to relent slightly on his edict that there would only be four seasons. So, there’s a glimmer of hope for viewers.
Best guess? Chase will pull the plug after Season Four, deciding that 52 episodes are enough – one for every week of the year. His life-long ambition is to write movies. The success of The Sopranos has brought him much closer to that dream, but that same success is now stopping him making the leap to film. There is no show without David Chase, so Season Four could well be the last hurrah for Tony and family (and Family). Whatever happens, there are a number of lingering plot threads from Season Three which may reappear…
Tony’s tempestuous affair with Mercedes sales rep Gloria Trillo was wrapped up in #38, ‘Amour Fou’ – or was it? Will Gloria return like aggrieved mistress Glenn Close in the film Fatal Attraction? David Chase has professed to a dislike of doing the predicable, so such a development seems unlikely. SPECULATION: Tony has seen the last of Gloria Trillo.
During Season Three Tony’s life and business became increasingly intertwined with members of the Russian Mafia. Slava Malevsky is laundering the vast sums of money Tony is netting from the New Jersey esplanade project. But a shadow has been cast over the relationship by Paulie and Christopher’s bungled efforts to execute Russian hardman Valery. He disappeared after being headshot in the Pine Barrens, seemingly taking Paulie’s car. Valery is a man with a grudge and Tony puts the blame for the cock-up on Paulie. SPECULATION: Valery returns for revenge and the resulting violence sours relations between Tony and the Russian Mafia.
Johnny ‘I don’t stick my beak in’ Sack seems intent on sticking his beak into Soprano Family business. He was acting as mentor to Ralphie before Tony got smart and made Ralphie a captain. In the Season Three finale Johnny starts making nice with Paulie, trying to woo the disaffected captain over to the New York families. There are millions of dollars at stake in the esplanade project and Johnny is intent on getting the biggest slice for NY. SPECULATION: This will be a major plot thread for Season Four. Johnny Sack’s underboss status should protect him from Tony’s wrath, but others will be hurt in the crossfire.
Two characters started making recurring appearances during the third season. State Assemblyman Ronald Zellman is a politician in Tony’s pocket, delivering the esplanade project. Another crony of Tony, Reverend James Jr, popped up twice during Season Three. It seems unlikely he’s just there to add local colour. SPECULATION: Expect more appearances by these characters.
Made man Raymond Curto only showed up in a handful of episodes during Season Three, but he was revealed as a rat for the feds. Can he gather crucial evidence against Tony and the Family? And how many others have been flipped by the Government? SPECULATION: Curto is revealed as a rat and gets a bad case of lead poisoning from a bullet to the back of the head.
Carmela’s parents Hugh and Mary DeAngelis emerged from the shadows after the death of Livia, becoming regular visitors to the Soprano household. Hugh has been diagnosed with the eye disease glaucoma, while Mary seems intent on take’s Livia place as nagging mother. SPECULATION: More medical problems and an untimely death for Hugh, giving Carmela a dilemma about where her mother should live.
The FBI did not have a very successful campaign during Season Three. Elaborate efforts to get a bug into Tony’s house were unwittingly thwarted by Meadow, while the deaths of Pussy, Livia and Richie Aprile rescued Tony from several potential prosecutions. Rat Raymond Curto doesn’t seem to be doing the business and Tony is too smart to fall victim to routine surveillance. A new ploy was introduced during #39 – a female agent has been assigned to becoming Adriana’s new best friend. Will this produce results? SPECULATION: Adriana gets Christopher into trouble with her big mouth, but the FBI still can’t a finger on Teflon-coated Tony.
Artie and Charmaine Bucco split up during Season Three, thanks to Artie’s infatuation with Adriana and his plans to go into business with Tony. Charmaine responded by getting makeover and declaring her independence. SPECULATION: The closer Artie gets to Tony, the worse his life will get. Charmaine will prosper while her estranged husband suffers.
Eugene Pontecorvo was introduced during Season Three – he was the other guy being ‘made’ when Christopher got his button. Eugene is part of Ralphie’s crew and hosted the card game that Jackie Jr tried to rob. He is being established as part of the next generation of gangsters in the Family. SPECULATION: An increased role for Eugene under Ralphie’s tutelage.
Like Paulie, Christopher was becoming disenchanted with Tony’s leadership as the third season ended. Christopher does not know he is in danger from the FBI targeting his fiancé Adriana for close surveillance. The newly made man survived an attempted assassination during Season Two – how will be fare in Season Four? SPECULATION: The wedding of Christopher and Adriana is the mob marriage of the year. But the proud husband spends his honeymoon in jail after being arrested by the FBI for information gleaned from his loose-lipped wife.
Junior spent Season Three under house arrest and fighting cancer. By the end of #39 things were looking up – cancer apparently beaten and the terms of his house arrest relaxed. But his trial on twelve RICO predicates is drawing ever closer. Can he beat the rap? SPECULATION: David Chase has said he doesn’t want to turn the show into a legal drama, so don’t expect to see much courtroom action in Season Four. Junior has buried his differences with Tony – expect him to act as elder statesman and advisor to his nephew.
AJ was the kid going off the rails in Season Three. He lurched from one disaster to the next, got expelled from Verbum Dei and only escaped being banished to military school because of his panic attacks. AJ is not the sharpest tool in the box, so academic excellence seems beyond him and he doesn’t seem tough enough to make it in the Family. So what will happen to Tony’s only son? SPECULATION: The fate of AJ will be a major plotline for Season Four. It’s hard to see a future for the boy beyond entering the Family business. Perhaps he can emulate loveable Bacala, the nicest mobster in the world.
Meadow has a tumultuous year – going to college, losing her virginity with Noah, falling in love with Jackie Jr and then having the brutal reality of mob life shoved in her face. After three years of criticising the mob lifestyle, she tore into Jackie Jr’s sister for lacking loyalty to the Family and discussing business in front of an outsider. Does Meadow consider herself part of the Family? SPECULATION: Meadow will continue her studies at Columbia during Season Four but finds herself drawn ever closer to the arms of the Family business.
Dr Melfi began Season Three still questioning whether she should be treating Tony. The rape and its consequence were a turning point for the character. She could have used Tony as a weapon to gain revenge against her rapist, but instead she reaffirmed her own belief system. SPECULATION: Dr Melfi will continue to treat Tony, sometimes in joint sessions with Carmela. There may even be family therapy sessions involving AJ. Do not expect to see the rapist plotline revived or any romance between Melfi and Tony!
Carmela continued to question the gap between her beliefs and her actions. After being shaken to the core by Dr Krakower’s urgings that she leave Tony, Carmela found another way forward when Father Obosi suggested she live off only the good part of Tony’s nature. As Season Three ended, Carmela was contemplating a career in real estate sales. SPECULATION: Twice Carmela has flirted with the idea of an affair – Season Four may finally see her take the plunge. Certainly she will be trying to extend the boundaries of her independence and reduce her financial dependence on Tony’s blood money.
Last, but not least, what will happen to Tony Soprano? Traditionally mob sagas like The Godfather trilogy and Goodfellas have charted the rise and fall of Mafia men. The leading characters often survive to die of old age, but they always end up living unhappy lives – as if some price has to be paid for their actions. To date The Sopranos has taken a firmly amoral stance, refusing to pass judgements upon the actions of its characters. This doesn’t seem likely to change during Season Four.
SPECULATION: If Tony Soprano dies, the show dies with him. He is the centre of it all, the sun about which the other characters orbit. So don’t expect to see Tony die in a bloody gunfight before the final episode of Season Four, #52. The legal actions against him seem to be on hold, so he will probably be a free man for most of the fourth season. But the threats against him are building up: dissension within his own Family, interference from the New York Families, danger from the Russian Mafia, and constant surveillance by the FBI.
But, as always, the greatest threat to Tony is Tony himself. If he continues to involve himself in dangerous relationships like the affair with Gloria, he risks losing the thing most precious to him: his family. Carmela leaving Tony and taking the children with her would be far more devastating than any bullet or imprisonment. That is also the most fertile ground for a compelling drama show like The Sopranos. In interviews David Chase says he wants to make mini-movies about the conflict between a family and a Family. Expect that to be the major focus of Season Four…