Luck Be a Lady Tonight

In last weeks episode (spoilers follow), Tony Soprano was worried about Paulie Walnuts talking to the feds, because he was all alonehe had no family, no connections to keep him stable. This episode eliminates the other option the illusion that a stable family life in the mob is a plausible alternative to the life of a lone wolf mobster. There is no stable family life in the mob.

Carmela has finally finished her spec house. Its spectacularly beautiful on the outside, but rotting to the core on the inside. Her father, who was her general contractor, framed the house in subcode soft pine. Carmelas worried. As Tony later brutally reminds her, the house could collapse on the young family buying it from hera family which is not composed of strangers, but rather distant relatives of hers. But a frantic, middle-of-the-night-call she makes to her father during a heavy rainstorm makes it clear that her concerns are not other-regarding. Shes worried that the house wont pass inspection, and she wont be able to sell it, using the profit to establish her own nest egg.

The spec house-glamorous on the outside but rotting away on the insideis a symbol of the familys life. Its slowly collapsing.You can see the collapse in three areas: the fecklessness of the next generation of boys, and in the breakup of the male-female pair bonds, and in the erosion of respect for wise elders. Last season, Tonys biggest earner, Vito Spatafore, was beaten to death by his cousin Phil, now the new head of the New York mob, because he was gay. This season, Vitos son, little V, isnt doing too well at allhes gone Goth, cherubic face and all. He looks like a deranged cupie doll. After he defecates in the shower at school, Tony convinces his mother, Vitos widow, to allow him to be kidnaped from his bed at night and sent to a tough love camp in Idaho. AJ, Tonys son, isnt in much better shape. Hes lost his rebellious streak, but he looks waifish and ineffectualhis career goals include moving into management at Pizza Hut. There is no one fit to run the business in the next generation.

AJs waifishness, in my view, has deprived him of the one relationship that had some potential to make a man out of him. Las season, he had gotten together with Blanca, a Puerto Rican woman about a decade older than he was, who already has a young son. AJ clearly loves both her and her son, living in her neighborhood (to his parents chagrin) and becoming an affectionate surrogate father to her little boy. He asks her to marry him, giving her a beautiful ring, and telling her that hell soon own his own Pizza Hut franchise. She initially acquiesce, but then later changes her mindshe loves him, but she just doesnt feel it. Whats it? My guess is respect, tinged with an erotic response to brutal force. In an earlier episode, Tony reminds Carmela that she was initially attracted to him in part because of his youthful brutality. Now, Carmela is paying the price.

But AJ isnt the only one to lose his mate. We see Vitos widow Marie, bereft after her husbands death. In the interactions over the spec house (Tony wants to bet the profits on a football game), we see Carmelas intense need to take care of herself, treating Tony as if hes a walking corpse. And we see Hesh, Tonys older, wiser mentor, who has both insider/outsider status in the family hes Jewish, not Italian, so he cant be a made man. He has a happy relationship with Renata, a much younger woman who loves him very muchwhich abruptly ends when she has a sudden stroke while asleep.

Heshs luck has run out.Hesh has had a bad week all around. In last weeks episode he lent Tony 200,000 dollars to cover Tonys mounting gambling debts. Tony is slow about paying the loan back, insulting Hesh behind his back, and making a big show of paying him the vig the high interest rateevery week. Tony considers whether its an option simply to refuse to pay the loan back, and Hesh worries that Tony will have him killed rather than repaying it. The worry is reasonable, and very disturbingHesh has been Tonys loyal advisor over many yearsif there is sanity in the mob, he embodies it. Tony has no mentorshe lost Uncle Junior a long time ago, he cant depend upon Paulie, and he has destroyed his relationship with Hesh.

And Tonys most important relationshipwith Lady Luck seems to be on the rocks too. He gambles, and then loses, and then gambles with even bigger stakes to cover his losses. Dr. Melfi asks him what hes doing he says hes chasing itwhats it? Not so much money, as the high from winning. Tony finally pays back Hesh, and convinces himself that hes still a winnerhaving beaten the odds on the gunshot wound from Uncle Junior, he tries to convince himself that his luck wont change.But it will. In fact, it already has. Remember the theme song. We already know the score:

You woke up this morning. Got yourself a gun.
Mama always said you'd be the Chosen One.
She said: You're one in a million you've got to burn to shine,
But you were born under a bad sign, with a blue moon in your eyes.

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

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