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The Sopranos Scene That Aged Poorly

The Sopranos Scene That Aged Poorly

From 1999 to 2007, HBO’s “The Sopranos” raised the bar for TV drama in every facet imaginable. The complex tale of New Jersey mafioso Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his struggle to maintain power in the mob world and balance in his family life captivated audiences and won 21 Emmys during its 86-episode span. Its enigmatic, haunting final scene still inspires endless debate amongst viewers. The show has even enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with Generation Z audiences (via The New York Times), and recently reached both the big screen and streaming anew with the prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark.”

In addition to its top-shelf acting and complex characters, the series was just as known for its bracing, uncompromising depiction of gangster violence. From bludgeoning to strangulation to curb-stomping, Tony and his associates took no prisoners when dispatching their rival gangsters. One death scene, however, has not aged well due to an unintended instance of real-life mimicry.

The scene inspired a real-life murder and dismemberment

In the 9th episode of Season 4, entitled “Whoever Did This,” Tony Soprano’s tense relationship with Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano) comes to a vicious head. Angered over Ralph’s involvement in the fiery death of a beloved racehorse, Tony heads over to Ralph’s house and proceeds to bludgeon him to death after the latter denies that he was responsible for the fire and callously refers to the horse as just a “f***ing animal.” The brutality, however, doesn’t end there, as Tony and Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) proceed to dismember Ralph’s corpse.

In January 2003, just three months after the episode aired, Tony and Christopher’s grisly methods apparently inspired a real-life killing. Jason Bautista, a resident of Riverside, California, allegedly murdered his mentally ill mother by strangulation, as reported by CNN. With the help of his younger brother, he then disposed of her body in an Orange County ravine. Her dismembered head and hands, meanwhile, were later found in a duffel bag in the Bautista family home in Riverside. Bautista was convicted of first-degree murder in 2005, being sentenced to 25 years in prison (via the San Diego Union-Tribune).

Even without any real-life connotations, the original scene was already difficult enough to watch. With Jason Bautista’s crime in mind, however, the sequence now ages very poorly nearly 20 years after it first aired.

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