“Who gives a shit about this Russian?” David Chase says. The creator of The Sopranos has never understood his audience’s fascination with Valery, the Russian mobster who disappeared in the legendary “Pine Barrens” episode. It was a one-off story that needed no closure, Chase says now. He recalls thinking, “We did that show! I don’t know where he is! Now we’ve got to go and figure that out?!?!”
Terence Winter, who wrote “Pine Barrens” and many of the series’ other memorable outings, agreed with the fans on this one, much to Chase’s frustration, and kept pushing his boss to add a coda to that story in The Sopranos’ final season. They finally hit on an idea everyone would be happy with: Tony and Christopher pay a visit to the local Russian mob boss, where they find Valery sweeping the floor, not recognizing Christopher thanks to a traumatic brain injury suffered when Chris and Paulie were shooting at him. (It would be explained that a local Boy Scout troop found him with part of his skull missing, and saved his life.) At the last minute, Chase changed his mind, and he recalls a despondent Winter insisting, “God, you’re making a huge mistake leaving that on the table!”
Isn’t Chase obviously right here? Much better to leave the story of Valery open than wrap it up with that kind of cheesy, implausible conclusion. (For the same reason, I’m on the side that thinks the concluding sequence was brilliant.)
While we’re here, Sepinwall claims on another issue that people in my camp on another issue (like James Wolcott) are unreasonable:
The people in the Tony Dies camp aren’t being unreasonable in the way that, say, the people who said The Sopranos had no business doing dream sequences were.
“No business?” Well, I don’t know what that means — there are no rules per se, and in the unlikely event that you come up with a dream sequence that’s good, by all means proceed. But while other people might cite the didacticism of “Christopher” or the soulful Furio of season 4, the brutal truth the dream sequences were the low points of the series. And it’s not just that the widely (and correctly) derided dream sequence that wasted much of the first quarter of Season 6 was boring and pretentious in itself, but it led to exactly the kind of trite payoff that Chase made one of the greatest television shows ever by avoiding. And the same thing is true of the first extended dream sequence in Season 5; it wasn’t quite as terrible in itself but still led up to the tidy resolution of a question about Tony’s high school trauma that was never interesting in the first place. We can argue about whether it was a good idea to try the dream sequences, but they certainly didn’t work on any level.