NEW YORK – Just when the rocky Soprano marriage seemed to gain new life, Carmela was tipped to Tony's dalliances by one of his scorned girlfriends. Now Tony -- played by series star James Gandolfini -- is out of the house and his family is devastated.
That was the powerful punch with which The Sopranos wrapped its fourth season Sunday night.
Other twists from the HBO mob drama's finale, which re-airs Monday at 10 p.m. EST on HBO2:
-- The drawn-out legal battles waged by Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) came to a tidy end thanks to a hung jury (a certain frightened juror followed his orders from Tony's crew).
-- Christopher (Michael Imperioli) was released from his drug-rehab program professing to be free from his heroin addiction -- but little suspecting that fiancee Adriana (Drea de Matteo) remains a snitch for the feds.
-- An on-again, off-again scheme to erase rival boss Carmine Lupertazzi was scrapped by Tony at the last minute. But now the author of the plan, Carmine's own underboss Johnny Sacks (Vincent Curatola), is pretty sore at Tony for backing out. Put Johnny Sacks near the top of Tony's enemies list next season.
Whacking Carmine was only one of two deals on which Tony reneged during the finale. The other was his all-too-soon-aborted plan to buy a weekend house on the Jersey shore for Carmela (Edie Falco) and the kids.
Initially thrilled by Tony's surprise, Carmela was quickly laid low by another surprise. An ill-timed phone call brought her fresh news of Tony's philandering. Soon his clothes and golf clubs were pitched in the driveway.
"You have made a fool of me for years ... You've had quite a time on my watch," she seethed as Tony tried to lie his way out of the jam.
Later, when the fight got uglier, Carmela took her best shot: She informed Tony of her abstinent romance with one of his soldiers, ponytailed Furio -- who, smitten in return, ducked this sticky situation last week by fleeing back to Italy.
Explaining the effect Furio had on her, even from glances exchanged when he dropped by the house to get Tony, Carmela said, "I felt probably like someone who was terminally ill, and somehow they manage to forget it for a minute."
In the finale, co-written by series creator David Chase, the clash between Tony and Carmela is as powerful as anything ever seen on The Sopranos, which is saying a lot. So is this: In her portrayal of a wife betrayed, enraged and despairing, Falco outdid herself. It was an electrifying performance.
All in all, this special 75-minute episode was an impressive rebuttal to complaints that the action lagged during some of the season's previous 12 hours (though no one complained about the episode where Tony decapitated his captain Ralphie).
Now the season ends with everybody miserable (including Uncle Junior), but none more than Tony and Carmela. Can their marriage be saved? Production on the fifth, perhaps last, Sopranos season begins in January, but answers must await its return to the air next fall.