- Tony Soprano’s death in the controversial Sopranos finale may have been a result of betrayal by his longtime friend, Paulie.
- Paulie’s demotion and shifting power dynamics give him motives to resent Tony and potentially look to New York for a better role, leading to his betrayal.
- Clues such as Paulie’s strange relationship with New York, his knowledge of Tony speaking to the FBI, and his unbothered demeanor during the war hint at his involvement in ordering a hit on Tony.
The Sopranos has one of the most divisive TV finales of all time, and while it’s confirmed that Tony Soprano dies after the final scene fades to black, a new theory puts this infamous moment in a new light. While Tony’s fate at the end of The Sopranos season 6 has been confirmed, there are still questions about who actually kills him. Given Tony’s place in the mafia and his increasingly hostile business dealings, it’s not all that surprising that someone puts a hit on him. And one theory reveals that Tony was betrayed in The Sopranos season 6, leading to his inevitable demise.
The Sopranos is a series full of betrayals, which seem to be par for the course within the world of organized crime. Tony himself is betrayed on multiple occasions, and it causes him to become harder and less trusting as the series continues. This ultimately leads to him losing the loyalty and respect of some of his men. And one shocking Sopranos theory suggests that Paulie is responsible for Tony’s death at the end of the HBO show.
The Sopranos is available to stream on Max.
Why Paulie Would Set Tony Up In The Sopranos
Tony Was Probably Going To Kill Him (And Better Opportunity Lied Elsewhere)
Following The Sopranos series finale, it’s been posited that Paulie set Tony up to be killed during the last episode. Paulie Walnuts is one of Tony’s longest and closest friends, and the thought of him killing the show’s lead seems outlandish early on. However, The Sopranos drives home the fact that no relationship is too great to get in the way of business, with the characters turning on loved ones on multiple occasions. And as Paulie and Tony’s relationship evolves, it’s clear that the pair are often at odds with each other — especially during The Sopranos’ later seasons.
While things grow tense between Tony and Paulie toward the middle of the show, Tony is outright questioning his friend’s loyalty during The Sopranos season 6, enough so that he seems prepared to kill him during the episode “Remember When?” While Tony doesn’t actually go through with it, Paulie likely realizes his days are numbered. And if he really does betray Tony at the end, the boss probably had actual cause to kill him, making it an inevitable choice between Paulie’s life and Tony’s. Saving himself is enough reason for Paulie to betray his old friend, but there’s also the possibility that he was lured by new opportunities.
As James Khubiar notes on Medium, Paulie appears to be demoted between The Sopranos seasons 2 and 6. Tony refers to him as the underboss during the second outing, but New York states Bobby Baccalieri is the underboss during the final season. This means the power dynamic shifts at some point during the show, giving Paulie reason to resent Tony. It also could be enough to make him look to New York for a higher position, betraying Tony and staging a coup in exchange for a better role.
Clues That Paulie Walnuts Betrayed Tony Soprano
There Are Big & Small Sopranos Moments That Tease It
Paulie certainly has motives to betray Tony in The Sopranos season 6, but the likelihood of his role in Tony’s death goes beyond that. There are several clues that Paulie is the one who orders a hit on Tony, the most notable being that he’s weirdly friendly with New York even during the war, especially New York underboss Johnny Sack. Paulie’s name is also conspicuously absent when New York declares war, an odd omission considering how close he is to Tony. Knowing Paulie’s strange relationship with New York, there’s a good chance this detail indicates an agreement of some sort.
Paulie also sees Tony speaking to the FBI during The Sopranos season 6, and there’s no reason to include this detail unless it’s important. Paulie likely suspects that Tony would turn on his people and works with New York to take him out before this happens. This would protect him, and it would also pave a path for him to become Jersey’s leader. Additionally, as one Reddit user points out, the finale shows a shot of Paulie standing outside of Satriale’s Pork Store. He seems unbothered by what’s happening with the war, suggesting he knows that he’s safe from the fallout.
There are smaller hints at Paulie’s betrayal as well, like him bringing scissors to Satriale’s just one episode after there’s a discussion about killing Tony in a barbershop (via The Chase Lounge). His ominous dream about Pussy also suggests he fears a similar fate — perhaps because he’s a rat as well.
How Paulie Betraying Tony Changes The Sopranos Season 6
This Theory Changes How The HBO Show Is Viewed
Paulie betraying Tony changes the way viewers will watch The Sopranos season 6, as the character’s actions seem far more suspicious in hindsight. Knowing what becomes of Tony, it’s hard not to pay extra attention to Paulie’s behavior leading up to the series finale. Additionally, it makes some of Tony’s paranoia seem warranted, as there’s actually a traitor in his midst. As such, the theory that Paulie sets up the hit on Tony in The Sopranos‘ final episode sheds new light on the last season and the series overall.
- Release Date
- January 10, 1999
- James Gandolfini , Lorraine Bracco , Edie Falco , Michael Imperioli , Dominic Chianese , Steven Van Zandt , Tony Sirico , Robert Iler , Jamie-Lynn Sigler
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