Following the release of The Many Saints of Newark (2021), we now know that Junior Soprano had Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti killed over a personal grudge.
Although this might have come as a surprise to many viewers, it actually makes a lot of sense if you take a closer look.
Why did Junior Soprano kill Dickie Moltisanti?
In “The Many Saints of Newark”, there is a scene where Junior Soprano slips and falls as he is walking down a small flight of steps.
As he lies there in agony in the pouring rain, people gather around him to try and help.
However, while all of this is going on, Junior notices that Dickie Moltisanti is laughing at him.
Junior does not forget this.
Just before the scene ends, we can see Junior glaring at Dickie.
In a later scene, Junior curses Dickie’s name after his injuries prevent him from being able to have sex.
When his girlfriend points out that it was his own fault for slipping, Junior responds with: “He got a good laugh out of it, though!”
This scene is particularly important, as it tells us that Junior has been stewing over Dickie’s laugh for more than a month.
Although it might seem like this is the only reason why Junior had Dickie killed, there are also other more important factors at play.
Dickie is more respected than Junior.
Earlier in the film, it is obvious that Junior does not command the same amount of respect as Dickie. Essentially, he is standing in the shadow of a man who is younger and “less experienced” than himself.
For example, after Johnny Soprano is released from prison, he criticizes Junior for not being as effective as Dickie.
Then, there’s Tony’s mother, Livia, who makes it very clear to Junior that she would rather have Dickie “talking sense” to her son instead of him – Tony’s real uncle.
All in all, it seems as though Junior’s resentment towards Christopher’s father was building in the background.
Eventually, this came to a head when Dickie publicly laughed at him as he lay on the ground writhing in agony.
This fall wasn’t just painful for Junior. It was also highly embarrassing.
Seeing everyone’s golden boy publicly disrespecting him like that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
To restore his pride and self-respect, Junior decided to kill the man who had eclipsed him.
Directly after the shooting, we see Junior hobbling towards a ringing payphone. He then picks up the phone and hears those two famous words: “It’s done.”
Junior is prideful.
Throughout “The Sopranos”, Junior is a proud, insecure, and spiteful character. He also obsesses over the concept of “respect”.
This is a man who considered having Tony killed because he made a joke about his sex life.
In “The Many Saints of Newark”, he comes across as a pushover. A meek man who remains silent while other people yell at him. He is nothing like the character we knew throughout the series.
However, the laughing incident was a major breaking point for him. It was the juncture at which he finally decided to “step up”.
If you really think about it, this film told us more about the “birth” of Junior Soprano than it did about anyone else.
“The guy in there killed your father.”
In The Sopranos episode “For All Debts Public and Private”, Tony tells Christopher that a policeman murdered his father. He also tells him that a man called Jilly Ruffalo ordered the hit.
Apparently, Christopher’s father Dickie gouged out Ruffalo’s eye after he stabbed his former cellmate to death. In revenge for this attack, Ruffalo hired a corrupt cop to shoot Dickie dead.
The policeman in question is Barry Haydu. According to Tony, Haydu was a uniformed police officer who had huge debts. “He gambled like you wouldn’t believe”, adds Tony.
As a result, he fell in bed with the mob, who hired him to carry out a number of contract killings.
Tony explains to Christopher that Haydu has been “useful” up until now. However, he has now “outlived” this usefulness because of his recent retirement from the police force.
At the end of the scene, Tony hands Christopher a piece of paper with Haydu’s address on it. Shortly afterwards, in the same episode, Christopher shoots the retired detective dead at his home.
Does this mean that Tony lied to Christopher about who killed his father?
No, not necessarily. At the time of the killing, Tony was a young teenager. He wasn’t even a made man.
Therefore, it is unlikely that Junior confessed his involvement to Tony.
Junior was aware that Tony idolized Dickie. Telling him that he murdered his favorite uncle would only breed enmity.
Truth be told, it is highly unlikely that Junior told anyone about this murder. This is because carrying out an unsanctioned hit against a made man is typically punishable by death.
It is also difficult to think of a realistic scenario where a hit like this was officially sanctioned because of a laugh.
As a result, it is extremely likely that Junior kept this to himself.
Although we will never know how everyone came to suspect Jilly Ruffalo of carrying out the murder, it is easy to see why people might have drifted towards that conclusion.
Why didn’t they suspect Harold of killing Dickie?
At the time of his death, Dickie was going to war with an African American street gang that was being led by Harold McBrayer.
However, it seems as though Harold never became the prime suspect in Moltisanti’s death.
There are two possible reasons for this.
- Dickie’s killer used a silencer, whereas Harold’s gang tended to roll-up with shotguns. Stealth wasn’t really their M.O. At the time, they were being “loud” and trying to make a name for themselves. If Harold and his gang had carried out the killing, it is likely they would have immediately claimed responsibility for it.
- Immediately after the shooting, you can hear a concerned neighbor calling out Moltisanti’s name. Therefore, it is plausible that someone spotted a white man leaving the scene of the crime.