Who killed Tony Soprano?
In a previous article, we explained why Tony Soprano died in the series finale. However, that conclusion raises another far more important question.
Who did it?
To make a long story short, I believe that Paulie Gualtieri, Patsy Parisi and the Lupertazzi family orchestrated the hit.
Over the years, Tony did a number of things that ultimately came back to bite him in the end. I believe that some of these actions made his position untenable. I also believe that there was a major appetite for change among the big players.
After the “War of 2007”, it was time to wipe the slate clean and start a fresh new relationship between the two families. And for that to happen, Tony had to go.
The lay of the land.
Firstly let’s take a look at the lay of the land. By the end of the show, the landscape had completely changed.
- Tony’s consigliere Silvio Dante is critically ill and in a coma. According to doctors, he is unlikely to regain consciousness.
- Lupertazzi boss Phil Leotardo is dead. We presume that he has been replaced by underboss Butch DeConcini, who is no fan of Tony’s.
- Junior Soprano is an elderly man with dementia.
- One of Tony’s most loyal capos, Bobby Baccalieri, was gunned down by the Lupertazzi family.
- Tony’s nephew Christopher Moltisanti is dead. His cousin Tony Blundetto is also dead. These are two men who might have had Tony’s back if they were still alive.
- Tony’s capo Vito Spatafore was murdered by Phil Leotardo.
- Larry Barese is in prison.
- Little Carmine decided to retire and is no longer a big player in the Lupertazzi family.
- In the final scene, we learn that Tony’s capo Carlo Gervasi has become an informant.
All in all, the landscape has changed significantly and many of Tony’s original inner-circle are now gone. Furthermore, the New York family is now being led by a man who doesn’t particularly like Tony.
Over on Tony’s side, you have two key players left: His underboss Paulie Gualtieri and Patsy Parisi.
- Patsy is aware that Tony ordered the hit on his twin brother back in Season One.
- Paulie, on the other hand, recently feared that Tony was going to kill him because he leaked a joke about Johnny Sack’s wife. In previous seasons, Paulie has also shown that he is open to a “change in leadership”.
As you can see, these are not two men that Tony can bet his life on.
The Lupertazzi family wanted Tony dead.
Although Tony Soprano and the leading members of the Lupertazzi family did sit down and broker a peace deal together, the relationship between the two of them was far from perfect.
In fact, it was sour.
There are a number of reasons why the New York family might have wanted to kill Tony.
- Tony severely beat Lupertazzi soldier Coco Cogliano in Season Six. He also pointed a gun at Butch DeConcini, who is now presumed to be the leader of the family. Whether Tony was wrong or right, it doesn’t matter. He put his hands on a made guy without it being sanctioned.
- Butch DeConcini and Tony do not particularly like each other.
- The hit on Phil Leotardo was brutal and it happened in plain sight of his family. This may have angered members of the New York family.
- Tony refused to give his cousin Tony Blundetto up after he murdered Joey Peeps and Billy Leotardo.
- Tony’s ability to find Phil Leotardo’s location might have sent alarm bells ringing. Did they find out that Tony received this information from an FBI agent?
- Tony’s “stubbornness” in regards to certain projects was also a source of annoyance for New York.
- Finally, it was becoming more and more likely that Tony would be brought down by a federal RICO trial. Especially now that his capo Carlo Gervasi had agreed to testify before a grand jury. This made any future business dealings with Tony Soprano a risky prospect. There may have also been fears that Tony would eventually flip and shine a light on his dealings with New York.
To sum it up, the New York family had more than enough reasons to want Tony gone.
Little Italy is shrinking.
In the final episode, it is made clear to the viewer that Little Italy in New York is shrinking.
In one scene, a tour bus drives by.
As this bus is driving by, we can hear the tour operator speaking over the microphone.
“This is New York’s famous Little Italy. It once covered over 40 square blocks, but has now been reduced to one row of shops and cafes.”
Immediately afterwards, Butch steps out onto the street and his phone rings. The call is from his boss Phil Leotardo, who is still in hiding.
While Butch is on the phone, he decides to walk and talk.
After less than a minute, the call ends and Butch looks up, only to realize that he is now in Chinatown.
Butch looks puzzled for a moment. He clearly wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings while he talking on the phone.
This scene drives home the fact that Butch’s world is shrinking, just like his way of life.
Therefore, it is easy to understand why the Lupertazzi family might feel as though they need to branch out into new territory.
Not out of want or greed, but out of necessity.
“We decapitate and do business with whatever’s left.”
As the war was beginning to heat up between Phil and Tony, one of the goals of the Lupertazzi family was to “decapitate” the New Jersey mob and “do business with whatever’s left.”
Furthermore, Butch DeConcini was one of the first people to suggest killing Tony.
When Phil Leotardo shook his head and stated that he would not “whack a boss”, Butch scoffed and said “it’s been done before.”
Clearly, Butch has no personal qualms about taking out the head of another family.
In the second last episode of the series, Butch explains why taking over The Soprano family would be good for business.
“They got redundant upper management, bleeds off half the kick. We take ’em out, absorb the whole f*ckin’ thing.”
In other words, Butch does not believe that New Jersey needs its own boss, underboss or
consigliere. Therefore, they should just remove the top guys and turn it into a crew that is subservient to the Lupertazzi family.
The Lupertazzi family couldn’t let Tony off the hook without appearing weak.
Ultimately, the Lupertazzi family would have had to overlook too many things that Tony did in order to continue doing business with him.
For many people in New York, that pill might have been too bitter to swallow.
From their perspective, it made sense to get rid of Tony and start afresh with someone like Paulie Gualtieri in charge.
At least Paulie would be far less stubborn and easier to control.
“Five f*ckin’ families and we got this other pygmy thing over in Jersey.”
You also have to think about the optics of the situation.
The New York family could not let Tony off the hook without appearing weak.
The New Jersey mob is only a fraction of the size of the Lupertazzi family. It is seen as a “glorified crew”. Or a “pygmy thing”, as Phil calls it.
New York should have been able to steamroll Tony and his entire crew with ease.
Allowing the brutal murder of Phil Leotardo in front of his family to be the “final act” would have been bad for business. It would send out the message that the powerful Lupertazzi family had been driven into a stalemate by a much smaller outfit of “farmers” from New Jersey.
Senior members from Tony’s crew were most likely in on it.
Although it is possible that New York killed Tony Soprano without help of someone in New Jersey, I personally doubt it.
The two families had just agreed to a peace deal. The cash was drying up and both parties were eager to get back to business and start making money again.
Killing Tony Soprano without the “blessing” of senior members such as Paulie and Pasty could have reignited the conflict and set everything back to square one again.
It would also send out a message that the word of the Lupertazzi family doesn’t mean anything.
If Paulie and Patsy were to spearhead the hit, then that would allow New York to shrug their shoulders and dismiss the killing as an internal power struggle.
In the final scene, the man in the Members Only jacket walks into the restroom. A lot of people presume that this man is Tony’s killer and that he walked into the restroom in order to retrieve a weapon. Much like Michael Corleone did in The Godfather. A film that is constantly referenced throughout the series.
If this was the case, then is likely that the gun was in the toilet tank before Tony arrived. In other words, someone close to Tony knew that he and his family were planning on eating there that night.
You have to remember that Tony was pretty good at evading attempts on his life. He was also a high profile target. Therefore, it is extremely likely that a lot of planning went into this hit.
This killing did not take place on a whim.
Paulie Gualtieri was involved in Tony Soprano’s death.
At the time of Tony’s death, Paulie was the second-most senior member in the family.
The other senior members were either dead, in prison or after turning state witness. Furthermore, Tony’s consigliere Silvio Dante was critically ill in hospital and unlikely to recover from his injuries.
If New York needed someone from New Jersey to conspire with them against Tony, the most obvious choice would be Paulie Gualtieri.
Who else could step up and fill Tony’s shoes?
But Paulie was Tony’s friend? Didn’t they go way back?
Paulie is not as loyal as he seems. Although I have no doubt that he had a soft spot for Tony, there is no getting around the fact that “Uncle Paulie” is a seasoned mob member who murders people for a living.
He is also a “survivor”.
At the end of the day, Paulie is incredibly selfish and he will put himself before anybody else.
Paulie and Johnny Sacrimoni.
Earlier on in the series, Paulie holds a number of secret talks with New York underboss
During one scene, he states the following:
“I’m only trying to bring good relations between the families. As I always do, and always will. No matter what happens or who’s in charge. If it’s me, God forbid. Or whoever.“
Here, we can see that Paulie is clearly floating the idea that he could become the boss of New Jersey. Even his “God forbid” comes across as insincere.
At the time, Johnny Sack was filling Paulie full of crap about how Carmine Lupertazzi, Sr. held him in high regard. And Paulie was gobbling up every single bit of it up.
However, Paulie soon finds out that Carmine doesn’t even know who he is.
After realizing that it was all a ploy by Johnny to get information out of him, Paulie quickly reassesses the situation and re-diverts his loyalty back to Tony.
While Tony was dying in hospital, Paulie was extremely reluctant to “kick up” to Carmela.
As Tony is lying on his deathbed, Paulie refuses to “kick up” a piece of his share of the Colombian heist to Carmela.
Paulie only changes his mind after it becomes apparent that Tony will survive.
During a conversation with his cousin Little Paulie, he bemoans the fact that he has to pay “the princess of Little Italy”.
- Paulie: Certain people… let me tell you.
- Little Paulie: Look, c’mon. Not Sil again.
- Paulie: Carmela! T’s a f*cking vegetable. But I still gotta pay tribute to the princess of Little Italy.
- Little Paulie: She’s the boss’s wife, what you gonna do?
- Paulie: F*ck her.
This is not the behavior of a loyal friend.
Paulie feared that Tony would kill him.
Tony (rightfully) believed that it was Paulie who leaked the joke about Johnny Sack’s wife back in Season Four.
In Season Six, Tony and Paulie are forced to go on the run together after the body of a man they murdered back in 1982 is found.
During their “trip”, Paulie’s presence begins to grate on Tony.
In a number of scenes, Tony gets “that look” that we have all come to know. A mean look that seems to appear whenever bad thoughts are swirling through that head of his.
The boat trip.
Before they are due to go back to New Jersey, Tony recommends that they rent a boat and go fishing together. Although Paulie agrees to it, we can see from his facial expression that he is extremely uneasy about the idea.
As the boat is pulling out, Paulie stands there motionless, looking back at the shore. A flashback of the time they murdered their friend “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero on a boat plays in his head.
You can tell that he is wondering if he will ever see the shore again.
While they are out at sea, Tony begins to press Paulie about who leaked the joke about Johnny Sack’s wife. He “jokingly” accuses Paulie of being the person who did it – although Paulie holds strong and refuses to admit anything.
Although Tony was definitely thinking about murdering Paulie (there is one scene on the boat where he stares intently at a large knife for a few seconds), he eventually decides not to go through with it in the end.
This boat trip was a big mistake on Tony’s part.
He had accused Paulie of leaking information and made him fear for his life.
This was not something that Paulie was going to forget about so easily.
Paulie had a dream that he might meet the same fate as Bonpensiero.
Later on, Paulie has a dream where he walks into his kitchen and sees his deceased friend “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero cooking something.
Paulie then stands there and says:
“When my time comes, tell me… Will I stand up?”
This is most likely a reference to Bonpensiero’s murder. If you remember, “Pussy” asked Tony if he could sit down just before he was shot multiple times for being an FBI informant.
This dream bothers Paulie so much that he gets up and starts lifting dumbbells in the middle of the night.
He is clearly thinking about the possibility that one day, he might meet the same fate as Bonpensiero.
It is possible that Paulie was in contact with New York before the war even started.
In the episode “The Blue Comet”, members from the Lupertazzi family are planning their hit on Tony and his crew.
The conversation goes like this:
- Butch: Three pops within a tight time frame. 24 hours, so there’s no chance for them to hit back. Top three guys.
- Capo: Paulie Gualtieri?
- Butch: No, management. Tony Soprano, obviously. Plus, Silvio Dante. And we think Bobby Baccalieri.
There are three possible reasons for Paulie’s exclusion from this list.
- They genuinely did not believe that Paulie was in the “top three”. I personally find this strange, as Paulie is clearly a senior member of the New Jersey crew. Only recently, he was the underboss of the family.
- New York believe that Paulie is someone who they can do business with once they have “decapitated” the head of the family.
- Paulie has already been in contact with New York and is possibly feeding them information.
Either way, I think it is interesting that the writers decided to draw our attention to Paulie’s exclusion.
Paulie knew about Tony’s meeting with FBI agent Dwight Harris.
When Tony was trying to discover the whereabouts of Phil Leotardo, he called on FBI agent Dwight Harris for help.
Paulie was one of the few people who knew about this meeting.
This begs the question: If Paulie was speaking to New York, did he tell them that Tony had been speaking to an FBI agent?
I’m almost certain that the New York leadership would have been interested in finding out how Phil’s location was discovered.
Paulie refuses to take over the Cifaretto crew.
In the very last episode, “Made in America”, Tony offers Paulie the chance to take over the Cifaretto crew.
However, Paulie does not seem enthusiastic about the offer, much to Tony’s surprise.
“With all due respect, I’d just like to mellow it a little.”
Although Paulie’s refusal to take over such a profitable crew surprises Tony, he reluctantly agrees to give him time to think about it.
Paulie then thanks Tony before leaving. He sounds emotional and sincere.
“Thanks T. This means everything… your faith in me.”
A few seconds later, as Paulie is standing outside, the following expression appears on his face.
Is this a flash of guilt? Does he know that a hit on Tony is already in the works?
Others have said that Paulie’s reaction could be down to the fact that he believes the Cifaretto job is cursed.
However, we know at this stage that Tony isn’t forcing him to take the position.
So why the long face?
Patsy Parisi’s involvement.
It isn’t difficult to imagine why Patsy Parisi would willingly take part in a hit against Tony Soprano.
In Season Two, Tony had Patsy’s twin brother Philly whacked. We also know that Patsy is fully aware about who ordered the hit, as he shows up drunk at Tony’s home brandishing a gun in Season Three.
He then proceeds to urinate in Tony’s pool.
Furthermore, when Patsy’s capo Paulie Gualtieri went to prison in 2002, Tony overlooked Patsy’s seniority and promoted his nephew Christopher to the job instead.
This annoyed Patsy and caused a rift between himself and Christopher.
Although Patsy’s son is engaged to Tony’s daughter Meadow in Season Six, I doubt that this relationship is enough to secure Patsy’s loyalty.
Following Paulie’s lead against Tony would have benefited Patsy in two ways.
- He would be getting revenge against the man who murdered his twin brother.
- Being a part of Paulie’s coup would be beneficial to his career. As Littlefinger said in the TV show Game of Thrones, “chaos is a ladder.”
New York were actively trying to turn Tony’s crew against him.
We also know that New York were actively trying to turn members of Tony’s crew against him.
In the second-last episode, “The Blue Comet”, Burt Gervasi comes to Silvio Dante to float the idea of staging a coup against Tony.
In response, Sil strangles him from behind.
Afterwards, Sil informs Tony about the situation.
“Burt wasn’t speaking for just himself. Guys are getting squeezed hard to sway them towards new management.”
This tells us that Burt was most likely an envoy of sorts. He was approaching Sil on behalf of others.
Who are “the others”?
One of the problems with Burt Gervasi is that we do not know a lot about him. This is because he is a minor character who only appears in five episodes.
However, we do know that in Season Six, he was working alongside a certain person.
This, coupled with the fact that Burt attended Christopher Moltisanti’s bachelor party, means that he was most likely a part of Paulie’s old crew.
If Burt was brave enough to try and sway Tony’s right-hand man, I find it difficult to believe that he didn’t at least mention it to Patsy. Especially seeing as it was an open secret that Tony had Patsy’s brother killed.
This raises a number of questions.
- If he did approach Patsy, why didn’t Patsy say anything?
- Is it possible that Burt was actually acting on behalf of Paulie and Pasty? In other words, did they direct Burt to approach Sil? Sil specifically tells Tony that Burt “wasn’t speaking for just himself.”
- Why did Burt, a newly “Made Man”, who wasn’t a part of the core group, feel brave enough to approach Sil in the first place?
“It’s all yours.”
Later on in the exact same episode, Paulie and Patsy are sitting in the Bada Bing together.
The show’s writers purposely obscure the conversation they are having by only allowing us to hear the end of it.
In a lowered voice, Paulie tells Patsy “You’ll be fine… Don’t worry about it.”
Although most viewers might presume that they are talking about the planned hit on Phil Leotardo, this does not make sense to me.
Why would Patsy express worry about the hit on Phil when he is not directly involved in it? From their perspective, all they have to do is arm the shooters.
Instead, I believe that they were talking about the hit on Tony. Or more specifically, the recent death of Burt Gervasi.
Perhaps Patsy’s real worry was that Burt had spilled the beans and named him as a co-conspirator?
Later on in the same scene, Paulie and Patsy go into the restroom together. While they are both standing at the urinals, Paulie turns to Patsy and says “It’s all yours.”
What did Paulie mean by this and why did this mysterious conversation happen in the restroom?
- Were they legitimately talking about the hit on Phil?
- Was this Paulie’s way of telling Patsy that he was to proceed with the hit on Tony?
- Or was Paulie offering Patsy a lucrative position in exchange for him keeping his nerve and sticking with the coup?
“Anybody need some barber’s scissors?”
When the Lupertazzi family are discussing their business, they sometimes meet in a beauty salon.
It was at this beauty salon that Butchie specifically ruled out a hit against Paulie Gualtieri.
In the series finale, “Made in America”, Paulie enters the Bada Bing with a box and shouts “Anybody need some barber’s scissors?”
Was this a coincidence? Or was this a sneaky hint from the show’s writers that Paulie had met Butchie?
“Our true enemy has yet to reveal himself.”
While Tony Soprano is having one of his fever dreams, he comes across Silvio Dante on the boardwalk.
Sil does his Godfather impression and says:
“Our true enemy has yet to reveal himself.”
This is a paraphrase of what Michael Corleone said in The Godfather Part III:
“Our true enemy has not yet shown his face.”
It is also worth pointing out that Sil’s outfit is a copy of what Michael Corleone was wearing when he delivered the line in question.
Afterwards, Tony continues to walk along the boardwalk until he comes across a
After Tony puts money into the tower viewer, he looks through it and sees himself playing cards with Paulie Gualtieri in the distance.
Then, suddenly, without warning, Tony lifts up his gun and shoots Paulie from across the table.
There are two interesting things about this scene.
- It happens directly after Sil warned Tony that their true enemy has “yet to reveal himself”.
- The scene is taking place in the distance. In other words, this could be Tony’s subconscious looking into the future.
At the time, we have no reason to believe that Paulie is the enemy. Tony has no issues with him and Paulie’s secret conversations with Johnny Sack have yet to happen.
“What the f*ck would I do that for?”
Furthermore, the show’s writers actually go out of their way to make us question why Tony would murder Paulie.
This is done in another segment of the dream. “A dream inside a dream”, so to speak.
In the scene, Tony talks to Dr. Melfi about the shooting. Tony explains that although Paulie can be annoying on a personal level, that would be no reason to murder him.
“He is one of my best guys”, states Tony, who seems exasperated.
Paulie Gatto and Paulie Gualtieri.
The Sopranos contains a number of references to The Godfather trilogy.
In fact, the films are referenced over 50 times throughout the series.
As a result, one fact that I find interesting is this:
- The character Paulie Gatto in The Godfather betrays his boss Don Corleone, which almost leads to his assassination.
- Paulie Gatto and Paulie Gualtieri share the same first name.
- They also have the exact same initials: PG.
Coincidental? Or is this another nudge from the writers?
3 ‘o clock.
When Christopher Moltisanti wakes up in the hospital after being shot in Season Two, he tells Tony and Paulie that he died and went to hell. He also says that Mikey Palmice gave him a message to give to the both of them.
“Tell Tony and Paulie… 3 ‘o clock.”
In the final scene of the show, when Tony Soprano dies, it is presumed that the shooter exits the restroom on Tony’s right before shooting him dead.
If this is the case, then it means that the shooter came at Tony from his 3 o’clock direction.
As the show is coming to an end, Tony’s crew find a stray cat and decide to keep it.
Paulie is the only member of the crew who has an issue with the cat. And Tony overrules him when he demands that they get rid of it.
Interestingly enough, all of this takes place during the scene where Paulie arrives back with the box full of barber scissors. In fact, Paulie only notices the cat after it runs across the table towards the box and lets out a loud cry.
This raises an interesting question. When the cat runs across the table and cries at Paulie, is it trying to warn the others?
It is worth noting that this is not the only confrontation that Paulie has with the cat. Later on, he walks into the Bada Bing and notices that the cat is staring at a picture of Christopher Moltisanti.
Once again, Paulie voices his opposition to the cat. He is about to hit it with a broomstick when Tony arrives back and interrupts him.
Paulie changes his mind on the Cifaretto crew offer.
In Paulie’s last ever scene, he tells Tony that he is going to “pass” on the offer to take over the Cifaretto crew. He explains that everyone who ran the crew in question died prematurely.
In response, Tony berates him for being so superstitious. He brings up Paulie’s issue with the cat and explains to him that the cat isn’t staring at the photograph of Chrissy. Instead, it is probably staring at a dead rat behind the wall.
After a bit of back-and-forth, Tony gives up trying to reason with Paulie and says:
“If you don’t want the job, you don’t want the job. I can put Patsy in there.”
Immediately, what looks to be a wave of shock and terror washes over Paulie’s face.
After hearing that Tony plans on giving the job to Patsy, he immediately changes his mind and accepts the job offer.
Why did Paulie react this way?
Why did the mention of Patsy’s name change Paulie’s mind so quickly?
And why did he suddenly set aside all of his superstitious worries about the Cifaretto crew being jinxed?
In my opinion, Paulie knew that such a job offer might force Patsy to rethink the coup against Tony.
In the Bada Bing, we saw Patsy voicing his worries to Paulie about something. And that scene ended with Paulie telling Patsy “It’s all yours.”
Did Paulie offer the Cifaretto crew to Patsy in exchange for his loyalty?
Or is Paulie simply worried that the offer of such a profitable position might sway Patsy into backing out?
Although Patsy most likely hates Tony for killing his brother, he isn’t stupid. He knows that organizing a hit against Tony is risky.
He also knows that Tony Soprano has a habit of dodging death.
Taking out a boss is a serious act. An act that Patsy might no longer have the stomach for if he finds out that Tony is willing to put him in charge of the biggest moneymaking crew in the family.
The cat returns.
After Paulie accepts the job offer, Tony gets up and walks away.
Paulie’s face as Tony is walking off shows us that he has a lot on his mind.
Is it guilt? Is it worry? Or maybe it’s both?
As Paulie sits outside of Satriale’s, cutting a lonely figure, the cat returns.
It walks up to the right of Paulie and stares at him before lying down.
In this case, I believe that the cat is marking Paulie Gualtieri as the rat.
Who killed Tony Soprano?
Paulie Gualtieri and Patsy Parisi conspired with New York to kill Tony Soprano.
If you look closely, you will see that the signs are all there.
Viewers miss these “signs” because of two reasons.
- The signs are not that obvious. David Chase, the show’s main writer and producer, does not like to gift wrap answers for the viewer. The Sopranos, unlike other TV shows, does not shove the conclusions directly into your face. Hence the reason the series finale ended with a black screen and an extended silence.
- A lot of these signs are shown in the final episodes, when the viewer is focused on the dramatic events that are unfolding.
However, if you pay attention to what the show is trying to tell you, then it is difficult to look past the likelihood that it was Paulie and Patsy who killed Tony Soprano.
If there is one thing that this show makes clear, time and time again, it’s that “family” and “loyalty” are just words to these guys.
Because when push comes to shove, they only care about themselves.