For your consideration and argument, after you've seen tonight's episode, and after the jump ...
Murderous, vain, capricious Johnny Sack is dead. It's a death that sets in motion what should be the "Sopranos" endgame, establishing once and for all Tony's place in his gangland world, if he will have any place at all. Because of that, it looked as if "Sopranos" could have flipped these first two episodes, appeasing people who want mobster intrigue by beginning with tonight's show, then getting into the family conflict by airing last week's episode second. But "The Sopranos" has insistently been first about family, and the nature of family. So the order was right thematically, if not mollifying to some viewers.
And still Johnny Sack is dead, and still I feel badly for him and his family. Of course, he had all the flaws I mentioned, many of which were magnified when he became the boss. But Johnny always had a redeeeming side in his feelings about family, especially in his unquestioning and undiminished love for his wife. So when Johnny's greatest humiliations came when his family suffered, too -- the way he was treated at the wedding, for example, or the loss Ginny and the rest felt on tonight's show. And it was made all the more brutal because Johnny allowed himself to be hopeful over the possibility of a second, more positive medical opinion -- a hope that was, of course, dashed.
So I call this post "the ideal Tony" because that, in many ways, is what Johnny was. Going back again to last week's episode, we were reminded how selfish and mean, to the point of monstrosity, Tony is. Not even his family is spared his evil. Johnny protected his family; he understood love in a way that Tony can never achieve. Tony believes in family as chattel, as possessions, as something where his commitment and faithfulness are flexible. Johnny saw the gray areas in business, but in his family life, he believed in absolutes. So I felt a pang at his death, a pang that Tony has not come close to deserving.