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There Are Days...

By RD Heldenfels Published: March 13, 2006

This morning I arose with the remains of my cold. My bride's attempt to fight off illness continues to be a losing battle. My morning paper told me that the company owning my newspaper is being sold. Knew that was coming. Then my e-mail basket included the news that the company buying my newspaper's company did not want my newspaper, so we're up for sale again. Then I got almost all the way to work before discovering I did not have my key card. (I had dropped it in the living room, I learned when I drove back home.) And somewhere in all that, I realized that I had forgotten to record ''Grey's Anatomy'' last night.

But let's talk ''Sopranos.'' While there are spoilers aplenty out there about the March 19 episode, you won't read any of them here. I believe in a code of silence on this one, since anything else would spoil the delight of watching it unfold. And you'll really want to watch the next episode.

At least we can talk about last night's show.


Not only was it a shock when Uncle Junior shot Tony, the show increased the brutality of it with Tony's agonized attempt to call for help. And it came at the end of an episode laced with dread, with the feeling that something very bad was going to happen. Oh, sure, there was the artful misdirection -- making it seem that Eugene might actually put a bullet in Tony to end his own family's suffering. Still, when I looked at the episode a second time, I noticed all the times it pointed that Tony was prospering -- new boat, new car for Carmela -- as omens that things were not going to stay good forever.

The irony of it, of course, was that Tony was not shot for all his misdeeds. In fact, he was performing a good deed -- taking care of his uncle when no one else would or could -- when Junior shot him. That touches on a theme that has run through ''The Sopranos'' as well as other art, including the novels of Larry McMurtry and '"St. Elsewhere,'' that sometimes punishment is arbitrary, and goodness does not by itself guarantee reward. Pain can come from unexpected places, and be no less horrible for that. Look at the beating and hit-and-run earlier in that same episode. Confusion leads to the beating; fate sends a car.

If the world can let some men thrive on wrongdoing -- like Tony -- then others will not thrive even when they do no wrong.

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