The Sopranos Questions That The Many Saints of Newark Can Answer

With prequel The Many Saints of Newark, Sopranos creator David Chase has an opportunity to present many hallmark moments of a young Tony Soprano.

Tony, Carmella, and AJ Soprano at Holsten's Diner in The Sopranos finale
Photo: HBO

If the pandemic was good for something, it was giving folks time to catch up on or get reacquainted with the best television series from the modern era. Are you someone who promised you’d watch The Wire if you only had the time? Well, time found you. Were you dying to revisit Breaking Bad now that you’ve had some distance? Well, what a perfect activity for social distancing! Looking to careen through 40 seasons of Survivor? The CDC has spoken!

Many people, myself included, took the opportunity to revisit arguably the greatest series of the 21st century, The Sopranos. If I couldn’t hang with my friends at a bar, I guess I could watch Tony and the gang meet-up at The Bing. If I couldn’t leave the house, at least I could commiserate with Uncle Junior. If my therapy sessions were going to be digital, I might as well have them with Dr. Melfi on my TV screen. 

It turns out that 2020 was a perfect time to revisit these degenerate, yet somehow lovable cast of mobsters, not only because time had to be occupied, but because creator David Chase’s grand return to New Jersey with The Many Saints of Newark, The Sopranos feature-film prequel, is arriving this fall. With six seasons fresh in my mind and special attention paid to the series’ casual mentions and brief flashbacks to Johnny Soprano’s heyday, I’m ready to look for continuity, expansions of lore, and fun Easter eggs galore.

The prequel is a feature film and not a series, so it’s impossible for Chase to deliver endless callbacks and fan service while also telling a satisfying, original story, but here are just a few things we’d love to see The Many Saints of Newark address when it hits theaters Sept. 24, 2021.

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Tony’s Connection with Animals

We know that Tony Soprano will appear in The Many Saints of Newark, portrayed by the late James Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini. While the film looks like it will largely tell the tale of Giovanni “Johnny Boy” Soprano (Jon Bernthal), it seems likely that young Anthony will be getting plenty of screen time to satiate fan desire to see what he was like prior to his involvement in his father’s business. 

How many characteristics will the young Tony share with his considerably darker adult self? We know he’ll likely experience panic attacks, but will he also share many of the other characteristics that made Tony seem human and vulnerable, like his love of animals? From the very first episode, Tony showed real interest and empathy for animals, like the ducks in his pool. 

This is a theme that continues throughout the series, like when Tony goes nuclear on Christopher for killing Adriana’s dog, murders Ralphie over the death of his race horse, Pie-O-My, and loses his patience with his father’s old “goomar” Fran when he discovers that his father regifted their family dog to Fran and her son. It’s a small character detail that may not need a chintzy origin story moment, but maybe the young Tony dreamed of veterinary school?

Paulie Walnuts’ Relationship with Johnny Soprano

For most of The Sopranos’ run, Paulie Walnuts was used as comic relief and shown to be a relic of an era that had passed him by. But from what we heard (or what Paulie says), the young Paulie was a legit tough guy heartthrob that the whole neighborhood either feared or admired. Billy Magnussen (Game Night, Aladdin) will portray the young Paulie, the man that Tony’s father would threaten to sic on his son if he ever misbehaved.

While the adult Tony’s admiration for Paulie waned throughout the series, it will be interesting to see whether Johnny Soprano thought of Paulie as a useful soldier or a big-mouth liability. How integral was Paulie to Johnny’s operation? The old Carmine Lupertazzi could barely even remember Paulie, was he simply just a handsome hired gun that overstated his importance to Tony’s father?

Uncle Junior’s Relationship with Young Tony

To say that Tony and his Uncle Junior had a complicated relationship throughout The Sopranos would be an understatement the size of Bobby Baccalieri, but were things always this bad? In a spot of pitch perfect casting, Corey Stoll (Ant-Man, House of Cards) will be portraying the young Uncle June and we’re curious to see how he interacts with his nephew. 

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By all accounts, Junior was always a tough nut to crack with a chip on his shoulder, is it possible he gave the same attitude to Tony in his youth, which led to built up animosity years later? Or was their relationship close before competing for head of the family? It’s one of the dynamics we’re most anxious to see play out on screen.

Tony the Music Fan

Along with his love of animals, it seems like one of Tony’s other passions was music. Always singing along to some AM Gold or quick with some music trivia from the era that The Many Saints of Newark will be covering, will a young Tony Soprano be far more interested in catching episodes of Ed Sullivan than the family business?

David Chase’s one other feature film Not Fade Away focused on a suburban rock band in the late ‘60s, will Tony dabble in trying to start a group of his own? Ultimately this one is a stretch, but it would be cool to see a young Tony pouring over an issue of Music Maker or posted up by the jukebox.

Dickie Moltisanti and His Cousin, Carmella

Described as the protagonist of The Many Saints of Newark, Chrisopher Moltisanti’s father Dickie will be portrayed by Alessandro Nivola. We only know what we’re told about Dickie, and what we know is that he was a tough soldier in the Soprano crew that served in Vietnam, then went to prison soon after. Christopher said he struggled with drug and alcohol abuse as well, but Tony remembers the man as being “a standup guy” who once took on a whole crew from New England on his own. 

Perhaps we’ll see Dickie bringing a war to the Soprano’s turf in Jersey and struggle with addiction in a similar way as his son Christopher. Learning about Dickie and his history will be key to unlocking many of the wrinkles in the DiMeo crime family. It’s also worth mentioning that Dickie’s cousin is Carmela, who claims they were close, as does Tony. Will a young Carmela appear in The Many Saints of Newark and will Dickie be the one to introduce Carmella to Tony? It’s a possibility. 

Tony the Athlete

A constant point of strife between Tony and Uncle Junior is June reminding Tony that he “never had the makings of a varsity athlete.” Tony’s high school football career is alluded to often, and Tony even still has recurring dreams late in life about his old high school football coach. Will we witness young Tony lose his interest in football a la Pink in Dazed and Confused

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Perhaps we’ll get to relive some of Tony’s interactions with his strict coach. Michael Gandolfini looks a lot like his dad, which means he’s certainly the size to portray a believable football prospect. How much time will the young Tony, if any, spend on the field in The Many Saints of Newark?

Fran the Mistress

In season 5 episode 7 of The Sopranos, Tony meets his father’s old goomar Fran Felstein, and she reveals many missing details about Tony’s father, his uncle, and close family friend, Hesh. It’s unclear if Hesh will play a role in The Many Saints of Newark, but Fran reveals a dislike of Hesh, claims that Junior was obsessed with her, and also unveils the secret that Johnny was with her the night that Livia Soprano had a miscarriage, which caused Tony to have to lie on behalf of his father. This seems like a pivotal moment in the lives of Johnny, Livia, and Tony, so it will be interesting to see if it will appear in the film, or whether Fran will be mentioned at all.

Tony and his Dad

Several times throughout the series, Tony states how he never knew where he stood with his old man. Ideally, their relationship will be the crux of the film, or at least a considerable part. It will be enlightening to see not only Tony’s relationship with his father, but how his father’s dealings impact the rest of his life. 

Tony states how, later in life, he feels like he has no contemporaries and no one to talk to. Other than Silvio, Tony’s colleagues in the gang are either old friends of his father or young upstarts, and the older members of the gang can’t help but see Tony as his father’s son. We get what it must have been like for a teenage Tony through AJ, who realizes that most of his “friends” and the people he surrounds himself with only care about his connection to crime. 

The Many Saints of Newark will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on Sept. 24, 2021