Watching The Sopranos during quarantine has been a fun journey—well, as fun as a series about racist, homophobic, murdering mobsters can be. In all seriousness, I have been completely sucked into the world of Tony Soprano, and while I “root” for him, what makes the show so watchable is that it doesn’t shy away of highlighting the moral failures of its characters.
It waxes poetically about psychology, trauma, and other issues, but it never attempts to make excuses for who these people are. But the one character I truly feel bad for in the series is Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo).
**Spoilers for The Sopranos!**
Adriana is the girlfriend of Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), the nephew/cousin of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). She started off as initially a cameo, but grew into such a fan favorite that her slow walk towards death is one of the most haunting aspects of the show. And this is a show that has given us some messed up deaths.
But let’s back up a bit.
After losing one of their mob informants, the FBI targets Adriana to get her to flip due to her close ties with the Soprano crime family. Adriana is manipulated into befriending an undercover FBI agent named Deborah Ciccerone. They get close and Adriana even shares her fears of infertility due to an abortion. Eventually, using drug charges as leverage, Adriana is forced to become a rat.
This haunts her for the remainder of her existence on the show, leading to health issues as she tries to not share anything with the FBI, but also not go to jail. But eventually, she tries to cut a deal for her and Christopher, but sadly … it doesn’t go well.
Episode 5.12, “Long Term Parking” is considered among one of the best episodes of the series. Adriana confesses to Christopher what happened, and for a split second, you think he is going to run away with her. But after seeing a poor family outside a gas station, he flips and hands her over to Tony. She is brought out into the woods and shot. Her car is placed in Long Term Parking at JFK airport.
As Andy Cambria put it in his piece about the series for the book Off the Back of a Truck: Unofficial Contraband for the Sopranos Fan (which has been a great read as I finish watching the last 12 episodes): “In the world of The Sopranos, Adriana is as close to a purely tragic character as we get. She indulges in the spoilers of Mob life and makes foolish decisions, but she is entirely motivated by love and loyalty.”
We watched Big Pussy get shot to death on a boat after being revealed to be an FBI informat. During season six, another FBI informat will eventually hang himself in a gruesome attempt to escape from the trap he has been caught in. Yet, Adriana’s death hurts because we as an audience know how deep her love and loyalty are toward Christopher. She supported him even when he accidentally murdered her dog when he was high. She is a survivor of domestic abuse, a business woman, and most importantly a young woman who got caught up in something the FBI could not protect her from.
Infamously, Adriana was so beloved that it is one of the few deaths we don’t actually see on screen. “I completely didn’t think about it when I wrote it,” creator David Chace said later to EW. “But it just felt like the right thing to do, filmically and cinematically. I think it worked really great, but I guess I did not want to see Adriana/Drea get shot. It speaks more to how much we fell in love with this character and that actress.”
Often wife and girlfriend characters are maligned in fandom for not “leaving” or the excuse is made that “they know who that person was when they got with them.”
That always seems like a victim blame statement, but in the case of Adriana I think it is very clear: She could not leave. Christopher was violent and part of organized crime. Despite Adriana being related to two made men, it didn’t matter once she was labeled a rat. Even if she had come forward, just the hint of something going wrong marked her for death.
I think if there is any character who is a descendant of Adriana it would be Tara Knowles from Sons of Anarchy. Both were women who did get involved with their eyes open, but slowly realized that the environment was just too hostile. When they tried to leave—they were murdered. Brutally.
Adrianna was murdered because of Christopher’s desire to stay in this business:
“He sees his future life flash before his eyes: ‘This is going to be us, we’re going to be that family living hand to mouth in a shitty car with a bunch of kids,'” writer Terence Winter explained. “It gives you his mindset as a guy who’s never going to leave New Jersey. There’s nothing like a mullet to shake you into reality.”
So when we put the blame on these women for not leaving, even in fiction, we should remember what FKA Twigs so eloquently put it: “Question should really be to the abuser, why are you holding someone hostage?”
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