The Sopranos is over, and one thing’s clear: Real estate played the strongest role among the non-human characters—except perhaps for those geese that alighted in Tony’s pool in Season One.
Here’s Tony in the final episode of Season Three, to a just-expelled A.J.: “I work all day to pay for this 6,000-square-foot house!” Here’s Paulie in the same season demanding a cut of the Jersey Shore esplanade development money: “I shouldn’t have my taste?” Throughout the six seasons of the epochal series, real estate drenches the desires, motives and mechanics of the characters. Really, pick a season, pick an episode—find the real estate.
There’s Tony going Upstate to relax on his family’s old farm; there’s Tony coming back to the same farm to kill his cousin Tony. There’s Tony tortured by selling a Newark building with a famed butcher shop inside it; he eventually does, of course, giving way to the rent that a ground-floor Jamba Juice can provide. There’s Tony buying a beachfront house to appease Carmela, only to have to unload it on the lawyer who sold it to him.There’s Christopher and Furio arranging for Adrianna to have majority stake in the North Jersey club Crazy Horse. There’s Sil running the Bing, day in and night out. There’s Tony’s anguish and Janice’s avarice over selling or not selling their mother’s old house in Newark. There’s Carmela’s dad grappling poorly with being a contractor in twilight, given to botched judgments and jobs badly finished. (And there’s Carmela, herself until the bitter end, mulling real estate as a career.)
There’s Johnny Sac’s wife losing their palatial home when Johnny goes to prison in the first half of Season Six. There’s Vito in the same ill-fated season fleeing to a New England bed and breakfast, from where he tries to forge a go of it in the legit world as a construction worker; and on and on, little and big the driving twists.Territorial disputes abound, and such disputes are just that: Arguments and misunderstandings over literal geographic boundaries—who gets to work and to hustle which stretches of blocks and when?
Perhaps it was inevitable that series creator David Chase chose real estate as such an animator of The Sopranos. So much of American money is tied up now in property in all its manifestations—private property, public-private partnerships on property development (the esplanade, with its hotel and galleria), public property. The show that captured so much of the national zeitgeist had to delve thoroughly into what's really now the national past-time. To avoid real estate in a drama that essentially dwindles down to one about power and the attainment of it in America is to flirt with boredom. Really, now, could Tony get worked up about defending his interests in a mutual fund?