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Throwback Thursday - The Sopranos - Long Term Parking: "The Guy I'm Going to Hell For"

Written by Terrance Winter
Directed by Tim Van Patten

Originally aired: May 23rd, 2004

For my last two Throwback Thursday posts I thought long and hard about which episodes I wanted to write about. My list of TV favourites goes on and on, and there’s a lot to cover. After reminiscing about Alias and Veronica Mars, I thought I’d take a bit of a tonal shift for this one.

When I think of my favourite TV shows of all time, this is always high up on the list – when I think of the greatest TV shows of all time, it was unrivalled until Mad Men concluded last month. Today, The Sopranos still stands as a hugely creative, thought-provoking and incredible work of art. And when I say art, I mean it. I take TV for what it is; sometimes it doesn’t have to be anything other than mindlessly entertaining, but The Sopranos was one of the first series that showed me that television could be so, so much more.

“Long Term Parking” takes place at the end of the series’ fifth season – it’s the penultimate episode. If Game of Thrones has taken anything from The Sopranos, it’s making the second-to-last episode of each season that years wildest ride. “Long Term Parking” is no exception. There’s not much use in a total recap, because if you’re reading this you know The Sopranos, and if you know The Sopranos, you know that “Long Term Parking” is the episode where Adriana bites the dust. I’ve witnessed many TV deaths and been rocked by several, but none quite like when Silvio drags Adriana from his car and shoots her like a dog out in the woods. After an incredible showcase for Drea de Matteo, the episodes conclusion was one hell of a gut-punch (so much so that to this day, fans still speculate that Adriana survived.)

Much of The Sopranos’ 5th season dealt with Tony’s reckless cousin, Tony Blundetteo. It was a wildly entertaining season, probably stronger than the 4th if I’m really thinking about it. But truthfully I’ve always found it remarkably hard to really rank seasons or episodes of The Sopranos, because the show is filled with so many great moments and stories that ebb and flow. “Long Term Parking” is a clear favourite though for several reasons. At the very least, it’s easy to see why the episode raked in so many Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for Terrance Howard and both Supporting Acting trophies for Drea de Matteo and Michael Imperioli (the series also nabbed Outstanding Drama that year.)

What’s perhaps most impressive is how shocking Adriana’s death came to the audience, despite the fact that she technically had it coming for years. When you’re working with the FBI, wilfully or not, your time is always limited. This is a mobster show, after all, and one that proved very early on that it had no qualms about killing off fan-favourite characters. The storyline had been building since the third season (who could forget Adriana puking all over the desk when the FBI first took her in), but Adriana was perhaps the only sympathetic character left on the series, so it’s easy to see why most viewers simply weren’t ready to see her go.

Most notable here are the performances given by de Matteo and Imperioli. “Long Term Parking” gave the kind of dream script to the pair that the writers had delivered for James Gandolfini and Edie Falco in the previous season with “Whitecaps”. Their performances are devastating – despite all of their misdeeds, insanity, and unwillingness to get out while they had the chance, you could never help but root for Adriana and Christopher (or Chris-tofa as she famously pronounced it.) Even after he got so high on heroin that he sat on and suffocated her dog, I still rooted for the both of them.

Looking back, Adriana’s death was the beginning of the end for Christopher. Even when he fell apart, she held him together. Christopher never forgave himself for her death – and his part in it – and he showed it throughout the next season until his own murder at the hands of Tony. In this episode, Imperioli gives his best and most haunting performance of the series after Tony talks down to him – he unleashes on Adriana, drunk, about how he’s been treated and all that he’s sacrificed for the family. Christopher delivers one of my favourite TV lines of all time in that scene: “That’s the guy, Adriana, my Uncle Tony. The guy I’m going to hell for.”

Not long after comes one of the most intense, terrifying, and crushing scenes ever – Adriana confesses she’s been working with the FBI, and Christopher nearly chokes her to death. It’s 3 years worth of story coming to a head, and two of the finest performances I’ve ever seen. Watching it again before writing this, it still gives me chills. It’s the end of Adriana and Christopher, and the beginning of the end for Adriana.

As the episode unravels, there are a lot of other plotlines from throughout the year that start to wrap up – Tony and Carmela are reuniting, and Tony is trying his hardest to save his cousin Tony Blundetto’s life despite a recent ill-advised murder – but the episode belongs to this story. I’ll never see a long term parking sign without picturing Christopher dropping off Adriana’s car after conspiring to have her wacked by Silvio.

As far as memorable TV episodes go, this is pretty damn high at the top of my list. It's one of the many reasons I consider The Sopranos one of televisions greatest achievements. Any time a friend starts watching the series, I eagerly wait for them to get to this episode.

How does "Long Term Parking" stack up for you in terms of best episodes of the series? Were you shocked by Adriana’s death when you first saw it? Hit the comments and share your thoughts, and feel free to follow me on Twitter for all my SpoilerTV work.