Chase 'n' the Russian

WHAT WE'LL NEVER KNOW

The case of the missing Russian is hardly the only plot point to tease, frustrate, and/or confuse fans over the years. In part, this is by design, an aspect of David Chase's philosophy of storytelling. ''In life, you don't get an ending to every story,'' he says. ''You can't tie a little ribbon on everything and say it's over. And yeah, I know...'The Sopranos isn't life.' But it's based on it!''

In fact, most such stories don't so much disappear as go underground for a while, or they fail to be as portentous as they might at first seem. A classic example included Ray Curto, who we learned was a government informer at the beginning of Season Three. What seemed at the time to be a potentially explosive revelation turned out to be nothing of the sort; for the next two seasons we occasionally caught glimpses of Curto on the periphery of Tony's world. Then, at exactly the moment he might have started being of use to the FBI, the character had a heart attack and died. End of story. ''We just wanted to give an indication of what life is like for somebody like Tony Soprano. He's constantly talking to people who are rats but he doesn't know it,'' Chase says. ''Only people at home waiting for the Russian know it. The reality is that lots of these guys play both sides of the fence and are informing. There are probably several other guys wearing a wire in Tony's family.'' Chase declines to name names.

Other stories, meanwhile, are really over. Chase says he is surprised to find that, after ''Where's the Russian?'' the subplot he hears most about is Dr. Melfi's rape. Many viewers are awaiting further development, although the episode, ''Employee of the Month,'' would seem to be neatly self-contained: Melfi is assaulted in her office parking garage. The rapist is caught, but set free on a technicality. Melfi finds herself tempted to seek revenge using Tony, but ultimately decides not to cross that line.

''If you're raised on a steady diet of Hollywood movies and network television, you start to think, Obviously there's going to be some moral accounting here,'' Chase says. ''That's not the way the world works. It all comes down to why you're watching. If all you want is to see big Tony Soprano take that guy's head and bang it against the wall like a cantaloupe... The point is — Melfi, despite pain and suffering, made her moral, ethical choice and we should applaud her for it. That's the story.''

Copyright 2007 Home Box Office, Inc. Published by Time Inc. Home Entertainment.

Originally posted May 09, 2007
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