The most famous bit of Mob pop culture ever, "The Godfather," begins with a wedding. Connie Corleone, daughter of the Don, beams in white satin and lace as the Mafia equivalent of a royal wedding rages. There's liquor, there's cake, there's dancing and music, there's thousands of dollars in the bridal purse. Connie's marriage was to be short and horribly unhappy, but her wedding, yes, her wedding, was a girl's fairytale dream.
Adriana LaCerva, girlfriend of Soprano soldier Christopher Moltisanti, wanted that fairytale. You could tell it by how thrilled she was when the two finally became engaged, how proud she was to do the million little wedding-planning chores that make up every bride-to-be's day — she even got big tough Christopher to go cake-tasting with her. She wanted to be the bride, to walk down the aisle, throw the bouquet, and retire forever to a house with a picket fence and kids and dogs playing in the yard. The "kids" part might be tough — Adriana had been told she was infertile — but damned if she didn't want it anyway.
Yet in recent episodes, Adriana had been unusually quiet about the upcoming big day. She didn't bring up the wedding, looked away when asked about it. She had other things on her mind — for a year now, she'd been informing to the FBI, and as the noose tightened around her, she had to know that the future held only darkness.
The FBI wasn't going to let her go, wasn't going to let Tony and Christopher and the whole rest of the Soprano family just keep on keeping on. She had two choices: Inform on the family and be hunted for the rest of her life in Witness Protection, or confess to Christopher and somehow convince him to flee with her, and be hunted for the rest of her life by the government. Either way, she'd be giving up her family, her home, her nightclub, and everything she'd ever held dear. That wedding day must have seemed absolutely unreachable, that picket fence, only a dream.
Married to the Mob
In many ways, Ade was perfectly suited for the role of Mafia wife. Despite her tousle-haired beauty, she was tough as nails — she'd seen blood and death, and yet managed to step right over it in her black-leather stiletto boots and move on. She loved Christopher with a fierceness, even when he hit her, dragged her around by her hair, and, in a horrifying prelude to her death, strangled her almost to the point of unconsciousness.
No one can say Adriana was not loyal. Sure, she'd ratted to the FBI, but only when she felt herself trapped, with no other choice, and even then she'd thought she could control it. She would only feed the Feds minor bits of info, she thought. License plates, perhaps a drug deal or two. She could control the information they got, she thought, and thus she could protect her future husband as well as his cousin Tony, with whom she'd shared an ill-advised kiss.
But as always happens in this kind of situation, Ade was overmatched on all sides. The FBI had put the squeeze on a million reluctant witnesses — they taught classes in it, for God's sake. And when it came to sniffing out betrayal and quickly and deftly disposing of the betrayers — well, the Soprano Family might as well have taught classes in that as well. Nothing in Ade's Jersey lifestyle, nothing she picked up at the nail salon or read in the pages of Modern Bride, could have prepared her to fight these two different wars on two different fronts.
In the end, Adriana's death did not come at the hands of Christopher, nor those of Tony. They farmed her out, as it were, to Silvio, with both of the men she had loved so dearly playing a part in sending her to meet her end.
Highway to hell
In a recent episode, Christopher scolded her "I'm a soldier, Adriana, you gotta remember that." And a soldier, a good soldier, when learning of betrayal in the ranks, always reports that betrayal to his commanding officer, which is exactly what Christopher did. She may have been loyal to Christopher above all else, but he had to report to a higher authority.
He will have his own demons to answer to. Adriana's death may have driven him back to heroin, and it's certainly setting him even more firmly on the road to ruin. Earlier he'd said to Ade "Tony Soprano [is] the guy I'm going to hell for." That may be, but Adriana LaCerva is the one who will keep him there. To set up the murder of a fellow Mobster is one thing, but to set up the murder of the woman who slept with him, cooked for him, wept at his bedside when he was in the hospital, is another level of hell all together.
Adriana was never a Mafia princess, not in the way Tony's daughter Meadow was. We didn't know much about her early life, but it was apparent she'd been knocked around. Not for her the Ivy League education, the cushy McMansion in the suburbs or tea with Carmela under Eloise's portrait at the Plaza. Instead, Ade used everything she had — her beauty, her street smarts, and her undying loyalty to Christopher, to try and gouge a foothold in a world that really didn't have a place for women.
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She couldn't look to Christopher for much help. He was barely surviving himself, with a drug habit that he was always on the verge of going back to, an inferiority complex the size of Tony's Suburban, and a hunger for power that kept being thwarted. The big boys weren't letting Chrissy play, he was still the baby cousin, just as he'd been when Tony Soprano and Tony Blundetto would tease him as kids. Instead of turning to his fiancee for comfort when he felt knocked down, he berated and beat her, taking out his frustration on the one person who would never hit back.
In a show depicting a culture of Madonnas and whores, Adriana was neither, she fit no mold. Even if the dice had fallen her way, it was hard to imagine her turning into Carmela, rattling around a huge house by herself as Christopher built up a Tony-esque string of affairs.
There was really no place in the Soprano world for Adriana, much in the same way there seems to be no place for Christopher. They could have fled the life together, two lost kids, but as Adriana seemed to know, that would have only postponed the inevitable.
Instead, her death has forever changed the show — Tony Soprano has had blood on his hands all along, of course, but never that of a character so beloved, so innocent, so lost. There have been entire episodes where Tony comes off as a good guy, a kind of Robin Hood of the Mob, with Christopher his faithful Merry Man.
No more. It will be harder now to see Tony joking with Paulie, flirting with Carmela, or mooning over his ducks. Adriana and her lost dreams, and her wedding that never was, will always hover over him.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's Television Editor
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