The Many Saints of Newark is finally in cinemas – and on HBO Max in the US – offering another story in the Sopranos saga. The movie features interweaving stories of multiple characters and, ultimately, an anti-climax that only writer David Chase could have pulled off.
This really is a Sopranos movie. Characters return (though significantly younger) and infamous events only mentioned in the iconic show are shown for the first time. However, you may still have a few questions, especially when it comes to the death of one character.
From here on, we’re talking The Many Saints of Newark spoilers. That will also inevitably lead to spoilers on the main Sopranos show as a whole. So click away now if you haven’t watched the Many Saints of Newark yet – preferably to our piece on the most exciting upcoming movies heading your way soon.
The Many Saints of Newark ending explained
The first half of Many Saints of Newark takes place during the heights of the Newark Riots, when civil unrest reached a fever pitch following two policemen attacking the Black cab driver John William Smith. Though a major event, the riots simply act as a backdrop to the action, highlighting racial tensions in America during the 60s.
The main thrust of the story concerns Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) who kills his own father, Aldo “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti (Ray Liotta), after falling for Aldo’s wife, Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi). Things soon spiral out of control, as Dickie takes on more of a leadership role in his father’s old mob.
Dickie comes to lock heads with Leslie Odom Jr’s Harold McBraye, who once worked for Dickie but later starts his own crew. Having been humiliated by Dickie, tensions are raw between the two, and Harold ends up sleeping with Giuseppina – now Dickie’s lover (Melfi and Freud may have a few things to say about Dickie keeping his step-mother as a goomar…). Dickie later kills Giuseppina, drowning her in the ocean. From this point onward, Dickie and Harold seem to be set on all-out warfare.
However, at a funeral, Junior Soprano (Corey Stoll) falls over on some wet steps. Dickie comes over and starts laughing at Junior, angering him. The cranky Soprano orders a hit on Dickie, who later dies while unpacking the back of a car. It may be slightly unclear who did the deed, but we’ll get onto that…
Also of note, a young Tony Soprano (played after the time-skip by Michael Gandolfini, James Gandolfini’s son) is present through many big events in Dickie’s life, almost witnessing Dickie killing his own father and trying to see Dickie before his own death. Not to mention that Tony will one day kill Dickie’s own son. There’s a lot to untangle, but that’s what you would expect from such a condensed story.
Who killed Dickie Moltisanti?
So, who killed Dickie Moltisanti? That’s a question that will surely cause some debate. It initially seemed that Harold would end up either being killed or killing Dickie, but before the two could exact revenge upon each other, a certain Soprano got in the way.
Junior was humiliated a few times through The Many Saints of Newark by Dickie. Once, Dickie said that Junior should have clapped back quicker when someone took the mickey out of him and his goomar. Then, there was Johnny Boy – Tony’s father, played by Jon Bernthal – who told Junior to be “more like Dickie”. The family seemed to see Dickie as more of an uncle to Tony than they did Junior.
In other words, there was a lot of resentment, and Dickie laughing at Junior after the Soprano fell down some stairs was the last straw. He ordered a hit on Dickie, and we get a brief glimpse of the man who did it. We know, from The Sopranos, that Tony believes the murderer to be Detective Lt. Barry Haydu – who Dickie’s son, Christopher, ends up killing. What we never knew was that Junior orchestrated the death of Dickie, and it’s unclear whether Tony ever knew the truth.
Had Christopher known that Junior ordered the hit, the events of The Sopranos may have played out very differently.
Ah, Chrissy. Taken from us too soon by the hands of Tony Soprano. Chris (voiced by Michael Imperioli) ends up narrating The Many Saints of Newark from the grave, telling us about his murder and his father, Dickie.
There are a few reminders of the fate that awaits Chris, who makes a brief appearance in the movie as a baby (not played by Imperioli, obviously). When Johnny Boy comes home from prison, the family celebrates, and Tony Soprano’s asked to hold the child. However, the baby starts crying when it sees Tony.
“Some babies, when they come into the world, know all kinds of things from the other side,” one family member says. Eek.
It’s slightly unclear who Chris’s real mother is. Dickie tells his uncle in prison (played in a second role by Ray Liotta) that he’s unable to have children with his wife. Then, later, he has a child. Was it with his wife or someone else? There’s already been some debate over the matter as the line about being unable to have children seemed to imply something bigger at play.
There are, of course, a lot of Sopranos references – as you would expect from a prequel to the iconic series. The most obvious are cameos from characters we all know and love. Along with prominent appearances from Junior, Johnny Boy, Livia Soprano (Vera Farmiga), and Janice Soprano (Alexandra Intrator), you have Tony’s crew Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen), Silvio (John Magaro), and Big Pussy (Samson Moeakiola). Tony’s childhood friend Artie Bucco crops up as the duo bunk school, and a young Carmela crops up briefly.
There are, though, the references to events once described in the show but never seen. Perhaps the most obvious is the family telling Tony that he’s not “got the makings of a varsity athlete,” a line repeated in The Sopranos.
Then there’s Johnny Boy shooting through Livia’s bee-hive hairdo during a car journey – a story which Tony says show’s how his father was psychopathic. We also see Tony witness his father’s arrest, a scene previously featured in the TV show, but is extended in the movie. Watch the original version below.
We’ve mentioned Tony a few times, but Michael Gandolfini does really knock it out of the park playing the same role made famous by his late father. One question that you may be wondering, though, is does the new movie adds any weight to the idea that Tony dies during the Sopranos finale. Well, there’s one telling moment right at the beginning.
As Chris narrates the introduction, we see various grave stones – one, of course, belonging to Chris. However, there’s also a fresh grave being dug in the background. As the camera pans forward, we never learn who’s grave is being dug. Could it be Tony’s? Or is it simply a nobody? It certainly feels like a minor cue to start up the old debate again.
And speaking of endings, let’s talk briefly about the curtain that’s drawn on The Many Saints of Newark. As Tony looks at the deceased Dickie, he puts his pinky in Dickie’s, a moment mirroring the same thing that happened in the movie. Tony will become the man that Dickie didn’t want him to be. And with that, the iconic music plays. “Woke up this morning…”
The Many Saints of Newark is in cinemas and on HBO Max now. The Sopranos is also on HBO Max, and is well worth a rewatch – obviously, it’s one of the best TV shows of all time.