The new Sopranos prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark is now out in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. A lot of Sopranos are coming to the new chapter from series creator David Chase and director Alan Taylor thinking they'll get a more intricate look at the life of young Tony Soprano than the original series offered in its pivotal flashback scenes. And while Chase and Taylor indeed deliver that enriching backstory, The Many Saints of Newark breaks mold with a lot of other prequels by also revealing a new twist on the history we thought we knew, which re-shapes the reality of The Sopranos canon entirely.
Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS For Sopranos: The Many Saints of Newark FOLLOW!!!
The Many Saints of Newark Ending Explained
The ending of The Many Saints of Newark chronicles one of the most pivotal points in Sopranos history: the death of Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti, the gangster father of Christopher Moltisanti, and the man who had the biggest influence on shaping Tony Soprano.
The original Sopranos series came back to the story of Dickie at several key points in the series. The story went that Dickie was killed outside his home in the New Jersey suburbs one night while fetching some TV trays from his car. That tragic loss is something that Tony cites (sometimes even indirectly in therapy sessions) as one of the formative events that pushed him toward the gangster life. It was also an event that Tony would use to motivate (manipulate?) Christopher into bonding with him decades later; in The Sopranos season 4 premiere, Tony gives Christopher the name and location of the man who supposedly killed his dad - a cop who was retiring from the force that very day. Chris ultimately kills that man, Det. Lt. Barry Haydu, even though the former cop doesn't seem to know anything about the name Dickie Moltisanti.
Well, The Many Saints of Newark ends with a pretty surprising reveal: Dickie Moltisanti might have died in the horrible way we heard - but we never knew the real reason why.
Many Saints... makes its central conflict between Dickie (Alessandro Nivola) and his black former underling-turned-gangster Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.). Their beef consumes many years (and lives), but in the end it's not Harold who whacks Dickie - it's one of his own.
The Sopranos: Who Killed Dickie Moltisanti Explained (Spoilers)
Corrado "Junior Soprano" (Corey Stoll) is revealed to be the viper that bit Dickie and killed him. The film leaves some of the deeper explanations of who does the actual hit (Barry Haydu?) and why Junior does open for fan speculation (and/or more stories to come), but there's a pretty good implication that this could be a classic Sopranos case of personal issues trumping both business and the supposedly sacred Mafia code.
After the funeral of one of Dickie's crew killed in a shootout with Harold's gang, Junior slips and falls on the steps of the funeral home, severely injuring his back. Junior happens to spot Dickie laughing at him, and hits a breaking point (the original series hinted Junior was always jealous of Dickie being the surrogate man of the Soprano family in Johnny's absence, instead of Junior. After Dickie is gunned down, the hitman makes the call to Junior. The final scene of the film shows Junior literally stepping in to be the man behind Tony Soprano, as young Tony looks on at Dickie's corpse lying in the casket.
This ending reveal by The Many Saints of Newark only deepens the Shakespearean tragedy of the Soprano and Moltisanti families and their connection, in a way longtime fans will be feeling and examining for a while. The cycles of violence, mental illness, and abusively toxic child/parent relationships only get that much deeper through this violent act.
At the same time, The Many Saints of Newark leaves a lot of open-ended questions on the table. Was Junior's move also a business play (since it would open the door for the Sopranos to run Jersey mob world)? Who actually did the hit? Did Tony ever find out the truth - or at the very least, did he know Haydu was the trigger man or was that all a lie? Whatever happened to Harold, and the Jersey mob's bloody grudge with him?
Hopefully, The Sopranos franchise will be back to tell us more. For now, The Many Saints of Newark is in theaters or streaming on HBO Max.