The Sopranos includes numerous gruesome death scenes, so why did Adriana La Cerva’s demise take place off-screen? We break down the shocking sequence.
The Sopranos includes numerous gruesome death scenes, so why did Adriana La Cerva’s demise take place off-screen? Portrayed by Drea de Matteo, the Italian-American character plays a prominent role in the HBO series as the girlfriend of Christopher Moltisani (Michael Imperioli), the “nephew” of crime boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). In the penultimate episode of The Sopranos season 5, Adriana gets in over her head with The FBI, and subsequently pays the ultimate price.
In “Long Term Parking,” Adriana experiences health problems after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Meanwhile, she’s being watched by the feds, and her boyfriend Christopher continues to struggle with “the disease” (alcoholism). As Tony addresses unresolved issues with Lupertazzi crime boss Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola), the FBI appeals to Adriana by suggesting that her sickness is a direct result of her mob relationships. Adriana eventually confesses all to her boyfriend, who nearly strangles her death. The couple later appears ready to start a new life elsewhere; however, Christopher betrays Adriana in The Sopranos by informing Tony about her conversations with the FBI.
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The Adriana death sequence in The Sopranos involves narrative misdirection for dramatic purposes. Rather than showing Christopher’s betrayal, series creator David Chase jumps ahead to a phone conversation between Tony and Adriana, in which the crime boss implies that Christopher tried to kill himself. Incidentally, the audiences gains more sympathy for Adriana, who is shown driving out of New Jersey with a red suitcase. In another twist, however, The Sopranos reveals that it’s just a dream sequence, as Adriana is actually a passenger in a car driven by Silvi0 Dante (Steven Van Zandt), who has been tasked with a mob hit. According to Chase (via Entertainment Weekly), he decided to kill Adriana off-screen because he didn’t want to show a beloved female character (and actress) in a grisly state:
“It’s the only time in the whole history of the show in which we killed someone and we didn’t show their point of view. It seems to be worse without it; we were imagining what might’ve happened to her and how her body would’ve been destroyed. I don’t think any of us wanted to see Drea in that condition.”
For audiences, the Adriana death sequence in The Sopranos is especially disturbing because there’s no sense of finality. “Long Term Parking” strips the character down to her core, and literally shows her pleading for her life and crawling on her knees. The overall pacing of the extended death sequence creates an off-kilter effect, as the audience can’t be entirely sure what will transpire. Silvia could offer Adriana a way out, but his actions underline the cold reality of his chosen profession. When discussing the construction of the scene, screenwriter Terence Winter expressed the same thoughts as Chase by noting that he didn’t want to see Adriana, or de Matteo, covered in blood:
“I’ve written some very graphic violence for the show and for some reason — and this was completely subconscious — I scripted this scene where she crawled out of camera. People asked, ‘Why didn’t you show it?’ I realized that I didn’t want to see it myself. I completely didn’t think about it when I wrote it. But it just felt like the right thing to do, filmically and cinematically. I think it worked really great, but I guess I did not want to see Adriana/Drea get shot. It speaks more to how much we fell in love with this character and that actress.”
Adriana’s off-screen death in The Sopranos also shuffles up the character dynamics for the rest of the series. For one, it forces the audience to reassess their opinion of Tony, just as Breaking Bad fans had to confront the disturbing truth about Walter White. Adriana’s demise leads to Christopher’s heroin addiction, which ultimately leads to his own tragic death at the hands of Tony. As de Matteo has noted, the off-screen killing of Adriana is symbolic of the inherent darkness in The Sopranos:
“The characters on the show, even Tony’s kids, were operating from this place of primal manipulative existence. The only character who came from a place of love and innocence was Adriana. People say she’s a rat, she’s a whore, she’s a junkie — derogatory words from people who didn’t understand the show… she only operated from a place of light.”
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