The Clues ‘Sopranos’ Flashbacks Offer About the ‘Many Saints of Newark’ Prequel
“Down Neck,” the seventh episode from Season One of HBO’s The Sopranos, shows mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) digging through painful memories in the office of his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).
Tony remembers his mom acting crazy, his dad punching someone, and his sister acting mean to him. In those respects, Tony’s childhood resembled that of many Americans of the postwar era.
Yet several memories reveal that Tony had no normal upbringing. For starters, Johnny Boy Soprano didn’t get in a little dust-up; he pummeled a guy on a street corner in broad daylight. In another clip, young Tony watches as cops lead Johnny away in handcuffs (something to do with stolen coats).
And before threatening to stick a fork in his eye, Tony’s mom Livia had been watching footage of local riots. For curious Sopranos fans, these scenes offer clues about the upcoming Many Saints of Newark film prequel.
An earlier generation of Sopranos
From early reports about the Many Saints script, we know the story follows the previous generation of the Sopranos crime family. Johnny Boy leads the outfit and Dickey Moltisanti (Christopher’s father, played by Alessandro Nivola) is another feared local figure.
As we saw from the flashback in the “Down Neck” episode of the HBO Sopranos, Tony is no older than five or six at this time. But other prominent characters, including Uncle Junior, are in their prime. (We see Junior, the character played by Dominic Chianese, play ball with young Tony outside the house.)
Even with all the head-shrinking Dr. Melfi attempted, we still have more to learn about the interaction between Tony’s parents and how Uncle Junior became the man he later was. Still, the small clip of the Newark riots sets the “Down Neck” flashback in 1967.
That was the summer of Newark’s race riots, which the Many Saints producers said will figure prominently in the film.
The week in 1967 when Newark burned
David Chase, who created The Sopranos TV show, will also produce The Many Saints of Newark, for which he wrote the script. The story places these earlier Sopranos in Newark right at the time of the 1967 riots.
For those unfamiliar with the riots of ’67, it’s hard to fathom the levels of violence 51 years later. After six days of clashes between African-Americans, the local police, federal troops, and local whites (including the connected Italians), 26 people died and many city blocks burned to the ground.
In the “Down Neck” flashback, you hear one of Johnny Boy’s associates ask a cop why they aren’t arresting blacks in Newark instead. If we learned anything from six seasons of The Sopranos, it’s that this family had no problems taking matters into its own hands.
In other words, if Johhnny Boy and Dickey don’t see proper levels of crowd control by the authorities, you can expect them to engage. (Fans of the most violent moments of The Sopranos are not likely to be disappointed.)
Yet we can also expect to see a changing of the guard in Many Saints. Nivola recently told Esquire his character Dickey was among the first generations who didn’t speak the language of the old country. “An element of the story that’s important is that I can’t speak Italian, and that I can’t communicate with an Italian immigrant who I get to know,” he said.
With shooting of Many Saints slated for April 2019, we’ll have to expect the film later that year or early in 2020. In the meantime, fans who want more clues can watch Sopranos flashbacks or read up on the riots of ’67.