Paulie Walnuts and fantastic writing (The Sopranos)

I’m making my way through The Sopranos for the first time. Paulie Walnuts might be my favourite character. In the first season, when he kills a guy because he’s worried about poison ivy? Forget about it.

Favourite character-wise, it’s a tie between him and Tony’s mother. I’m in the second season, and the mother is not as present as in the first, so Paulie is edging it at the moment.

I wanted to talk about what I consider to be some excellent writing.

Paulie Walnuts goes to Italy

Paulie Walnuts
Photo by Michael Block on

In one of the episodes in the second season, Tony and the crew go to Italy. Paulie Walnuts is part of the entourage.

While in Italy, Paulie is cordial with the locals, only to be ignored. When given authentic Italian cuisine, he asks for “macaroni and gravy”, much to the disgust of the Italian mafiosos.

The state of the Italian restrooms leaves a lot to be desired.

When visiting a prostitute, he is excited at the idea that she came from the same village as his family. She smokes and itches her feet.

Overall it seems like it is presented that Paulie has a rotten time of it while in the motherland.

Now, most other TV shows would steer into the skid of Paulie Walnuts having a bad time in Italy:

“Yo’ Paulie, how was the trip?”
“Don’t talk to me.”

Where The Sopranos goes above and beyond

But this is why The Sopranos is held in high regard. Paulie goes on about how great it was.

This may seem silly, but it feels true. How many times have we had a rotten time only to put on a brave face and said something was great?

I know I’ve done it, and if you’re being honest with yourself, you’ve done it too.

There is something about us humans where we can’t admit we wasted our time or money. There’s something about us. We can’t abide snobs, yet there are things we are snobby about. For me, it’s a film. For you, it’s coffee, books, your hops enriched IPA bullshit. Whatever it is, there is something.

But The Sopranos, David Chase, whoever can articulate these elements of human nature. It’s one of those things; there’s no proof that this happens, but it feels true.

Now there’s a chance I’m reading too deeply into things, but it seems like it’s there. Other elements in the show make me think that it is more than just a fluke. Like the show was able to get that kind of essence of a mother in a way never shown before. Tony’s mum tries to get him whacked, and when it goes wrong, she may or not be feigning dementia. It feels familiar without having experienced it myself.

When these moments happen, there’s a part of me that goes; I get what you mean.

It’s honest writing, and that is what makes it so fantastic.


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