Tonight the focus was on Tony's friend and advisor, loan-shark Hesh (played by Jerry Adler), and AJ's relationship with Blanca.
Tony owes Hesh two-hundred-thousand dollars. Usually this would be no problem for Tony to re-pay, but Tony is afflicted with a gambling problem. I don't recall this from any previous year, so the series loses points for bringing in a major new problem that we didn't know about before, just to support the action tonight. Other than that, though, we get some fine exposition of the relationship of Hesh and Tony - most especially Hesch's fear that Tony might kill him rather than re-pay the money.
Hesh probably speaks for every other major man in Tony's organization, with the possible exception of Silvio. They all must think, somewhere deep down, that Tony might kill them, given the right wrong circumstances. This certainly went through Paulie's mind last week.
But Tony has changed, and may be unlikely to kill any of them - if in fact, he ever would have been. Certainly he would never have killed anyone close to him over money.
Tony's money problems also brought him into conflict with Carmela tonight. But their big conflict - over what happened to Ade - has yet to come.
And poor A.J. ... Unsurprisingly, Blanca leaves him in the end. Life is tough for every son of a mobster in The Sopranos ... including Vito's son, whose story also wrapped tonight.
Hesh and Blanca likely put in their final significant appearances.
Nancy Sinatra put in a fine cameo - crooning to Phil Leotardo - continuing the great cameo tradition of Geraldo Rivera in these final nine hours.
We've yet to see much of Silvio, and Christopher and Carmela still have major unfinished business with Tony, and only five hours left to conduct it...
Naked Bodies, Three Showings a Week, No Commercials:
The Sopranos as a Nuts-and-Bolts Triumph of Non-Network TV my 2002 article, published in David Lavery's This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos
reviews of other episodes this final season: The Sopranos: First of Nine, Second of Nine, Third of Nine, Fifth of Nine, Sixth of Nine, Seventh of Nine, Eighth of Nine, Ninth of Nine
listen to free podcast of this review, and reviews of all the other final nine episodes