The upcoming Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark is set to have plenty of callbacks to the series, including a potential nod to a famous storyline involving Paulie. Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri stands out as one of the most memorable supporting characters in recent television history, so his inclusion in the prequel film was inevitable. From posters to the new trailer, the film’s marketing has prominently featured the Virgin Mary, which could tie back to imagery from one of Paulie’s most memorable episodes.
The Sopranos made its mark at the turn of the century by pushing the boundaries of television narratives in several unique and compelling ways. It set the trend through the 2000s and early 2010s of the tv anti-hero with its lead character Tony Soprano. The series also popularized more grounded, serialized dramatic storytelling thanks to creative freedoms lent by airing on HBO. Despite being the trendsetter, it’s still managed to endure and outshine all of the imitators that came later. The series proved so popular that some kind of follow-up has been talked about for ages. After the tragic death of lead actor James Gandolfini, a sequel to the series was out of the question. This is where the prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark, comes in.
The movie is written by series creator David Chase and directed by Alan Taylor, who worked on many episodes throughout the show’s run. It follows the early days of Tony’s crew, including a young Paulie (played by Billy Magnussen). The prominent use of the Virgin Mary statue reminds audiences of a Paulie storyline in The Sopranos season 6. After his true parentage was revealed, Paulie angrily cut ties with the woman he believed all his life to be his mother. Following this, he was diagnosed with cancer, and in the middle of the night, the image of the Virgin Mary appeared to him. This deeply shook him, and the vision led to him reconciling with his adopted mother before she died.
While the prequel film will not be focused squarely on Paulie, rather young Tony and Christopher’s father, Dickie Moltisanti, it still could make callbacks and references to the fates and storylines of other characters. The Sopranos had always been steeped in religious imagery, as the larger questions around God and the institution of the Catholic Church played a big part in the show’s thematic tapestry. The Virgin Mary and Paulie’s relation to it could end up being a part of the film’s story, however small that part might be.
Paulie was able to become a fan-favorite character during the original run of The Sopranos. As The Many Saints of Newark will undoubtedly seek to both honor and twist the show’s legacy, it can be expected that Paulie will be just as memorable and entertaining in his new, younger form. That said, it’s unclear if any Virgin Mary visions are in store for Magnussen’s character this time around.