While The Sopranos showed numerous gruesome death scenes, Adriana La Cerva was killed 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.
Adriana’s story in The Sopranos season 5 was a sad one. The stress of being an FBI informant — something Adriana was cornered into doing to avoid facing criminal charges for drug possession — is taking a toll on her health. Adriana eventually confesses all to her boyfriend, Christopher, in The Sopranos season 5, episode 12, “Long Term Parking.” He reacts by nearly strangling her death, but the couple later appears ready to start a new life elsewhere; however, Christopher betrays Adriana by informing Tony about her conversations with the FBI, effectively sealing her fate.
The Adriana death sequence in The Sopranos involves narrative misdirection for dramatic purposes. Rather than showing Christopher’s betrayal, The Sopranos 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. He tells her that Silvio will pick her up and take her to the hospital. This, of course, is a ruse — Silvio drives her to a secluded wooded location and shoots her as she pleads for her life.
Why The Sopranos Killed Off Adriana La Cerva
The Sopranos killed off Adriana in season 5 because it was the inevitable conclusion to the FBI storyline. The show had proved over and over again that being an informant was a marker for death – just like how Tony killed Salvatore Bonpensiero (aka Pussy) in The Sopranos season 2 after figuring out that his long-time friend and associate had flipped. In terms of the metanarrative, Adriana had to be killed as a logical ending to her tragic story. As writer Terence Winter told Entertainment Weekly, “At the beginning of season 5, we realized it would happen at the end of the season.”
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 further addiction problems for Christopher, which ultimately leads to Tony killing Christopher in The Sopranos season 6. 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.”
Why Adriana Died Off-Screen On The Sopranos
According to Chase, 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, Adriana’s fate 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 since 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 Death On The Sopranos Was Almost Very Different
Originally, Adriana’s death on The Sopranos was different, thanks to an additional scene that was removed at Drea De Matteo’s request. An extra scene for “Long Term Parking” was shot that showed Christopher telling Tony that Adriana had talked to the FBI; however, De Matteo pushed to have the scene removed since it revealed her fate before she enters the car with Silvio. Without that scene, audiences don’t realize the truth of the situation until Adriana does — making the sequence all the more devastating. The scene between Christopher and Tony was subsequently included in The Sopranos season 6 — and Adriana’s death scene in “Long Term Parking” was better for it.