In The Sopranos season 6 episode 9, “The Ride,” Paulie sees the Virgin Mary in the Bada Bing – but why does he see the vision, and is it real? David Chase’s groundbreaking American gangster drama ran originally aired from 1999 to 2007. Written in his unique style and tone, the HBO crime drama elevated the genre of TV serial drama.
The series followed the life of Tony Soprano, a member of the New Jersey mafia who eventually became the boss. A supporting character throughout The Sopranos‘ six seasons, Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri was part of the Soprano crime family when Tony Soprano’s father, Johnny Boy Soprano, was still the crew’s leader. Making Paulie one of the crew’s longest-running members, and the only original member to make it through all six seasons of the show.
In The Sopranos season 6, “The Ride,” Paulie walks into the strip club run by the Soprano family, the Bad Bing, and sees the Virgin Mary hanging from the ceiling in midair. It’s a surreal moment in the episode and one that reflects the show’s ongoing theme of the supernatural. There are several reasons why the vision of the Madonna may have manifested at this point in the episode. It could be due to Pauli’s greedy decision to cut the church’s funding or even his callous behavior towards his mother. This would explain the vision if it were simply Paulie’s imagination – a hallucination brought on by his subconscious guilt. But before Paulie sees the Virgin in the club, the image is reflected in the mirror, which means that the audience sees her first. The fact that the scene isn’t simply a point of view shot from Paulie’s perspective suggests that something more complicated is going on.
Choosing to reveal the Virgin to the audience before Paulie sees her implies that the vision is real – at least in terms of the reality of the show. This in mind, the decision to introduce her first can be seen to confirm that the Madonna shouldn’t be dismissed as an illusion, but instead, a very real warning sign to Paulie and the other gangsters. This is something that Paulie will continue to struggle with for the remainder of the show’s final season, as indicated in The Sopranos series finale when he tells Tony about what he saw. But old habits die hard, and ultimately, even seeing the Virgin Mary isn’t enough to break Paulie away from his life of crime.
The show’s reference to the Madonna in the final season harkens back to the subconscious spiritual and paranormal symbolism that plagues Paulie — both in dreams and waking dream-like states — throughout the series. Whether or not it’s Paulie’s guilt manifesting these visions, or something supernatural, remains an open-ended question. But, while Paulie’s mind could simply be playing tricks on him, ending the series with the appearance of the Virgin Mary seems to hint at the fact that some inexplicable, spiritual force does indeed exist in the world of The Sopranos.