For Millennials. By Millennials.
Of all the episodes of The Sopranos, Pine Barrens is indeed the most memorable one. It’s just crazy when you think about it. Christopher and Paulie take a battle-hardened Russian Valery to the woods to kill and bury him. But, he ran off despite being shot in the head, and the two of them get lost in the woods for a whole night in the middle of winter! It’s just pure television. But, fans had been questioning for years what had happened to the Russian. Well, it looks like a writer on the HBO Original has their question finally answered!
Sopranos writer reveals the fate of the Russian
In this week’s Talking Sopranos podcast episode, Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa brought on Sopranos writer Terence Winter for a chat. Winter has 25 Sopranos episodes to his credit, and also has an Oscar nomination in his glorious career.
However, all that is put aside when you’re dealing with fans of the show. And so, Schirripa went ahead and asked Winter what became of the Russian from the Pine Barrens episode? Winter revealed that he had a very comical fate in mind for the Russian in The Sopranos. *Spoilers* He survived! Winter said:
I pitched David on the idea like, two years later Christopher goes to meet Slava and he walks in and the guy is sweeping the floor again and Christopher, they meet eyes. And Christopher’s like holy sh*t he knows me. And Valary turns around and half the back of his head is gone. He’s like clearly brain-damaged, he doesn’t remember anything and Christopher is like oh my god. And the guy is completely a vegetable and he just sweeps the floor. But, he keeps looking at Christopher like, I know I just can’t communicate.
And it looks like the perfect end for the Russian. But, Winter made the fatal mistake of suggesting to David Chase that the audience would love such a twist. Because that’s not how things went at The Sopranos. Pleasing the audience was never their aim, as Winter recalled:
And David was on board with it, or so I thought, and I think I made a fatal error, I said oh man the audience is gonna love this. And you know that’s the worst reason in the world to do it.
Writers on the show were always careful with guest appearances
The thing that sets Sopranos and its writing apart from other shows is that their writers didn’t just throw a character in and out of the show. They would introduce them subtly, let you know of their place in the world, be done with their arc, and gave them a satisfying end (mostly). That’s what Winter says they did with the Russian Valery. He made appearances on The Sopranos before the Pine Barrens episode too:
He didn’t come out of thin air and he was Slava’s best friend… So, knowing we were gonna do Pine Barrens, I said to David, ‘can we get this actor and just pop him into one or two episodes early when we go to see Valary’s boss, Slava? We’ll just have this guy, give him a line of dialogue. So, when we’ll see him again in episode 11, oh that’s the guy who was sweeping the floor.
And the Russian Valery was set to make an epic come back after Pine Barrens. And the audience would have loved it. Sadly, that was the very reason we never got to see that scene. Anyways, what do you guys think? Does it make sense for the Russian to survive like this? Let us know in the comments below.