Little Carmine Lupertazzi Really was an Idiot

little-carmine-lupertazziLittle Carmine Lupertazzi is a character from the Sopranos and, if a fan of the show, you know he was generally portrayed as rather dimwitted. He often used malapropisms. He made poor managerial decisions and was largely not respected.

What’s interesting is that in the years after the show’s end his character has given rise to a rather popular theory that he was only pretending to be stupid. That in actuality he was luring his enemies into a false sense of security and biding his time to take over the family business. It is commonly, if not universally believed, the show’s controversial ending was actually the culmination of his nefarious plot. That he ordered the assassination of Tony Soprano and took over both families.

That’s what I’d like to discuss. Naturally we cannot prove anything one way or the other as it is a fictional show. Still, I’m of the opinion that it gives us an opportunity to examine the idea of how to be a good writer. Or at least one aspect of being so.

It is extraordinarily important to be honest with your audience.

Let’s imagine you are a mystery writer and the butler did it. You need to conceal this from your audience until the final reveal. To cover up the fact the butler did it you have an eyewitness see the butler somewhere else at the time the crime is committed. Only at the end of the novel do you reveal the butler has a twin brother. That is a betrayal of your audience. They have been given information which they used in their thoughts about the novel as it progressed.

This is bad writing. Your audience will be angry at this contrived conclusion.

Now, if you established the butler has the twin brother at some earlier point, then you have not betrayed your audience, you have merely fooled them. There is nothing wrong with this. The audience slaps their forehead and exclaims, “Of course! I should have known that. It was mentioned earlier.”

That is good writing.

This is why Little Carmine Lupertazzi is no secret mastermind. There is nothing to indicate as much. He is almost always portrayed as an utter fool.

We can say many things about the Sopranos as a television show but we cannot accuse the writers of being bad at their craft. We must assume the writers are good writers based on the content they provided us during six glorious seasons.

This is not just about Little Carmine Lupertazzi being an idiot. It is also a blueprint on how to be a better writer.

To a certain degree this is what separates excellent entertainment from its more common peer, garbage. What makes a good television show? Good writing, good acting, good directing, good lighting, etc. It is the sum of all these parts that brings us quality entertainment. Of which we desperately want more.

What books do you most enjoy? Movies? Television shows? Think about your favorite characters and ask yourself if their story was written in a consistent fashion.

We all want quality entertainment. Better television, better movies, better books. More shows like the Sopranos. That being the case, we must accept the fact that Little Carmine was an idiot.

Tom Liberman

12 thoughts on “Little Carmine Lupertazzi Really was an Idiot

  1. Who says that Little Carmine was a genius? Although he did have one moment that displayed wisdom (in his chat with Tony when he declines to go for the boss position).

    Like most on the show he was an opportunist. He already said to Tony he had no interest in being boss but he wasn’t happy about losing money to the NJ-NY crime war. This was a way to clean up two toxic personalities (Tony, Phil) and then install Butchie as boss (which he would have no problem with). Little Carmien and Butchie would have a power sharing situation. Little Carmine can enjoy the money on the side while staying out of the fray.

    Tony being killed by NY (on the orders of Butchie and Little Carmine) is the most plausible explanation. That doesn’t mean it is the culmination of some master plan.

    • Hi, Patrick. Thank you for the comment. You write “Who says Little Carmine was a genius?” The answer, it’s an extremely common theory among fans who hold your opinion on his ultimate takeover of the mob. The fact that many people say this and you seem to be claiming no one says this, in your first argument no less, throws your entire opinion into question.


      • Some people argue that Little Carmine was smarter than his frequent malapropisms suggest, I don’t know if that qualifies as a “genius”. In any case I will concede and we can argue the point over whether Little Carmine is “smart”, or at least smarter than his enemies and temporary allies.

        Carmine Sr. was a legendary boss and was also guilty of malapropisms (“there’s no stigmata these days”). He also stayed out of the fray and almost never puffed his chest out like the other bosses on the show (Tony, John, Phil).

        Remember Bobby Baccalieri mistook Nostradamus for Quasimodo in the early seasons but by the end of season 6 he had developed into a competent under boss.

  2. Hi Tom. I see your point and yet I disagree. Carmine showed shades of slickness here and there like when he was contrasted to Tony in front of Johnny while playing golf. And Little Carmine is able to turn Johnny Sacrimoni’s words on him at the end of the golf scene. Carmine is the most capable mind in the Cleaver financier notes-giving session and is able to direct the room. I see this as foreshadowing for later. And yet whether Little Carmine is Michael Corleone in disguise is less relevant than why it is congruent and dramatically appropriate for him to kill Tony.

    The show is all about Tony. Specifically Tony’s therapy. Little Carmine needn’t be a genius in order for this ending to be congruent. In keeping with the Sopranos theme of Tony’s therapy, when Dr. Melfi “fired” Tony, she acknowledged Tony’s rejection of any revelations that therapy had provided him.

    She acknowledged Tony’s self-condemnation to his own death. Tony might as well die if his therapy left him unchanged and we now are no longer privy to these sessions. As for Little Carmine. Little Carmine didn’t need a therapist and still listened to his epiphany about skipping the pool routine.

    Little Carmine didn’t need a therapist and acted on the content of his dream. Hearken back to season 1 and 6 and Carmella felt that Tony didn’t listen to Carmella and therefore needed a therapist. Well Carmine didn’t have a therapist and listened to his own wife and bowed out of his war with Johnny Sacrimoni. Every main character was guilty of malapropism except maybe Phil Leotardo. There are non-genius reasons why Little Carmine ordered the hit on Tony and they are self-contained to the sixth season. Little Carmine represents a foil or even an antithesis to Tony depending upon what characteristics we credit him with. Both were their father’s sons. Both harbored resentment towards their fathers. Carmine rested with his feelings and Tony did not. By running from his feelings towards Junior and Johnny Boy Soprano, Tony decompensated, just like Dr. Melfi predicted. After which Tony gave up on learning any lesson his dream had to offer him. Carmine made a choice to back off his ambitions to protect his family. Tony didn’t.

    In the name of toying with POV, which the Sopranos did so often, we see a demonstrated lack of Carmine’s POV when he loses the war with Johnny Sacrimoni. We see a lack of POV even though he was close to Rusty Millio who Tony ordered the hit on. When Carmine brings up Rusty at the sit-down the camera holds on Carmine for too short a period of time leaving it as a loose end. Carmine also says he will find out who killed Rusty and we never get back to if Carmine finds out. Carmine concedes to Tony that he was obsessed with being boss. Carmine is mad that Tony didn’t back him against Johnny. It is a logical arc then for Carmine to backslide and feel that same ambition again. So if Little Carmine is indeed the silent antagonist I can’t think of a better one. But no. I don’t think he was a hidden mastermind theoughout the seasons. I think his epiphany was real and made him smarter and more competent by Season 6, competent and vengeful enough to kill Tony by the series finale. Butchie made the deal as acting boss and afterwards acknowledged Little Carmine as the new boss. And in the words of Little Carmine “old treaties will no longer be honored,”

  3. “In the end, Louis clapped him in irons.”
    Little Carmine definitely did it. He conspired with Butchie, and Paulie stood down. The writers established that Butchie needed the money, from the beating of the construction foreman to the cell phone conversation with Phil where he was concerned about “sitting down” i.e. earning more once the whole deal was done. Little Carmine could easily have exploited this to recruit Butchie. Paulie’s grievances with Tony are documented extensively, as well as his tendency to seek sympathetic ears in NY to his plight. Lastly, malapropisms are used throughout the series to illustrate Little Carmine’s grasp of the big picture. He is savant, not an idiot. Also an opportunist. He is the Sun King, the spoiled “hair apparent” that is capable of wielding great power coming from his birthright as the titular head of the crime family.

  4. Why do people think Little Carmine is stupid?

    Because he frequently misspeaks.

    But misspeaking is common to lots of characters in The Sopranos, and several of them the audience is quite happy to accept as intelligent: Sil, Tony, Johnny Sack, and Carmine Lupertazzi, Sr., off the top of my head.

    So perhaps it’s not so much that the writers didn’t set up that Little Carmine is intelligent, but rather that they set it up so subtly that only the most perceptive and handsome internet commentators noticed.

    • That would be horrible writing. We’ve got this really crafty genius who is going to take over the entire business but we pretend he’s stupid so no one can see it coming. Bad writing 101.

  5. Niger, Tits, and David are on the money here. Tom you need to wisen up. The Sopranos writers aren’t undergraduates taking “Writing 101”. You sound like a child who is seeing Algebra for the first time trying to elucidate to his teachers that “Math doesn’t involves letters.” I might revist your blog once you finish “Life 102”. Until then, sayanara buddy.

  6. this is a stupid argument, “that would be bad writing”

    it’s not about good or bad writing. something can be written poorly. besides, who said it’s supposed to be written? it’s merely a theory from the fans, it’s based on the show, not the script.

    • Hi, Bill.

      Thanks for the comment. My point is the Sopranos is a beautifully written show for the most part. If the fan theory about Little Carmine is correct, it indicates poor writing on the show. As the show is generally well-written, the inclusion of a poorly written major plot point is unlikely. Thus, I think the fan theory is incorrect. I hope this explains my argument more thoroughly.


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