Finally a good episode of The Sopranos on Sunday, because this season of The Sopranos so far had sucked my left nut and moved on to my right. I would not have thought they'd kill off Ralphie, who, in a sneaky move by the writers, appeared to have turned some kind of corner in terms of moving from full-blown sociopath to like less of a sociopath. As a matter of fact, his transition to "nice guy" had, on the whole, been unconvincing when you consider how out of control he was in season three. It's the same arc the writers followed with Richie Apriel. He starts out as a wild man and they gradually tame him as they realize maybe they'll keep the character around for awhile.
Saddest moment was the poor goat, the friend of the horse, who was all alone after his buddy died. In good complex fashion Tony's rage at Ralphie was misdirected. The horse, like his geese or ducks or whatever, had become symbolic to him, had become the little pet for Lenny from the Bugs Bunny take on Of Mice and Men. "I'm going to love him and pet him and stroke him and he will be my very best friend."
And Ralphie could have taken his beating rather than turn the fight into a struggle to the death. An incredibly real-seeming and discomfiting fight scene on the whole, with just one cliche that stood out, that being the knife. To wit: I don't think that, in reality, when someone grabs a really big sharp knife, it's going to be as automatic as the Berlin U-7 line that you are able to grab that person's wrist before he or she strikes. What if the knife wielder, say, blocks your grasping attempt with one hand and stabs with the other? I would say that, as often as not, your ass is going to get stabbed.
Why did Tony offer up his lame lie to the effect that he didn't kill Ralph himself but came upon his dead body? A participant on Slate.com suggested Tony did it to fool not Christopher but himself, as part of his necessary effort to delude himself, compartmentalize his homicidal monster. That sounds fine to me. I probably wouldn't have gone that way if I were a writer on the show, but we'll see whether their reasons are sound or not.