How Many Saints Of Newark Breaks & Retcons The Sopranos Timeline

Warning: Contains SPOILERS for The Many Saints of Newark.

As a prequel to The Sopranos that begins some 30+ years before the events of the TV show, The Many Saints of Newark changes certain events in the show, retconning the timeline of the series in various ways. Once again written by The Sopranos creator David Chase (who penned the script with another of the show's writers, Lawrence Konner) and directed by long-time series helmer Alan Taylor, The Many Saints of Newark is a movie that's very much in service of what's to come. Although it tells its own story, led by the presence of Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), this is - at least in part - the origin of Tony Soprano (played here by both William Ludwig and Michael Gandolfini).

Tony's not the only Sopranos character in The Many Saints of Newark, with most of its cast made-up of actors portraying younger versions of people audiences met two decades ago. Some of these, such as Vera Farmiga's take on Livia Soprano, are key to the story; others, like brief flashes of Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen) are largely just to keep with the time period and provide moments of fan service. The ghosts of The Sopranos linger over the film too, not least thanks to narration from beyond-the-grave in three key moments via Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli).

Related: Many Saints of Newark: Every Scene Christopher Narrates (& Why)

For the most part, The Many Saints of Newark does a good job of setting up The Sopranos, perhaps even to a fault. By the end of the movie, as Alabama 3's "Woke Up This Morning" kicks in, then it's clear where these characters will end up, even if that story is still over 20 years away. But it's not slavishly faithful to the details of The Sopranos (which itself had some minor inconsistencies along the way), meaning there are some timeline breaks and retcons.

The Many Saints of Newark goes so far as to recreate one scene from The Sopranos - the flashback to Johnny Boy (Jon Bernthal) taking Janice (played by Mattea Conforti as a child, and Alexandra Intratoras a teenager) to the carnival, with Tony secretly following them. As in the show, Johnny Boy is arrested and the scene takes place amidst the backdrop of the 1967 Newark race riots, but it does have a few changes. For starts, here it's Johnny Boy himself who tells the cop that he should be out arresting Black rioters, whereas in the show it's one of the crew's soldiers. That's a retcon to give Bernthal a little more to play with, but it's also significant for his part in the later timeline, where he leaves prison and expresses his disgust at people of color living in his neighborhood, so the change gives a throughline to his racism. It also has a slight shift for Tony too, as he's taken home by police, rather than making his own way in the show.

Following this incident, Johnny Boy faces trial and is sentenced to a term in prison. Ultimately he spends four years behind bars, but that means he would have been in prison in October 1969. As per The Sopranos season 3 (with a calendar showing the month and year in the scene), that's when Johnny Boy cut off the pinky finger of Mr. Satriale, an event Tony witnessed, but which can't have happened at that point.

As well as recreating one scene from The Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark brings another to life: the story Janice tells of Johnny Boy shooting through Livia's beehive while they were driving (heard in The Sopranos season 6, episode 13, "Soprano Home Movies"). In that version of events, Johnny and Liv were accompanied by Junior (played here by Corey Stoll) and his goomah; in The Many Saints of Newark, it's Dickie and Joanne Moltisanti (Gabriella Piazza). Similarly, the moment in the show is told almost as if it was funny, but the truth of the matter is very different - an intense, scary moment that invokes terror in Livia. These changes make sense, since Dickie is more important to the movie's narrative than Junior, but also perhaps help to highlight that The Sopranos was full of unreliable narrators, that memories can be misleading (or deliberately misremembered), and that the golden age of gangsters this was looked back upon was anything but glamorous.

Related: Why Junior Soprano Has Dickie Killed

One question raised by The Many Saints of Newark is regarding how old Tony Soprano is. The Sopranos established that Tony was born in 1959, and is around 40 in season 1 of the show. When The Many Saints of Newark was in development and it was rumored the movie would heavily involve the 1967 riots, there were concerns the movie would significantly retcon Tony's age, since he was being played by Michael Gandolfini and so had to be a teenager (at youngest) during the film's events. Instead, the 1967 events largely fit with The Sopranos, since the version of Tony played by William Ludwig is convincingly around eight-years-old. Things jump forward by four years, however, seemingly to late-1971 or early-1972, which would mean Tony should be around 12-13. Gandolfini, who is in his early-20s, is clearly playing a teenage Tony, but he's more likely around 14-15 at least, somewhat breaking his established date of birth in The Sopranos.

As mentioned, The Many Saints of Newark involves many Sopranos characters, which includes those who'd form a key part of Tony's inner circle. In particular, this means seeing Paulie, Silvio Dante (John Magaro), and Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakiola). In The Sopranos, it was very clearly established that Paulie was much older, as he spoke about being close to Johnny Boy and working with him back in the day, but it was strongly implied that Tony, Sil, and Pussy were much closer in age. In particular, there was talk of Tony and Sil coming up together and being part of the same group (such as the card game story), which suggested they were around the same age. Instead, it's clear that Sil is much older than Tony - Magaro is 38, though he could conceivably be playing over a decade younger. It can still work - Sil is younger than the others around him, like Dickie and Johnny, so it makes sense he'd bond with Tony and he looks out for him - but it is another change to what's established (or at least perceived) in The Sopranos.

Next: The Many Saints Of Newark Ending & Sopranos Setup Explained



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