NEW YORK - The next-to-last episode of "The Sopranos" found one member of Tony's crew meeting a bloody end, another in critical condition and even Tony getting terminated by his therapist.
For the moment, Tony is still alive. But life has been falling apart for him all season, on many fronts, at an escalating rate. Losses he has suffered range from business income (as his crew's earnings plunge) to self-esteem (his depression has returned with a vengeance).
He's been forced to watch as his aimless son, A.J., was hospitalized for depression, and as daughter Meadow ditched her plans to study medicine.
He also lost his nephew Christopher, who he once imagined would take over the crew. (Tony took an active role in this development: Fed up with Christopher's disloyalty, he killed him a few episodes ago.)
In sum, Tony has lost the one thing no mob boss (or ordinary family man) can afford to be without: control. Tony is flailing, as Sunday's episode demonstrated disturbingly.
(Spoiler alert: If you plan to watch the episode later and don't want a casualty report, stop reading now.)
With hostilities boiling between New Jersey capo Tony Soprano and the New York mob, Brooklyn boss Phil Leotardo ordered hits on Tony, consigliere Silvio Dante and top soldier Bobby Bacala (who is Tony's brother-in-law).
After getting tipped to the execution order by an FBI agent, Tony declared, "We gotta hit first."
Tony summoned two gunmen from Italy to take out Leotardo. But they shot the wrong gray-haired guy, an innocent victim.
Meanwhile, the very much alive Leotardo (Frank Vincent) disappeared as his own people struck back.
Bobby (Steven R. Schirripa) was shot down in a hobby shop, where the model-train buff was about to buy a new train for his layout.
Then Sil (Steven Van Zandt) was critically wounded in the parking lot of the Bada Bing! strip club. Later, word came down that he wasn't expected to regain consciousness. (Patsy Parisi, at the wheel of the car in which Sil was a passenger, was apparently uninjured by the shooters and fled on foot.)
Earlier in the hour, Tony's psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi, kicked out her longtime client after conceding, with dismay, that a recent study was right: Sociopaths don't improve from therapy, but use it to sharpen their antisocial skills by manipulating the therapist.
"We're making progress," huffed Tony when Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) grimly announced she wouldn't be treating him anymore. "It's been seven years!"
The episode ended with Tony sending his wife, Carmela, as well as Meadow and A.J., into hiding.
"It's just a precaution," Tony insisted.
Separated from them, he was last seen in a tiny bedroom of a strange house in the dead of night, cradling a huge weapon, with Paulie and others of his dwindling crew downstairs, on guard.
Back at the Bada Bing!, the Doors song "When the Music's Over" had been playing. And even if the viewer didn't know that next week is this HBO series' final episode, the truth was obvious: For Tony and "The Sopranos," time is running out.