Itís not a simplistic as there being some good in everybody, because I donít even believe that. Itís more there are glimpses of the man Tony might have been like if he hadnít had such toxic parents and been raised around people to whom a life of criminality is the norm.
I don't want to stray too far off topic, but since this show is as much a character study as anything else...
I don't think it's quite fair to boil this down to "nature vs. nurture", SuzN
. It's not like Tony's a would-be saint who was corrupted by bad parenting and the circumstance of his environment. Tony's a smart(-ish) guy, and with "all that entrails", he knows that he's had choices to make. He went to college, he must've seen and experienced other ways to live. If Johnny Boy really, truly wanted Tony to go into the family business, he would've sabotaged Tony's college aspirations. But given the chance, Tony was morally lazy. When he had a chance to buck up and do the diffcult, right thing or fold and do the easy, wrong thing, we know which he chose - and we know what sort of fantasy he had to sell himself about his dad in order to justify it. Not to mention the Kevin Finnerty scenario that sprung fully-formed from his subconscious; how much has he been thinking about "the life that could have been" for all those details to come out while he was in a coma?
He doesn't want to be the "poor me" guy for what he has had to deal with. He doesn't want to "go about in pity" for himself over his upbringing. His parents and his environment may have made his choice to be a criminal easier, but he still had to choose to walk through that door. Then, once he did, he had to choose how far to go with it. He doesn't believe that his life is beyond his control, he believes that he makes his own luck. So why should we give him a free pass based on his circumstance when he wouldn't give one to himself?
I don't think Tony's pure evil, and often I find the way he agonizes over hard decisions or how he feels about his family very sympathetic. I think that a lot of people see that Tony cares about and struggles with the things that any person would, and that also makes him sympathetic until he starts choosing
to color way outside the lines of accepted societal/legal norms. I just don't think it's right to characterize him as a "good man gone wrong, trapped in the life of a criminal for reasons beyond his control".
To try to tie this back into the discussion, it's interesting to note that AJ's already followed in his dad's footsteps and dropped out of school; hopefully his work experience has given him enough of a taste for (pseudo-)independence and honest living that he can make the hard choices Tony couldn't. Tony's dad probably brought Tony in to the family business either out of exasperation that Tony wasn't going to do anything else with his life or out of indifference toward the consequences it would have on Tony. One of the things that I've wondered over the course of the whole series, not just this season, is at the end, will either Tony or AJ have the strength to keep AJ out of "the life"?