Let's go over exactly what happens in this scene again:

Karen brings something to Jimmy and Jimmy asks how Henry's doing. He gives kind of a flippant response to her answer, then looks down and is silent for a little bit. They have a quick conversation, he gives Karen a couple thousand dollars to put in her pocket, kisses her, and then offers her some dresses. She says she'll take them so he directs her to a store on a corner, kisses her, and says he'll see her later. He stands outside the place where they were, watching her walk down and directing her instead of coming with her. At one point he looks behind him quickly. Karen sees two guys lifting boxes behind a gate, then they pause and look at her. She stares for about thirty seconds and turns around and runs back to her car to drive away. Jimmy sounds upset and frustrated and says "no, no no no, it's in there! Right in there! Oh come on!" And then looks mad and stalks around after she drives off.

So was Jimmy going to have Karen killed by the two men behind the gate, or was Karen just super-paranoid? If so, what motive does he have, and if not, how can this scene be explained?

  • Also note that the scene is located at the corner of Smith and W (9th).. A possible allusion to the Smith & Western gun manufacturer?
    – user1419
    Jun 4, 2012 at 4:18

5 Answers 5


The scene is explained especially early - at the Lufthansa heist, where everyone was flaunting their cash after the crime. Jimmy is super paranoid, and will sever ties with anyone who can finger him. He killed or had killed everyone associated with that crime, including, famously, the wives. The surest settlement to anything dangerous to him is to have the loose ends killed. Henry, and by extension Karen, knew too much about Jimmy and were clearly a threat in his mind. She was certainly going to be killed.

  • Why did he take so long to kill her? Jan 3, 2012 at 6:14
  • 2
    I have to think Jimmy just finally got tired of Henry and his drug dealing, which he was helping keep from Paulie. Henry started as an effective earner, but had outlived his usefulness. Jimmy couldn't have killed Karen earlier without jeopardizing the relationship with Henry. Even if he had contracted it out, someone might have said the wrong thing.
    – wbogacz
    Jan 3, 2012 at 13:50

I also tend to think Jimmy's plan was to have Karen killed. As the FBI agent later tells her "don't give me the babe in the woods routine, Karen. I've listened to those wiretaps... you're talking about cocaine." Karen knew a lot and, as others have pointed out, Jimmy had spouses killed for less than that. I think the reason why Jimmy may have been sloppy in the hit is that he also seems to be losing it near the end. Henry narrates earlier when Morrie is breaking balls that Jimmy "was a nervous wreck".

Of course, as others have mentioned, the genius of Scorcese is that the scene is ambiguous, engaging the viewer to wonder.


He was gonna have her whacked PERIOD! As @wbogacz alludes to they knew too much and were a liability to him. If you listen real closely you can hear the men in the alley way say " Shhh Shhh" when they spot Karen.

Jimmy being a true bully didn't have the guts to do it himself, just like with Morrie, so he was gonna get someone else to do it. Henry thought he was safe because he only gave Jimmy the tip about Lufthansa, but Jimmy knew he could rat him out so.....


My conclusion was that, if he had wanted to kill her he would have. The fact that she survived says to me that she was never in any danger. Although it's a possibility it crossed Jimmy's mind. Perhaps we will never know.


I don't think so, because the only reason why he killed the wives too in certain scenarios is just because he had to. If jimmy wanted to kill henry and karen it would have been very very easy, he wouldn't have needed karen to walk into a dark alley.

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