Pop quiz: if you could pick anybody other than your own dad to be your proud papa, whom would you pick? Personally, we'd go with Danny Tanner. The Full House patriarch has a cool TV talk-show job, which means we'd get to meet every celebrity that passed through Wake Up, San Francisco. And he's a total neat freak, which means we'd never have to make our own bed.
But, enough about us.
Henry learns from a young age that Paul "Paulie" Cicero is "the boss over everybody in the neighborhood." He picks Paulie to be his surrogate father. It's a solid choice, provided you can overlook the fact that Paulie is a mob boss who can have anybody that gets on his bad side whacked at will. Outwardly, Paulie is cool, calm, and collected. Unlike Henry's real dad, Paulie is not easily riled up. He hates conferences and commotion, and he even refuses to talk on the phone.
He's also super reliable. Hundreds of guys depend on Paulie for their livelihood, and, as long as they don't break the mob's code of conduct, he's got their backs. Big time. You get the feeling that if Henry joined the JV hockey team in between parking Cadillacs, Paulie would never miss a face-off. (And, if somebody checked Henry too hard into the boards, Paulie would have their legs broken.)
Father Knows Best
That's why it's so devastating when Henry lies to Paulie about his shady side business in the drug world. As the head of a mafia family, Paulie may be a thoroughly bad dude, but he's always done right by Henry. He basically adopts Henry when he starts working at the cabstand and clashing with his own father. Henry's betrayal of Paulie ranks right up there with Lando duping Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back.
Paulie and Henry's father-son bond is also why Henry takes it so hard when Paulie hands him a wad of cash and turns his back on him. "Thirty-two hundred bucks," Henry grouses. "That's what he gave me. Thirty-two hundred bucks for a lifetime. It wasn't even enough to pay for the coffin." Henry feels that Paulie owes him more, not just for his life of crime, but because he's his de facto son. Hey, Henry: your sense of entitlement is showing.
Ultimately, and in spite of his vicious profession, Paulie is a sympathetic character. He's not a hothead like Tommy. He's not a heavy like Jimmy. And, on the whole, he's good to his ungrateful surrogate son, Henry. So when Henry identifies him in court, sentencing Paulie to die in the slammer like Gribbs—the fate Paulie feared most—it stings like a pot of gravy to the face.