also tittled: Don’t Tell Me the Sopranos Are as Good as They Used to Be
This is one of my biggest pet peeves, people who call themselves Sopranos fans but are consistently disappointed by amazing episodes. What are you expecting from this show? Because if you’ve watched the past two episodes of the new season you can’t really ask for more than that, this is television at it’s best and if you’re not digging it, go watch American Idol, play a gory video game, don’t come back to this show until you can appreciate it.
The season opener resolved so much that season 5 left hanging. We’ve now lost the FBI tail because they’ve lost their leads, New York is in prision and functioning with Johnny Sachs talking through the Phil Leotardo, for now. The tension between towns is still heavy but we are made to understand that this is not the time for war, which is part of the glorious part of the mafia. The mafia in the world of Sopranos is outside the realm of American law but functions similarly to a governmental system. Many times the characters have referred to themselves as soilders: Tony being painted as a captain by Paulie, The episode in the fifth season that discusses that even though Tony B has gone against the family they still must protect and serve the family even if they don’t agree because they are an army and all go down together.
Ultimately though, the show is about family. And the Soprano family is growing older. Meadow is engaged and dealing with a relationship ups and downs, Anthony Junior is still hopeless at school but now he looks older, thinner, hipper with long hair, but still has the same pouty face, Carmela is still struggling with her feelings of entrapment in marriage and her project house is literarily falling apart. Janice, now with baby, seems to have given her attitude to her husband. And Uncle Jun’s Alzheimer’s is obviously worse. This all seems to be growth of static and just when you fear that it will all be baby steps.
And Tony Soprano is shot down.
The second episode of the season was anything but boring. It was written by David Chase, who not only created the show but frames every season by usually writing one of the beginning and finale episodes of the seasons. His dialogue, setting and pivotal plotted action is pure genius.
The episode was split into two halves, Tony’s coma dream and the family dealing with Tony in the coma.
The coma was beautifully symbolic. The first thing we see is a California wild fire which sets up the idea that he may be in hell. He also sees a screen in the hotel which poses the question “Are Sin, Death and Disease Real?” and then the holy cross flashes upon the monitor. This duality of images on the screens is an indication that he is in limbo, and limbo is the Omni hotel.
Tony is forced to pose as Kevin Infinerty, which is noted that it is very similar to infinity, due to a “wallet/briefcase mix up”. He’s lost his identity, and even the identity he thinks is his own is false. The house he calls has an answering machine with a family that is way too happy and young to be his own. (“Quit picking your boogers!”) When his wife picks up the accent, tone and cadence of the voice is nothing close to Carmela’s (it actually sounds a little like Gloria Trillo, the car dealer mistress who killed herself) and his job is not waste management. With his new identity of Kevin Inferinerty, Tony checks himself into the hotel and in the classic fashion of Tony never getting a break even the false identity isn’t liked. Kevin Infernity is apparently hated by Buddhist monks who he screwed over. He is slapped by a monk.
Tony is trapped between life and death, and his coma dream is uncertain. He’s not sure who he is, or if he should stay. It’s a fascinating prospective of limbo. That has so many nuances that I could barely give them justice by describing.
If that’s not mind blowing enough for you, you’ve got Carmela by his side*, giving the best performance an actress can give. She has to face the fact that they were awful to each other but she needs him. In a magnificent monologue she speaks not only of a time when they were young and in love, but when she used to be, and in fact still is, aroused by his overwhelming strength. This beautiful sincereity is something rarely seen in television drama and should be heralded, not thought of as “boring or dragging”.
The other amazing take away that I’ve hardly heard spoken about it Anthony Juniors parting words to his father. AJ is blaming Uncle Junior for incapacitating his father and he is swearing revenge. If this is a plot line that is actually followed this would be a huge change of direction for the show.
So don’t tell me nothing happened. Great television happened. The Sopranos is a serial drama at its best, not weekly Goodfellas and if you can’t take it, I recommend watching Family Guy and calling it a Sunday night.
*Fun Fact: Edie Falco has played sad wife to a gun shot victim before, and I'm not talking about when Tony was shot in season one. She was on another AMAZING drama Homicide: Life on the Street where she played Thormann's wife who was shot, if you watch the episode "Son of a Gun" you can clearly see the growth in ability.