March 27, 2006

"The Sopranos."

There's an excellent Television Without Pity forum on last night's new episode of "The Sopranos." (Spoiler alert.)

Everyone is quite taken with the scene at the well-lit house in the woods. It reminded people of "Titanic" and "The Shining" -- that elegant invitation to join the dead in a beautiful place. Was it hell? Did we see Livia inside? Then it can't be heaven! Why was Steve Buscemi listed in the credits as "The Man"? Tony didn't recognize him, though he seems to have recognized his mother.

What does the briefcase symbolize? It's Finnerty's briefcase, but now it seemed to contain Tony's life or his identity. We all get the "infinity" reference by now: Kevin Finnerty (who "drives a Lexus," the guy at the bar joked last week, alluding to that non-Lexus, Infiniti). I think the briefcase is his soul, and if he goes into death with the wrong soul -- Finnerty's/sin-burdened -- he will go to hell. He needs to take his baggage back into life and make things right.

Lots of folks can't stand Vito. Why has he become such an important character? Surely, not merely because the actor has "slimmed" down. (He's still very fat!) It must be that they are setting him up for slaughter. (He should be fattened for that, though!) The TWoP commenters are rooting for killing Vito, because they find the character boring. And he is too boring to become a main character. So, it's true: he's got to go. There's the homosexual theme with Vito, and that seemed to have something to do with his wolfing down a bagful of little carrots. Oh, the symbolism is rampant!

Some commenters complained about the revival of the Christopher-as-a-screenwriter theme. But then someone pulled that together with everything else that was going on in the episode. Christopher's ridiculous movie plot has a murdered mob boss reassembling his body and coming back from the dead to take revenge on those who betrayed him, and Tony is about to come back from the dead, and we were just seeing how his various underlings are scheming to take over. Therefore, we'll see Tony go after these guys, right?

Everyone loved the scene where Paulie and Vito give Carmela the envelope and she takes a second look at them as the elevator doors close. Edie Falco did that well, don't you think? You understood that she understood. The fat envelope that Carmela was eager to set down resonates with the wrong briefcase that Tony gripped.

Someone raised a really good question that was bugging me too. Why were they acting like they were trying to talk Tony out of a coma when last week we heard that the coma was induced coma to deal with the fever and sepsis? The coma wasn't the problem! Now, suddenly, it is?

Anyway, great episode. I need to watch it a second time to appreciate all the details. For example, what is the writing teacher talking about to that class just before he's rousted out of it? Nuggets of insight must be embedded there. What is Meadow's role? Her lying in bed next to her father seemed important, and it was her voice that warned him not to enter the Death House. Will she be the only one in the end who can run the family?

28 comments:

Dave said...

I agree it was a great episode, and the scene with the house was quite interesting.

Obviously I was not paying as much attention to the scene as you, as I did not see Livia in it.

What about Big Love? I'm still ambivalent about it.

Ann Althouse said...

I watched that episode of "Big Love" earlier in the week. It was avaiable "On Demand" for some reason, and now it's not too fresh in my mind. I planned to watch it again, but then didn't last night. So maybe this evening I'll write about it.

Dave said...

Yeah, I saw it on demand as well.

Wade_Garrett said...

I missed the episode last night, but my general policy is: "The more Meadow, the better."

Ron said...

If what you say about the briefcase is true, perhaps there's a Pulp Fiction connection: briefcases, gangsters, battles for the soul, (that final score: Sam Jackson 1, Travolta 0) the constant obsession with food...

Eric said...

IIRC, Cristophuh's screenplay wasn't about a boss coming back from the dead, the boss was one of the guys the undead mobster got revenge on.

And I don't think Tony's going to like the movie idea at all. It's a slip of Omerta which Tony takes very seriously (probably because he's in breech with his talking to Melfi.)

TWM said...

You saw much more in it that I did, Professor, so I will watch it again in the hopes I like it better a second time.

Ilkka Kokkarinen said...

Did we see Livia inside?

No question about it.

Why was Steve Buscemi listed in the credits as "The Man"?

Presumably, the writers didn't know which past actor whose character died in the show the producers would get to make a guest appearance, so they just wrote a generic part that any of the past actors in the show could play.

Alexander W. Funk said...

Soooo...what are your thoughts on Tony's potential brain damage? He seemed pretty out of it there at the end with Christuhphuh bugging him about the movie idea. To me, it seemed as though Tony's mind was working, but not his body. Perhaps this is setting up a protracted period where Tony struggles to regain his abilities, his family, and his position (surely usurped by Vito), leading eventually to Vito being whacked?

amba said...

I'm afraid first Vito is going to whack Finn, Meadow's naïve, cocky, in-way-over-his-head fiancé, who had the misfortune to see Vito going down on his friend. Maybe it'll be a rape-murder. That little menacing caress on the wrist at the hospital seemed like a threat and a promise.

amba said...

Oh, and here's my slightly different take on the Kevin Finnerty identity.

Tim Sisk said...

amba: At TWOP, there is a lot of discussion about the "Godfather" and "The Sopranos" parallels with AJ being the "Fredo" of the family, Chris being "Sonny" and Med being "Michael".

I doubt Med would enter the business (she's female, its a stretch of the imagination) but what if she did because Vito whacked her fiance Finn?

I think about this because Melfi's suggestion to Carm that essentially the kids are adults and its time for clarity (which I understood that its time for the kids to decide if they will be "complicit" or not).

Med seems like she could be the consigliari (spell?) that Sil isn't or can't.

Elizabeth said...

The thin Vito fits an old trope in Anglo-Saxon epics, "feast before famine." His fat time was unremarkeable except for hiding his homosexuality. But now he's in famine, and he wants, wants, wants. He wanted that pie in the cafeteria line. He wants the money. He wants to be the boss. Famine time never precedes good news. Vito is going down. As it were.

I like the idea of Meadow as boss. But Finn has got to go. He's to unsubstantial, too ferretlike.

PatCA said...

Buscemi was called The Man because the scene was from the POV of Finnerty, not Tony, and Finnerty doesn't know him. Why would Chase do this? If Tony were merely in purgatory, he would have known his cousin and been horrified at the glimpse of his vulture mother.

I think Finnerty is one aspect of Tony--his good, loving family man side. He does have that side or he wouldn't be in such conflict that he's seeing Melfi or responding to Meadow's call to return. His underlings don't have that dimension. Sil is a bureaucrat who folded under pressure, and Vito is simply pure greed and evil. Only Tony possesses aspects of each, and I think Chase will show us how the war for domination of Tony's soul will play out.

Another thing to consider is that the previews of Tony in control again might be only in his head, the way stroke victims feel they are saying something but are only producing gibberish. Just spitballing here, it was an awfully quick and complete recovery!

Ann Althouse said...

Ron: "If what you say about the briefcase is true, perhaps there's a Pulp Fiction connection..."

The TWoP forum was comparing Christopher's screen play to "Pulp Fiction."

TWM: I don't see all that much the first time. I need to watch it and then read the forums, then try to write about it, and then I feel like watching it again so I can really see it. The fun doesn't really start until you've watched an episode.

I like the ideas about the Vito-Finn connection leading to the death of Vito (and Finn?) and a big change for Meadow.

Crank said...

Was I the only one who thought that the house where the family reunion was reminded me - at least for its big white porch - of the house where Tony killed his cousin?

amba said...

Crank -- a lot of people on TWOP said that. They said everything, There isn't an angle somebody didn't cover. It's an addict's feast.

I also think Vito might kill Finn, or something. I have no idea how it will affect Meadow.

nunzio said...

I think a lot of the whole Kevin Finnerty thing is foreshadowing witness protection program, that other form of giving up your identity (along with death and alzheimer's), especially applicable to Tony Soprano.

And Paulie is one dumb SOB. It's obvious that Vito sent him to be killed when he told him there wouldn't be anyone at that Colombian apartment.

Brad V said...

Beowulf. The writing teacher was talking Beowulf just before getting thumped and dragged out. I believe it was something about Grendel, the monster.

amba said...

I think a lot of the whole Kevin Finnerty thing is foreshadowing witness protection program

Nunzio -- brilliant!!

Elizabeth said...

Brad, yikes, there might be lit majors among the writers. Beowulf contains the feast before famine trope more than once, and there are other parallels to this episode. Vito has made his heroic boast--"I'm young, I'm vital, I should be the boss." Under the Heroic Code of the Anglo-Saxons, you have to live up to your boast, or you're a shell of a man, or more likely, dead meat.

Hmm. That body parts script is also mirrored in Beowulf: the monster invades the hall and eats a sleeping warrior fet ond folma, "even the feet and hands"; Beowulf wrests the monster's arm from him in battle.

Finnerty could echo the battle of Finsburgh, but that's stretching it, I know.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: LOL. Someone should write a blog that's all about comparing elements of current TV episodes to things in classical literature.

Elizabeth said...

If I could put it on my CV, I'd do it! Since I'm an instructor, it's considered "uppity" of me to publish much. But the people who think that, in my department, couldn't find a blog without tech support. I think. Hope they're not reading this.

Lars said...

Sopranos, season 6 surprises. LOL

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/46465

JAL said...

Paulie in the Intensive Care room with Tony was hilarious. Just as funny as the Pine Barrens episode.

Blog Host said...

Buscemi had a part because in Hollywood actors are paid if they appear on screen. Although he is the director he is paid from a different account. Trust me, the producers, hence writers gave him a bonus. His original contract may even have called for a certain amount of episode appearances anyway.
Vito--I have a feeling he goes to Phil and accuses Sal and the other runner of complicity in the death of his (Phil's) nephew.
He convinces Phil Tony called for the hit and tries to form a war.
It's his only chance, he is a coward so he won't kill himself.
Big Love = big politics. The Hollywood gays are obfuscating gay marraige by profiling polygomous marraiges.
What was Tom Hanks thinking getting involved in this one?
Can't wait for Deadwood.

ashhar said...

Thank you for the wonderful effort

إني تذكـرت والذكرى مؤرقـة * مجـداً تلـيدا بأيـدينا أضعـناه
أنَّى اتجهتَ للإسـلام في بـلـدٍ * تجْده كالطيرِ مقصـوصًا جناحـاه
كـم صرفتنا يـدٌ كنـا نـصرفها * وبات يـملكنا شعب مـلكناه
بالله سل خلف
بحر الروم عن عرب *

بالأمس كانوا هنا واليوم قد تاهوا
وانزل دمشق وسائل صخر مسجدها * عمن بناه لعل الـصخر ينعـاه
هذى معـالم خرس كـل واحـدة * منهن قامت خطيبـا فاغرا فـاه
الله يعلم ما قلبت سـيرتهم يومـا * وأخطـأ دمـع الـعين مـجراه
يا من يرى عمـراتكسوه بردته * الزيت أدمٌ لـه والكـوخ مـأواه
يهتز كسـرى على كرسيه فرقـا * من خوفه ، وملوك الروم تخشـاه
يا رب فابعث لنا من مثلهم نفـرا * يشـيدون لـنا مـجدا أضعنـاه

ashhar said...

Thank you for the wonderful effort

إني تذكـرت والذكرى مؤرقـة * مجـداً تلـيدا بأيـدينا أضعـناه
أنَّى اتجهتَ للإسـلام في بـلـدٍ * تجْده كالطيرِ مقصـوصًا جناحـاه
كـم صرفتنا يـدٌ كنـا نـصرفها * وبات يـملكنا شعب مـلكناه
بالله سل خلف بحر الروم عن عرب * بالأمس كانوا هنا واليوم قد تاهوا
وانزل دمشق وسائل صخر مسجدها * عمن بناه لعل الـصخر ينعـاه
هذى معـالم خرس كـل واحـدة * منهن قامت خطيبـا فاغرا فـاه
الله يعلم ما قلبت سـيرتهم يومـا
* وأخطـأ دمـع الـعين

مـجراه

يا من يرى عمـراتكسوه بردته *

الزيت أدمٌ لـه والكـوخ مـأواه

يهتز كسـرى على كرسيه فرقـا * من خوفه ،

وملوك الروم تخشـاه

يا رب فابعث لنا من مثلهم نفـرا * يشـيدون لـنا مـجدا أضعنـاه