May 3, 2004

For your "Law and The Sopranos" seminar.

Great episode of The Sopranos last night. I see Television Without Pity is giving it an A+. There was some especially choice law material. Carmela says [to Meadow] ''You have options; I have a lawyer,'' and then Tony's options are shown to include interfering with Carmela's ability to have a lawyer (as she searches for a way to reach the income not reported on Tony's tax returns). And Meadow comes out with a priceless college-class justification for her father's violent ways: some ripe sociology about the need to develop a form of conflict resolution in the old country where all levels of government were corrupt. Ha, ha. I'll have to rewatch this one to see all the angles. I love Meadow, and I love all the humor that is derived from the characters' outrageous lack of self-awareness.

UPDATE on second watching: How did Tony undermine Carmela's efforts to hire a lawyer? For one thing he consulted with the best divorce lawyers to the point where they saw a conflict of interest in representing Carmela.
Carmela: "See, I don't understand this. Why is my husband so picky? He talked to seven or eight of the top divorce attorneys in New Jersey?"

Lawyer: "Well, I think you can probably figure that maneuver out for yourself."

Later, Carmela finds one lawyer, but the effort to reach the unreported assets depends on the work of an investigator who bows out when he learns who is involved. Edie Falco is a wonderful actress: the scenes as she's learning what her situation is with respect to the divorce offer her few lines, yet we can read in her face her growing understanding. I felt that I could see in her face the moral responsibility setting in. She had made a deal with evil, and the law could not extract her from it. And then I felt myself separating from her: she deserves to be destroyed for her corrupt choices. There's a scene earlier in this episode that set me up to feel this way about her. She's meeting Tony at the restaurant and officiously informs him that she's "filing for divorce." She thinks the law is on her side and she has power. But before he stalks out he tells her off: you thought you were so innocent and that you could sit back and just enjoy the rewards, but you are infected by my corruptness. The message is: You are exiled from the benefits the law provides to other people.

Here's the Meadow line referred to above: "You know you talk about these guys like it's an anthropology class. The truth is, they bring certain modes of conflict resolution from all the way back in the old country, from the poverty of the Mezzogiorno, where all higher authority was corrupt." Extra hilarity points: She accuses him of sounding like someone who came out an anthro class, but she's straight out of Law & Sociology.