March 20, 2006

Questions after watching last night's "Sopranos" and "Big Love."

1. Is Tony Soprano going to die? I don't know, but people keep Googling their way to this blog looking for the answer, so please speculate in the comments.

2. Does James Gandolfini enjoy playing a reclining man in a hospital gown with a gaping wound on his mountainous belly? Or is wandering around in dream sequences without any other actors satisfying enough? Are they punishing Gandolfini with these scripts?

3. Are these scripts a gift to Edie Falco? Is the actress groveling for an Emmy with all of these harshly lit, no-makeup bedside scenes?

4. Did "The Sopranos" and "Big Love" coordinate their Episode 2s so that we could spend as much time as possible in hospitals?

5. Do you think the arsenic is coming from the mysterious liquid Harry Dean Stanton keeps delivering to Bruce Dern? I don't. It's too obvious!

6. Don't you love Harry Dean Stanton and Bruce Dern?

7. Bill Henrickson is going to get arrested, right? The questions are: When? And who's going to bring the law down upon him? Tina Majorino?

8. Do you like the scenes that show Barb, Nicki, and Margene in their intra-household strife? Or are the scriptwriters a little desperate in looking for ways to illustrate this -- what with the loud noises and open doors during sex acts?

9. How does Chloe Sevigny convey so much while looking so impassive? Don't you love to hate Nicki?


TWM said...

I hope Tony dies. I am tired of him and his death opens up some really exciting story lines. The struggle for leadership is going to be fascinating. Can you say "wack-city?" The dream sequences were lame to me though.

I watched Big Love for the first, and last, time. It's just way to creepy. I would rather live next door to the Sopranos than those people.

Matt Barr said...

There seemed to be plenty of other actors in the dream sequences, to me. We're supposed to try and figure out who everybody is in real life, I think. I thought the woman at the beginning was Dr. Melfi owing to the slight physical resemblance but it turned out (I think) to be the doctor with the Alzheimer's diagnosis.

Falco is Emmy-ridden already, isn't she? As inscrutable as Tony's dream sequences were I thought the insight into how A.J. is thinking was about the only important thing we learned from this episode. (Janice's minute and a half was a riot, too.)

Presumably, next week will finish the arc with the dream sequences, we'll find out what that flashy beacon thing is out the window, and Tony will recover the briefcase that's his whole life.

miked0268 said...

Actually, the storyline is an ingenious way to portray the excitement of a power struggle *without* actually killing Tony off. Now we can have a few episodes of "whacking" but then Tony can still return to set everything right, without any absurd supernatural return from the dead crap. Brilliant.

Jeanne said...

6. I do; they are both so deliciously awful. HDS looks like satan himself in some of those scenes.

7. From what I have heard of Utah law enforcement re: polygamy, it's unlikely Bill would be arrested. Apparently they typically turn a blind eye to polygamy unless there is abuse going on.

My guess is that Bill & the wives are hiding their polygamy for the sake of the business and the older children, but only time will tell.

DF said...

I was surprised you didn't mention the biggest part of Big Love (at least for me, but my mind is in the gutter)- when they played cards with the visiting family, and two of the visiting wives were playing "footsie" with each other- implying a sapphic relationship.

Anonymous said...

Tony is not dreaming. Tony has had dream sequences before and they don't look like what we saw last night. Tony is experiencing an alternate reality.

Anonymous said...

Also, I think James Gandolfini enjoys playing bourgeois Tony. Also, I think the episode kicked ass.

John R Henry said...


Last night was the absolute worst episode of all 67 so far. Boring. It didn't move the story line forward at all. If it doesn't get better in Ep 3 (The synopsis in IMDB seems to indicate it might) I would be tempted to cancel my HBO.


I watched the first Big Love last week and could only get about 20 minutes into it. Then I watched it again during the week and fell in love with it.

There sure doesn't seem to be much romance in having 3 wives. Just seems like three times as much trouble as having one.

I like the way the show plays it more or less straight.

I thought the compound was one of the creepiest things I've ever seen on TV. All them womenfolk planting by hand and then washing the airplane? And 15 year old Rhonda. Creepy city!

I like Harry Dean S and he is great as Roman. Someone said Satan personified and I can buy that.

On another note: Ann seems to be very much against Polygamy and legalization thereof. I understand her objections and polygamy seems wrong to me too.

However, before banning it, I think we should consider a couple of things:

1) Bill Hendrickson's wives are all adults and in a consensual relationship. (As far as I can tell) Shouldn't women be allowed to decide for themselves how they want to live their lives? Would that not be the "pro-choice" position?

2) Historically and biblically, there is a lot more support for polygamy, in a variety of different cultures than monogamy. Certainly more than for gay marriage.

I agree that there are a lot of problems that seem to occur in polygamy. Abandonment of sons, spousal abuse, non-consencual relationships and so on. But we already have laws about those things.

John Henry

Michael Couvillion said...

Is it even polygamy? What is the law? Did Bill apply for and receive marriage licenses for all three wives, or just #1? Were there three ceremonies? Did he lie on any official documents?

Is it polygamy to marry once then have open affairs with two other people and run a conjoined household?

Dave said...


OK episode.

FWIW, I recall during the first episode of this season, when Burroughs did his book of the dead reading, he referred to the Devil, or evil, or something like it, when A.J. came on the screen.

Just and FYI: it's clear A.J. is going to make a name for himself.

Big Love: Still cannot get into it. The whole scene with Margene running under the table seemed way old is she supposed to be--12?

PatCA said...

I think the dream sequences are really the seven souls going through death of the body, per the Burroughs reading.

So I think we'll see several of Tony's souls do their thing, and then he may or may not recover. I hope it happens soon; comas are such a cliched device--unless Chase reinvents it, which is a possibility. Still, I adore the show and revere Chase as a writer.

me said...

"Big Love: Still cannot get into it. The whole scene with Margene running under the table seemed way old is she supposed to be--12? "

I find the show really creepy. I'm not sure if its b/c of cultural biases or if the show IS just creepy.:) Margie is one creepy thing . . . she comes off as about 19, already with 2 kids -- what is she doing with a 40 y/o man? Nikki has serious issues, but she was raised on the compound so she gets something of a pass. The first wife and Bill are really believable as a married couple in a committed relationshp, shared history, all that. However, it is not really believable that she'd be totally into having two sister-wives. I think the conflict btw Roman and Bill is interesting...he never should have made a deal with devil -- will he give up his material success or be complicit in evil???? :) Will Nikki realize her family is scary and WRONG or try to stick by them, dividing the Hendrickson family? How can Bill make possibly make three mortgage payments and support 7+ kids (Margie will probably get pregnant again soon) and three wives? The show is an interesting idea, but the vibe creeps me out.

As to whether polygamy should be legal: What we have now in these fundamentalist mormon communities is totally insane, abusive, and wrong, and neither the state nor feds seem to be doing a thing about it. So, I am not for legalizing the status quo. And, the complexities of polygamous divorce, child custody, etc. are mind-boggling. :)

XWL said...

Answering your questions in order:
1. No
2. Yes (what could be easier than heaving your belly up and down, and get paid for it), Yes (though I'm saying both are satisfying, he gets to portray a whole new character, while still maintaining a hint of 'Tony'-ness), and finally No.
3. Yes, and Yes (shamelessly)
4. Probably Not
5. Yes, and to be obvious sometimes is the best way to fake out an audience
6. Yes, but not in that way (did you see their hands in that hospital scene, impressively aged)
7. Yes, Season 4, His eldest daughter (after she becomes a committed LDS)
8. No, and Yes
9. She doesn't, but she's a cypher, you read into her face the emotions you won't her to portray despite the lack of movement (sort of like with the mouthless Hello Kitty), and yes (she's easy to hate)

Not that anybody asked, or was expecting a one for one answer to each question, I provide it anyway

joewxman said...

I was trying to figure out who is the voice on the phone with Tony. My guess is Annabella Sciorra is the voice!

Wade Garrett said...

I've liked Chloe Sevigny since The Last Days of Disco. She's very understated and is willing to take unsympathetic roles. The mere sight of Bill Paxton usually pisses me off, but I've really liked him in Big Love so far.

Now that I think about it, I haven't watched a non-sports or news television program on anyt network other than Comedy Central or HBO since The West Wing jumped the shark a couple of years ago.

paul a'barge said...

I don't have much to add ... wow, you and your commenters are "the nuts", as they say in Texas Hold 'em. I certainly don't agree with all of them, but everyone is so spot on, thoughtful and erudite.

By the way, I agree with the Emmy-goal thing, but I think that before he comes out of the coma, Gandolfini is going to earn an Emmy ... just watch.

And, watch A.J. This is his year. Think Michael Corleone in the first Godfather. A.J. is going to make a commitment to the family business that will stun us, this season.

My take on Big Love ... does Bill eat Viagra like grapes or what? You know, I had never thought through the polygamy thing in that level of detail, but for me, watching Bill have to pop those Viagra pills just turned me off to polygamy by an order of magnitude. What a burden (yeah, right).

And, the car chase scene, when Bill was not allowed to drive into the compound? Look for some violence in future scenes.

Beth said...

I don't think Tony will die, but it's a guess. The montage of HBO promos after the show included a shot of Tony and Carmella at what looks like a wedding; I don't think that's one of his dream sequences, as the voice of the wife on the phone is not Carmella's. Hmmm.

Can't get into Big Love. I'm probably oversensitive on a personal level about the same-sex marriage/pologamy association made by some. But I'm also bored by the Desparate Housewives, all in one family, plot. Too much heterosexuality for me (I'm kidding.)

The HDS character is intriguing, and the whole Morman infighting and intrigue plot is good, but the main plot of the three wives bores me so far.

The first ep had a great punchline, in the fast-food joint: Heather has three mommies!

Anonymous said...

"I was trying to figure out who is the voice on the phone with Tony. My guess is Annabella Sciorra is the voice!"

I think you're right.

Marduk said...

Guys, guys guys... there was no dream sequence in Sopranos this week. Tony's dreams are always disjointed. This was not.

One one side of the hotel is a fire that won't go out. On the other side is a beacon of light, calling to him. His 'hotel' is in the middle, and he can't get out no matter how hard he tries.

Tony is in Purgatory.

The bartender said the place is always dead. The TV commercial asked if death, disease, etc, existed. Kevin Finnerty. Yeah, Infiniti, or 'infinity'. His timeless soul.

"Where am I? Who am I? WHERE AM I GOING?"

It wasn't a dream.

The fun of Sopranos is digging in deep. Last night's episode was extremely entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Marduk: Good God, that's brilliant! I'm going to watch the episode again.

XWL said...

Another thought on Big Love, I guess what the makers are saying is that polygamy can only be equitable (from a sexual satisfaction standpoint) if all the women are bisexual.

(brings new meaning to their repeated mantra of 'oral is moral', if it's a satisfactory substitute for copulation between a man and woman (even unmarried as was implied for their teenage son), why not a woman and a woman, or a man and a man?)

And I believe Marduk is on point, Tony is going through his trials and stages in a purgatory like limbo (or is that limbo like purgatory?) before his soul is either deposited in the hell he so richly deserves or slides back into his wrecked body (which given his attitudes towards infirmity would be a different kind of hell, the amount and kinds of damage they are suggesting the bullet did are permanent and will need to be addressed narratively for Tony till the series is done).

Beth said...

Marduk and XWL--I agree. Carmella says as much near the end of last night's ep, when she tells him he's a good man, he's not going to hell, he's coming right back here. I saw that as irony.

Ann Althouse said...

John R. Henry: "Ann seems to be very much against Polygamy and legalization thereof. I understand her objections and polygamy seems wrong to me too."

I'm against the official status of marriage being extended beyond two persons, as I've written about elsewhere, but I don't support the criminalization of private sexual arrangements (between adults). I certainly don't think persons who adopt a plural marriage arrangement for religious reasons should be treated worse than group of sexual libertines. It's purely a matter of private arrangement that is none of my business. If there is underage sex or abuse of children or rape or slavery, that is different. Do I disapprove of the morality of polygamy? Not particularly. It's no worse than a lot of other sexual things people do that we don't bother getting upset about when they don't directly affect us.

Cat said...

AJ as Michael Corleone? MC was smart. He was more like Meadow. AJ is a dunce. A DUNCE. Lazy, uninquisitive, self involved. I think we are talking about a Fredo here.

As far as why Barb would let her husband take on 2 wives? It was brought up in the first episode by the Prophet's child bride who said Bill brought in two other wives because of her cancer and hysterectomy. All she said was, "it's more complicated than that," but it's clear it WAS her decision. AND he mentioned last night how much Barb misses LDS (the Latter-Day Saints), but they aren't ready to rejoin a she has some religious beliefs that she shares with her husband about family. She was NOT conned into this arrangement and neither were the other women.

Agreed - the compound is creepy. Their dress, etc. The women are indentured servants. Disgusting.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: "Too much heterosexuality for me (I'm kidding.)"

Episode 2 suggested we will be seeing sex among the women.

Marduk: Great point about Purgatory and infinity. I would add that Carmela was saying "Don't go to hell" and that sort of thing.

Cat: I agree: AJ is too stupid to take over. And why would the brilliant scriptwriters just crib the ending from "The Godfather"?

PatCA said...

I think you are correct that it's not a dream but some sort of halfway point between life and death, which is pretty much the same as what Burroughs said in his voiceover in the first episode. "The Egyptians recognized many degrees of immortality."

These are aspects of Tony's soul trying to get free--the beacon is heaven (or hell). Finnerty is obviously Good Tony, and his family I bet will be new characters all together as he wanders confusedly in life's twilight. I wonder what his other souls will look like, and I wonder if he will get where he's going. We shall see.

PatCA said...

Oh, and Big Love, I do not Big Like. The characters reveal no inner structure. It's just a giggly imagining, from the outside of a particular milieu, (like American Beauty and Six Feet Under), rendering it some sort of male fantasy: one man trying to satisfy all those jealous gals! Whoo, hoo! Oh, and lesbian footsie under the table. What next, to spice up a soap opera story line?

This is what is known in Hywood as "edgy." I would much rather see a series about people who actually believed in polygamy and lived the principle. Now, that would be edgy.

Dave said...

Wow, the concept of purgatory never occurred to me, but you very well may be right.

As for the voice on the phone: yes, it's Annabella Sciorra. At least, it sounds like her.

Beth said...

Episode 2 suggested we will be seeing sex among the women.

Hmmm. It remains to be seen whether that will mean lesbians, or heterosexual eye candy. But what the heck, I'll go ahead and set the Tivo.

I like Bill Pullman, so I want to like the show. Chloe Sevigny is compellingly creepy. That blankness she exudes runs the gamut from glamorously detached to borderline learning disabled, depending on the role.

Anonymous said...

"Chloe Sevigny is compellingly creepy. That blankness she exudes runs the gamut from glamorously detached to borderline learning disabled, depending on the role."

That's the best description of Chloe Sevigny's star quality I've ever read. Chloe Sevigny is beautiful, but there's a weirdness too, even when she's not playing weird. She's an interesting actress.

amba said...

Marduk's right, IMO.

Andrew said...

I was pretty sure the voice on the phone was Charmaine Bucco. That would fit into the whole "alternate reality" thing pretty well.

Unknown said...

Tony is in purgatory.

He is between the fire of Hell (Costa Mesa is burning) and The Light (The Searchlight that is seen in the distance from his hotel room).

In the hotel Tony checks in to under Finnerty's name he is given a room on the 7th floor. This may be a reference to the the seven terraces of Purgatory in Dante's Inferno. When Tony falls in the stairwell he ends on the he fell on the 5th floor. This may correspond with the Fifth Terrace, Avarice or Greed.