Monday, March 13, 2006

Sopranos Redux


OK. I was wrong. This was a very surprising episode and a good one because the writers resisted the impulse to turn it into a warmady: it was not soft.

The major plot which, presumably announces the theme for the season, was the impossibility of getting out. Tony will not release a minor character, who comes into an inheritance, from is mob obligations and the character, who it turns out has been ratting to the feds all along, squeezed between the mob, the cops and his family, hangs himself. It echoes the Adrianna theme: the feds lose an informant by turning the screws too tight.

it's the echoes of earlier episodes that make this series a cut above the usual and provide an aesthetic unity that make it, as I still believe, the Great American Novel. Carmella does lunch with Angie Bumpasera, widow of Pussy who's gotten whacked, and they compare their new cars. Carmella, impressed, asks Angie if she's bought the car herself and Angie, who doesn't get it, says that she paid cash because it was a better deal.

Recall the episodes following Pussy's whacking. Tony, in the finest traditions of the Mob, takes Angie on as a financial dependent, but gets angry when it turns out that she is driving a Cadillac while pleading poverty to Carmella. He smashes in the windows of her car and warns her that if she needs money he is the only legitimate source--she isn't to complain to Carmella or attempt, what he regards, as scams. Angie, who has been trying to pick up extra cash by passing out samples in the local supermarket, then persuades Tony to let her run Pussy's body shop, and does a decent job of it--such a decent job that she can buy her own car, and a very nice one at that, for cash, something Carmella envies.

Carmella's pseudo-business, financed by Tony, is not doing so well. In partnership with her father, she's built a "spec house" on a $600,000 lot in the woods where Tony buries his bodies. Predictably De Angelis pere has cut corners illegally expecting that that inspectors can be bought off and, it seems, they can't. Without being smarmy, there's a heavy moral message here: if you run an honest business, like Angie's body shop or Hesch's music business, even if you get help from the mob, you will get a car, or a horse farm, and do ok. If you run a pseudo-business or a front operation, like Carmella's construction business or Adrianna's night club, you will not do ok. The theme here should be the Mob and the Protestant Work Ethic.

There are other fascinating threads that will be picked up. Artie and Charmaign are getting back together, which I predicted. And I suspect that the deal is that Vesuvio will not be a front for the Mob. Then there is the solidarity of mob women theme--Carmella mending fences with both Angie and Ginny. I'm not terribly worried about Tony's being shot by Uncle Junior--he did dial 911 even if he didn't manage to say anything when they answered. The paramedics will come to the house, keep Tonly alive and get him to the hospital.

I'm more interested in Janice and Bobby. Bobby plays with model trains--wearing a train-drivers cap. Who's surprised? Janice, awful as ever, has had a baby. This is really, potentially at least, a story of redemption. I am still convinced that at the end, Tony will die (or less likely be incarcerated), the Jersey mob will collapse, and Bobby and Janice will walk out unscathed, possibly into a sitcom. Maybe because Janice, that perfectly appalling fat, curley-haired, redheaded, hippie bitch is a little bit of an alter ego but I'd also like to see Virtue triumph, and the only virtue left so far is Bobby.

7 comments:

Lindsay Beyerstein said...

Great post, h.e.

Still, I'm not sure that Carm's spec house is that much less legitimate than the other mobbed-up businesses in the show.

The spec house is like Artie's restaurant and Angie's body shop--as legitimate a venture as possible within an culture of all-consuming corruption. Presumably, Angie is still stripping cars for the mob like Pussy did. Artie's restaurant is a haven for mobsters.

It will be interesting to see how Carm deals with the inspector's revelation about her her father's shady business practices. At this point, it seems like she's going to have to make a choice (redoing the house according to code, or getting Tony to intervene on her behalf).

Anonymous said...

Actually, I found Carmela's get-togethers with Angie and Ginny especially interesting, because it seemed as if her motivation was to lord over their difficult financial situations with her new car. And then, voila, perfect justice when Angie's self-sufficiency "topped" Carmela's new toy in the end.

Speaking of self-sufficiency, I'm curious as to *why* Tony didn't "make the call" to run off the lumber issue. Did he intend, consciously or subconsciously, to undermine Carmela's grasp for some independence?

BTW, I get the impression that the correlation between Carmela's woods and Tony's dumping ground is only metaphorical. Usefully metaphorical, but not literal I don't think.

Anyway, my overall impression is that we're due for lots of surprises yet. These people impress me with their unpredictability, and this first episode of the new season reinforced to me that they're intent to thwart our best guesses.

I'm most curious how the misunderstood suicide will ripple through the group. Will this lead to some unprecedented soul-searching and character development for Silvio? Or motivate the wife to talk to the authorities? That story, rather than done, will prove mightily catalytic, I think.

Boofykatz said...

Sorry, philosophy or junk TV? Brendan Behan - nationalist, not your kind of enlightened liberal. Can we do without the (pardon expletive) shite pseudo-culture?

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I never missed an episode of the Sopranos. When did Janice announce she was pregnant? I must have fallen asleep, where did the baby come from? Somebody help!

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