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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 September 2018 at 10:36pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

“Employee of The Month”.


I knew this one was coming, since the pop culture grapevine had previously spoiled it for me at some point or another. Dr. Melfi is perhaps the most likable and upstanding character on this show, and seeing her brutally raped is quite horrifying and unsettling. I’m also slightly uneasy with certain aspects the aftermath almost being played for laughs, such as Richard’s overreaction when learning that the police bungled the chain of custody. It almost feels like this brutal crime doesn’t quite have the emotional weight that it should, both on the characters and on the audience. 

Of course, the rape itself is really just a catalyst for the actual story point that’s being explored, which is a continued examination of the dynamics between Melfi and Tony. The entire point of the episode is laid down in that final scene, where she’s tempted to tell Tony everything—which will certainly cause him to unleash his full wrath against her attacker—but chooses not to. Great moment. Indeed, I read that this episode won the Emmy for Best Writing in a Drama Series, and I’d say it’s well-deserved.

Meanwhile, Johnny Sack (namesake of BREAKING BAD’s Juan Bolsa, a reference I now get) has entered the picture, and Ralph has taken Richie Jr, under his wing. Lots of setup for conflict in future episodes, here.

I must say the the sight of Janice literally golddigging with a metal detector was quite funny, as was her “finding God” after being attacked by Svetlana’s things. Very satisfying to see them smack her around, too. Janice is a horrible, obnoxious character. And I say that in a loving way, because Aida Turturro is great in the part, and the character is highly entertaining to watch.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 10 October 2018 at 10:18pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

“Another Toothpick”.


A fun episode, with a lot of good laughs—my favorites being the incredibly awkward opening (where Carmella and Dr. Melfi meet for the first time), and Paulie bringing a box of Whitman’s candy for the comatose Bryan.

We also have some great guest-stars, in the form of Burt Young and Charles S. Dutton. Young makes a very memorable impression as the dying Bobby Baccalieri. The sequence where he nearly botches the hit on his own nephew is very well-done, as is his subsequent car-crash death.

We also get more of Uncle Junior that we have so far, this season, and his cancer diagnosis is a downer. He’s a frontrunner for my favorite character, after all. 

Meanwhile, it’s quite interesting to see Tony veering back and forth between revenge, racism, and trying to make amends to Leon for the traffic ticket. I find it particularly interesting that, even after his gloating over being “right” about Black people to Meadow, he still tries to give Leon a whopping tip to cover his guilt at damaging his career.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 17 October 2018 at 5:16pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

“University”.


A solid episode, one which takes a step back to focus more on the supporting characters. I was totally right about Caitlin being bipolar. Meanwhile, we get a sense of Meadow’s inner life, as she loses her virginity to Noah. Possibly because she’s in love, and also possibly as an act of rebellion against Tony. Maybe both. 

As for Tony, this episode again gives the sense that he greatly prizes the notion of honor among thieves. We get a very clear picture of just what a nasty, vicious little monster Ralphie is, and he provides a sharp contrast to Tony. Tony is also a monster, but there are certain lines he dosen’t cross, and it’s painfully evident that Tracee’s murder affects him deeply. Especially since she spent the bulk of the episode basicslly asking him for help. Tony, of course, didn’t want to get involved in the drama, and so Tracee ended up dead. Tony’s first reaction to that is to violate his beloved mod code and beat the tar out of Ralphie, who’s also a made man.

Given what’s been established about Ralphie and his ambitions, I get the sneaking feeling that a power play/mob war is gonna fire up because of this incident.

In reading up on the trivia for this episode, I see that a lot of people cancelled their HBO subscriptions, after watching this episode. After all, a pregnant stripper is literally beaten to death onscreen (and, prior to that, she’s just plain beaten by Silvio). Not exactly pleasant material. And what does it say that shows like THE WALKING DEAD—on basic cable—now casually show far worse and gorier violence? THE SOPRANOS weathered some controversy in its day, but it seems positively tame by today’s standards.
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Petter Myhr Ness
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Posted: 18 October 2018 at 12:47am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

That scene was pretty disturbing, I remember. And that from a show where people get killed all the time. 

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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 20 October 2018 at 2:38am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I don't think you can compare
anything that has happened on
The Walking Dead,to the scene
of Ralph killing his pregnant
young girlfriend.

Much like a previous episode's
rape scene, The Soprano's
depicted the scene in a very
realistic manner.

No matter how gory the Walking
Dead might get, there is always
a huge suspension of disbelief
because the show is dealing
with Zombies.

Another important difference:
society in general REALLY does
not like to see violence
against women,and a young
pregnant woman ratchets that up
even more.

The Walking Dead has not shown
a pregnant woman get brutally
killed.
They've shown the after-
effects, female zombies, child
zombies, but they've stayed
away from actually showing a
zombie ripping apart a child or
pregnanct woman.

Edited by Marc M. Woolman on 20 October 2018 at 2:40am
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 01 November 2018 at 11:23pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

“Second Opinion”.


A very dense episode, with a lot of character stuff going on. Nice to see that Big Pussy’s death still looms over Tony and his world. The use of the Big Mouth Billy Bass (definitely a touchstone for the era the show was filmed in)—and Tony’s violent reaction to it—is a nice touch.

Of course, Tony continues to grapple with his guilt over Pussy’s death, Angie makes things worse by causing Carmella to start asking questions. The scene where Tony intimidates Angie into only mentioning her financial problems to him manages to be both funny and disturbing. He’s willing to continue to guilt-pay her, but he doesn’t want to have to think about why he’s paying her.

Meanwhile, we also another funny intimidation scene, as Tony and Furio press down on Dr. Kennedy to answer Uncle Junior’s calls. It’s very in-character to have the paranoid Junior suggest that Tony might be trying to steer him toward inferior cancer care just so he can take full control of the family. The irony, of course, is that Tony is going out of his way to flex his muscles at Kennedy just for the sake of Junior’s peace of mind.

The plot line with Chris enduring his probationary period under Paulie’s thumb continues to be amusing. Tony Sirico is always a joy to watch, man. And the shadow of Big Pussy’s death certainly extends to Chris’ humiliating strip-search for a wire.

Edie Falco really shines in this episode, and, subsequent to my viewing, I read that her performance in this episode led to her winning the Emmy for Best Lead Actress. She knocks this one out of the parks, since she veers effortlessly from concerned mother to vulnerable therapy patient to emotionally-drained wife (who calmly asks her mobster husband for one small allowance of $50,000 as payment for years of infidelity and lying). 
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 02 November 2018 at 5:15am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

If it's the scene I'm thinking
of, you might have misread it
a bit.
Tony is paying Big Pussy's
wife, Angie, because it is an
accepted part of being the
boss of a family, not out of
guilt.

While Tony obviously didn't
like Angie indirectly hitting
him up for more money, his
anger and frustration came
from seeing Angie is driving a
new and expensive luxury
vehicle, while crying hard
times.

Tony and Furiou intimidating
Dr. Kennedy on the golf course
is pure gold gold, though!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 02 November 2018 at 8:43am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I dunno, I think guilt is a factor in it. The scenes where Tony becomes enraged at the Billy Bass (because it reminds him of his fever dream of Pussy as a fish) and uncomfortably reaffirms his lie to Carmella about Pussy being in witness protection indicate his true emotions on the matter.

Yeah, he feels like Angie is unnecessarily hitting him up for extra cash, but also he takes a (relatively) softer touch with her than he normally might when he confronts her. There’s a sense of conflict in Gandolfini’s performance. It’s not purely anger and frustration over her encounter with Carmella. It almost reads to me like he’s more mad at her for making him think about Pussy and his death than it is about her and her behavior.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 18 November 2018 at 11:56pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

“He Is Risen”.


A very entertaining episode focused primarily on the tension between Tony and Ralphie. Joey Pants is always fun to watch, and he gets some good moments in this one, particularly when he awkwardly supplicates to Tony. Very amusing to see Johnny Sack trying to play Mafia matchmaker between Tony and Ralphie, too. And it’s perhaps a convenient plot contrivance to have Gigi die on the toilet, thus forcing Tony to bump Richie up to capo, but it works well in context, I think.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Meadow and Jackie Jr. is proceeding. No good can come of it, I’m sure. As is par for the course, Tony’s personal and professional lives are constantly being intermingled, often due to the actions of the people around him, rather than his own.

And, speaking of intermingled relationships, it’s interesting to see Dr. Melfi still grappling with her rape-trauma and her mixed feelings about Tony. She’s gone from considering using him to punish/murder her rapist to actually desiring comfort from him. The fascinating thing about their relationship is that so much of it is subtextual. It’s even gotten to a point where’s he’s all but openly talking about the nasty life he leads, but avoids hitting the nail on the head via the use of white lies and phrases like “put him out to pasture”.


The vocal cameo by Joe “Fat Tony” Mantegna was a nice touch, too. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 28 November 2018 at 4:36pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

“The Telltale Moozadell”.

Another Michael Imperioli script, and it’s quite good. Lots of plot juggling in this episode, particularly centered around Jackie Jr., who is getting himself into all sorts of trouble. This is a kid who wants it all, and is willing to put his finger into any number of dangerous pies to make himself look good.

Lots of laughs in this one, too, such as Tony signaling Janice to wipe the excess cocaine from her nose, the hysterical meeting between the Sopranos and AJ’s principal, and Jackie using his “A” grade on his literature paper grade (a paper actually written by Meadow) as justification for his continuing to date Meadow. The funniest scene has to be the DRAGNET-style interrogation at the pizza parlor. Great stuff, man.

We also have an exploration of Tony’s full-blown affair with Gloria, which is clearly beyond anything he’s ever done before. Casually banging hookers and mistresses is one thing, but this is a legitimate affair, with dates, dancing, and gifts. Of course, Gloria is revealed to have attempted suicide after her last relationship failed, which does not bode well. Meanwhile, Dr. Melfi has clearly figured out what’s going on, and her reaction is an interesting mix of professional frustration...and perhaps jealousy.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 December 2018 at 4:53pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

“...To Save Us All from Satan’s Power”.


A very enjoyable Christmas episode. Well, at least as enjoyable as a holiday can be for Tony and his crew. The Ghost of Christmas Past—Big Pussy—looms large over this episode. This season has already hinted that Tony is still grappling with his guilt and mixed feelings over Pussy’s death, and now we see that the rest of the core crew are also still dealing with it (Paulie, in particular). Of course, the punchline to this episode is Meadow’s Big Mouth Billy Bass, which is a fine symbol of the fact that Tony Soprano can’t escape his sins.

Speaking of which, the biggest laugh in the episode—and there are many—has to be when Tony and Furio (wearing Santa hats and about to bestow the oh-so-thoughtful gift of a Christmas beating)—having finally tracked down Janice’s Russian attacker, go for a ride in his limo. The mob-Santa scene, with the shy Bacala getting cursed-out by a kid, is also a hoot.

There’s also the irony of Tony’s racism costing Meadow her relationship with Noah (a decent kid who was actually going somewhere), which was traded for her relationship with Jackie, Jr., who does nothing but lie and scheme. It’s one of Tony’s more subtle-yet-interesting character flaws that he is too often prone to blindly trusting people within his various families, be it his literal blood, his mob crew, or Italian-Americans in general. His particular code of ethics, his casual racism, and his expectation that his blood family will obey him has caused more than a few problems, after all.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 December 2018 at 6:15pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

“Pine Barrens”.


Even before I’d started watching the show, this was the one episode I’d always heard about, and which seems to be generally regarded as the series’ best.

It’s masterful piece of black comedy, that’s for sure. A perfect summation of what makes the show great: that deft blend of mob horror with absurdist humor. And it all boils down to Paulie’s arrogance and stupidity. Paulie is always a joy to watch. Paulie interacting with Christopher is that much better. Paulie and Chris getting lost in the woods and making complete fools of themselves? Pure gold.

SO many darkly hilarious moments in this episode, from Paulie executing his improvised carpet-shoe to Paulie and Chris devouring ketchup packets in the abandoned truck. The escalating ridiculousness of their predicament makes the episode fly by, that’s for sure.

And, of course, there’s the big loose end regarding the Russian’s whereabouts. My research indicates some pushback over the ambiguity, but I’m not bothered by it. That one bird’s eye POV shot and Paulie’s missing car are enough to indicate that he survived...for awhile, at least. I’ve read that this thread was never followed up on, and so it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a well-told and highly-amusing one-off, and it works well in that context. 


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 10 December 2018 at 9:22am
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