Monday, April 30, 2007

"You look like a Puerto Rican whore.": The Sopranos

(Sorry for the quote, those of you with delicate sensibilities. I couldn't find a better one that didn't have a worse swear in it! -- ed.)

Funny thing, foreshadowing. The Sopranos is rife with it, but it often doesn't pay off as you might expect it to. In Sunday night's episode, "Chasing It," though, the foreshadowing was all couched in Tony's sudden unlucky streak at gambling, money flowing haphazardly all over the place. From there, it was natural for Tony and the audience to wonder if his luck had finally run out, if he should start making alternate plans for Carmela and the other important people in his life. Though this was never stated straight-out, it informed everything that happened in the episode. Tony eventually came to the conclusion that his recovery from a gunshot wound meant that he was way up with the universe's bookie (or something -- not the best with gambling metaphors), hence the string of bad luck. But the focus on that bad luck and the emphasis on the various women in the show making steps toward creating independent personas for themselves, separate from the Soprano family, seemed to point to a world in which Tony wouldn't be the center of everyone's lives anymore.

Despite the fact that the episode had almost no violence in it, "Chasing It" was an unusually plot-dense episode of The Sopranos, as a lot of plot threads were either tied up a bit or carried forward (sometimes in the background). A.J.'s relationship with Blanca, for example, has been played in the background for most of this second half of the season, but it got some foregrounding here as he found himself stunned to see her leaving him. Robert Iler isn't my favorite actor on the show, but his look of stunned inability when she left him was well-played, and I also enjoyed his interactions with Blanca's kid.

I also like how Tony seems to be increasingly getting closer and closer to Bobby Bacala (again, played in the background). It seems obvious that Tony no longer trusts Christopher, the guy you would expect him to leave the care of his family to. Instead, he's working with Bacala, who's actually someone that Carmela and the kids would be OK with if Tony died or had to go off to jail.

The episode also brought back the Muslims. In the past, these characters have primarily been a way to show the characters anxieties and their rather base racial profiling. In addition, it's been a way to highlight that the FBI, strained by trying to chase terrorists, has largely abandoned serious pursuit of the Sopranos (remember how important the federal agents were to the early episodes of seasons three and four? and how that woman was married to GOB?). Here, however, Tony's gaze lingered upon them. I'm not sure what this is going for (and I really hope that the show doesn't turn into 24 at any point), but I'll buy that Tony and his crew would just assume the worst of any Muslim they saw. It gibes with who they've been in the past.

Meanwhile, Carmela fretted over the bad lumber used in her model home, hoping that it wouldn't crumble, even calling her father in the middle of the night to express her worries when a rain storm poured down. Now, honestly, the idea of the home built on a shaky foundation is one of the more obvious metaphors this show has employed, but I like that it's Carmela's responsibility and that she's the one ultimately worried about it while everyone else turns a blind eye to it. I imagine it's commenting obliquely on the role she'll play when the end plays out.

James Gandolfini and Edie Falco got their first significant scenes together from this half season in this episode, and the scenes were as good as we've come to expect from these actors. The sheer anger Tony dishes out at Carmela simply because the one good bet he made could have been better with all of the money from her spec house was terrifying to witness, but she cut back into him just as well.

Finally, there was the plot with Vito Jr., acting out after the death of his father (who was outed as a homosexual in the season's first half). Now sporting Goth makeup and relieving himself in the shower (in one of the odder and grosser things seen on the show), Vito Jr. was hauled off to tough love camp after neither Phil nor Tony was able to talk sense into him, even though his mother wasn't sure it was the right idea. It was another example of Tony believing that force will make everything all right. This is probably the last we'll ever see of Vito, Jr., but it would be nice to see the aftermath of that choice. It was also interesting to see the ramifications of the earlier Vito storyline and how his inability to leave behind his old life and embrace his new, more honest life led to his death.

Four episodes in to this final stretch of episodes, I'm thinking this is probably as strong as anything The Sopranos has ever done. What say you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good analysis. I missed a lot of the metaphors that you pointed out.