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Sopranos:

I just finally watched the newest episode of the Sopranos last night. It took me 6 days and multiple phone calls to get Verizon Fios to activate HBO for me. They kept telling me that my order was having trouble "flowing" through the system--yet somehow there was no one who could get it unstuck. There are many reasons why I wouldn't recommend Verizon Fios, but the pure incompetence in dealing with that simple request, and the degree of frustration and time, is a big one.

Since this may not be of interest to a lot of readers, I've put the extended under hidden text. I'd be interested in hearing your own comments and speculations on what is going on.

I know a lot of people were down on the first part of Season 6, but I have enjoyed it throughout. I see three themes emerging and building to the end of the series:

(show)

_:
I wish FIOS were available in my area. I have had awful experiences with Comcast. For more than a year my internet has worked only intermittently.
4.13.2007 12:48pm
Anon. E. Mouse (mail):
I just had Verizon FIOS (TV + internet access) installed at my house in Arlington, VA. Quick, painless, perfect.

We got rid of (digital) Comcast because of repeated internet and television outages, picture freezing up, etc., and cost.

Unexpected bonus: the picture and sound quality on FiOS is unbelievable. I never realized how bad the Comcast signal was until now.
4.13.2007 1:03pm
Joe Jackson:
Todd, I agree with all of your points. With respect to the last one, I think things are going to end very badly for Tony. I'm not going to try to speculate too hard, but I think someone in his family (probably A.J.) will meet an untimely end.

If you go back to the earlier episodes, the major breakthrough for Tony and Dr. Melfi was the realization that Tony was afraid of losing his family. Despite this, he did nothing to change course. He continued his life of violence. He repeatedly made poor management decisions (e.g., killing his highest earner over the accidental death of a horse, putting his captains at risk over his cousin, etc.). He become much more antagonistic to the New York family. Although he usually pulls back just in time (such as his hospital room talk with Phil Leotardo), you can only tempt the fates for so long. The series will come full circle and the fears underlying Tony's first-season panic attacks will prove to be prophetic.
4.13.2007 1:45pm
dsidhu:
Professor Zywicki, many thanks for your thoughts on the first episode and on broader themes developing in the series. I hope you will continue to offer your reactions to each of the episodes. Here are my thoughts:

Perhaps most obvious, the episode reminds us of the dysfunction of the Soprano family, with Tony joking about Janice's liberal ways and with Janice joking about an incident involving her father and mother.

As you note, the fight between Tony and Bobby forces us to question Tony's vulnerability and insecurity, even though he is the boss. Tony has struggled with his confidence before, such as when he went after his bodyguard/driver in Satrielle's following Tony's release from the hospital. Similarly, Tony reevaluated his strength after getting into the tussle with Bobby (e.g., whether the fight was fair, whether Bobby sucker punched Tony, whether the outcome would be different if Tony were a few years younger).

I also saw Tony's order to have Bobby kill the Canadian as a form of revenge - now Bobby will, at a minimum, have to live with the guilt that he killed someone and with the fear that the murder may come back to haunt him.

In terms of how the last season plays out, I've read several theories that Christopher will be killed and now Bobby will be jailed because of this murder. However, I don't envision either happening primarily because those outcomes are now expected - theories are in a sense predictable.

My darkhorse prediction is that AJ somehow messes up royally, which compels Tony to reconsider his role as "don" and leaves him further disappointed that he has no reliable male to groom and mentor. This may parallel Michael Corleone's disappointment with Fred. Although Fredo was Michael's older brother, he was someone that Michael treated more like a younger brother, employee, or even like a child (e.g., shuffling him to Vegas to work under Mo Green, having him bring in the $2 million to Havana). Michael obviously handled that situation in violent ways, something I seriously doubt Tony will emulate, though Tony generally may have to deal with similarly profound disappointment with his actual family.

Tony contemplating on the deck reminds me of Michael contemplating at the end of Godfather II - both alone, reflecting.
4.13.2007 1:46pm
neurodoc:
killing his highest earner over the accidental death of a horse
As I recall, there was nothing "accidental" about the horse's death.
4.13.2007 1:59pm
curious:
I had the immediately thought about the ducks as well . . . gives me great optimism that Chase knows what he's doing and where he's going and is going to wrap things up in great way.

Glad to see the post! I knew there had to be an explanation for it not being there (early) Monday morning.
4.13.2007 2:01pm
Crunchy Frog:
Tony's been grooming Christopher for a few years to be his replacement, and has let pass several missteps from Christopher that he would not have accepted from, say, Paulie.

Phil is way, way, too hotheaded to survive long at Johnny Sack's replacement in New York, and watch for things to heat back up between him and Tony. This is not going to end well.

Janice is no where near evil or cunning enough to fill Livia's shoes, and she will suffer for it.

Bobby just disappoints me overall, mostly because he lets Janice walk all over him. Sack it up, man!
4.13.2007 2:12pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Excellent post. I'll just add that my favorite "old-style mob meets the modern world" scene involved Paulie (I think) and another one of Tony's crew trying to shake down protection money from a Starbucks-clone chain outift. After the manager tells them that the parent corporation would note any missing money and fire him, and that the corporation would just replace any broken windows, the mob guys leave, lamenting -- in a pretty hilarious way, IMHO -- about how the world had changed.
4.13.2007 2:30pm
dsidhu:
I haven't seen the Pie-O-My episodes in some time, though my recollection is that Ralphie claimed the death of the horse was accidental, though Tony either 1) refused to believe that the death was accidental, 2) thought Ralphie was somehow negligent (sorry to use a legal term) in providing sufficient attention to ensure the horse's well-being, or 3) wanted to hold someone responsible for the horse's death even though no one was actually culpable for it dying. I tend to believe the third possibility - Ralphie's involvement with the horse and his statements that "it's just a horse!" made him a prime candidate to be a recipient for Tony's emotions regarding the death of his beloved horse.
4.13.2007 2:34pm
CJColucci:
Joseph Slater: I loved that scene too.

I've often thought that Meadow was one who has what it takes to succeed to Tony's position. I see Tony getting whacked and Meadow whacking the person who set him up, probably Carmela.
4.13.2007 3:06pm
curious:

involved Paulie (I think) and another one of Tony's crew trying to shake down protection money from a Starbucks-clone chain outift.


I agree with the scene choice, but it was Patsy Parisi and Burt Gervasi right after getting their take from the poultry shop (pretty nice contrast). The line at the end of that scene is perfect: "It's over for the little guy."
4.13.2007 3:06pm
Paranoid:
Loved the analysis. I hope you continue it as the episodes come to the end.

Regarding the horse death, it Ralphie more or less admitted he had it killed for the insurance money.

And allow me to echo CJ's belief that of anyone in Tony's immediate blood family, Meadow is the best suited / most likely to follow in his footsteps. I don't think there's enough episodes left for it to go that way but...
4.13.2007 3:13pm
john (mail):

Where's it heading? My guess:

During the next episodes three threats to Tony build:
1) The FBI gets closer to arresting him.
2) Phil and New York get closer to killing him.
3) An internal threat (Bacala probably) looms

The Final episode shows Tony in front of the pork store enjoying the moment, but with a car pulling up unseen behind him. It's one of the three threats coming, to arrest or kill him - but the series ends without telling you which.
4.13.2007 3:15pm
Zywicki (mail):
dsidhu: I was thinking the same thing about the lake scenes. They reminded me a lot of Michael Corleone at the Tahoe house gazing out the big picture window. I wondered about the fishing scene with Tony and Bobby too, which brought to mind Fredo and Michael Corleone's son fishing, but I'm guessing that's just a coincidence.

I've also been wondering whether AJ might provide the trigger for this all to fall apart. Did you notice that after Tony was going to make AJ "grow up" by getting a real job (construction) it now appears that he has quit that job and is working in a pizzeria. From a narrative perspective, I can't quite get my hands around why Tony enables AJ to be such a screw up. But recall when Tony and Christopher (his surrogate son) steal the crates of wine off the truck awhile back, Christopher is sober but Tony talks him into drinking with him, which starts Christopher on a downward slide again. Same basic idea about Tony's failings as a father, but I'm not quite sure what Chase is getting at with that recurrent theme.

And JosephSlater--you're right! How could I have forgotten that classic scene?
4.13.2007 3:17pm
Jeff R.:
The Horse was just the pretext; Tony was really killing Ralphie over the death of the stripper earlier. But the 'rules' make it more acceptable for him to kill a made guy over mismanagement of joint property than over the death of a civilian...
4.13.2007 3:54pm
Joe Jackson:
They never stated definitively whether the horse's death was an accident, but Ralph denied it until the end. I later saw Joe Pantoliano on a talk show (unfortunately, I can't remember which one) where he stated that as far as he knows, it was an accident. Maybe someone out there has a link to this ....

Fundamentally, however, even if we assume that Ralph did kill the horse, Tony killing Ralph was still a bad management decision. Ralph's disappearance adversely affected major projects that they were splitting with New York and increased tensions between Tony and Johnny Sack. Tony's own captains are shown reflecting on his instability, saying something to the effect that if he killed Ralph "over a horse," any of them could be next. This is not a good thing. He needs the captains to know they are safe as long as they stay in line. Otherwise the whole system crumbles.
4.13.2007 3:55pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Curious: Thanks for the correction and explication. Although I have to ask: did you look that up or did you remember it off the top of your head?
4.13.2007 4:02pm
Joe Jackson:
Jeff R., I disagree pretty strongly. Tony has always been shown as being highly emotional about animals -- especially the ducks, but also this horse and the death of Adriana's dog. I think David Chase wrote it this way to show just how unstable Tony is. Not only did he not punish Ralph for the death of the dancer, he later made up with him and became closer than they had been before. Then he thinks Ralph killed his horse ... and he beats him to death. The contrast between his responses to each event highlight his poor judgment, emotional instability, and backward morality (killing a girl makes him mad, but not mad enough to kill ... possibly killing a horse and making a fat joke, i.e., "you eat sausage by the truckload," gets your head sawed off).
4.13.2007 4:06pm
Jeff R.:
Joe, you're missing part of the picture. Tony doesn't allow himself to (openly) care about human beings, which makes all of the animals that he does allow himself to be sentimental about ultimately proxies for his real, interior feelings. He isn't emotional about the ducks qua ducks, but as a substitute for worrying about his receeding family. Likewise with the horse. (I don't remember offhand what the dog was proxying exactly...Jackie Jr, maybe?)
4.13.2007 4:32pm
FIOS Fan:
Todd,

Sorry to hear of your troubles w/ Verizon FIOS. We ordered it as soon as it was available in our area of NoVa about a year ago and have been 100%+++ satisfied. TV (w/400+ channels, w/ movie &HD packages), phone and super-fast Internet together cost <2/3 of what we paid before. Also, although we haven't needed FIOS customer service in six or eight months, when we did I found the service representatives responsive, reliable, and very knowledgeable about the FIOS service, including how to troubleshoot it (plus I never got anyone who didn't sound like a native English-speaker). Much better than both the Cox and Comcast cablers, which we'd previously had. From your report, it sounds like some of that helpfulness may be changing. If so, it's a shame. Take care.
4.13.2007 5:00pm
curious:
JosephSlater: Full disclosure I looked up their last names, but knew that it was the two of them in the scene . . . in all their running suit glory.
4.13.2007 5:29pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Curious: Fair enough. I had a nagging feeling I didn't have it right when I typed it, but I was too lazy too look it up.
4.13.2007 5:44pm
Stash:
Like your perspective. This makes Tony a mafia "Fiddler on the Roof," as he struggles with "tradition" and modern times. I think Bacala is more likely to flip than topple Tony, though he might back someone else or defect to Phil. I think Bacala's trains and lack of ambition make him inadequate material for Janice's Lady MacBeth. However, his recent initiation to wet work might make give him a sense of entitlement that was previously missing. I'm wondering if Tony's increasing insecurities will result in overcompensation in the form of deciding to draw some ill-advised line to hold back erosion of the code or going to the mattresses.
4.13.2007 7:07pm
jallgor (mail):
As I recall it Ralph did not deny killing the horse. When confronted with it he came at Tony with a "so what if it did it's just a horse" attitude. Tony took that an admission of guilt and immediately attacked him. I came away from that episode thinking Ralph killed the horse. He certainly had the motive given how Tony had essentially taken the horse away from him. He knew he wouldn't see a dime in winnings from the horse so he figured he'd collect his half of the insurance.
4.13.2007 7:24pm
neurodoc:
Re Ralphie (not Ralph) and the stable fire that killed Pie-O-My: wasn't there a professional arsonist somewhere in the background, and wasn't a broken light bulb somehow the means of starting the fire without using a chemical accelerant, or am I imaging it? I thought it was surprisingly disloyal and ballsy of Ralphie to do, but clearly he was cruising for a bruising and finally got it. The toupe which came off when Christopher came over to help dispose of the body was a surprise, at least to me. Ralphie was truly sleazy among them, which made me miss him more than some of the others who have fallen along the way.
4.14.2007 2:10am
Joe Jackson:
Jallgor, Ralph denied killing the horse several times. The final exchange involved him yelling "No, I did not! But so what? ... What are you, a vegetarian? You eat beef and sausage by the carload." He never admitted any fault, and he certainly had no reason to deny responsibility if he was going to provoke a fight anyway with the "beef and sausage" comment.

As for the arsonist, an inspector found that it was an accident. While Tony was accusing Ralph, Tony mentioned the arsonist that Silvio used for the restaurant fire. There is no indication that Ralph used the arsonist, or that anyone other than Tony thought it was arson.

Jeff R., I think you're trying to read too much into this. The ducks/family relationship is obvious, but there is no relationship between the dog and anyone else on the show. The dog's death was just used to emphasize how pathetic and strung out Christopher had become (he sat on it and killed it while he was high). As for Ralph, I think the horse had very little (if anything) to do with the dancer. Tony's relationship with Ralph improved significantly over the course of the fourth season, well after that incident. The contrast is there to show Tony's poor judgment and instability (although the latter might still fit within your view of things).
4.14.2007 4:42pm
Joe Jackson:
Ultimately, though, whether the horse's death was an accident or not is completely secondary. Like I said before, it was a poor decision that adversely affected major projects, increased tensions with New York, and made his own captains distrustful of him.

Tony is reckless and impulsive, and that causes him to make decisions that jeopardize his business and both of his families. Things are going to end badly for him.
4.14.2007 4:50pm