Monday, May 14, 2007

The dream is gone

Perhaps what was most shocking about this week’s “The Sopranos” was that it was shocking at all. We’ve seen people shot, brutally beaten, dismembered, and permanently maimed. Yet Tony’s suffocation of the helpless Christopher, following a violent car wreck, somehow seemed like the most depraved act the show has ever thrust upon us.

A channel surfer who stumbled upon this scene with no prior knowledge of “The Sopranos” might have thought they were witnessing an act of mercy. In reality, Christopher was the victim of the most grievous act of betrayal that we have seen from a show whose characters wallow in duplicity. Evil can be the only word we use to describe Tony’s murder of Christopher, who Tony had raised as a son.

Not that we weep for Christopher, whose own savagery was brought home to us last week when he gunned down J.T. Dolan. Let’s not forget the waiter that he and Paulie murdered over an insult in season five, nor the fact that he handed his own fiancé over to Tony to kill. Christopher’s death leaves his daughter fatherless, but this show has shown us what happens to the children raised by men like Tony and Christopher. They develop the kind of corrosive cynicism that Meadow mistakes for sophistication or they end as aspiring thugs like A.J. and his new buddies.

Still, murder is murder. What shocked Tony was his own lack of remorse. He was relieved, as he admitted to Dr. Melfi in a dream, and tried to tell her in real life. He projected these feelings onto Carmela, who was horrified at Tony’s suggestion that she was secretly glad Christopher was dead. She tearfully admitted that she was grateful it was Christopher and not Tony who had died. Tony, seemingly disappointed, says, “That’s normal.”

Tony tries to comfort Carmela by noting that in the accident, the car seat in the back of Christopher’s SUV was destroyed; had Christopher’s baby been in the car, she would have been killed. The sheer randomness of the accident epitomizes the moral chaos that reigns on “The Sopranos." When Tony goes to Las Vegas, he bets on the roulette wheel, a gamble that is totally based on chance. Later, stoned on peyote (which he gets from a stripper who used to sleep with Christopher) he stops at the roulette wheel and says “It’s like the solar system.” Suddenly he can’t lose, placing bet after bet until he falls on the floor in laughter, as though he’s suddenly realized that the bolt of lightening he’s been waiting for is not going to strike after all.

The end of the episode finds Tony and his new companion in the desert, where the rising sun seems to blink at Tony, who calls out “I get it.” Many fans and commentators online find the sunrise reminiscent of the mysterious beacon that Tony saw in his dream while in a coma after being shot by his uncle. It’s an interesting observation, but I’m not sure how much it really matters. Tony is bound to use whatever drug-induced revelation he’s discovered to justify his own narcissism. In Tony’s universe, he is the sun, and no one can break free of their orbit around him.

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Blogger Sean McDaniel said...


Yeah, it was a revelation...but i think tony was getting why chris was an addict. their lives are basically miserable and stressful beyond belief. Tony was ready to gun down AJ an episode ago. He thinks everyone is out to get him...and he's probably right.

What makes Chris's death so shocking was Tony's willingness to take advantage of the situation. Yeah, while Chris was listening to Van Morrison croon Comfortably Numb from the Departed soundtrack (a nice pairing of foreshadowing and homage to scorsese), Tony went from a moment of bonding to distrust.

The quietness of the death...and the look of inevitablity in Chris' eyes heightened the shock. And yes, Tony looks at the blood on his hands and simply wipes it on the victim's jacket. That's how easily he rids himself of the responsibility.

Now, there was also a running theme of materialism and cultural references. The episode was called kennedy and heidi...which baffled me for a while, until i watched the show again with captions...they're the two girls in the car. and the tags for two of the 1960s TV touchstones...the assassination of a president and a movie that replaced a football game in the last minutes of a thrilling comeback. Look closely and you'll see the David Letterman show on TV, a mention of the Williams-Sonoma cappuccino maker and other stuff like that.

And in AJ's poetry class the instructor prattles on about the world being caught up in a materialistic pursuit, which has an effect on the kid after he watches his friends kick the shit out of a kid. note too in that scene that when the bike rider is pushed into AJ, he quickly shoves him away and says something like "get that stuff out of here." And it's the second time that a mountain bike plays a role in defining what type of person AJ might become. Last season, when he had the opportunity to prove his manhood, he gave his mountain bike to a bunch of rowdy kids outside his girlfriend's apt.

yeah, i'm going on. But these shows are really rich on themes this year.

as for the "departed" there are two deaths. and of course, chris again gets more attention than paulie in his moment of grief. one more slight for the loyal old captain. And tony talks to melfi about those who he's seen killed.

Okay. i'm tired. i love these shows. I'm glad this is it. because i don't think the writers could top themselves for making these character be so thoroughly unappealing.

1:17 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Here are some interesting thoughts on Kennedy and Heidi:

5:54 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

one other thing...when tony says i get it...i think he's realizing that the world doesn't reveal around him.

6:17 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Your guess is as good as mine, although it's hard for me to imagine that he's capable of that kind of sincere realization at this point.

I keep thinking about the scene, during his coma dream, in which he goes to the "family reunion" and Steve Buscemi insists that he give up his bag. It reminds me of "The Devil's Advocate," in which Al Pacino, as the devil, describes guilt as a load of bricks we carry around. He advises Keanu Reeves to put down the bricks.

Well, we can all do one of two things when we are stricken with guilt--make things right, no matter what the cost, or ignore it and hope the feeling goes away. Put down the bricks. I think that's what Tony has decided to do.

9:31 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

If tony's putting down his load of bricks, it's not before he pummels someone in this week's episode.

and phil's demented little crew is starting to make tony's gang look like the knights of columbus. it looks like things get nasty between the two sides.

10:35 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

See, I think Tony thinks he can do anything he wants to now. Someone at another Internet forum said it's as though he's become a law unto himself.

Phil is relentless.

10:54 AM


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