Monday, May 21, 2007

"...what rough beast..."

W. B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming” perfectly captures the spirit of this season of “The Sopranos” and perhaps the entire series as well. The poem, from which last night’s episode took its title, speaks to a rising sense of dread and despair that foreshadows some heretofore unimagined horror. This sense has been imparted in every episode of this final mini-season.

The tension, however, seemed to be ratcheted down this week, as though the writers wanted to give us a breather to prepare for what is to come. Much of the episode dwelled on Tony’s home life, which with A.J.’s suicide attempt appears to be ready to implode. This near-tragedy, unsurprisingly, causes Tony and Carmela to trade recriminations, with Carmela blaming Tony and his gloomy forebears for their son’s depression. We know Tony blames himself, but he lamely suggests that Carmela’s coddling left A.J. unable to deal with life’s troubles. Tony, of course, wishes his own mother had treated him that way, and he invokes Livia’s spirit when he twice utters her famous “Poor you.”

We see that the wall Tony has erected between his family life and criminal life is starting to crumble. One of Phil Leotardo’s goons approaches Meadow in a bar and makes lewd comments. This incident becomes all the more ominous when we learn that the man she was with is the son of Patsy Parisi. We all remember how well things turned out the last time Meadow dated the son of one of her father’s associates.

We get a sense of just how stunted Meadow is as a result of growing up in the Soprano household during a conversation with her mother, during which she reveals her new boyfriend’s identity. She has once again changed her mind about going to medical school because “It is so hard.” Her mother, in a classic bit of Carmela hypocrisy, reminds Meadow that anything worthwhile is difficult, as though her daughter is unaware that neither she nor Tony has ever done an honest day’s work in their lives.

Tony beats Coco, the thug who accosted Meadow, within an inch of his life. This escalates his dispute with Phil over the asbestos dumping, and Little Carmine, who tries to broker a peace, warns Tony, “You are on the precipice.” But when they show up at Phil’s house, Phil refuses to see them, which made me wonder whether he hasn’t overplayed his hand. Tony has never responded well to being cornered.

Tony’s home life spills over into his work in other ways. He fears that A.J.’s problems reflect poorly on him in the eyes of his men, who fail to comfort Tony with their own tales of domestic woe. Paulie suggests that A.J. has been made ill by toxic chemicals, a statement loaded with irony and double meaning. Tony, supposedly a lover of nature, has been dumping asbestos all over the New Jersey countryside. At the beginning of the show we see an otherwise bucolic landscape spoiled by a load of asbestos-contaminated construction waste.

It is Tony who is toxic, poisoning the lives of those around him. As the show ends, we see him from behind, walking down a corridor in a mental hospital to visit A.J. He looks in silhouette like a lumbering beast, slouching toward the son he has so utterly failed.

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Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Okay, I think Phil is that beast. He slumbered in jail for twenty years (much like the sphinx like beast slept for 20 centuries in the second coming).

He has the ability to unleash a blood dimmed tide on Tony.

As for the falcon not hear the falconer and the center not one is hearing what tony has to say anymore. not his men, not phil, no his one.

the ceremony of innocence is drowned is easy enough. almost too easy...but i think's there's more. i wouldn't be surprised if AJ dies at Phil's hand, because the "ceremony" of innocence dies in that blood dimmed tide. AJ might try to stay out of the business. but when meadow tells him to get an apartment he quips that he can't because he's sick and can't support himself. he knows what's going on and still holds onto a sliver of suspended reality.

The poem mentions that the best lack conviction (AJ: I'm only person. what can i do?) and the worst are full of passionate intensity (Tony, Phil)

The Second Coming is at hand, which is of course the end of mankind and the end of the show. And a revelation is at hand... AJ's death is the only way to end the Soprano curse, which is the mob not depression. And it might be the only way for Tony to realize what he should have been discussing with Melfi all these years.

Remember, what meadow said...AJ is the son. He'll always matter more. And what better way for Phil to finally avenge his brother's death than by killing what's most important to Tony (who can't protect his family anymore from evils internal and external).

I'd say that Phil could be described as having a gaze more pitiless than the sun. And he talked about how he "compromised" his desires in prison...but no more.

Again, a poem is foreshadowing events, just the way the first show of this two-part season did with Burrough's Seven Souls.In the opening montage, AJ was shown during the reading of "Number five is Ka, the Double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death.

AJ is finally starting to act like something more than a child (remember, at 20 he still sees a pediatrician. that was mentioned in the show where tony was talking about him with melfi. when she asked tony if he wanted to recommend someone he said they got one from AJ's pediatrician.

Okay, a lot of the seasons end with tony and the kids getting together in a seemingly peaceful situation, that really is always just a lie.

Imagine the final show ending with Tony, Carmela and Meadow at AJ's coffin...the last family gathering...what a revelation.

12:39 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

That's an interesting interpretation. I'm not sure if I see the poem being that literal a road map for the ending, but it's possible. I think people have long envisioned a sort of "Godfather III"-esque ending, with Tony alive and free but having suffered some great loss.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised to see a more ambigious ending.

12:58 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

i'm sticking with aj being a goner. in that last scene, it was kind of like a western showdown...with tony walking down the hall and aj appearing from the right.

also, it had a little bit of a spaghetti western feel to it with the song. Which is a sardinian lullabye. A mother is singing to her son (who is named Anton) that she'd rather see him dead than end up a bandit like his father.

12:41 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I think you're making the safe bet, although I know some people think Meadow is heading for trouble. Tony once said that he wants her to end up far away, not geographically but living an entirely different kind of life. (Whereas with A.J., he's said both to him and to Melfi that he simply wouldn't last as a gangster.) But now she's once again dating the son of a Soprano associate.

1:36 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Also, meadow said this to AJ in that episode...we're italian. you're their son. you'll always be more important. Meadow's been a no show pretty much all season...a Carm-lite.

But AJ's been getting some signficant screen time and roles. I thought the near drowning scene was gut wrenching.

1:21 AM


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