Monday, April 24, 2006

"Apparently they go down real easy"

My wife says that every time Artie Bucco enters a scene in "The Sopranos" she cringes. It's an understandable reaction. Bad luck clings to Artie like static, and much of it is of his own making. Between his dumb jokes, the awkward passes he's made at a succession of attractive hostesses, and the liberties he takes in referring to Tony's business (like someone who thinks they can drop the n-word around their black friends) you hold your breath every time he speaks, fearing--knowing--he'll say something incredibly stupid.

Artie loves rubbing elbows with gangsters, but his friendship with Tony clearly costs him more than it yields. In the series' very first episode, Tony torches Artie's restaurant so that Uncle Junior can't whack someone there (Pussy Melanga, a name with which we recently were reacquainted) and ruin the establishment's reputation. Talk about destroying the village to save it. Then, in season four, Artie, against his better judgment, accepts a loan from Tony to invest in what turns out to be a scam. When he realizes he can't pay Tony back, he attempts suicide. And Artie's loyalty to Tony and his lieutenants has caused him no end of grief with his domineering wife, Charmaine.

It is thus understandable that Artie avoided seeking Tony's help when he crossed paths with Benny. The irony is that this was the one time that Tony actually could have done some good. Then again, Tony has an uncanny ability to turn every situation to his own advantage, so who knows how things might have turned out had he gotten more directly involved? In "The Sopranos", as in life, things can always get worse.

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Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

You know something, I enjoyed watching Artie punch the ...well you know what out of Bennie. Even though he oversteps his free pass with the Martina comment near the end, the spineless chef might be coming to grips with how the gangsters will bleed him to death, regardless of any friendship with Tony. I really despise the gang characters for what they stand for (but love how the actors portray them). One of the real lessons of the show is that you can't have a peripheal relationship with the mafia. it's all or nothing. And I wonder if Meadow's boyfriend will discover that when he tries to break up with her. The poor bastard has seen pretty much the rogues' crew and their clubhouse at the pork store. He knows way too much, and he's a prime plant for Agent Harris, who hasn't been around for a while.

1:03 AM

Blogger Maria said...

Is Meadow becoming the Michael Corleone character? She's the only one who seems able to make it outside the family, yet she seems to have made peace with what the family does (her speech to her boyfriend is very similar to one that Michael made to Kay early on and Michael stepped in only after his father was shot).

Obviously AJ can never take over the family as he's as weak as Fredo with the impulse control of Sonny.

Christopher, once again, has shown himself to be little more than a psychotic thug (like Paulie), Silvio is out of the running and Bobby Bacala was never in the running.

The show has already given us a woman who is "one of the boys" (Carmela's friend whose name escapes me).

Meadow might be the one who could work out how to take the family legit if push came to shove -- at the very least, she's the only one with the brains and strength to pick up the pieces if Tony ever leaves the picture (through jail or death).

6:37 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...


If you have on demand, watch the beginning of the first episode. AJ is mentioned as the "double" or "twin" personality. Meadow got tagged as the guardian angel. I think she's fulfilled her role. And next week's episode involves what seems to be some serious shenanigans on AJ's part.

10:36 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

And aren't they all psychotic thugs?

10:36 AM

Blogger Maria said...

"And aren't they all psychotic thugs?"

Yes, but there are psychotic thugs and then there are PSYCHOTIC thugs. lol

I just don't see Tony socking Bacall in the face for the swag like Chris. And, he wouldn't write off his mother for the reason that Paulie wrote off his.

Some of them -- Tony, Bobby, Spatafore, etc. -- are able to at least compartmentalize their psychotic tendencies to the point where they can function somewhat in normal society (marry, take their kids to the park, etc.), while others can barely contain their violence to the point that they not only scare the crap out of everyone, they constantly put their own self interest at risk.

5:25 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I think much of Tony's anxiety and depression stems from his ambivalence about what he does--which isn't to deny that he's a sociopath. The irony is that Melfi's advice, most of the time, helps him to be a better gangster, not a better person. (I mean, last season, she basically relieved him of the guilt that prevented him from doing what was "right" with regard to his cousin--killing him.)

As for Meadow, that's an astute observation, Maria. She's rarely shown shame or embarrassment at how her father makes his way in the world. It's the hypocrisy and denial that rankles her, and she's even come to terms with that. After some initial resistance, she accepted the lie that Jackie Jr. was killed by black drug dealers, and not her father's associates, which she suspected to be the truth. (It was Vito, who she once described as "harmless" who did the deed.) And now she defends her family's honor to Finn. Did she really not understand what the consequences might be for Vito? I don't think she's that naive. I don't think she's naive at all.

7:28 PM

Blogger Maria said...

I agree that Medow is not that naive. Of course, she's in a weird position where she can only date men who either want to be like her father or are repulsed by him. I think she's trying for middle ground with Finn: a nice guy who she's pulling into the family just enough to bind him. Either that or she's growing tired of him and knows that this will push him out. LOL Maybe it's a test.

As regards Melfi, she has to have some understanding what she's doing when she gets into Tony's business. I think she's as compromised as Carmela now. Carmela used to try to save Tony by working on his "soul" but she was never willing to give up the wealth that came with that corruption of Tony's soul. Of course, I'm sure Melfi can justify it all to herself by telling herself she's being the good, non-judemental shrink.

7:03 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

The problem with Meadow being the Michael C. of her family is that she's going to have "prove" herself to get the job. As in whacking someone. Remember, MC knocked off the guys who had set up his dad's shooting. I still think the clues are in the opening segment of the first show, where characters were tagged as the treacherous heart, the guaridan angel (Meadow, you rescued tony from crossing over to the other side) and the twin (AJ). So far, just about everything has panned out to that scheme.

All that being said, I hope the shows start to focus more on the family again. Paulie's and Vito's personal issues were interesting enough, but Artie's woes weren't that compelling. And Gene's problems with getting out were a little forced. Maybe the point is that once you're in ,you're in (though Paulie's mother crisis doesn't fit that mold). Still, the show is always best when Tony is dealing with Junior, Janice, Carmela, even his kids. Next thing you know, we'll be seeing episodes of Agent Harris deciding to get out the FBI to become a consultant for a TV show based on the exploits of a "reel-life" NJ crime family called the contraltos.

Anyway, because i think that the Sopranos writers never really put anything in a scene that shouldn't be there, I'm still wondering if the Sorpanos will sing at the end?

And finally, it bothered me that Charmaine was on the boat with Carmella. I thought Charmaine has declared her distaste for Carmella and Tony many times and gone to great lengths to avoid dealing with them in the restaurant, let alone outside socializing.

10:28 AM


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