The Second Coming (6.19)

Phil Leotardo reaches the end of his rope with the Soprano famiglia
Tony comes home to find AJ at the end of his rope.

Episode 84 – Originally aired May 20, 2007
Written by Terence Winter
Directed by Tim Van Patten

___________________________________

It’s been a while since I’ve watched this hour, and I was very much looking forward to revisiting it. What excited me the most was the thought that maybe I would be able to see AJ more sympathetically now. During previous re-watches, this episode always put me in a predicament: I wanted to feel a greater sympathy for AJ, but the scenes that led up to his suicide attempt as well as the scenes that followed it only served to remind me what a little shit he can be. I thought this time it would be different. I’m older now, more understanding, less prone to be judgmental of others. But when I re-watched the episode prior to starting this write-up, I realized the truth once again: AJ can be a pretty crappy person.

David Chase is much more sympathetic toward AJ. In an interview with Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, Chase wondered why so many viewers disliked AJ. He felt that he himself can personally relate to the young man: “…in the case of AJ, I think I see myself as a teenager, as kind of a bumbling person. The king of most literary teenagers is Holden Caulfield, and I see a little of him in AJ.”

I think I could have been more sympathetic to AJ if he was simply going into a tailspin after losing his first love. Many of us would be able to relate, we’ve suffered that particular crisis. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s going on with him. Sure, his depression and frustration may be rooted in his romantic disappointment with Blanca, but he seems to be using that disappointment now to justify being entitled and belligerent and emotionally indulgent (even more than he usually is). Meadow tries to engage him here like a good big-sister should. She enters his bedroom and goes to turn down the music so they can have a thoughtful discussion. But he snaps at her not to touch the sound system. (The song that’s playing is “Into the Ocean” by Blue October, a track about a depressed guy who wants to drown himself.) When Meadow asks if his behavior and depression are because of Blanca, AJ can only reply, “I don’t know anymore.” He is not able to clarify the problem, even in his own mind.

As I re-watched this episode, I found myself thinking about the 3 films that James Dean made during his short life. In each of these three films, the character that Dean plays has thoughts and feelings that are hidden or that get stifled inside of him for one reason or another. But in the third act of each film, the character’s passion and insight spills out in a compelling, poetic overflow. James Dean knew how to modulate his characters’ emotions over the course of a film, reining them in or letting them loose as the script required, and the viewer could share in the emotional journey. Dean worked hard to learn how to tap into his emotions and be more expressive: he studied the Method, took voice lessons, dance lessons… 

dean and eartha

Dean behind the legendary Eartha Kitt

Robert Iler is a different type of actor. He doesn’t seem to have Dean’s expressive or technical abilities. But this, if anything, makes Iler even more suited to play the thankless role of “AJ Soprano.” It seems to me that David Chase shaped the role—and guided the actor—in a particular way in order to study a specific type of character: The Passive Nihilist.

I know that I’ve touched upon Kevin Stoehr’s theory of the Passive and Active Nihilist multiple times already, but I think Stoehr’s theory is particularly illuminating for this episode. Stoehr gives the following description of the paired opposites:

  • the Passive nihilist “flounders in his moral ambiguities and eventually refuses to rise above the negativity in his own life”
  • the Active nihilist “gains clarity of purpose as he comes to view the presence of ambiguity or negativity as a creative challenge that may result in acts of self-overcoming”

Although AJ clearly fits the former description, he is trying now to fit into the latter; he tries to be more informed about global issues, be more conscious of the many injustices in the world, as his sister is. But he is unpracticed at this role, and his complaints about the state of the world end up sounding feeble and whiny. AJ doesn’t have the “clarity of purpose” that Stoehr requires the active nihilist to have. In fact, AJ doesn’t have very much clarity about anything. AJ’s psychiatrist suggests that he write down his thoughts because “it might help clarify your feelings.” Of course, we know that AJ is not going to make the effort to do so (just like his father never made the effort to keep a log of his thoughts and feelings as Melfi had asked him to do in Season 3). I think the reason AJ turns to W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” with such keen interest now is because it seems to articulate ideas that he can’t express or clarify himself.

THE SECOND COMING
William Butler Yeats published “The Second Coming” in 1919, during the worst pandemic of the 20th century and not long after the end of World War I. The brutal war brought devastation to the globe on a scale that was previously unimaginable, and the ensuing years were a time of pessimism and suspicion. Even after the fighting had ended, the world remained fractured along ideological and factional lines. This dark postwar temper contributed to the apocalyptic tone of Yeats’ poem. There was a sense that the chaos and destruction that was unleashed upon the world by both the virus and the World War was still lurking around some near corner. Havoc could soon have its way again. 

Perhaps we can still relate in contemporary times to that feeling. An August 2016 Wall Street Journal article, “Terror, Brexit and U.S. Election Have Made 2016 the Year of Yeats,” noted that lines and phrases from “The Second Coming” had been quoted, mentioned and referenced more times in the first seven months of 2016 than during any period in the last 30 years (according to the research tool ‘Factiva’). The WSJ article hypothesized that the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate as well as the United Kingdom’s move toward leaving the E.U. (and, of course, the factors that led to these two events) reflected a worldwide pessimism. The world is still split along factional and ideological lines, and fear and xenophobia have gripped many societies around the planet. A month before writing this paragraph, I read that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) recently moved the hands of the so-called “Doomsday Clock” 20 seconds closer to midnight. Standing merely 100 seconds from metaphorical midnight, the clock now stands closer to Armageddon than it ever has in its 73-year history. As for the reasons behind their grim decision, BAS cites the unchecked Iranian and North Korean weapons programs, the undermining of democracy around the world, tensions between global superpowers, the rise of disruptive technologies, deteriorating environmental conditions and climate change. On top of that, we are right now contending with the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus disease along with the chaotic social and economic disruptions the pandemic is bringing. Yeats’ poem, published almost exactly 100 years ago, was filled with ominous imagery that reflected the global mood of the time. Yeats could not have guessed that his poem might be even more representative of the international mood today:

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Chase gets a lot of mileage out of Yeats’ poem, he uses it to accomplish several different things here in this second part of Season 6:

  1. It gives form to AJ’s shapeless thoughts
  2. It posits AJ as a sort of “second coming” of Tony Soprano
  3. It gives voice to an idea that has been implicit throughout the series, the idea that Tony is a kind of unholy “rough beast”
  4. Its doomsday imagery intensifies the sense of impending apocalypse that colors the endgame of The Sopranos

When we heard Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me” close out the Pilot, 83 episodes ago, we understood that the protagonist of this TV series was going to be a more beastly character than probably any central character we’ve ever encountered on American television. I believe that David Chase has always postulated Tony Soprano to be a uniquely American beast, a creature formed of our consumeristic excess coupled with our ruthlessly capitalist values. These troubling aspects of our culture are alluded to with the opening shot of the episode:

opening shot second coming

The illegal dumping continues the previous episode’s storyline in which the mob felt zero compunction about soiling the environment in exchange for a higher profit margin. We produce an immense amount of garbage in this country, and this garbage is a money-making commodity rather than a social/community concern as it is in so many other countries. Environmental degradation is simply par for the course in a system that values profit over everything else. And Tony is a prodigy at exploiting that system. (Chase surely wants us to see the irony of that opening image: a sign instructs pet owners to pick up their relatively harmless dog-poop—but no one stops the mob from dumping a steaming pile of highly toxic trash. Chase slips in a similarly ironic image later when we see Silvio reading How to Clean Practically Anything; we know that Silvio likes to spend his downtime cleaning and fixing stuff, and therefore his participation in an organization that remorselessly fouls the commons—the air, the land, the water—is tragically contradictory.) Chase has been using his mob saga as an allegory to suggest that a culture of unbridled consumption hitched to a relatively unregulated economic system can lead to an unhealthy society with unhealthy individuals. Chase, in these two most recent episodes, emphasizes the damage that such an unhealthy system does to the natural world and everyone living within it. 

Nature has long been a part of the Sopranos narrative, though usually not in very obvious ways. The natural elements of fire and water, for example, had a profound presence in the Pilot episode, though we may not have recognized their full significance at the time:

fire and water

Tony’s interactions with nature’s elements are limited in the way that most suburban dads’ interactions with nature are limited: he goes for a dip in his chlorinated pool, he feeds the occasional duck, he fires up his backyard grill every now and then. Other than Tony’s encounter with the wild ducks and a potential encounter with a wild black bear, most of Tony’s interactions with animals have been with the domesticated sort: Pie-O-My the horse, a goat, various dogs. Although Tony did have some sort of intense, peyote-driven experience surrounded by the natural world in the closing moments of the previous episode, he usually wastes all his opportunities for a wilder and deeper commune with nature, like he did in the pastoral setting of upstate New York near Lake Oscawana (where he also wasted the tree he unloaded his clip into):

tony and nature

In his essay, “Tony Needs Nature: The Sopranos and The Wasteland of North Jersey,” Tim Wenzell argues that the residents of northern New Jersey have become reduced to a collection of drivers who must spend much of their time navigating highways, strip malls, and urban sprawl in their isolated vehicles. New Jersey, he notes, “holds the double distinction of having the most people per square mile and the most highways per square in the nation.”

Wenzell contends that the retreat of nature from daily life has had profound consequences on man: “As Philip Sutton Chard notes in The Healing Earth, ‘America is a society in decline,’ and attributes this primarily to alienation not from society or the social order or good old-fashioned values, but ‘estrangement from the natural order, the most basic of orders, the one upon which all others—social, familial, psychological and spiritual—rest. The order of the Earth.'” The separation from nature is underscored very early in The Sopranos, Wenzell goes on to argue, when Tony gets all angsty about the departure of the duck family from his backyard. Wenzell believes that Dr. Melfi made a serious mistake by misinterpreting Tony’s anxiety to be about separation from his family, rather than his separation from nature. This type of mistake is not surprising given that Melfi herself seems mostly disconnected from the natural world, and also given that she doesn’t seem to have any training in the field of eco-psychology (a discipline which seeks to treat the physical and emotional ailments that arise from the alienation between mankind and nature). I don’t completely agree with Wenzell—I don’t think that an eco-centric approach to therapy would have necessarily helped Tony or pulled him out of a life of crime. But I do agree that an eco-critical approach to understanding The Sopranos can be very eye-opening.

In his book, The Sopranos: TV Milestone Series, Gary Edgerton writes that “The cultural geography of The Sopranos often reflects a lifestyle out of balance, putting the one-time pristine natural habitat of the Meadowlands against the current logjam of polluting smokestacks, noxious landfills, and densely populated neighborhoods that comprise the omnipresent suburban sprawl of the series.” This idea of lifestyle-out-of-balance becomes more pronounced as the series reaches its close.

Architects often talk about genius loci, which can be translated literally as the Spirit of the Place. The ancient Romans who coined the term believed that each geographical place was protected by a particular divine Spirit. In our more secular era, we can translate the term to mean the soul or atmosphere of a place. Architects are concerned with genius loci because they often look to the soul of a place to inspire and shape their work; their artistic mandate is usually to create a work that fits with harmony and balance into the place in which it is located. David Chase, though not an architect, seems to have an instinctive consideration of genius loci. The opening credits of every Sopranos episode, for example, captures the atmosphere of north Jersey from the industrial wastelands right through to the manicured suburban lawns. Chase’s sense of place is also conveyed in every episode through location shooting—I don’t think there has ever been a television series that has utilized as much filming on-location as The Sopranos has. I believe that Chase has been suggesting throughout the series, particularly in the two most recent hours, that the debasement of the soul of the New Jersey landscape is linked with the debasement of the souls of his fictional characters. And by extension, the debasement of our landscape nationwide is linked to the debasement of our cultural soul.

genius loci

“In the fusion of place and soul, the soul is as much a container of place as place is
a container of soul. Both are susceptible to the same forces of destruction.” (Robert Pogue Harrison)

In my writeup for “…To Save Us All From Satan’s Power” (3.10), I suggested that Tony was being presented as a sort of Satanic figure. It was a bit difficult to make that argument in Season 3, but it is easier to make now. In Season 3, we could agree (with some reservation) with Carmela’s assessment of Tony when she told her priest, “He’s a good man, basically.” Yes, Tony was a murderer and an extortionist and a thug even back then, but he wasn’t necessarily evil. He seemed more like an overgrown version of the prankish, delinquent child he had been, a man who went into a life of crime not because of some intrinsic wickedness but because his family- and social-situation pushed him into it. There was a childlike, mischievous twinkle in his eye back then. Now, however, that twinkle has been replaced by a dull, dead gaze. He has turned into something depraved and wicked. Chase specifically calls back Carmela’s Season 3 line in the current episode, when Tony tells Melfi “I’m a good guy, basically.” This is a delusion that we can no longer find tenable. Within Christian eschatology—the Christian theology regarding the “end times”—there is a belief that the second coming of Jesus Christ would be prefaced by the arrival of a false messiah sent by Satan, or perhaps even the Devil himself in disguise. Those of us who have been apologists for Tony Soprano, trying to argue that there is something redeemable in him or justifiable about his lifestyle, should have recognized our mistake by now. Tony’s example of how to live the American Dream and achieve comfort, wealth and happiness has been a false message trumpeted by a false prophet.

(Of course, when I say that Chase may be presenting Tony as a false messiah, I don’t mean it literally. There have been supernatural moments on the series that could be taken literally, like the fearsome vision of the Virgin Mary at the Bing, or the psychic that was spookily accurate, or the appearance of Pussy’s ghost in a mirror. But I don’t think Chase is saying here that Tony Soprano is the actual Anti-Christ.)

There is a juxtaposition of scenes in this hour that strongly evokes the idea of Tony as a sort of Anti-Christ. AJ lays in bed reading the last 10 ominous lines of Yeats’ poem, and then Chase cuts to Tony walking toward Agents Harris and Goddard at Satriale’s:

rough beast

Tony looks like “what rough beast” as he lumbers slowly (“moving its slow thighs”) with “gaze blank and pitiless” toward the two agents. Note that the camera is pitched slightly off-kilter as it captures Tony, implying that he represents the world out-of-balance. Tony is being equated with a monstrous “second coming.” The line “somewhere in sands of the desert” seem to directly recall the image of Tony in the desert at the end of the previous episode. “A shape with lion body and the head of a man” evokes the Egyptian Sphinx, which itself recalls the Egyptian mythology that was referenced by William Burroughs’ spoken-word piece “Seven Souls” in the Season 6 opener. And “Seven Souls,” as I mentioned in the previous write-up, is derived from Burroughs’ novel The Western Lands which might be seen as a template for Tony’s trip through the western lands of America in the previous hour. 

David Chase seems to be developing a SopranoWorld eschatology. Tony represents a troubling second coming of Christ, while AJ is the troubled second coming of Tony Soprano. There are a couple of moments in this hour that formally connect father and son:

  • two early shots of each of them laying in bed are juxtaposed to one another
  • AJ says “Why can’t I catch a fuckin’ break?” calling back Tony’s “I can’t catch a fucking break” in episode 6.01 (right before Ray Curto keeled over and died just as he was implicating Tony in a murder)

As I noted in the previous write-up, AJ’s very name signifies that he is the ‘junior’ version of his dad. (“Meadow,” on the other hand, invokes the regenerative, healing balm of nature.) Anthony Junior is the product and purveyor of a culture of degradation and callousness that his father is very guilty of producing and purveying. 

The Peruvian intellectual Mario Vargas Llosa has written at length about the “the civilization of the spectacle.” The culture of modern civilization, he argues, wants more than anything else to entertain us—and the easiest, quickest, cheapest way to entertain us is through spectacle. Whether it’s clickbait headlines, ridiculous viral videos, extravagant red carpet displays, infuriating reality show personalities, there is no shortage of spectacle in popular culture. Pop culture is often heavy on shock-value and light on thoughtfulness. Such a culture routinely passes off mindless pablum as serious art. The culture of spectacle does not foster clarity or intelligent action, in fact it doesn’t even grant us the hours of peace and silence that are often needed to facilitate clear-headed action. The culture leaves us ill-equipped to address urgent issues in a truly rational way. The Culture of Spectacle, according to Llosa, is frivolous, vacuous, nihilistic, and might ultimately be destroyed by the nothingness at its own core. Now I’m not quite as hard on pop culture as old man Llosa is, but I do think that contemporary culture may be leading us to the precipice of an enormous crossroad. Our current culture has the potential to dehumanize us and turn us into silly and indifferent beings. We can already see how genuine empathy is being replaced by faux sentiment and virtue-signaling. We can see how we are becoming passive automatons, conditioned by social media and a million other influences to continuously and mindlessly search for tiny little bits of pleasure or reassurance. AJ Soprano, as we’ve known him through the years, personifies some of these ugly aspects of the Culture of Spectacle:

nihilist AJ

We are slowly being stripped of our humanity, so it is becoming natural that our response to pain and maliciousness is to laugh or look on with indifference or mute fascination. I don’t know if Mario Vargas Llosa ever watched The Sopranos, or what he might think of it. The series is very much a part of the popular culture that he criticizes, and it certainly has its moments of spectacle (including a couple of doozies in this hour). But a more signature characteristic of Chase’s TV show is how stubbornly it avoids spectacle; time and time again, viewers are led to believe that we’re headed towards some violent or mind-blowing scene, only to have Chase turn us away toward something much more mild or banal instead. In this hour, Chase generates tension and excitement in a way that is very unexpected for a TV showrunner to do (particularly the showrunner of a mobster drama): he uses a piece of literature. Yeats’ “The Second Coming” is one of the world’s most spectacular poems, filled with haunting and mystical imagery, and Chase utilizes it well.

When AJ’s English teacher reads the line, “the ceremony of innocence is drowned,” Chase cuts to the image of AJ right after the word “drowned,” foreshadowing the young man’s preferred method of self-destruction. AJ gets his chance when his mother leaves the house to go to Nordstrom. He ties a concrete block around his leg, pulls a plastic bag over his head and drops himself into the swimming pool. I think some of us were surprised to see AJ attempt suicide here (and not just because Chase cut to the scene rather abruptly). AJ just didn’t seem as depressed as he did in earlier episodes. We didn’t even see him cry in this hour (though he did have tears on his face as he readied himself on the diving board). But depression, of course, comes in many forms. I don’t think AJ was feeling the acid torment of romantic rejection or jealousy at this point; I think he was just feeling drained of all his emotions. In previous episodes, we had seen AJ grappling with the suspicion that love is a sham and life is little more than a raw deal. Twenty minutes into this hour, he is no longer grappling with that suspicion. He has succumbed to a feeling of meaninglessness, the dull blank sense that there is no major difference between being alive and being dead. For the passively nihilistic personality, like AJ’s, there may be a draw, a quiet seduction, in the idea of suicide by submersion. You just slip under the water and slip back into the Big Nothing from whence you came.

Tony arrives home and makes his way to the kitchen as we’ve seen him do many times before. We wonder: is young AJ going to asphyxiate while Tony munches on some food 50 feet away? The backyard swimming pool has been a locus for the narrative and mythology of The Sopranos going all the way back to the very first scene in the very first episode. Twitter user @RevDukeSilver noticed something that possibly highlights the pool-connection between the Pilot hour and this hour: Tony had used concrete blocks to make a ramp for the ducks, and now AJ uses a similar block to weigh himself down.

concrete blocks

Season 6 has been undergirded by the question of karma, whether or not SopranoWorld characters will be punished in some way for their misdeeds and unethical attitudes. Christian eschatology is also concerned with notions of punishment and retribution in the context of the second coming of Christ. Now, in “The Second Coming,” Chase leads us to believe that Tony will suffer the horrific punishment of having to pull the dead body of his only begotten son out of the water.

But a funny thing happens on the way to suicide. AJ makes the rope too long and the concrete block cannot pull him down deep enough. Although AJ had decided in his mind to slip back into the sweet void of nothingness, his body now revolts; he kicks and thrashes in an effort to keep his head above water. It reminded me a bit of how Eugene Pontecorvo’s body mutinied against his brain’s decision to end it all in episode 6.01, flailing at the end of a rope in a desperate attempt to stay alive. I argued in that write-up that there was something metaphorically fitting about Eugene’s manner of death: he was caught in a noose fashioned by both the mob and the FBI, and not even a $2 million inheritance could give him the breathing room he needed. I think AJ’s botched attempt now is also metaphorically fitting. AJ has always seen the world somewhat simplistically, he never looked at his family history or his school subjects or philosophy (“Nitch”) with any real depth—and so it is quite fitting that he would now miscalculate the depth of the swimming pool. The method he devises to kill himself is almost perfect symbolically. The concrete block fettered to his ankle pulls him down just as surely as the gloom and nihilism of being a Soprano has pulled him down, while the rope he cut too long leaves him in the shallows, where he has resided his entire life. (The image of AJ struggling to breathe right at the waterline may call to mind that other shallow and unfortunate son, Jackie Jr, who once almost drowned in three inches of water at the penguin exhibit.)

Tony recognizes that something is amiss in the swimming pool but doesn’t immediately understand what is going on: “AJ, what the fuck?” He tosses aside the Lincoln Log sandwich in his hand and jumps into the water. After some fumbling, Tony hauls his son up and out of danger. AJ starts sobbing uncontrollably. In a surge of anger and frustration, Tony shakes AJ and yells, “What’s wrong with you!” But then Tony pulls his weeping child into his lap and reassures him, “C’mon baby, you’re alright. You’re alright, baby.” It is one of the most tender and poignant moments I’ve ever watched on my television.

Professor Franco Ricci, in his book The Sopranos: Born Under a Bad Sign, deconstructs the link between Tony and his boy at this moment:

Like a desperate mother, he coddles the water-soaked body of his son in an exquisitely posed pieta posture… Lovingly stroking his head in much the same manner that his imaginary mother gently stroked his own infant head in “Isabella” (1.12), both return to childhood, to a preternatural space of comfort and affection, before the trauma of growing up Soprano had become the fodder for suicide.

Back at the Bing, the guys get very quiet when Tony walks in. No one knows how to broach the subject of AJ’s suicide attempt, or even if they should. So Tony brings the subject up himself: “Ok, let’s dispense with the 500 pound elephant in the room, huh?” He’s mixing together two different idiomatic expressions with this sentence: “the 800 pound gorilla” + “the elephant in the room.” (He made the same mistake in episode 5.13 in a conversation with Johnny Sac.) It’s an innocent mix-up, and everyone knows what Tony means, but it’s an interesting jumble nonetheless. Adult elephants are actually around 12,000 pounds; they only weigh 500 pounds when they are babies. So, Tony’s malapropism manages to inadvertently reference his own “baby”: Anthony Junior. The men loosen up, and some of the fathers relate some of the difficulties their own children have had growing up. Paulie, though not a dad himself, offers his theory on why today’s youngsters have problems: “All the toxins they’re exposed to—it fucks with their brains.” (This is a profoundly ironic statement, considering that the mobsters very recently left a pile of asbestos-laden material sitting at a junior high school.)

While the mafioso try to be supportive of Tony at the Bing, the situation at home is much thornier for him. Tony understandably feels downhearted, but when he tries to elicit some sympathy from his wife, she unloads on him—and his entire family tree. Carmela even calls out Tony’s great-grandfather who drove a donkey cart off the road in Avellino (a story which may remind us of the time Tony crashed his “cart”—a Chevy Suburban—during a panic attack in episode 2.01.) Carm blames the Soprano clan for AJ’s troubled thoughts: “He didn’t get it from my family.” Carmela may have a valid point. Several of Tony’s relatives, and even he himself to a degree, are too quick to whine and complain and fall into a state of victimhood. “It’s hereditary,” T tries to convince Carm. But she’s not buying it this time. Even if some aspect of AJ’s depression is genetically inherited, he was taught how to play the depression-card by his Soprano predecessors. Habitual whiner AJ, as we saw early in the hour, sounded almost exactly like his dad when he complained that he can never catch a fucking break. (Of course, AJ catches the biggest break of his life in this episode, when his dad arrives home just in time to rescue him from drowning.) However, I think that by attacking Tony’s family, Carmela is also trying to shake off her own sense of guilt and complicity. She was unable to help her son in his time of greatest need. And she knows that she has never heeded Dr. Krakauer’s advice from years ago: “Take only the children, what’s left of them, and go.”

This entire scene in the kitchen between Tony and Carmela is shot with a shaky handheld camera, and the jittery images convey the idea that SopranoWorld is a place coming out of balance. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Tired of trading volleys with his wife, Tony tosses the F-bomb at her. Carmela takes off her watch and throws it at his face. Tony had given her the watch earlier in the hour with the words “You are my life” inscribed on the back (which perhaps recalls the conversation in 1.06 “Pax Soprana” when he told Carm, “You’re not just in my life, you are my life”). With a bruised ego and a smarting face, Tony hurls the watch back at her.

Carm and Tony accompany AJ to his shrink’s office. We see here how accurately Carmela’s criticism of the Soprano family lineage rings true. Tony is aggressive toward his boy, even spitting out a mocking “Poor you”—a phrase he learned from Livia—at AJ. (Tony had also said “Poor you” to Carmela earlier in the kitchen scene.) But Tony pipes down when AJ recounts how his grandmother told him “It’s all a big nothing” years ago. Tony realizes that his son is now paying for the sins of his mother, and he goes quiet. Prof. Gary Edgerton writes that:

Much of Tony’s charisma as a mob boss and empathy as a father derive in large part from James Gandolfini’s rich and generous physicality as an actor…continually touching, kissing, embracing, grabbing, shaking, pushing and sometimes even punching the people around him. As a result, Tony’s most obvious parenting skills are corporeal in nature.

In this hour, the professor notes, Tony physically pulls AJ out of the pool and then physically cradles him in his lap, but when it is time to be emotionally present and supportive, Tony is not so successful. Tony has never been a very supportive or understanding dad. He can be very dismissive, as we saw earlier in this hour. When AJ demonstrated in this episode that he is becoming more educated about the various injustices and ills of the world (many of them the result of a relentless pursuit of profit, or “the God of the Bottom Line,” as AJ put it), Tony responded dismissively: “Education is to help you get a better job.” (Tony’s response, ironically, reveals how strongly he himself worships this God of the Bottom Line.)

Tony’s failures with AJ, I believe, stem at least partly from his adherence to the ‘Strict Father’ mode of parenting (which I’ve broached in earlier write-ups so I won’t get into it too much here). The chauvinism of this parenting stance is alluded to early in this hour when Meadow explains to AJ his superior status within the family hierarchy: “You’re their son. You’ll always be more important.” The patriarchal Strict Father mindset requires male AJ to always be macho—the strong, silent type. But AJ doesn’t live up to this standard, and Tony tells Dr. Melfi it is because Carmela coddled him. He admits to Melfi that he is ashamed of his son. At the end of Season 3, Tony wanted to toughen AJ up by getting him out of the house and into a military school. Now, near the end of Season 6, Tony’s unrealistic standards have gotten AJ out of the house and into a psychiatric ward.

In the final scene of the hour, Tony arrives at the hospital ward to visit his boy. He characteristically brings a pizza to share with AJ (we’ve seen the Father, the Son and the Holy Pie make a trinity of sorts in prior episodes), but the nurse takes the food away. Yeats’ poem is once again evoked in these final moments: Tony, with slow moving thighs, shuffles down the corridor as AJ steps lazily into the frame. Two rough beasts slouching towards Bethlehem:

slouching gif

The image almost looks like it was shot in black-and-white, it is drained of virtually all color. Happiness and vitality too are being drained from SopranoWorld. The shot fades to black, epitomizing the shadow that is falling over all their lives. The scene is scored to “Ninna Ninna,” a lo-fi but haunting Old World song composed of just guitar and vocals, and it takes us through the end-credits. It provides a powerful end to a powerful episode.


HBO did not list very much information about the song in 2007, so fans buzzed after the episode originally aired: what was this unforgettable, eerie thing we had just listened to? A resourceful viewer figured out it was a folksong that was released through the Smithsonian’s “Folkways Records” label in 1955:

ninna cd cover

If the song itself doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, the synopsis of the track on the album’s liner notes certainly might:

Lullaby from Sardinia. The mother sings to her little boy. His father, a brigand, escaped to the mountains and is being followed. She sings “Antoneddu, little Anton, I’d rather see you dead than a bandit in the mountains.” So that she will not have to disclose her husband’s whereabouts, she too will go into the mountains. Her son sings “Mama, mama, when I live in the mountains, I won’t fall into dishonor.” In the third stanza, the ghost-like voice of the father is heard: “Sing o beautiful, sing o beautiful, all around me it’s quiet and I only hear you singing.”

With that synopsis (and maybe even without), the track makes a strong contender for Most Perfect Song Selection of the series. Carmela’s earlier reference to Tony’s great-grandfather back in Avellino almost feels like a prelude to this old-timey song from the old country. The dynamic between the song’s mother, father and son somehow feels comparable to the dynamic between Carmela, little Anthony and Tony the brigand. Perhaps most subtly, the “mountain” that is mentioned in the song has an actual SopranoWorld counterpart: AJ is staying in the ward at Mountainside Hospital. (I don’t think the hospital is mentioned by name in the episode but it is named in the credits. I’ll have more to say about this hospital in the next write-up.)

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WAR WITH NEW YORK
The affairs between NJ and NY are getting uglier. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not crazy about Chase’s decision to use Phil Leotardo to bring tension to the narrative at the end of a season again. This is the third time Chase has done it (if we count 6A as its own season), and so Tony and Phil’s relationship is starting to feel something like Ross and Rachel’s on-again-off-again thing on Friends. But actor Frank Vincent does an incredible job with the storyline; in fact, some of Phil’s best, most ballsy lines are in this episode. Negotiations have broken down between the two famiglias, money is not flowing as it should, all the mob’s rules and customs are going out the window. Sal “Coco” Cogliano violates the taboo against intimidating wives and children when he harasses Meadow at a restaurant. After Meadow #MeToo’s the big thug at the family kitchen table (kudos to her), Tony gives Coco an indoor curb-stomping that neither he nor we will ever forget.

Tony needs to make amends for his bloody overreaction, so Lil Carmine works out an opportunity for the two bosses to meet. But when Tony arrives at Phil’s house, hat in hand, Phil does a 180 and turns him away most ungraciously. David Chase has very often set up the possibility of spectacular violence on The Sopranos, only to pull the narrative back to the prosaic, the mundane, the fucking regularness of life. Now, however, as the series marches to its finis, we get the sense that warfare and immense bloodletting are going to be inevitable.

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“I GET IT” REVISITED
While AJ is unable to articulate his pain in this episode, Tony is unable to articulate his epiphany. He had some kind of transcendent vision in the previous episode—he saw something—but as Dana Polan writes in his book The Sopranos, “Whatever the revelation, it is negated in the context of the show.” In the backroom of Satriale’s, Tony grabs at words to describe his experience on peyote, but gives up when the words fail him. Walden Belfiore shares a little bit about his experience doing Ecstasy—he’s not quite like the other guys, none of whom seem to have any experience with psychoactive drugs. (Paulie, however, did inadverently do acid one time when a B.O.A.C. stewardess put some in his drink. And Bobby did mushrooms once—stuffed mushrooms, a whole fuckin platter.)

Tony gives it another try in Melfi’s office, but when he again struggles to explain, the good doctor suggests that maybe Tony saw “alternate universes.” When Tony realizes that she’s not being sarcastic, he responds, “Maybe.” (I think this is potentially a very momentous exchange, but I’ll get into why in the final write-up.) Tony continues, saying that “at one point” he saw that our mothers are vehicles that drop us off in the world, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to get back on the bus instead of just letting go. It’s an interesting idea, but it certainly isn’t anything mind-blowing. This probably isn’t what he “got” when he yelled “I get it!” This is just an insight he came upon “at one point” during his peyote trip.

As underwhelming as I found the ‘mothers-as-buses’ insight to be, my antenna went up when I realized that Tony used the word “vehicle” to describe the mothers in his vision. Of all the various forms of Buddhism practiced in the world today, Mahayana—or “Great Vehicle”—is the most popular. (“Maha” means great or large; “yana” means vehicle or raft. Mahayana teachings can be thought of as a raft or vehicle that help a person cross the river of suffering.) I know it’s quite a reach to suggest that Chase may be making an outright reference to Buddhism just because Tony uses the word “vehicle.” But then I also noticed that this whole scene in Melfi’s office begins with Tony referencing something from ancient Chinese philosophy:

yin and yang

“There’s a balance, there’s a ying and a yang,” Tony says. Now technically, there isn’t a direct connection between Buddhism and the ancient Chinese philosophy from which the yin-yang comes. But there has been overlapping influence throughout the millennia between the two schools of thought, and both emphasize that the dualisms we find in the universe are not truly dual. Instead, everything is interconnected. Or as John Schwinn put it in 6.04, “Everything is everything.” I may be reading too much into all this, but it is nevertheless interesting to think that this short scene in Tony’s psychiatrist’s office may be referencing a couple of ancient Eastern philosophies in addition to “alternate universes.” (Keep all this within easy reach because I’m going to ask you to pull it out again two episodes from now.)

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TRAGICOMEDY
Chase has always incorporated different genres into The Sopranos, but perhaps no hour blends Comedy and Tragedy (the yin and yang of storytelling) like “The Second Coming” does. This is a truly funny hour. We have the politically incorrect humor of AJ insisting that Blanca isn’t black, but then admitting “she’s pretty tan.” There is the gallows humor of Tony figuring AJ bungled his attempt at suicide because “he might just be a fuckin’ idiot—historically that’s been the case.” My internet-buddy @timeimmemorial_, in one of his typically hilarious memes, found the humor in one of the episode’s most dramatic and portentous scenes:

phil house red

The funniest scene of the hour is probably when Bobby Bacala and Tony Maffei go to collect payment from asbestos abatement contractor John Stefano. Bobby is clearly anxious about being so close to the toxic material. Actor Steve Schirripa has always had a great comic delivery, going back to his first episode (2.02) when Bobby pulled a line out of his quotation book: “To the victor belong the spoils.” Schirripa’s funny bone was confirmed in Season 4, when Bobby proclaimed that “Quasimodo predicted all this” and then proceeded to go into a “Who’s-on-first?” type of routine with Tony Soprano. The whole sequence in the current hour, building up to Bobby’s punchline to John Stefano, could almost be something out of a comic strip:

bob comic

But this scene also has a very serious aspect to it (and I don’t just mean in our current moment, when we’re all being very careful of who and what we touch due to COVID-19). None of the workers who are disposing of the hazardous materials are wearing hazmat suits, a fact that gets highlighted when Tony Maffei asks where their “spacesuits” are. Stefano replies that they are working outside of union regulations, because otherwise “ain’t none of us gonna make any real scratch.” Halleluha, all hail the God of the Bottom Line. The workers, or “bozos” as Bobby calls them, are mostly from Ecuador and Poland and presumably not in a position to demand higher safety standards. The mafia, who in effect function as Management in this business arrangement, care little about Labor, reflecting a situation that is all too common in the real world. There is, therefore, a great irony in Bobby asking for the payoff to be put into an envelope. The roll of cash may or may not be tainted by asbestos, but it is definitely tainted by something arguably worse: an utter disregard for the health and well-being of the men removing the dangerous material.

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LINCOLN LOGS ANYONE?
I remember playing with a Lincoln Logs building set when I was a kid (invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of the celebrated architect Frank), but I’ve never even heard of Lincoln log sandwiches. Apparently they are hot dogs with cream cheese and Worcester sauce (according to Robert Iler who does a DVD commentary for this hour). The name of the dish must be a reference to Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a Kentucky log cabin. (I guess the cream cheese would look a bit like cabin chinking.)

There is, perhaps notably, another Lincoln reference in this hour; an advertisement for the insomnia medication Rozarem plays on the TV at AJ’s hospital ward, and it features a cartoonish Abe Lincoln character. The double references to Honest Abe here made me wonder if Chase was performing a double callback to the little snippet of the documentary Lincoln which we saw playing on the Soprano TV set in “Kaisha” (6.12). We heard the narrator in the snippet say that for certain people, “depression is a form of forced introversion”; the documentary makes the argument that it was from this forced introversion that President Lincoln’s courage, empathy and resilience arose. Abraham Lincoln would fit into Stoehr’s definition of the Active Nihilist, one who finds a sense of purpose in the creative challenge of overcoming all that is negative in his life. Anthony Junior, we can all agree, is no Abraham Lincoln. AJ’s depression doesn’t push him toward clarity or courage, it just pushes him over the edge. I can’t say with any real confidence that Chase was trying to make a purposeful link here to “Kaisha” with the double refs to Lincoln, but it would certainly be fitting as “Kaisha” was the episode in which AJ first met and hooked up with Blanca. In the time that has passed from that episode to this one, AJ’s heart has run the full gamut of emotions.

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Meadow drops two bombs on her family this hour: 1) she has decided to go to law school instead of med school, and 2) she is dating Patrick Parisi. The two revelations are directly connected as her career choice was apparently influenced by lawyer Patrick’s inspirational discussions about justice and the law. Many viewers believe that these two developments in Meadow’s life indicate that she is squandering all the progress she has made in distancing herself from the mob (i.e. she will become a mob-lawyer with a mob-lawyer husband and they will produce little mob-lawyer babies). I’m not so critical of Meadow’s decisions here, partly because Patrick, in our quick introduction to him, seems to be a fairly mature, cultured and intelligent young man. He doesn’t seem very much at all like his younger brother Jason (who was such a bad influence on AJ earlier this season). We can’t imagine, for example, seeing Jason get excited about two front-row mezzanine theater tickets to see Grey Gardens as Patrick does. Interestingly, the stage musical that Patrick is referring to (which is based on the Maysles Brothers’ incredible documentary) was actually playing on Broadway at the time this episode originally aired. Mary Louise Wilson, who we remember from episode 2.11 “House Arrest,” won a Tony Award for her role in the musical.

ROMANO

An intriguing question has been circulating about Patrick Parisi: Is he the same “Patrick” that young Meadow mentioned to her mother in the Pilot episode? (Meadow mentioned the name as she tried to make an excuse for sneaking out of her bedroom window: “Patrick’s swim meet is tomorrow. He needed me!”) Knowing Chase’s interest in connectivity, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he re-purposed a name that was fleetingly mentioned in the Pilot to come back into the narrative in a significant way now. If it is indeed the same Patrick, it might be saying something not only about David Chase’s interest in making connections, but also about the two Soprano siblings’ attitudes towards connectivity. Strong, resilient, well-centered Meadow is able to make meaningful connections with people that last over the course of years, while AJ is not able to nurture such connections. He started to take his relationship with Blanca for granted over time, then became needy and desperate in a way that made a future friendship with her impossible after their breakup, and then came completely undone after losing hope that he could make such a connection with someone ever again.

Marisa Carroll, in her essay “‘When It Comes to Daughters, All Bets Are Off’: The Seductive Father-Daughter Relationship of Tony and Meadow Soprano,” makes some insightful observations regarding Tony’s reaction to learning about Mead’s new boyfriend. Tony has always been aggressive towards Meadow’s men, insulting Noah right out of the gate, assaulting Jackie Jr before having him killed, and barking at Finn when he once tried to pay for dinner. Tony, she writes, “also endangered Finn by getting him a job at a mobbed-up construction site, and the ramifications of that decision eventually lead Meadow and Finn to part.” Carroll breaks down the scene where Meadow tells Tony of how Coco harassed her. We can see Tony’s blood start to burn, but he remains fairly calm and assures his daughter that “he’ll talk to somebody” about what happened. It is only when Tony learns of Mead’s new relationship with the Parisi boy that he seems to lose his patience: it is at this revelation that he gets up and rushes away from the table.

The next time we see Tony, he has come to the restaurant to unload his anger. He growls “You motherfucker! My fucking daughter? My fucking daughter!” as he smashes Coco repeatedly in the face. Tony, of course, has cause to be angry at Coco, but it’s also possible that he’s taking out his anger/jealousy toward Patrick Parisi on the New York thug. (It reminds me a bit of when Tony snarled “She was an innocent, beautiful creature” as he pounded on Ralph Cifaretto, parlaying his anger about the death of Tracee into his anger about the death of Pie-O-My.) Tony’s fury toward Coco may indeed be amplified by a displaced psychosexual element.

This interpretation, Carroll continues, is bolstered by the appearance of Coco’s bloody tooth in Tony’s trousers cuff. The image of the tooth (simultaneously hilarious and disturbing) caused many viewers, including myself, to harken back to the scene in “The Test Dream” (5.11) in which Tony spit a bloody tooth into a dish moments after displaying another bloody tooth he had kept in his pocket. This occurred during a dinner scene with Finn and his parents—Tony’s potential in-laws. I noted in my write-up for 5.11 that dreams of teeth falling out are often understood by dream-interpreters to signify a fear of losing power. Tony’s bloody teeth may have signified his fear of losing power to Meadow’s fiancé. “A bloody tooth,” Carroll infers, “is used yet again in ‘The Second Coming’ to remind us that Tony is still haunted by Meadow’s inevitable sexual maturation.” I’ll come back to Marisa Carroll’s essay in my write-up for “Made in America,” where I’ll have more to say about Meadow’s decision to be with Patrick and what her future may hold.

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MELFI in KUPFERBERG’S OFFICE
Elliot Kupferberg tells Melfi of a study by the psychiatrists Yochelson and Samenow which found that sociopathic criminals use psychotherapy to sharpen their criminal skills. (The study was done in the 1970s, so it’s a little odd that Melfi wouldn’t be familiar with it. I’ll get more into the study in the next write-up.) Melfi believes Elliot is essentially saying “I told you so,” and she accuses him of smirking at her. He denies it. Personally, I didn’t see an obvious smirk on his face. But, of course, he does often have a smug air about him, particularly when he’s sipping from his giant water bottle, as he does here. (I wish somebody would curb-stomp that water bottle of his.) Melfi’s response, short though it may be, seems to indicate that she is harboring a suspicion that she has enabled and facilitated criminal behavior. This is important to note because it helps to explain Melfi’s sudden decision to terminate Tony’s therapy later.

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ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • This episode won the Writer’s Guild Award for ‘Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.’
  • AJ snarls about “some mall in Minnesota and these gigantic fat people buying all this stuff and eating shit.” He must be referring to the Mall of America, that majestic temple of consumerism, in Bloomington MN.
  • The image of AJ with a plastic bag on his head reminded some viewers of the infamous torture photo that came out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq a few years earlier. Chase has denied that there was any conscientious connection being made.

Aj abu ghraib

  • Song Selection. Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” is rather fittingly playing while Lil Carmine talks to Tony about approaching Phil Leotardo to apologize.
  • The Second Coming. Yeats’ poem was previously alluded to in 5.10 “Cold Cuts” when Melfi referenced a line from it: “The center cannot hold, the falcon cannot hear the falconer.” (Tony responded, “What the fuck are you talking about?”) We might also remember that just before he died, Big Pussy described the ass of a 26-year old acupuncturist down in Puerto Rico as “the second coming.” (Hey Puss, did she even really exist?)
  • We find out from the FBI agents that Ahmed and Muhammed are possibly terror financiers. Those Amex credit card numbers the mob sold to them are possibly being used to fund terror.
  • Elliot tells Dr. Melfi, “My father was a rabid Untouchables fan. Make of that what you will.” David Chase has said that he watched the show with his dad as a boy.
  • The Hopi Indian word koyaanisquatsi, meaning “life-out-of-balance,” could be used to describe the state of SopranoWorld as the series reaches its close. (I’m familiar with the word only because of Godfrey Reggio’s eye-catching experimental film of the same name which illustrates the overwhelming technological and industrial developments that have led to the receding of nature from human life.) While Chase makes no outright reference to the Hopi concept in this hour, some viewers believe that the title of the next episode—“The Blue Comet”—is an allusion to another concept from Hopi Indian culture…

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2nd coming 2 (2)

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180 responses to “The Second Coming (6.19)

  1. I think Tony’s anger was with Coco and not about Patrick Parisi. I think he was looking like he was listening to Meadow when she was talking about Patrick, but I think he was seething about Coco and had to get justice. I don’t think that Tony is still “haunted by Meadow’s inevitable sexual maturation.” She’s been with boyfriends all along, he’s not that old fashioned. Carmela is the snob when it comes to who/what she wants for her daughter. I think it bothers her more because as Charmaine says’ Patsy’s an underling” Being the daughter of a Sicilian father, that reaction was common in my house. My father always reacted with threats or violence to any of the girls being mistreated by men or boys. It’s a fact of life in certain families. I’m always surprised that Meadow tells him anything when she knows he will retaliate.(Vito comes to mind) And why didn’t her boyfriend do something? The Parisi’s were the last thing on his mind. I think for AJ, his depression comes from a lot of factors. Being in his fathers shadow and not living up to it, his stupidity, his lack of motivation. Even when he reads about something upsetting that is happening in the world, like a lot of ignorant people he can’t put it in perspective. Instead of trying to make himself feel better by helping the environment in a positive way, or stop eating meat, or hanging around with people who only like him because of his father…he takes it on as a reason to be upset and depressed personally. He’s aimless, spoiled, and lazy. Deep down that is depressing, and I think that having a father that is a gangster affected him, from the time of the schoolyard fight where he learned about Tony’s business. It’s deep disappointment that his father is not a good person. He bounces back a little towards the end.
    Those commercials show that we are bombarded with anti-depressants and instead of just feeling bad or sad, we are encouraged to medicate away any feelings. He’s got those family traits, but he doesn’t have backbone or strength of character to pick himself up. Any time he got in trouble or did something shady like plagiarizing, or vandalizing he was not called to account in any real way. He’s a follower not a leader. He was good with Blanca and her son, because that was the polar opposite of his fathers life. Hopefully, he will become his own man eventually. Or a lazy loser.
    I’ll be interested to read your take on Meadow’s choices of fiance’ and job. I wonder if it is similar to mine? Thanks, I enjoyed it. Stay well.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I like that idea, that AJ was good with Blanca because he was trying to be the opposite of his dad at that time—we even saw him buy jewelry for her on his own instead of using his dad’s “discount.” By the end of the series, AJ goes back to being the ‘junior’ version of Tony Soprano… Thanks O, you stay well too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dude Manbrough

        Yeah, having a square job and dating an older Puerto Rican single mom was outright rebellion by Sopranos standards. IMO the “off-screen” developments re: AJ between 6A and 6B are kind of interesting. AJ is in full “rebel” mode as 6A ends, playing the doting step-dad and showing off his Blanca tattoo but when 6B starts he’s a manager at Beansie’s (which Tony no doubt got him) and he’s frolicking in his parent’s house with Blanca. Cracks are appearing in the “independent hard-working devoted family man” facade. It’s like taking the easy path is embedded in those putrid Sopranos genes or something.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Great to have you back Ron. I check this site every day. Going to savour it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll just say it. What was the point of the plastic bag? Is this just a demonstration of J’s ignorance of human physiology? trying to to drown yourself underwater with the rope-brick and trying to suffocate yourself with the ziplock and dinky rubber band is like the equivalent of using 2 condoms. It seems doubly safe but it actually just leads to the failure of both.
    It makes a frightening and unusual image, AJ without the bag on his head would not be nearly as iconic of an image were it bagless. Just want to know your thoughts. Why the bay from Ans perspective and why did Chase include he bag?
    Oh great article. Made my day.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Regan. I could totally see AJ trying to use two condoms and tearing both 😂 But I’m guessing the bag is effective if you do it properly. Anyway, it makes for a great image like you say..

      Like

    • manny44ameritechnet

      Terence Winter has talked about David Chase knowing somebody personally whose kid attempted suicide the same way A.J. does here.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’d say that Christopher was more accurately the James Dean model of the show, but none-the-less, another fantastic write-up, Ron! Only TWO more episodes left to go!!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thanks for all you do Ron. Perfectly encapsulated the pitiless, impending doom that this hour gives. The little details and intricacies you reveal always make me rewatch again and again.
    As we move to the final, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the ‘alternative’ ending that Chase has discussed – with the cut to black occurring in the tunnel as Tony drives to New York for a meeting. There’s so much foreshadowing to this ending, including in this episode, only for it to have changed.
    Don’t want to jump ahead but thought I’d put it out there before I lose the chance to ask!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks PlanZ. I believe Chase has only mentioned that alternative ending once and that was about 13 years after the series ended, so I don’t know how concrete the idea or development for it really was. But as you say, events start occurring in this episode that certainly could have led to that tunnel. In any case, I think it would have spawned as many different theories as the ending Chase actually gave us did…

      Like

    • @PlanZ
      That is interesting. No light at the end of the tunnel?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ron! You were my only hope! It amazes me how people on Reddit and other forums, along with Orangeannie above, have always missed the point of Tony’s anger in the revealing of Patrick Parisi as Meadow’s date. I thought for sure you would pick up on it. His anger was not a result of Patrick taking Meadow away from him or because this last disappointment being added to the heap sent Tony over the edge. Tony was upset, sure, but was not going to do anything–at least not immediately–about Coco’s remarks. The tension with Phil was as high as ever and it wouldn’t have been in Tony’s best interests to storm off in a fit of vengeance at that time. As Meadow reveals Patrick as her gentleman caller, Tony immediately storms out because he is pissed. But the reason he is pissed is missed by so many. He now HAS TO react to Coco’s actions. If Meadow had been on a date with some unfamiliar liberal arts major from Nebraska, Tony could file away Coco’s transgressions. But she was out with the son of Patsy Parisi. It is immediately apparent to Tony (and me, and unbelievably so few of my fellow reviewers) that word of the Coco encounter could easily get back to Patsy. If Tony’s guys find out and see that Tony did nothing–whether it was the strategic move or not–it would make him look weak. Tony, because his crew is now indirectly involved with the Meadow/Coco confrontation, HAS TO act NOW. THAT is why he gets pissed when hearing Patrick’s name. It ties his hands and forces him to take action right away, as opposed to a more strategic opportunity down the line. Watch the scene again with this in mind. I realize I am acting like I am right and everyone else is wrong and I apologize. I don’t KNOW this. But it just seems so obvious to me and I have NEVER seen anyone read the scene as I did. Yes, of course, Tony was upset with what Coco had done. But he was not about to fly off the handle at a time when he had bigger fish to fry. Hearing Patrick’s name forced his hand and that is why he blew up. The timing, the strategy, all of it out the window–his hand was forced and THAT pissed him off far more than Meadow being spoken to inappropriately. He was pissed because he had to act AND he was pissed because of the forthcoming consequences of his reaction.

    Liked by 6 people

    • I think he lost his temper and acted impulsively. He realized later it was a stupid move, but just like Janice his temper got the best of him, and he acted without thinking about the consequences. It’s highly inappropriate for anyone to speak to a Bosses daughter in such a way, and Coco knew it would set him off. I doubt he thought he would lose all his teeth, but again, these are people that operate on impulse. Just my opinion.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I cried in the scene of Tony hugging his son. thanks for taking the time to write this autopsy

        Liked by 1 person

        • Powerful scene 👍🏽

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        • The “Pietà” scene was very tender and emotional. I have the feeling (as I haven’t yet watched the last two episodes) that this is maybe the only time we get to see Tony’s full humanity on display. What a place to insert that – just when some of us have come to detest him!

          Liked by 1 person

      • I have terrible anger isssues (like tony) and deep debilitating depression (like tony… also have an undiagnosed personality disorder for sure.) When I watch the scene I think about how I would’ve acted if someone had done that to my daughter. Our (people with terrible tempers) first instinct is that we literally want to kill the person. I’m sure there’s lots of underlying unconscious Issues. But for the most part it’s generally what a person with a terribly bad temper would do on instinct. I actually think he held back a little by not completely killing the guy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Also an Italian father and Mob Guy would absolutely react in that way. It’s cultural. My father had that type of temper and defended me and my sister multiple times like that. If we didn’t want him to take action, we didn’t tell him. Sometimes you can’t ignore things. PS. I was never afraid and I always felt protected. I wouldn’t say that reaction is part of Tony’s psychological problems. It’s what a father does. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    • Dude Manbrough

      Finally, someone who agrees with me. Until Meadow mentions Patrick, Tony is angry but holding it together. He even manages an insincere smirk, in fact. But as soon as she mentions Patrick he INSTANTLY flees. Obviously he’s upset over his daughter being harassed, this isn’t in dispute. But hearing that Meadow was harassed by a mob guy, in a mob hangout, while she was with a mobster’s kid, that’s just too much for him to process. Meadow is way too close to Tony’s business now, which is his worst nightmare. As you said above, if she was out with Finn or another “civilian” he’d be mad, but not to that degree. Again, it’s all right there in the scene. Tony is not fuming with rage, he’s annoyed, but in spite of it he downplays it, telling Meadow no to worry about it. But the second he hears Patrick’s name his entire countenance changes, immediately. I’m likewise amazed by how many people either missed this or chose not to see it.

      Liked by 3 people

    • That’s a great point FTP. But I can’t fully square the intensity of Tony’s attack with that interpretation. I think he responds with a rage too hot for it to be coming mainly from some political/strategic considerations. His anger seems to be exploding out of some deep emotion, perhaps jealousy (which I described as “acid torment” earlier in the write-up). I believe the only time we’ve seen Tony get so angry + violent before was when he killed Ralph, and there was almost certainly some Freudian psychosexual stuff regarding Tracee (the stripper with daddy-issues) going on there. But your take is definitely going to influence how I see that scene from now on..

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dude Manbrough

        At one point in the series Tony is with Melfi and he says he hopes Meadow ends up “far away” from his lifestyle. He doesn’t want to contaminate her, so to speak. When he learns that a NY mobster was harassing her at a NY mob hangout while in the company of one of his underling’s kids it triggers his rage. He’s already battling fears of paternal inadequacies re: AJ, the idea that his daughter is now tangentially involved in his mob life and beef with NY just sends him over the edge. He “lost it” as he confesses to Little Carmine later. It’s his greatest fear, the idea that he’d somehow poison his children through his immoral toxic lifestyle and now it’s actually happening. Meadow being involved with Parisi means she’s right there in the circle, all the time, which is exactly what he doesn’t want for her.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I totally agree, but at the same time I’m not sure how honest Tony ever was about that statement to Melfi. He said that to her during the time he had to make the tough decision of having Jackie Jr killed—he was in an emotional state of mind, and got emotional while saying it. I think a small part of Tony might feel proud of his daughter if she somehow got involved in the business; it would prove how smart and wily she is.

          Like

          • I agree, Ron. As I was reading Dude’s response, I had in mind “if you can believe Tony” and you have those same doubts. Regarding the intensity of the attacks, I can see what you’re saying. Though, if I’m right and his fuel was more keeping up appearances than actual rage about a little comment to Meadow, the attack fits what he SHOULD do if he cares as much as he should. I’m just not convinced he did. I really think his instant mood change when hearing Patrick’s name is more him realizing “now I HAVE TO curb stomp this nobody”, rather than holding off until the Phil thing calms down and perhaps pretending he only heard about it at a later time. I truly believe Patrick being present forces his hand. The intensity of the attack could show his rage at that moment, sure. But, I am not convinced the rage stems from an insulted daughter. I think it all pisses him off and leads to such a viscous attack. I’m not speaking of how most dads would defend most daughters. I’m speaking of how this particular ingenuine sociopath would react. How he actually feels vs. how he believes his feelings and responses are being perceived is the key here. I guess it’s which one you believe. Personally, I believe if it had been the aforementioned Nebraskan student (haha) he would have filed it away and kept that bullet in his chamber, so to speak. But, once he heard it was Patrick, that all went out the window and he had to do what he didn’t really feel inside, while throwing gas on the Phil fire, and THAT is what pissed him off to such curb-stomping levels. The “my daughter” stuff, in my opinion, was an audible reason for his attack to hopefully be understood and given a pass by Phil & Co. I am sure somewhere deep inside he has some genuine feelings for his family, but whipped cream on Meadow’s mouth is not enough to bring them out.

            Liked by 1 person

            • @FThatParakeet
              That Tony was enraged because he was forced to act immediately or lose face is a really interesting observation that
              I’d never put together. Tony usually likes to ruminate on, sleep on, and sometimes even dream about a decision to undertake
              tactical violence before he acts on it.
              It also never crossed my mind that he did it out of jealousy towards Patrick regarding Meadow, but now I see both
              of those in addition to the face value reading. We’re dealing with the Big Chasino here, so motivation is never just
              this or that with him, it’s both, and even more that we haven’t thought of yet. I really appreciate this site and the
              comments section for opening up more and more interpretations. One other thing about the curb stomp is that prior to it
              Tony hadn’t had the chance to vent his anger and frustration and shame regarding AJ’s suicide attempt.
              Somebody always has to pay and Tony’s not one to observe the “rage turned inward” tenet of depression.

              Liked by 2 people

        • That’s an interesting point. I never thought that he had a problem with Patrick Parisi. Someone who is educated and supports her ambitions, while understanding her background and upbringing should make him happy for her. Who else can she marry who wouldn’t find having a gangster father-in-law repugnant? I really think in this instance, where Meadow tells him what Coco said, his visceral reaction was that his daughter was disrespected, and he had to avenge her. Even regular non connected fathers would get upset . She was upset and his protective instincts came into play. The daughters and wives are not supposed to be treated that way in OC. So Tony lost his temper even though he realized too late that he fell right into the trap that Coco set and now mob violence will start. He couldn’t let that pass without losing face. His temper always gets the better of him when it comes to his family. He is wired to be violently protective. It’s just part of who he is.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t you find it interesting that we see Tony at both his best and his worst with each of his children in the antepenultimate episode? Well done.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. AJ is somebody i relate to because i went through a fair bit of what he goes through in this episode (to note i didn’t break up with anybody as he does). Of a very nihilist phase and also of depression, which can and does make people feel that no matter how good they might have it, support structure (which AJ lacks because of Tony’s own inability to deal with his won depression and Carmella’s lack of understanding and idea on how to handle this) they have. they can’t see a way out of the rabbit hole they are in and it really takes a a lot more than willpower, good development etc to change that.

    Along with having and attempting suicide myself once because of what was happening and feeling like AJ does in this episode at a similar age. I think what i really relate to here is how Chase shows how ugly the depression is, how frustrating it can and does look to other people. both those who have never been depressed or have or others who have been worse.

    I think many viewers see AJ and it triggers those feelings, especially in some i think despite what they think they are more likely to act like AJ than Tony or somebody they expect to man up etc. Which i think for these viewers is too much to deal with and hits home hard in a way they don’t want to deal with so AJ ends up being a character they hate.

    It’s the difference between actually being empathetic and putting yourself in that person’s shoes or head and being sympathetic or pitying them or expecting them to do what you think you would in their situation by projecting yourself etc. Like how people often tell victims of abuse why didn’t you just leave, fight back etc. Completely ignorant of how abusers act and how they affect their victims.

    Granted AJ does allow himself to use his depression as a card as Tony does as you note no doubt about it and it is frustrating to watch AJ at times because of that passivity he clings to like a card. It really goes to show just how big Livia’s shadow hangs over the show even three seasons after she passed, how much damage has carried over generations. This is a real reflection of the harm of cycle that happens to some families in real life and is part of what makes the Sopranos timeless.

    Just my thoughts on AJ here.

    Meadows development in this episode, a lot of how we see it is through Tony’s POV and his tunnel vision of Meadow getting away from him, the life etc and doing something that couldn’t tie i imagine in his mind to the life (course this ignores him having the prick doctor on call or spinning to Jackie Jr of what a doctor can earn and do). Of that now she’s going into law (set up by her apprenticeship in season 4 at the law firm that AJ and his gf at the time can down to). Of marrying one of the sons of Patsi that to Tony means Meadow won’t be going out to cali or somewhere as she might have done with Finn. But will likely see her deal with stuff that could affect or tie into his mob life. Which he and Carm clearly didn’t want and i think that plays into how they feel about it and why they are so disappointed about it (which will come up further with a certain Hunter reappearing in the finale and Artie’s last appearance int he next episode).

    Along with how we have seen Meadow come to defend the whole mob culture, of not revealing stuff to ‘outsiders’. Which certainly contrasts to the Meadow we saw in season one and two that called her parents out etc.

    Personally i can see Meadow taking on cases like helping refugees or immigrants etc or other pro bono work. Of being part of the MeToo and relating her own experience with Coco here.

    But will also likely deal with corporate cases or other stuff that may blend the lines between ethical, morals etc. I can’t seeing Tony (if he is still around) or Carm letting her become like Mink or Harold.

    This episode is truly where Uncle Philly shines best, this is where we truly see just how much he thinks he has spent all his life comprising, dealing with and belaying himself under those he thinks don’t match what a man is supposed to be, of having disgraces like Vito pollute his world and the pigma in Jersey. Of those “20 years” he did away and how compared to Carmine, Johnny. this guy will not back down to Tony, will not be appeased and this time there will not be a change of heart from him at the last minute or him giving Tony that branch. Like Tony and his coma, his heart attack and smelling the roses, enjoying the grandchildren are nothing more than a memory now. Ignored epiphany and Phil is on his way to what will destroy him by the finale.

    Which he tops off by showing how for all his boasting of being a man, a true mob guy. Like when he owed Tony money in S5, he hides away at the top of his house when Tony and Little Carmine come with their pallet of drills. Truly one of my favorite funny moments of the series for the house they filmed it at and how you can just about see Phil’s face behind the visage (honestly it’s even funnier imagining Phil was likely standing on some box there). The Shah of Iran through and through.

    Two more episodes to go, so much more for you to analyse, it’s wonderful to see you come this far Ron. Your nearly there and i can’t wait to comment on your thoughts on blue Comet and Made in America.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Tony’s well-intentioned yet half-assed attempt to “fix” AJ by sending him off to pal around with the Jasons ended up being a disaster and it’s kind of ironic how Tony never realizes it for even a second. In the throes of AJ’s identity loss (Blanca/hard-working family man) Tony unwittingly sends AJ off to mob training school where he’s suddenly involved in crime and violence, exactly what Tony knows he isn’t suited for. After being a rudderless lazy and wildly confused asshole who was so deluded that he actually thought it was up to him to avenge his father’s shooting, AJ suddenly found a purpose in life and latched on to it with everything he had. Then he lost it and found himself back exactly where he started, with his only real guidance and support coming from a pair of aspiring goons. It’s like he realized this while they senselessly beat the bicyclist and realized he was trapped in Sopranoland with no clear path out.

    His “cry for help” may have been a tad on the nose and he most likely didn’t even understand it himself but the lifetime of confusion, hypocrisy, conflict and bullshit finally broke him. The way he absolutely thirsted for a “normal” life tells you that consciously or otherwise AJ knew his life was illusory bullshit and that his parents had no real idea how to raise a “normal” child. Meadow was a fluke, but by the end of this episode she’s being pulled back into “the Family’s” gravitational field too. “The life” scared Finn away, so now she’s going for someone who “gets it”, so to speak.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. How appropriate (and creepy) that you talked about this episode and therefore the poem in this dark time…
    I also don’t know if Mario Vargas Llosa saw The Sopranos, but it was his The Wire’s analysis that convinced me to watch the show a couple years ago, and he doesn’t mention The Sopranos at any time for some reason.
    I am looking forward to reading your analysis of The Blue Comet and Made in America; the first because it is one of my favorite episodes and the second because I want to see what details I have overlooked, and of course, your interpretation of the ending. As always, thanks for everything.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This is one of favorite episodes, ironically season 6 is my least favorite season but it still has episodes that are in my top ten list. If you notice in Sopranos Home Movies Carmela mentions the story about how the poor baby drowned in a pool and became practically brain dead. Now in this episode AJ (Carmela’s baby) almost drowns in their pool. Jesus Christ, the writing in this show is so damn good nothing really compares. I think AJ’s depression is an allegory for how he will become like Tony. I think the song in the end is suppose to be a dialogue between Tony and AJ. They line that gets to me the most is how the mother would rather see him dead than be a bandit in the mountains. I always felt that is how tony feels about AJ which shows how much Tony hates himself and his lifestyle has rotted his soul.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thanks for another great one Ron! Much anticipated, and you did not disappoint.
    Even after many viewings, AJ’s suicide attempt still takes me by surprise. I noticed that he
    wears the same coat he wore at the Somali Cyclist’s beating when he dumps himself into the pool.
    There was also something strange about the sequence of camera shots prior to AJ’s attempted suicide.
    We see a shot of the pool, then a shot of AJ’s face, then we see AJ at the pool. At Holsteins, we have a
    similar sequence: a shot of the restaurant sans Tony, then a shot of Tony’s face, then we see Tony seated
    in Holsteins. Not sure what the similarity points to, but Chase isn’t one to make throw-away parallels.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you Ron for a great analysis as always. After a couple of re-watches I realized that AJ was more similar to Tony than either of them will admit. Melfi mentions earlier on in the series that anger is just depression turned outwards. I think that both AJ and Tony have depressive personalities but Tony was able to use the mob life as an outlet for his depression in the form of violence, thus he acts a ‘tough guy’ facade while AJ just can come off as a whiney brat a lot of the time. Tony was pushed into the life by his father and uncle while AJ grew up in a similar house but was steered away from a life of crime. And in the ’70s, joining the mob was much more realistic goal than in the ’00s considering the decline of organized crime over the decades. Thus, Tony ends up with a sort of therapy via his violent/criminal activities while AJ ends up confused and depressed while living in his father’s shadow.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I’m in the middle of reading this and will probably comment more. Thanks for posting…this lockdown has me looking for anything non-COVID related to read online, and I’ve been checking your site periodically.
    “He’s mixing together two different idiomatic expressions with this sentence: “the 800 pound gorilla” + “the elephant in the room.”
    There was an ad campaign in the late aughts for an insurance company that featured an animated talking gorilla, which called itself “the 800 pound gorilla in the room.” It used to drive me nuts that they mixed the metaphor. Doing this in casual conversation is one thing, but a team of advertisers devised a media campaign around it and no one stopped to make the correction. We’re talking millions of dollars spent on a malapropism. The proverbial 800-lb. gorilla is not something unacknowledged to be dealt with (like the elephant). It simply refers to a figurative heavyweight in its class, e.g., Google is the 800-lb. gorilla of search engines. At least they got the poundage right. Maybe Kevin Finnerty went from patio furniture sales to Madison Avenue.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Or maybe those Mad Men got the line from Tony Soprano. But they got the poundage right, unlike Tony. (I love that Tony says 500 pounds—he’s malapropping his malapropism…)

      Liked by 2 people

  14. “After Meadow #MeToo’s the big thug at the family kitchen table (kudos to her)…”

    I’m still mid-read but here’s my thought on this. I wouldn’t be so quick to give kudos to Meadow for telling her father about this incident. She had to know that some violently incommensurate punishment would result. She first tells her mom “don’t say anything [to Tony],” then sort-of hesitates before spilling the beans. She even looks to Carmela like a client to a lawyer at one point. (Carmela’s silence…wow.) This is after a day to cool off. Meadow is a developing character who seems to have a bright future. We don’t know what becomes of her, but here she goes to the family well for cheap street justice. I thought it was a disappointing stumble on her part…nobody’s perfect. Even if she read it as a message from NY to her dad, with her as the medium, she still is suborning violence by delivering it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. She signed Vito’s death warrant when she told her mother about what Finn saw. She also trashed her relationship because I think that meeting at Satriales was the last straw for Finn. She must have known he would be uncomfortable about it.

      Liked by 4 people

    • manny44ameritechnet

      I don’t buy for a second the idea that David Chase wants us to believe that Meadow has a bright future or that Patrick Parisi is some great catch. He tells us a few important things about Meadow and Patrick. 1- Meadow is so deluded about her Father’s business and it’s morality that she thinks the FBI was harassing him because he’s Italian. No way Meadow of a few years prior would ever say that. 2- The way Patrick talks about the case he’s working on ( “It’s got bagmen and whores. It’s fascinating”.) is juvenile. 3- The way Patsy describes Patrick to the other guys (” Patrick….I don’t know. He can be a moody fuck”) tells me he might be prone to depression just like the men in Meadow’s family 4- Patrick’s mom is really really really fucking dumb. I mean David Chase really lays it on thick here. She can’t tell a joke an 8-year-old would make? Are we supposed to think she has a head injury? And she’s obsessed with the trappings of wealth just like Carmela is. I’m referring to her checking the name brand of the china the Soprano’s put out. This partnership is going to be one made in hell.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree 100%. She’s settling. She drank the OC kool-aid.

        Liked by 2 people

      • PS. Patsy’s wife was obviously never expecting to go to the boss’s house. It was a low class thing to check the Chiba, but you can see the deterioration of the whole organization. Maybe Meadow doesn’t want to disappoint her father and that’s why she wants to get married, remember he told her that it was important for him to have grandchildren. She’s still better off than her mother because when it doesn’t work out she still has her education. Both kids are saddled with the burden of having a criminal father. They react to it in different ways. Donna Pescow was excellent in that tiny role.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Makes’s EVDW’s comment on AVClub that much funnier: that Tony, when faced the thought of growing old surrounded by Parisi grandkids, just might prefer a bullet in Holstein’s.

        Liked by 3 people

      • could not agree more. it is one of the more depressing plot lines on the show to me, but I can’t see it any other way.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m completely in with you on the subject of Meadow. To me, she has always appeared superficial and dull – more posturing than substance there. She’s a lot like Carmela and I see her becoming an uppity, materialistic housewife.

        Liked by 2 people

  15. Great write-up. Finally finished it, was reading in parts.
    Grey Gardens…front row mezzanine seats to a Broadway musical based on a documentary about the fall of two wealthy American aristocrats in a mansion gone to seed.
    There’s something there. I’m just not sure what.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Oh, just one other side note…the Coco curb stomp scene (and some others this season I’m sure) takes place in John’s of East 12th Street in Manhattan. If you’re in NYC or doing a location tour, be sure to stop there for a meal. It’s been around maybe 100 years, and has been featured in a lot of movies and shows. I just recently caught it in Boardwalk Empire’s last season. Very distinctive, old school Italian joint. (And no I don’t work for them.) And for dessert, Veniero’s in the same neighborhood, another mainstay.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Great analysis Ron. I just completed my first viewing of the show (I know I was very late to this party) and your website has been a great reading companion. I look forward to your analysis of the final two episodes.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Look how Tony’s face falls when Carmella brings up the fact that Kelli & Caitlin will be needing financial support
    as she assumes Tony’s trip to Vegas was to liquidate Chris’s assets. Is another Marie/Vito Jr. betrayal in the offing?

    Liked by 4 people

  19. In one of Tony’s sessions with Melfi, he says that talking to psychiatrists is not a good thing, its like whining and crying. She points out that in the days of his parents, when they went through the depression they didn’t really have time to be depressed in a psychological sense because they were busy just trying to survive. But she says” Now that the fight for food and shelter is over, why can’t we explore the deeper things that upset us”
    I’m paraphrasing her of course. So it made me think that in Tony’s case, he is depressed and unhappy, but he doesn’t want to kill himself, and he is fighting to survive everyday as well, although the threat is to his life, not his food and shelter. He feels that AJ is weak because he has it so easy. But maybe that’s why A.J is depressed and suicidal, he has it very easy, not much discipline and is over indulged. He has time to think of only himself because he has the luxury of it. So my take away is that hardships give you character and that it’s unhealthy to go through life without any challenges especially when you are lazy and not very bright. If he had a criminal mind, his stupidity might pay off but he has a conscience and morals… He lost his way when he found out about his father being a gangster, that was the turning point in my opinion. I don’t know, that’s my thought today.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. AJ has been coddled and spoiled by his parents all along the way. Whenever they tried to set boundaries,
      AJ fought, challenged, deflected, made excuses and usually got his way. Here again when his therapist gently nudges
      him about his moral failing regarding the Somali which obviously triggered his relapse, AJ deflects, generalizes, refuses
      any suggestions on trying to come to terms with his inaction, and finally yells out “What could I do? I’m one individual!”
      Well we’ve seen what one individual can do even in SopranoWorld. Charmaine/Artie prevented an extra-judicial killing,
      and even in this episode, when Butchie and a colleague beat up the foreman, his co-worker intervenes, and threatens to
      call the police. Tony visited Beansie in physical therapy and made financial restitution in order to make himself feel better.
      In another world AJ would visit the Somali in the hospital and make some sort of genuine amends. That would help the victim
      and also directly address AJ’s problem – how to live with himself in SopranoWorld when he has what is a major disability in
      that world – a functioning conscience.
      But AJ rejects confronting himself even just by writing down his feelings, so how will he become his own man? It’s tragic
      that he came to the point that suicide was all he could see to do.

      Liked by 3 people

  20. Also, regarding Patrick, when the Parisi’s were over the Soprano house because of the engagement, when Patrick was saying that his company is interested in hiring Meadow and at a very high salary Tony was impressed and happy. Is it ideal that his daughter marries into the Parisi family? No, but at a certain point parents can’t choose who the kids marry. We know Patsy will get a bump soon anyway because he’s one of the 2 left standing. Meadow will never escape her background no matter how much sophistication and polish she gets. Unless she totally cuts herself off and never mentions them or sees them, the organized crime thing will be hanging over her head. She loves her family, and she sees/realizes that really upper class rich people are not thrilled with her family. So she chose the next best thing. She can dip her toe into a better class of people, but she will never fit in totally. I think she has made her peace with it. He’s not involved in a criminal way with the mob, so at least he won’t be shot. His firm can handle Tony’s case when he gets arrested if he lives that long. Win Win.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. It was a long time coming, but worth it! Another great write up! I like the comparison between Holden Caufield, and AJ. It is interesting, When I read “Catcher in the Rye” in high school, it became my favorite book, and Holden was my hero, at the time I felt that I could identify with him, and he was the rebel voice who spoke the truth about a messed up society. I then read the book as an adult, and Holden came off as a spoiled, rich brat, who had many advantages that people with much harder lives did not have. I feel the same way about AJ, he is a lazy, manipulative child. With an exception to Janice,he is the one Soprano Character who’s personality mirrors Livia the most. I do not think AJ is Tony’s second coming, rather I think he the second coming of Livia. Regarding his concern about the environment and world affairs, he loses interest when a better thing comes a long like a BMW, or a job as a Development guy for the movies. I think David Chase may be sending a message about the youth today, and the constant use of the victim card. This is mentioned by Dr. Krakhower in Second Opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I’ve been listening to Talking Sopranos!! LOVE IT. Michael Imperioli is so knowledgeable about film and is very interesting to listen to. Steve is great, I love how he is enjoying revisiting the show and is just so regular. I saw him in Brooklyn in Faicco’s Pork Store from a moving car years ago, and I had my friend stop the car to go in and say hello. I have never done that before to any celebrity and I can’t til this day believe I did that. It was like my brain just went on auto pilot. I just love him. I felt silly afterward.

    Liked by 3 people

    • manny44ameritechnet

      If I ever see him IRL I think I’ll say….”To the victor, go the spoils” or maybe “… you know Notre Dame predicted this”.

      Liked by 2 people

      • LOL
        @Orangeannie, No need to feel silly, I’ve always regretted the one time I talked myself out of saying hi to a celebrity I admire.
        @manny44, as long as you don’t say ‘It’s time for you to start to seriously consider salads’!

        Liked by 2 people

  23. Gary old town tavern

    Great write up.
    As someone mentioned earlier, Tony’s own stupidity and failure as a parent indirectly lead to more trouble for AJ with his urging that A.J. hang out with the two Jason baby gangsters.
    However, Tony taking those envelopes full of money from Patsy from the Jason’s action on campus (And therefore profiting and promoting their life of crime) may have also led to Tony’s own death in the series finale.
    If you take a closer look at the finale, a lot of precious real estate is taken up by Patsy and Carlo flipping to save his son who is arrested by the FBI to for dealing drugs.
    In retrospect, it’s clearly obvious Chase created a potential new motive to kill Tony within the shows final minutes. The two Jason’s work together. One is busted for selling drugs and Carlo flips to save him. Tony has to be concerned that Patsy’s Jason is next and that Patsy will be next to flip. This clearly plays out in the dinner scene with Patsy and his wife where an agitated Tony asks where Jason is and refers to him as “pals” with Jason Gervasi. Patsy’s wife gets very nervous and says she didn’t think her son Jason was invited and Patsy just angrily cuts her off.
    The implication is that if Tony thinks Patsy may flip then both Patsy and his own son may be a target. Patsy has to act first and orders the hit on Tony in Holsten’s. Even more disturbing is that Meadow’s new potential father and law will be the one who ordered her father’s death. However, Chase has hinted at this disturbing precedent before: the perverse collision of real family and the mafia family. Tony ordered his own sister’s fiancés death (Richie) until Janice beat him to the deed and we know Roe’s boyfriend Ralphie ordered the death of her son. Of course Tony’s own uncle and mother had previously ordered a hit on Tony
    I’m not sure what Chase is trying to say thematically but it appears Tony’s stupidity in doing criminal business with AJ’s generation led to his own death.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Actually, Tony wanting his son to go get drunk with a couple yahoos and go ball some hot strippers isn’t all that bad of an idea. Now, obviously the kids he wants him to hang with are criminals, but what I got out of that whole storyline was, it’s way too easy these days (or in 2006 and 2007…things are way worse now, in this regard) to give too much credence to young guys being depressed or whatever, and sometimes, a young guy just needs to get drunk and laid, and get out of the mental and emotional prisons that he’s creating for himself. Tony’s thing was, ok, so your girl left you, get a new one. Big deal! He’s got a point, in there, for sure….society is so ingrained against male behavior that no wonder young guys get all worked up. They are told to express their feelings, but what good does that do in the long run? NOTHING. Well, it makes things worse. So, a rough guy like Tony thinks, sheesh, just go get drunk and laid and stop being so ponderous….makes total sense!!!! He sees the others guys as just normal young guys looking to have fun…kinda like the Beastie Boys when they first came out before they got into Buddhism and all that…

      Liked by 2 people

  24. Always great to see a new one of these!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. please please PLEASE make the most of the current situation and write the next two entries as soon as possible! love your insights

    Liked by 2 people

  26. It’s SO bothersome how ignorant you are about depression.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I think we are overthinking Tony’s motivation for curbstomping Coco. As Ron’s brilliant essay points out, Tony will rarely be capable of providing emotional succor to his children; he is not wired to deal with AJ’s spiritual crisis. He is, however, adept at the “love language” of physical protection, and once he hears of Meadow’s harassment, it’s over for Coco. In a world where you can get whacked for a fat joke about a boss’s wife, you can sure as hell expect a beating for accosting a boss’s daughter. Tony has often exhibited a sophisticated decision-making calculus, but this one strikes me as a no-brainer, especially after his failure to “protect” his son from his putrid genes. I suspect that whether Meadow was eating with Patrick Parisi or Patrick Dempsey or Patrick from Nebraska, Tony was going to remedy at least one problem that day.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agree! Agree!! Agree!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • FThatParakeet

      Agree to disagree. I think overthinking is plentiful on this site, but to just dismiss Tony’s change of demeanor at the mention of Patrick’s name is ignorant. I can see disagreeing with my reasoning for the change–like I said, I don’t know that I’m right; it just seems obvious to me. I view the scene one way and others view it differently. But, in my opinion, you are oversimplifying something because it wasn’t blatantly spelled out for you. Granted, on this site in particular, there is plenty of middle ground between simply taking things at face value and pumping a dry well looking for deeper meaning. I enjoy healthy debate and wish there was more of it available on the internet. But to just completely dismiss the instant change in his behavior is plain wrong. That point is not even arguable.

      Liked by 3 people

      • That implies that the ones who don’t agree are not deep enough to understand the deeper meanings of the story. Sometimes the hoof beats are just horses, not zebras.

        Liked by 1 person

        • FThatParakeet

          Not to go Dr. Melfi on you, but it only implies that if you project it onto yourself. I clearly stated that the reasoning for Tony’s mood is up for interpretation. The fact that his mood changed at the mention of Patrick’s name is undeniable. So, to disagree with that has nothing to do with depth. It is right vs. wrong. His mood changed–to say otherwise is flat out incorrect. Furthermore, I said that I thought the person I was responding to, specifically that person–not you–and based on what that person wrote, oversimplified the scene. I am the last person who needs the horse/zebra comment aimed at them. While I enjoy reading these updates, I find myself thinking “that’s interesting” just as much as “that’s a reach”. Again, that is just my opinion; but, the horse/zebra comment is more often than not coming from me than directed at me, as far as this site goes. I chose this one scene to comment on because I have seen it interpreted so differently than the way I interpret it–for years, long before this site came along. I also reiterated that I am not saying I am correct; I’m just so surprised so many others view it differently. So, if you read what I wrote as something addressed to “those that don’t agree” as a group, that’s on you. I was speaking to the person who brought up overthinking regarding this scene. I believe THAT PERSON oversimplified the scene. Whether my reasoning for Tony reacting to Patrick’s name is right or dead wrong, there is no denying his mood changes at that moment. This particular person doesn’t see that, so I believe THAT PERSON is wrong. There are facts and there are opinions. If that person said Meadow had sour cream on her mouth, that person would be wrong. Tony’s mood changing at that moment is a fact. The REASON for the change is an opinion.

          Liked by 4 people

        • Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a lime really ISN’T a green lemon….

          Like

  28. Since I am THAT PERSON, I suppose I should reply. I’m with Orangeannie on this one. To say that Tony’s mood is changing “at that moment” is an interpretation, not a fact. Re-watching the scene, I am struck by how he is trying to control his rage as Meadow recounts the events of the evening. He offers a halfhearted smile and unconvincing line that “he’ll talk to somebody” as a way of falsely reassuring Meadow (and Carmela) that this situation will be handled by a conversation, and then he IMMEDIATELY stares off into the distance with a countenance that only be described as seething agitation. Tony’s labored breathing, his tapping hand…. it’s clear that that the wheels are turning, rage is building, and Coco is about to suffer the consequences. This is a “how can I get my hands on him” decision-making calculus. Couple these signals with the fact that his son is suffering terribly from an illness that Tony can’t control (and one that Tony likely feels responsible for), and I suspect that Tony decides in that moment that Meadow’s problem can be solved, even if AJ’s can’t be. That’s the reading that I took away in 2007, and it’s still my reading after multiple re-watches. None of this, of course, is to take away from the insight that you and others offered about the tensions between the Parisis and the Sopranos. Tony may not have been happy with Meadow’s choice, but that was secondary to the absolute lethal fury that was already present at the table, even if the ladies didn’t sense it. Tony was never going to file away Coco’s transgressions, especially when those sins involve being sexually aggressive with his daughter.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes…agree.

      Liked by 1 person

    • manny44ameritechnet

      Lester’s interpretation is the same as the reading I had at the time and today. Tony never gave two shits about Patsy Parisi or what his son thinks about him. He skipped him over for Christofuh in an especially unfair manner. He killed HIS FREAKING TWIN BROTHER. As gruesome and disgusting as the curb-stomping was… Coco was out of his mind for fucking with Meadow. Between Coco, Fat Dom, and Butchie the whole NYC crew was out of control. I’m not so sure the Tony Soprano from season one wouldn’t have done the exact same thing, damn the consequences. By the time we get to Holsten’s, there are so many people with a legitimate reason to want Tony dead, Butchie, who always wanted Tony and New Jersey wiped out anyways, being forced to watch Dom get brutalized is a pretty good reason on its own to kill Tony. Tony feeling forced to crush Coco’s head because of Patrick freaking Parisi just seems ridiculous to me.

      Liked by 2 people

  29. manny44ameritechnet

    I’d just like to add that I LOVE reading everybody’s opinions and interpretations. This show invites it in a way that nothing else on TV ever has. We’ll be parsing this stuff until we’re as old and senile as Junior and I’m honestly looking forward to it. I watched ENough Said the other night…God, I miss James Gandolfini.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Underrated movie

      Like

    • I miss him too….there are only two celebs that I have loved who I still can’t really think of as gone…James and Joe Strummer from the Clash….not sure why? Maybe it’s because both seemed so larger than life and played these roles that encompassed so many facets….yet could be so easily simplified??

      Liked by 2 people

  30. I didn’t watch The Sopranos until long after the original run was over. There are only two scenes I recall that I ever saw before sitting down to binge my way through. The first was when Christopher shot JT. I always laugh when I see JT, because every episode he’s in, he gets beat up. The other scene I saw was the curb stomp. Brutal. Neither one particularly convinced me that I just had to watch the show, probably because I didn’t have the context. Now, with the context, the curb stomp is fantastic.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. It seemed like Tony grasping at his peyote experience in front of his crew “…and the sun… came up…” came awfully
    close to plunging into the same humiliation pool that Christopher swam in at the Bing in “Walk like a man”. In fact,
    the number of parallels to Chris’s experiences from that episode makes it seem like Tony’s been smeared with some
    of Chris’s karma.
    Tony, attempting to appeal to Phil’s better nature triggers an IED of ridicule instead. “Charles Schwab over here”.
    Lots of guffaws at his expense from Coco, Butchie, et al, smoking their cigars as Tony was when Chris imploded.
    Later Tony sits humiliated in front of his crew as they all know about AJ’s attempted suicide. He does a variation of the
    Buddhist story where a freshly bereaved person goes from household to household trying & failing to find one that hasn’t
    also suffered a death in the family, thus realizing solidarity in suffering. But Tony comes up empty in the attempted suicide
    version when he asks around the room. He is alone in this particular shame and sadness as Chris was alone in WLAM.
    When Tony admits his depression to Carmela and gets “Don’t you start now!”, he’s getting payback for the similar lack
    of support he showed Chris at the barbeque even down to the hereditary lineage angle.
    Then Tony’s little girl is verbally disrespected by Coco, just as Chris’s little girl was disrespected by Paulie at the Bing.
    His curb stomp of Coco, parallels Christopher’s window hurl of L’il Paulie, and murder of JT. Both cornered men, acted as
    they felt they must despite the cost.
    After all that, the final indignity – Tony is stripped of his pizza at Mountainside. “It’s almost too much to deal with, and
    you’re alone with it all.” But he still has a resource Chris didn’t – Melfi – for now.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. Good points FTP, I like your reading of Tony’s reaction, it certainly makes sense.

    And yes the scene with Tony and AJ is especially strong; it resonated with me when originally screened as I was dealing with mental health issues. And even more so now as the father of two young sons; who knows what challenges they will face and mistakes they will make as they grow up (and equally how well or not you deal with that as a parent – see how Tony manages, or not…) but in the end, they will always be your babies.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. We can also see AJ’s similarity to Tony in his demeanor in the later episodes…slouching down to breakfast with his terrycloth robe….he’s like a mini Tony with all of the attitude and depression, but none of the charisma or attractiveness. Just a lazy nothing. We want our kids to have a better life, and these kids do materially. The only good thing that happened to him to make him a act like man was when Tony strong armed him into getting that construction job and he met Blanca. Then he became the man he might be able to be if she hadn’t broken it off with him and if he had some backbone and strength of character to get over it. He’s got the worst traits of both parents…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Does AJ wear a robe in this hour? I was going to mention it in the final writeup when his robe is more clear…

      Like

    • I always that what you just touched on was the central theme of the show—how traits and traditions are lost in the very quick time span of a couple generations. Tony himself grew up tough in Newark fighting in the streets while his son lives a pampered life in the mansion in the burbs—Totally illequipped to face the challenges of life…this is the story of post ww 2 America—we all want to shield our kids from pain and discomfort but we end creating more of it for them by doing so…and also how traditions get destroyed in just a couple of generations…for all of his Italian swagger, Tony only knows a handful of slang swear words in an outmoded corruption of an archaic dialect brought over 80 years prior—-and his kids know even less…to me the show was always about the passage of time and how quick it all goes by and how we are left with no training to deal with it….

      Liked by 2 people

      • So true. I miss the non homogenized people of my parents generation. Even my generation is fading away, and a lot of traditions and things go with the passing of parents. It wasn’t always right, but it was more interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Also, I am Italian American from Brooklyn, New York, and its very ethnic there, so maybe since I live in Idaho now, that’s what I am missing. Not a lot of ethnicity here.

          Like

          • I will tell you what else is facsinating….even though I am only half Italian, without the last name, because I “look Italian” whatever that means, I have been lumped in as having the worst sort of stereotypical behavior even since I was a kid. Not that I care, one way, or the other, but it always mystified me. I remember this Mexican American kid in high school asking if I was Italian, and I thought he was a psychic. I couldn’t believe that he knew. I asked him how he knew and said, “You look like it”…that simple. A 16 year old Mex American kid in an area where there NO Italian neighborhoods thought that I looked Italian…I guess my point here is that “Italian-ness” whatever that means, is such a huge part of the show, and that’s one of the things that I love about it…

            Liked by 1 person

        • Beautiful sentiment O. I find myself starting to feel the same way about my parents generation as I get older..

          Like

        • I hear you. What’s weird is that I am half Italian, my mother’s grandparents were from Italy. I am 48, and at my folks’ home, there are old pics of her family in upstate NY, during the 30s and 40s, and it’s hard for me to believe that this is my family, not really that far back. My great grandfather is about five foot four, wearing a wife beater, every inch the banty rooster from Calabria. My uncle was born when his dad was in the War, and he was the first born, on both sides period….there are pictures of these Italian women just doting over him like he was the Savior himself. And I look at these pics with awe, as I get older….they never could have foreseen, even if they had thought that far ahead, that their descendants would be so completely interwoven in the fabric of America….but my grandfather had hitchhiked from NY to Cali as a kid, and wanted to live there. So they moved, and my mother had a Beach Boys lifestyle growing up in SoCal and not a Four Seasons one, growing up in the East Coast! That’s life, though, isn’t it??

          Liked by 1 person

          • I enjoyed reading your comments. Thank you for your honest and interesting responses. My father was first generation Sicilian, so I am very in tune with my heritage and have good memories of my family’s close knit love. Sometimes my parents were tough, and fast with their hands, but I think it gave me character, backbone and taught me to be able to deal with all types of high maintenance people. Of course it wasn’t all positive let’s be real, but it was mostly good. Unfortunately, AJ doesn’t have that type of upbringing. The parents are too guilty about their lifestyle, especially Carmela. She over compensates.

            Liked by 1 person

            • You’re welcome and thank YOU…I agree with you 100 percent…you know what’s funny, I notice with this both Italians and Mexicans…the mothers come in two flavor…they are either doting, and baby the boys, or they just cuss at them and knock the crap out of them….have you ever noticed this? Yes, I am stereotyping, but there is a lot of truth to it…once the kids get Americanized, they get as spoiled and soft as the rest of us!!!

              Liked by 1 person

    • See, I always the point of AJ was that he WAS his dad, but without the toughness, without the feral instincts honed by growing up when and where he did. Sure Tony whines and pities himself…but he’s obviously a very, very hard man, and can handle himself around tougher people. AJ isn’t, he’s been cocooned, spoiled, pampered, always regaled with material goods, and lacked the “training” and exposure and instinct that his father has. He’s soft….the epitome of softness. This is another reason why the show was so rich, because a lot of it was Tony realizing this on some level, and yet not being able to a thing about it. He wants to thrash AJ but Carmela won’t let him. He wants to send him to military school but he has a panic attack. For all of Tony’s faults, he was a creature of the street. I see this ALL THE TIME, not to the criminal extent, but when I hear my own dad talk about the stuff he did, and the fights, and the Vietnam War, and hell, I am almost 50! And I know that he had the same vague fears that Tony did while I was growing up. Now that I have a young son, and all of this crap is ten times worse, I see the show through a new set of eyes. It’s the rare show that actually takes on MORE meaning as time passes, b/c it captures the essence of trends that only get worse, the more time goes by….

      Liked by 3 people

  34. I’m not sure. I know he wore it in a couple of the last episodes and it struck me that it was similar to Tony’s. I would have to go back and look. I’m glad you noticed that little point as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Does anyone know what part Ray Liotta is playing in “Many Saints of Newark?” It seems like its a secret or something.

    Like

    • I’ve wondered that myself, and given Liotta’s age, we’d have to assume maybe a guy like Feech? Actually, I’ll go on record here as saying he’s playing DeMeo, the seldom-mentioned “official” boss of the family. Yup, that’s my pick! On that note, though, I am glad you brought the movie up. It really isn’t discussed much, but I’ve been pondering what the narratives and themes will be. What set apart Sopranos was that it took place in then-present…it examined American society through the prism of the mob in the sense of lost traditions, homogonization (yeah, I misspelled it), identity, and the nagging feeling that the glory days had passed, depression, not being able to beat the shit out of your kids the way your beloved parents beat the shit outta you. So, the movie will take place when the Mob was at its zenith, when Italians were still an actual distinct group, before the neighborhoods had totally been diffused. What will be the thrust of the movie? Further, we keep hearing it takes place in the late 60s but if James’ son is going to play Tony as a 20 or so year old, then the movie will have to occur, at least partly, in the late 70s or early 80s. Maybe young Tony will be just a cameo, and he will be taking some action that will come to have major consequences in the series. I did see a short clip of him hitting some guy outside a phone booth with a blonde girl who I suppose is Carmela….but who knows? Sucks that we have to wait til March now, though, doesn’t it????

      Liked by 2 people

    • All I know it’s not Dickie or Tony’s father, Johnny Boy Soprano, that honor falls to my man John Bernthal! He’s the BEST! Very underrated IMO. He WAS the Punisher! I’m SO excited for this series!! But the real reason I’m here is where is the authors autopsy on “Made in America “?? I don’t see the most important episodes write up and considering how he talked about writing it as many times as I’ve seen in the previous episode autopsies I couldn’t wait to read his analysis and opinions. But it stops at this episode. What gives???

      Liked by 1 person

  36. @Ron, a couple of four stray thoughts on the episode…
    I can’t ever hear the ‘Yeets’ poem without remembering Chinua Achebe showing us a world, and then showing
    the unraveling of that world in his novel “Things Fall Apart”.
    It’s interesting how you folded in both the concept of Koyaanisqatsi, and that Matrix-like film showing our
    place in the engines of extraction, arteries of delivery, systems of creation, consumption and waste, and
    the control structures we live inside of. In an interview, Godfrey Reggio actually called it “…that which
    we’re most proud of: our shining beast…the beauty of this beast”. In The Sopranos & in the real world, our
    shining beast is out of balance.
    In Tony and Melfi’s conversation about AJ’s cord length, “…or he could just be a fucking idiot…” Tony rhymes
    with the assessment he once gave Christopher on Little Carmine “…you know it’s common knowledge the
    guy’s retarded”. Funny how Tony ends up pushing AJ towards him, but is L’il Carmine as dumb as he seems?
    In her session with Soprano after being pointed at the Y&S study, Melfi seems to be observing Tony from
    behind an objective screen, but she gets pulled in despite herself when he drops the insight about mothers,
    buses & letting go. When he hits Melfi with “Jesus, don’t act so surprised”, it makes me wonder if Tony wasn’t
    trolling Melfi with the insight somehow.
    Ron, I much appreciated your dive into the words of the beautiful song ‘Ninna, Ninna’. Once again, you’ve
    highlighted something vital that I zoomed right past on multiple viewings, but can I ask you a question, and
    don’t spare my feelings: At the end of the episode, when Tony is slouching towards AJ, was I totally alone
    in expecting Visiting Day’s “Erase Myself” to usher us through the credits?
    Too soon?

    Liked by 4 people

    • haha yeah but where’s the chorus, their songs have no fucking choruses

      Liked by 1 person

    • manny44ameritechnet

      I’m almost 100% convinced that Little Carmine ends the series on top of the whole structure, New York and New Jersey, and that the amazing “mellifluous box” speech he gives to Tony at the country club is Machiavellian double-cross on a genius level. It didn’t occur to me until I read this comment that AJ was in fact working for/alongside Carmine Jr. on the set of ‘Anti-virus’. Maybe that’s where the family meeting at Holsten’s was overheard. IDK, just a thought. But on PodaBing podcast with Ron ( RON YOU WERE SO GREAT! That episode was soooo fun ), he talked about the principal mob bosses on Soprano’s all having corollaries to the Bush 43 administration and that Carmine Jr’s corollary was without a doubt Bush 43. “Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice, can’t fool me again” is Carmine Jr. level brilliant/dumb. Bush 43 looked and sounded dumb but he had exceptional political instincts and I’m thinking Chase took inspiration from that.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Manny, the podcast was fun… It’s possible Lil Carmine ultimately ended up on top, especially with Phil gone. I had never thought of that. But a big similarity between lil Carmine and Bush, now, for me, is that once their hands come off the levers of power (and they can no longer do much harm), the likeable aspects of their personalities come through more clearly…

        Liked by 3 people

        • manny44ameritechnet

          Yeah, that’s the interpretation I always had the first bunch of times through the series. In some of his plays, Shakespeare would put the most evolved or mature viewpoints in the mouths of the person you’d think to be least likely to have wisdom ( Tony did say Carmine ‘retarded’), and I’d thought that is what Chase was doing with Carmine Jr. But there is one scene that makes me doubt Carmine’s purported peaceful intentions, and that’s his famous ” Your brother Billy…Whatever happened there” moment at the sitdown with Tony and Phil Leotardo. I just can’t watch that scene anymore and believe that Carmine had no idea bringing up Billy’s name and death at that moment would stop any chance at a peaceful resolution. You can get away with a lot when everyone around you thinks your retarded 😂

          Liked by 2 people

        • As far as republican presidents and seeming dumb, this has been a strategy by the press and the left since probably the Coolidge Admin…the left likes to think of itself as enlightened and interesting and able to see the nuances of life, and paints the right as a bunch of dumb hayseeds or Cro mags…and worse than hitler…until of course, the NEXT republican pres comes along and then HE is worse than hitler and previous republican presidents were merely adversaries whom the left could at least have discussions with….it’s an old trope….

          Like

      • W didn’t seem or act any dumber than Jimmy Carter….and he flubbed his speeches less than his predecessor…whose most noted oratory tics were throat clearing phrases like “let me be clear” and “know this, America” and seemed to stutter quite a bit when he didn’t have his speeches spelled out for him in big bold letters…

        Like

      • This is my first viewing of The Sopranos and I coördinate each episode with the write-up here. On my second viewing (starting soon) I will listen to the PodaBing podcasts. Thank you for the reminder!

        Liked by 1 person

  37. That’s why my main man Trump is so successful!

    Liked by 2 people

    • manny44ameritechnet

      Yuuuuuup.

      Like

    • manny44ameritechnet

      Understanding, of course, that success in this context is looting the country and providing zero bipartisan leadership while you stay out of handcuffs…yes, Trump has been an amazing success.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Yes, because his predecessor was SUCH the Uniter, wasn’t he? Putting those pesky old white ethnics clinging to their old timey religion and those icky mean ole firearms in their place…and Hillary, well, she used to throw ’em down with noted arch conservative John McCain, so we KNOW her bipartisan chops were bona fide….and old “this space for rent” doddering Joe, who lies about everything from his law school grades to his very identity (See: Neil Kinnock)….please…Trump is a street fighter who learned a lot doing business with guys like Paul Castellano, Don King and Nicky Scarfo….and Tony Soprano for that matter!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sorry Hawkman,
          But I know too much about Tony Soprano now,
          and I know waaaaaaaaaay too much about Donald J.
          Donald rump is no Tony Soprano, he’s not even Corrado Soprano.
          Donald is a small, small man, mentally tormented and obviously naked, yet still a magnet to folks
          craving drama & goodies even as it damns the republic. Like the perjuring hooker in King Solomon’s court,
          they and their pussy grabbed party would rather see the baby cleaved in two than let the real mom raise the child.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Yeah yeah I’ve heard it all before….yawn….and while I dig the Bible references, I’m more an Ecclesiastes guy myself….so is Tony tho he may not know it…

            Liked by 1 person

            • You’ve heard it all before? Good for you. That means you can never say that you haven’t been told.
              I enjoy Ecclesiastes also, but that short work, easily readable on a lunch hour, doesn’t condone abandoning
              the rule of law. Quite the opposite. In a world where I know I will die, and everyone else is in the same boat,
              how then to live? Is one not moved to compassion, to make the most of the short time we have together, to strive
              to form a more perfect union, and provide for the general welfare? I am, others may differ. But I believe it takes a
              Livia-like reading of Ecclesiastes to conclude that abandoning the rule of law or tolerating those who do is what’s
              called for.

              Liked by 3 people

              • Abandoning the rule of law? Kinda like the attempted coup d’etat, Russian scam? You mean abandoning the rule of law like that? Setting up a combat vet general to be a Russian spy? And the only thing they can try to get him for is a bullshit 1001 charge? If that’s your idea or the rule of law then we are mortal enemies…..

                Like

              • You are firmly against “Abandoning the rule of law” huh? I assume that you must be wholly opposed to the looting of LEGO stores and cheesecake factories ostensibly done in the name of social justice? Well, as they say, one’s man looter is another man’s ‘“mostly peaceful” protester…..

                Like

                • @Hawkman
                  With all that has happened and is still happening, it’s LEGO stores that have got your dander up at long last?
                  I support the rule of law, that’s why I support holding elected officials, law enforcement, and the military accountable both
                  BEFORE and AFTER they fail to live up to their oaths to protect, preserve and defend the constitution. Otherwise it’s
                  silly to act all surprised when some citizens break the law after power wielders grossly abused their power.
                  But let’s not lose sight of the 600lb pink baby elephant in the room. Just as The Sopranos revisits and
                  rhymes and parallels itself, so does the USA, and the US is rhyming and stuttering like a rapper on Adderall right now.
                  The blowback on September 11th Bush & Co claimed “nobody could have predicted”, the disastrous wars based on
                  happy talk and lies, the botched response to hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial explosion and the exclusive bailout
                  for corporations, all unfolded as tragedies. Now here we are in 2020 as events return zombie-like to haunt us in a
                  massive tragic farce.
                  Seeing New York suffering with COVID-19 is like watching the towers being hit again & again, but without a merciful
                  end to the spectacle of jumpers as the national death count ticks past 2996, 17,760, 29,102, 58,220, 91,100, 124,000…
                  We see the financial sector being propped up (sorry Svetlana) – again, no expense spared while small businesses and
                  essential workers are left holding Beansie’s colostomy bag – again.
                  We see Paulie Gualtieri levels of self involved incompetence again in the failure to prepare for the oncoming COVID-19
                  wave causing tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths while countries with good leadership have deaths in the dozens.
                  Instead, a necessary public health wall was dismantled in favor of a foolhardy Maginot line to the south. We see
                  sluggish progress on testing (9%) after months of the administration claiming the opposite. We see corrupt procurement
                  procedures again, this time around PPE, ventilators and monetary aid snatched away by corporations from those who
                  desperately need it. Tony Soprano wannabes gleefully approve, cashing in again, betraying misplaced loyalty again,
                  singing the praises of Jared Kushner as they did for Dick Cheney.
                  We see medical workers pressured to reuse PPE again and again, essential workers pressured into unsafe conditions
                  again and again, just as September 11 responders were talked out of their misgivings about breathing the air around
                  ground zero. “How come they ain’t wearing their space suits?”, we know why Bobby, as we watch Mr. Trump and his crew
                  give each other back slaps for a job well done, making George Bush’s “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva a job” look good.
                  Back then, another Donald ducked his culpability saying, “…you go to war with the army you have…” Here we go again.
                  We need a cool headed, fact based president. We have a lie spewing narcissist. He’s upset about being upstaged by
                  victims of his own incompetence, trying and failing to cast protesters as a “Perry” he can safely beat up, demanding
                  “thank you” envelopes from us while peddling the same tired old farce – “Why’s everybody always picking on me?”.
                  The farce flops again, so we’re treated to Trump twerking his bare rump while his cheering section insists he’s clothed
                  in robes of dazzling splendor. Meanwhile this Don’s hard core cultists, and the “dead-ender” members of the party he
                  has grabbed by the genitals, spuriously demand the “liberty” to “live free AND LET die”, their flag pins and pocket
                  constitutions are merely props for the show again. No tragedy is complete until it has coughed up a jackpot of profit,
                  right? Like Silvio at the Bing, they gotta keep on “earning” off the backs of essential workers, if she dies, she dies.
                  Dollar, dollar, uber alles.
                  “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public”. When Agent Harris channeled Mencken,
                  I thought Chase was being too harsh. I no longer think so, but maybe the widespread adoption of the protests against
                  the conditions that allowed law enforcement to casually murder George Floyd show the taste of the American public is
                  improving. It’s a pretty low bar to clear, to watch that video and relate. But to those who are so in thrall to white
                  supremacist fascist ideology, neither one George Floyd, nor 100,000 preventable COVID deaths will get through, and
                  they will fight to repeat in 2020 the tragedy of 2004 while Donald smiles and holds them in contempt again.

                  Liked by 3 people

          • I enjoy your comments but I see many parallels between Donald J. Trump and Tony Soprano. I have asserted before that the Mafia could not have existed at this level at the turn-of-the-century. The Donald Trumps of this world represent a New Mafia, exploiting people and resources on a global and even more dangerous level. Ivanka somewhat reminds me of Meadow, with that fake smug pretense of sophistication, although she is also a thug, cut from the same cloth as her father.

            Unfortunately, too many Americans are lulled into submission through materialism, technology, and the need to be constantly entertained. Even The Sopranos was brilliantly crafted to appeal to distinctly different audiences: Those like the people who comment here, who are interested in interpretation and meaning (even to the degree of a certain analysis paralysis syndrome) and those who watch it for the “hits and tits”, which is probably the majority of viewers.

            Liked by 2 people

            • @Maarten Much appreciated.
              Regarding the New Mafia, it would be an interesting exercise to list all the criminal schemes of the Sopranos and see which
              ones have been legalized and are regulated by the state (e.g. sports gambling), which ones are still firmly illegal (e.g. murder
              for hire), which ones are still illegal, but increasingly skirted (e.g. bribery, regulatory capture), and which ones have been taken
              over by corporations who are screwing their customers harder than the mafia ever did (e.g. payday loans, health insurance).
              I love how Chase gestured at the transition throughout the series.

              Liked by 2 people

              • There is a good Netflix miniseries called fear city that just came out about the New York mob in 70s and 80s and how the feds finally stuck a massive blow against the commission…it’s a great backdrop for the sopranos because the show starts about 13 to 15 years after that era and really centers on the struggles of the mob in the post commission trial world….diminished, removed from the old urban centers, faced with recruiting problems….the fading of the Italian American community as an identifiable group….

                Liked by 1 person

            • Preposterous ….everything you think you’ve identified existed before Trump got elected and will exist long as he and we are gone…but it always makes liberals feel good to act like social maladies exist only when republican admins are in place…remember, you libs though Bush Senior was the devil during the sopranos run….you acted like McCain and Romney were the next incarnation of the devil until they lost and then you pretended to like them….and th next republican pres will be the object of your inane and ignorant hatred….it’s been this way since the 1920s….

              Like

              • Pardon the typos…I don’t type well on the iPad…..

                Like

              • @Hawkman
                I am left of liberal, and I believe I’m in good company on this: Observing that Reagan was better than Bush Jr.
                who in turn looks good in some ways compared to Trump is hardly an embrace of the policies of Reagan or
                Bush. It only underscores how much farther republicans keep falling in their choice of party leader. At this
                rate, god help America if they vote for another republican president. After 4 years of this acutely destructive
                man, who is eager for the rougher beast waiting to be born?
                McCain & Romney stand out because they are outliers. At long last they stood on conscience and their oaths
                of office in stark contrast to their fellow republicans. Again, one can respect that without supporting their policy
                positions since we know that in the event of the election of a democrat as president, those Trump-grabbed
                republican tongues now stilled in the face of real tyranny will be miraculously set loose to wax righteously
                indignant once again.
                “It has ever been thus”, has never been and is not now a cogent argument in favor of supporting a fascist.
                Trump is a man who openly twitters about delaying the election until the polls are more favorable towards him,
                who deems any obstacle to the power he craves – a coup, who spreads lies instead of doing the hard work of
                governance, who has the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands, a man for whom it is more true than
                for any previous holder of the office – “between brain and mouth, there is no interlocutor.”
                If the wreckage all around us is insufficient demonstration of how Mr. Trump is in a league of his own, I
                recommend a pit-stop at the shrine of the 1000 year Reich on that journey backwards to the 1920’s.
                155 years ago America defeated the confederacy. 75 years ago this week, America completed the defeat of
                a trio of fascist regimes. Why are trump-o-linis ever so attracted to revisiting history on the wrong side?
                A majority of Americans want the nation to permanently transcend the morals of a mafia organization,
                won’t you join them?

                Like

    • He’s failed at everything he’s done in life, except for selling his empty name to dummies who believe that it implies wealth.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. Ron, I don´t know if anyone has mentioned it before, but have you found any meaning in the use of tears/crying in season 6? After Johnny Sack´s crying is seen as a sign of weakness after his daughter´s wedding, there are several mentions or scenes of crying showing “tough” men specifically: Phil cries at the hospital and also mentions crying with Nancy Sinatra, Carmine Jr. talks about crying after his wife asks him to step back in the race towards being boss, Tony cries when discussing AJ… not to mention all the times AJ is seen crying during his tailspin.

    I just finished a full re-watch of the series, and I can say that it was quite enhanced by your autopsies. Can´t wait for the last two.

    Liked by 3 people

    • manny44ameritechnet

      The one time we see Tony cry from joy or beauty is when he hears The Chi-Lites ” oh girl” while driving. His response…well ask Ron Zellman about that

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting. I never really noticed it before but there may very well be more crying on the show AFTER Sac gets criticized for his tears. These guys are full of shit…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I thought the problem with sac was crying in public…as it showed weakness to the others and a fear that the feds could break him…Tony crying alone, well no one knows that but Tony and the viewers…..

        Liked by 1 person

  39. “Tony tells Dr. Melfi it is because Carmela coddled him.”
    This reminded me of another time they discussed “coddling”. It was when Melfi told Tony that Carmela is protecting AJ the way he wished his own mother would have. It sounded like pretty good insight and (although I don’t remember Tony’s response) something that might lead to a change in his thoughts on parenting. Of course we know that it didn’t matter cause they’ve been spinning the wheels in therapy for years now. I don’t know if it’s Melfi’s stubborn faith in the idea of Tony turning away from the dark side, Tony’s unending quest to be a better mob boss, a combination of both or just habit that keeps them seeing each other but by next episode even Carmela sees that it’s pointless. Tony tells Carm he quit therapy for good and she’s completely nonplussed and responds with something like “besides that mood lift after being shot years ago, she hasn’t really done anything since.” Compare that to the joy she shows when he first tells her about it or the anger she shows in later episodes when he says he’s gonna quit and it’s obvious that it’s not fooling anyone anymore (except for Tony maybe).
    “AJ insisting that Blanca isn’t black, but then admitting “she’s pretty tan.””
    PSA: Blanca isn’t black she’s latina. I know a lot of people (including family) that take exception to being called black despite their darker skin tone. Its not a superiority complex or anything like that, it’s more about pride in your own culture and heritage. It’s like calling a Pacific Islander an Asian. Or calling a guy who killed 16 Czechoslovakians an interior decorator.
    “This is a truly funny hour.”
    My favorite: https://i.redd.it/01j3oeeifa501.jpg
    “He must be referring to the Mall of America, that majestic temple of consumerism, in Bloomington MN.”
    Fun fact: The company/conglomerate/whatever the fuck that built the mall of America were behind the entertainment complex/mall/whatever the fuck called American dream in the meadowlands right here in Jersey. In fact, I’m pretty sure they started building it when the sopranos was still on the air. Due to financial ‘complications’, it’s been almost 20 years since it was first proposed to be built and even before the pandemic shut everything down, it still wasn’t even fully open. I remember some of the ‘complications’ included rumored ties to organized crime. But I think we’re all aware that this is bullshit cause there is no mafia and even there was it would never exist in New Jersey
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dream_Meadowlands

    Liked by 1 person

  40. @jfigs Nice points. You had me rolling with, “…there is no mafia…”. I imagined Tony saying just that with a straight face!
    AJ’s, “She’s not black! I mean she’s pretty tan.” reminded me of Pino’s laughable attempt to square the circle in the
    movie “Do the Right Thing”. After Mookie points out the contradiction between Pino’s racism and the fact that Pino’s favorite music,
    comedy and sports stars are black, here’s Pino: “I mean, they’re not black, I mean – Let me explain myself. They’re – They’re not really
    black. I mean, they’re black, but they’re not really black. They’re more than black. It’s different.” LOL!
    BTW, one can identify as black AND LatinX no problem. Race and Ethnicity, at least as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau are separate
    and distinct concepts, so one can choose to identify as “Black or African American” or any others in the Race category, and as “Hispanic/
    LatinX or Non-Hispanic/Non-LatinX” in the Ethnicity category.
    Of course how others choose to see you is a different story as we’ve seen many times in the Sopranos and in real life.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. manny44ameritechnet

    Here’s a good video essay I randomly came across on YouTube that discusses the overarching themes in the show. This doesn’t have nearly as many views as it should so I figured I’d throw it up here. I hope that’s okay Ron. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaEGJYcy2W4

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Hi, when can we expect more eps? I can’t “bear” to wait. (See what I did there?)
    Love this site. I’m sure the final episodes will be just some quick write-ups so if you can just get all of those out tonight that’d be great. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. You mentioned Lincoln Logs… Tony had a bite at one of those. How did Lincoln die? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  44. Frank Roccapriore

    Cool stuff

    Liked by 1 person

  45. How’s Blue Comet coming along Ron? Hope you are in good health and are managing during these continuing times of the pandemic and discord int he world.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. This is the most I’ve felt bad for Tony since before he woke up from his coma, and I’m not even sure the man we see in this episode is still him. The two of them by the pool, its devastating, its pathetic. Revisiting this episode, I was surprised by how brisk it is, business after business. The Phil encounter is pure Python, except more bitter than even a recovering Graham Chapman. Secret Mastermind Carmine watch: he just dawdles along. What does Phil’s “cooler heads prevailed” mean? Is he misusing it? He’s got the opposite of a cool head. Just take the drills, Shahnbox.
    Therapy: And here’s the other end of the brick, from Tony’s exasperated “Is this all there is?” in Walk Like a Man, we come to the mother buses. I think Tony almost confesses, and comes as close as he can to saying, that he knows now that on some level he’s an evil man, even as he says he’s a good guy. “You have these thoughts…” He knows those thoughts. He’s snuffed them out by their nose.
    There’s some real hurt behind the rage in Tony’s eyes when he beats the fuck out of Coco, particularly when he points the gun at Butchie the second time. Blood leaks from the mouth of the pistol. And, in the words of a YouTuber, it’s got that Ren & Stimpy music in the background to really get you going.
    Edie Falco is very good at playing a mother. So goddamn good. Not a good mother, per se, nor a bad one. But a mother. A mom. Mom. I love her half-assed reaction to the idea that she didn’t like the Parisi kid.
    EVDW comments on how a lot of Sopranoland food looks good except for those lincoln log sandwiches. Tony is not so discriminate.
    Sitdown scenes are generally very good (Junior on the phone in the Weight; Sac’s frankness in Long Term Parking), and this one has defined Phil and ruined Sopranos clips on YouTube, and Goodfellas for that matter. I love how Tony just lets the pretenses slide off. “Just stupid fucking jokes.” When he leaves the sitdown, on some level he honestly understands what Phil is about when he emptily says “Yeah…” What does Tony want anymore? He’s finally decided never to change, it seems, but everything is crumbling and he knows it on some level.
    I’ve read Bobby’s scene interpreted as evidence he’s just become another asshole, but his reluctance to shake hands feels pretty Bobby to me. He is more drawn in, more corrupted than before.
    W. B. Yeats got a lot of mileage out of “The Second Coming.” Another major donation to film/tv comes from the poem “Sailing to Byzantium,” the opening line: “That is no country for old men.”
    Loved you on Podabing, Ron.
    “We don’t want your fuckin’ drills!”

    Liked by 2 people

  47. I’ve got to say, I really don’t like the “Tony is a sociopath” thread. Sure, from my lay reading of the symptoms of ASPD, he seems to fit the criteria, but what’s the point of spending eight years examining a man’s personality, using him as a model of the modern American mindset, and then just declaring him an Other, who just lacks a significant chunk of the mental ongoings that most people have? I know Chase got really cute with the politics in S6, but most people – even most Americans – are not sociopaths. But we all, to some degree, engage in rationalisation and diminuation – we tell ourselves all kinds of nonsense to allow ourselves to continue driving cars that are destroying the environment; wearing clothes made by children in the post-colonised world who are little more than slaves; fiddling with gadgets, manufactured with conflict minerals mined to fund wars in the Congo, then throwing them away to be dumped in that same country, having them leach into the soil; eating more than enough wastefully-produced food to feed the world’s hungry many times over; watching films and TV shows that degrade women, made by men who rape women; masturbating to violent pornography starring women who the production companies have a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy to whether they’re eighteen or not, hosted on websites that were happy to profit off videos of 14-year-old girls being gang-raped until they were faced with court action; participating in and upholding – whether through paying taxes or otherwise – a nation that locks children in concentration camps, or engages in torture and other Geneva Convention breaches, or starting wars for its own material gain. Maybe you don’t do *all* of those things, but you’re lying to yourself if you don’t do at least one of them (I mean, you’re on the internet right now). To me, that’s always been the point of Tony and Carm, as characters. In my opinion, it’s vital to the show’s nature as a human study – especially in this episode, as we see AJ’s inability to perform that rationalisation, as Meadow sinks further into it!

    Looking forward to your final two write-ups, Ron!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, it’s possible that embracing the idea that Tony is a sociopath is a way of distancing ourselves from all the ways we’re similar to him. I think Melfi will do something similar in the next hour (and that’s part of the reason why Chase introduces the Yochelson study here), but more on that in the next write-up…

      Liked by 1 person

    • As much as Tony is an Everyman, he is also a sociopath. That’s part of the irony of the character!

      Liked by 1 person

  48. Please "Bear" With Us

    Waiting for these last two write-ups is becoming like anticipating the last two episodes of the original series. These last two will actually be climactic as they wrap everything (relatively) up. Hope the next one comes soon and that current events aren’t slowing things down too much.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Im doing another rewatch but because of your site it’s been the most rewarding one yet. I can not wait for your last two. I’m still on 6.4 so I jumped ahead to post on here. Anyways I just wanted to say thank you. I always tell my Sopranos group about your work here.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Please Ron! We need to see your awesome review of the next episode ASAP!

    Liked by 1 person

  51. Ron, any truth to the rumor that you’re not only rewatching the series before finishing your write-ups, but also re-filming it? #6monthsman
    Hope all is well!

    Liked by 2 people

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