Walk Like a Man (6.17)

AJ makes some new friends.
Chris and Paulie rage against each other
but JT Dolan gets the brunt of it.

Episode 82 – Originally aired May 6, 2007
Written by Terence Winter
Directed by Terence Winter

___________________________________

There are a couple of reasons why I really shouldn’t like this episode. For one thing, Christopher falls off the wagon again and this is ground that has been covered almost ad nauseum on the series. For another thing, AJ is given much of the spotlight here, and and I’m not so sure that Robert Iler was really up to the task of carrying the greatest TV show of all time on his shoulders, especially during its last hurrah.

And yet, I really like this hour. I think it works even better on re-watch because we can see how well it functions as a connecting episode, linking earlier themes and events to very significant events that are yet to come. This hour makes strong linkages to “Fortunate Son” (3.03), an episode that explored the woes of AJ and Christopher, two young men who have had the (mis)fortune of being born into mafia families. (Throughout the current hour, Chase connects AJ and Chris through various edits and matching imagery.) Chase digs deeper now into the reasons why AJ and Christopher have been caught in a state of almost perpetual woe.

At root is the question of nature vs. nurture: are we mainly products of genetics or of our environment? And how large a role does free will have in shaping our destinies, regardless of the genes we inherit or the happenstance that we’re born into.  It’s a complicated issue and Tony seems to have an inconsistent view on it; he believes Christopher could beat his addictions if he just willed himself to, but he believes AJ’s depression is something genetic.

At Christopher’s housewarming, Tony ribs Chris innocently at first, making fun of the non-alcoholic beer that he is drinking (“Less filling, tastes like ass”). But Tony becomes much more critical of Chris as the conversation progresses—he feels that Chris just needs to “man up,” show some balls in controlling his addictions. He doesn’t buy Chris’ explanation that addiction is a disease. Tony looks on almost with disgust as Chris explains, “I inherited it. You know the problem with my mother.” But I think I can spot some sympathy in Tony’s face as well. Tony can relate because he too has inherited something very problematic from his own mother—her dark nihilism. And he, in turn, has bequeathed this deadly attitude to his son.

All evidence points to AJ being an inheritor of Livia’s nihilism. AJ is in a bad way after getting dumped by Blanca, spending much of the day vegging out on the couch and idly staring at the TV. I’ve noted that staircases are often places of menace and pain in SopranoWorld, and this seems true even in the Tom ‘n Jerry cartoon that AJ watches:

tom and jerry 2

Worried about AJ’s state of mind, Carmela calls Tony to come attend to their son. Tony is chatting up a Bing stripper (that same stripper he gave a mouthful of himself to in “Cold Stones”), but quickly returns home when he hears the urgency in Carm’s voice. I don’t know if Chase is making a conscientious callback here, but Carm’s phone call now seems to evoke the urgent phone call she made to Tony about their troubled son in “The Army of One” (3.13):

It would be quite fitting for Chase to callback “The Army of One” here because the central tension of that Season 3 Finale—Carmela’s and Tony’s opposing views on how to help AJ—rears up again now. Tony’s instinct is to follow a “Strict Father” model of parenting while Carmela leans more toward the “Nurturant Parent” model. (We should note that the previous episode, “Chasing It,” was similarly about the mobsters not knowing how to deal with Little Vito—when their effort to discipline him according to the Strict Father model failed, they sent him to a Christian camp that might have better luck doing so.) Carmela wants to be empathetic and supportive, but Tony doesn’t want his son to be overly coddled. Tony seeks a manlier solution: he thinks AJ just needs to hang out with guys his age and do what boys do…

The “two Jasons” (Gervasi and Parisi) conform to Tony’s idea of masculinity better than his own son is able to. As the two young dudes eyeball the dancers at the Bing, Tony asks them how college is going, and one of them shoots back a typically goombah-fratboy answer: “Majorin’ in cash, minorin’ in ass!” If I remember correctly, it is Jason Parisi who delivers the line, but frankly it makes no difference which one of them says it. Their duplicate names, duplicate personalities and duplicate behaviors serve to doubly confirm to Tony that there is something girly and abnormal about the way his son is reacting to losing Blanca.

While sitting in front of the TV with AJ, Tony’s attention is caught by the movie Hellfighters starring John Wayne. Now there is a guy who knew how to “walk like a man.” John Wayne walked with a signature slow pace and wide-stance, like he had just gotten off a horse after riding a hundred miles of rough country. There was nothing girly or effeminate about John Wayne. Tony, literally playing the role of the Strict Father, demands that AJ go to a party with the two Jasons tomorrow night. Tony is sure that a night of beer, strippers and hanging out with the guys will pull AJ out of his dejected state. This, Tony likes to believe, is how a real man is supposed to deal with depression.

The episode title is an immediate giveaway that this hour is meant to be an exploration of certain notions of manliness. The title, of course, comes from the Four Seasons song in which a father instructs his son to get over his heartache by simply taking a more masculine posture:

Walk like a man, talk like a man
Walk like a man, my son
No woman’s worth
Crawlin’ on the earth
So walk like a man, my son

The song, first released in 1963, functions here to reiterate Tony’s midcentury notion of masculinity. We’ve known since the Pilot episode that Tony idealizes midcentury man Gary Cooper as the hero who doesn’t worry about being in touch with his feelings—he just goes out and does what needs to be done in spite of his feelings. (Nevermind that Gary Cooper’s persona is mostly a Hollywood fiction.) Tony pushes AJ to man up, ignore his pain and get back out into the world. Friends and beer, buds and suds—that’s the solution for AJ.

 Perhaps Blanca also finds AJ to be insufficiently masculine. We might remember that while they were watching the Cleaver screening a couple of episodes ago, Blanca glanced at AJ immediately after Sally Boy tells Michael’s girlfriend, “What you need is a real man.” I can’t blame Blanca too much if she found AJ’s masculinity to be lacking. While I don’t think that AJ is unmanly in the sense of being effeminate, he does seem unmanly in the sense of being immature. He is basically still a kid, sheltered in the suburban home that he grew up in. In the final minutes of “The Army of One,” we saw Meadow run to her New York dorm where she was forging a life for herself, away from her parents and the mob community. We had a sense, even back then, that AJ would find it harder to break free and create an independent space for himself like his sister was doing:

family portrait

In his present emotional turmoil, AJ becomes even more passive than he usually is. He is unable or unwilling to deal with his pain in any sort of constructive or proactive way. When he visits the psychiatrist’s office, he doesn’t have much of value to say to the doctor. (Some of AJ’s reticence, however, may have to do with the therapist’s tack. The psychiatrist is so somber and subdued I feel like maybe he’s been snorting some of the anti-anxiety meds he must have laying around the office.) I think there may be a bit of genius in how David Chase handles the character of “AJ” in this hour. Chase, I believe, found a way to channel some of Robert Iler’s limitations as an actor into AJ’s storyline here. Iler was never great at emoting—and AJ is turning into an emotional blank space now. Iler never seemed like a particularly cerebral actor—and AJ seems to have very little insight into his own predicament now. AJ, as played by Iler, seems to fall into a condition of passivity in the face of despair. Even at the party with the two Jasons, AJ doesn’t actively participate in the action and hilarity going on around him. He remains disengaged. When a stripper offers him a lap dance, he mumbles “Yeah, I guess” before settling into his seat with all the enthusiasm of a guy about to get a root canal.

I touched upon Kevin Stoehr’s essay (“‘Its All a Big Nothing’: The Nihilistic Vision of The Sopranos”) in my write-up for “D-Girl,” the episode in which AJ claimed that God was dead and life was meaningless. (His grandmother seconded the motion.) I’ll quickly recap the distinction that Stoehr made between the active nihilist and the passive nihilist:

  1. The active nihilist is able to become a life-affirming, self-possessed creator of a value-system in spite of the abyss that looms before him
  2. The passive nihilist is not able to find the courage or motivation to transcend a life-negating, cynical outlook, and thus everything in the universe loses value for him

AJ’s nihilistic proclamations in “D-Girl” (“Death just shows the ultimate absurdity of life,” for example) were first and foremost an attempt to deflect the anger his parents felt at him for taking the car out without permission (or a Driver’s License). But as that episode progressed, we got the sense that AJ was legitimately questioning the meaning of his life. His break-up with Blanca now brings that question of meaning back to the forefront of his thoughts. AJ’s relationship with Blanca was surely the most significant romantic relationship he has ever been in; watching it evaporate into nothing must feel like proof that “it’s all a Big Nothing” as Livia had told him years ago. When his parents try to talk to him in his bedroom, he cries out “What’s the fucking point?!” (I’ve been criticizing Robert Iler’s acting skills a little bit but he plays this scene with such convincing desperation, it puts a lump in my throat every time I watch it.) Tony and Carm walk out into the hallway where he bitterly tells her “Everything turns to shit.” (There are several connections between “Fortunate Son” and this hour, but this particular line formally connects the two episodes because Christopher said the same line in that earlier hour.)

In Dr. Melfi’s office, Tony tries to blame genetics for AJ’s crisis: “My rotten fuckin’ putrid genes have infected my kid’s soul.” (This is an almost word-for-word callback from “The Army of One” where Tony says “AJ has inherited that putrid, rotten Soprano gene” after learning that AJ also suffers panic attacks.) But is AJ truly genetically predisposed to suffer this sort of depression? Or is his current depression more a result of the environment he grew up in? David Chase has never seemed to be a big believer in “either/or” binaries, and I think he takes the position here that it could be both nature and nurture. (Episode 1.07 “Down Neck” also explored the nature vs. nurture question in regards to AJ, and Chase left it unanswered back then too.) Regardless of whether AJ learned or inherited his gloomy attitude, it is clear that his father has the same dark perspective—Tony tells Melfi now, “After all is said and done, after all the complainin’ and the cryin’ and all the fucking bullshit…is this all there is?”

AJ suffers a bout of jealousy and pain when he sees a young couple kissing at the pizzeria he manages, and he suddenly decides to quit. The whole scene takes on a humorous tone thanks to his Hispanic coworker’s befuddled responses: “What ju do?…Who?…Why ju do that?…But you’re the manayer!” It’s a funny scene, but there is something pathetic about it too. In the previous episode, AJ convinced Blanca to say ‘Yes’ (well, technically ‘Okay’) to his marriage proposal by citing how quickly he became night manager of this pizzeria, and then he strung off a list of potential future successes, culminating with an image of himself as a prosperous businessman who would provide well for his family. By quitting his job now, he breaks that potential chain of success. Without Blanca, his long-term goals are rendered meaningless. We see just how tied-in she is to his conception of his own life: his success and happiness hinge upon her. That is a lot of responsibility to dump on to your girlfriend, particularly when your girlfriend is a young mother who is already shouldering the responsibility of raising a small child. It is not very surprising at all that Blanca broke off the engagement.

It’s also not very surprising when we realize that the first link in AJ’s imagined chain of success—potentially being promoted from night manager to day manager in only a few more months—is not all that impressive, considering that this is Beansie’s pizza place (the same place where Richie smashed Beansie with a coffeepot back in Season 2). The son of a mob Boss might conceivably be made day manager of a mob-run establishment in even less time, if that son were truly competent and capable. But we’ve never known AJ to be all that competent or capable. Perhaps the pride and enchantment of being in a relationship with a woman as beautiful and sultry as Blanca stoked AJ into overestimating his own competence and capabilities. And now he’s getting a reality check. It’s quite a big bubble that burst when he lost his brown-skinned beauty.

Carmela puts down her nighttime reading material (Rebel in Chief, a book about George W. Bush) when Meadow comes into her parents’ room to warn them that AJ might be having suicidal thoughts. Carm and Tony surely know how lucky they are to have such an intelligent and perceptive daughter, but they truly don’t know what the best approach is to help their distressed son. 

However, Tony’s strategy for AJ—hang out with the guys and do guy-stuff—does seem to have some positive effect. AJ stops obsessing over Blanca so much, and we even see him occasionally smile and laugh. He and the guys track down a classmate named Victor who has unpaid gambling debts to the Jasons. They drag Victor out of a party and bring him to the woods where they conduct a chemistry experiment on him: “We want to see what happens when you mix sulfuric acid with toe-jam.” (The method of torture chosen for Victor plays into the episode title; poor Vic won’t be able to “walk like a man,” perhaps even walk at all, after what the guys do to him.) AJ has clearly broken out of the almost catatonic passivity he was in earlier, he even helps to hold the victim down now. Chase does not employ slow camera zooms onto his characters’ faces very often, but the camera does pull us closer to AJ here. Though it is a quick shot, it lasts long enough for us to see the disturbing expression on AJ’s face:

AJ may be a sociopath
It was 3.03 “Fortunate Son” that included the flashback of young Tony watching his dad chop off Mr. Satriale’s pinky finger (because of an unpaid gambling debt, just like Victor’s transgression now). Chase’s camera did a quick zoom on to young Tony’s face in that earlier scene, but young Tony did not seem anywhere near as enthralled as AJ does here by the act of grotesque violence unfolding before him.

Perhaps Tony’s strategy for AJ does help pull him out of his immediate depression, but it is also places AJ within a circle of violent, savage thugs. Tony may not be aware that he has sent his son down a potentially dangerous path—but he possibly wouldn’t mind so much even if he did know. This is the parenting strategy that Tony understands and has chosen. In the previous episode, Tony chose a similar strategy by sending Little Vito to a boot camp despite the camp’s reputation for savage, thuggish behavior. (We remember how forcefully the camp goons removed Little V from his mother’s home.) Tony is acting in accordance with a parental theory that has statistically been shown to be favored by men, particularly conservative men. Carmela’s approach to childrearing is a bit more progressive, but we nevertheless know that she is no liberal—and Chase reminds us of this with a shot of the book she is reading:

REBEL in chief

(Slate.com described the book by neo-conservative pundit and magazine editor Fred Barnes as a “love note” to President Bush.) In my write-up for 3.13 “The Army of One,” I concentrated on the different parenting theories—and different worldviews—found in George Lakoff’s book, Moral Politics: How Conservatives and Liberals Think. (Dr. Mardia Bishop was the first to apply the concepts found in the book to an analysis of The Sopranos, and I built upon her analysis.) I published my write-up for that episode years ago but I think the ideas in it are probably even more relevant today than they were then. 

George Lakoff argues that conservatives instinctively identify with the Strict Father model of governance more than with the Nurturant Parent model. The Strict Father model is patriarchal and protective, with emphasis on a rigidly-defined hierarchy that often has a strong-willed, unapologetic, usually male, sometimes domineering figure at the top. Donald Trump’s personality and persona could certainly appeal to voters that prefer the Strict Father model. Trump has himself shown admiration for domineering and authoritarian ‘strongman’ leaders around the globe. Many Sopranos fans have wondered (and I’ve been asked several times) whether Tony Soprano would have voted  for Mr. Trump in 2016. My first thought is that Tony probably would never give enough of a shit about politics to actually go out and vote. Beyond that, I genuinely don’t know how to answer—but it might be fun to try. We remember that Tony complained all the way back in the Pilot that he came in at the end of something. Life in America just doesn’t feel full of possibility to him as he imagines it would have felt to his father and grandfather. So I think it is very likely that Tony would have found Mr. Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan appealing and credible.

Author Miles Klee ponders the question in an article written in early 2019 for MEL magazine. He writes that “Tony fetishes a bygone America [‘Out there it’s the 1990s but in this house it’s 1954’] that never really existed, and Trump voices that chauvinistic attitude.” Klee also writes that Tony might have found a way to happily capitalize on Trump’s deregulation of various industries. It’s easy to imagine that Tony, a longtime resident of the tri-state area (and self-proclaimed ‘captain of industry’ type), may have had some prior contact directly or indirectly with Trump through a construction project or real estate deal. And Trump is rumored to have mafia ties. But, Klee notes, any dealings that Tony or his colleagues may have had with the mogul could have actually soured Tony on Trump, who has a history of stiffing and shortchanging the people he does business with. Tony, a loyal reader of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, might also be wary of Trump’s continuous cries of “Fake News.” The biggest turn-off for T, however, would probably be that the Donald doesn’t live up to Tony’s conception of “the strong, silent type” whatsoever. Whatever strength and generosity the President has is perpetually overshadowed by his constant complaining and ranting to anyone who will listen. Trump plays the eternal victim, something Tony could find very unappealing. Moreover, I don’t believe Tony would ever join that contingent of Trump supporters who feel victimized and discriminated against simply for being Caucasian. (Tony even tries to comfort AJ in this hour by reminding him that he’s white—“That’s a huge plus nowadays.”)

During a recent interview commemorating the show’s 20th anniversary, The New York Times asked David Chase what Tony would think of President Trump. Chase responded that “He would think the guy was full of shit…Tony would have thought Trump was penny-ante, in terms of his lying and presentation.” I certainly understand why Chase would reach that conclusion, but I still feel that Trump’s MAGA vision for the country would be hard for Tony to resist. It’s a vision that is arguably simplistic and outdated, but that might precisely be what Tony would find attractive about it. In an essay written years before the Trump candidacy (“The Sopranos: Gratuitous Violence or High Drama?”), Greg Desilet says that:

The despair and nihilism (“It’s all a big nothing”) Tony feels is not so much a result of a descent into moral relativism as much as it is a confrontation with the complexity of moral choice. Tony must constantly face the fact that life is much more complicated than he would like it to be. He nevertheless interprets this complication as a sign of the decay of the ‘old values’—the simplicity of melodramatic alignments and clarity of action.

Donald Trump, in my view, is not someone who frets very much over “the complexity of moral choice”—the very thing, Desilet argues, that is the source of Tony Soprano’s despair and nihilism. Therefore, I can imagine Tony readily following Trump if he came to believe, rightly or wrongly, that this red-hatted pied-piper from Manhattan could rescue him from the despair and nihilism that has always threatened him.

Tony MAKE

More difficult to guess, I think, is Carmela’s vote in 2016. It’s hard for me to imagine her ever casting a ballot for Hillary Clinton. (Carm and the other mob wives didn’t speak with much love about Hillary in episode 3.11 “Amour Fou,” although they did admire how she took hubby Bill’s philandering and “spun it into gold.”) But it’s also a little hard to imagine Carm bubbling in a vote for an unapologetic pussy-grabber. I realize that the majority of white female voters nationwide did vote for Donald, but I think as a northeastern conservative, Carmela would likely have been more immune to Mr. Trump’s particular charm. New Jersey Republicans seem more hesitant than many rural Republicans to always toe the party line, especially when it comes to certain social issues—gay rights and prayer in school, for example. The issue of abortion, however, might be the one issue that could have convinced Catholic Carmela to join Team Trump. But I think it’s also fair to say that we saw a progressive trend in some of Carmela’s attitudes over the course of time. In season 4, she told Rosalie Aprile that “Women are supposed to be partners nowadays. I’m no feminist, I’m not saying 50-50, but geez” as she tried to take more control of her financial situation, independent of her husband. And the following season, in “Sentimental Education,” she surprised Tony with her newfound interest in art, along with her more progressive view of the marriage vow and greater tolerance for homosexuality.Carm pussy hat
Also, I can imagine that liberal daughter Meadow would have more and more of Carm’s ear over time. Carmela might not have recognized or believed Mike Pence’s repeated description in early 2016 of Trump and his proposed policies as “broad-shouldered” to be a coded, sexist swipe at Hillary’s femaleness, but whip-smart lawyer Meadow might very well have convinced her mother of it. (I bring this up because using the phrase “broad-shouldered” was an almost perfect way to appeal to those voters that prefer the masculine Strict Father model of governance.) Additionally, depending on what you believe occurred at Holsten’s in The Final Scene, it’s possible for us to imagine that witnessing a radically violent event could have made Carm radically change her more traditional stances. She conceivably might have renounced every belief and value that had brought her to that point. Ultimately, though, I think Carmela’s politics are too rooted within her religiosity, lifestyle and circumstance for her to have ever sided with the Democratic candidate in 2016. My instinct is that Carmela would have gone with a conservative third-party candidate, or would have refrained from voting altogether.

In Chase’s recent interview for the New York Times, Carmela’s political leanings didn’t come up at all. But the interviewer did ask him about AJ, whether the young man might have found a place within the Trump Administration (because AJ expresses an interest, in an upcoming episode, in becoming a helicopter pilot for Trump). Chase jokingly replied that AJ “might be the new chief of staff. He’d be buddy-buddy with Stephen Miller, I know that.” (Ouch, that’s a pretty big knock—but I’m not sure who it knocks harder, AJ or the Administration…)

___________________________________

Here’s the thing about getting high: it feels good. I’m sure a major reason why Christopher keeps going back to using is because it feels good. There are millions of users out there who turn to drugs not because they’re trying to mask some painful trauma or because they’re grappling with deep existential issues, but simply because it’s a pleasurable thing to do. But I think Chase signals throughout the series that for Moltisanti, drugs are indeed an escape from something gnawing at his soul. He has long been dissatisfied with the “fucking regularness of life”—and his current situation with a wife and a kid and domestic responsibilities isn’t exactly a barrel of non-stop excitement. He still aches over the loss of Adriana, as we can surmise from his intimate conversation with a fellow 12-stepper after an N.A. meeting. We might figure that Chrissie the mobster wouldn’t have a whole lot in common with this new buddy at Narcotics Anonymous, who seems more like “the corporate type.” (The man works for UNICOR, the government-owned corporation that runs various programs and sells products within the Federal prison system.) But as the two men trade stories about bosses and coworkers, Chris sounds a lot like a typical disgruntled corporate employee. In a sense, that’s exactly what he is.

Chris is aggrieved not only by the Boss at the top of the NJ mob hierarchy, but also by his fellow captain Paulie Walnuts. Chrissie has suffered many small grievances by Paulie over the years, including insults to his manhood (“I guess you could call that a dick”) and improprieties toward his fiancé (“As of the wedding day, anything that touches her pussy is off-limits”). The hostility between the two men bubbled to the surface when they were lost in the Pine Barrens in Season 3, and then again outside a restaurant in Season 5. (A waiter’s seizure saved them from completely turning on each other in the latter case.) Now, business dealings involving Christopher’s father-in-law Al are pushing the two men to the brink.

Things escalate dramatically after Paulie sends his nephew Little Paulie to take advantage of an old man working at Al’s store in order to filch some Makita saws. Chris and Little Paulie are friends (we saw them hanging out along with Adriana and Tina Francesco back in Season Five’s “Rat Pack”). But their friendship doesn’t keep Chris from getting his vengeance on Little Paulie with extreme prejudice. Chris tosses the man right out a window onto the sidewalk 30 feet below. This is an incredible scene. It packs quite a wallop because, of course, it is a violent and shocking thing that happens to Little Paulie. But I want to take a closer look at how the scene’s dramatic impact also comes out of the effective and efficient use of camerawork and editing. This is a precise, powerful 40 seconds of television:

The opening shot establishes the location, but also shows the height from which Little Paulie will soon fall. Little Paulie makes a joke about toilet paper that’s so dumb, it reminds us that he is no evil criminal mastermind—he is just Paulie’s pawn and probably doesn’t deserve such horrific punishment. (Or perhaps reminds us that his sense of humor is so bad, he does deserve some kind of punishment.) A series of quick flashcuts, along with a superfast camera tilt from Christopher’s knee up through Little Paulie’s groin, emphasize the suddenness of Chrissie’s attack. We get a quick zoom onto Benny’s face, reflecting his realization that Little Paulie is about to be flung through the window. We get a few more flashcuts of the attack, and then finally Little Paulie’s fall is captured from three different angles. I think the detail I love the most is the bits of broken glass that fall onto Little Paulie as he lays on the ground. I doubt that this detail is a conscientious callback, but we have seen Little Paulie have bad luck with broken glass in previous episodes:

Little Paulie bad for the glass

(Someone threw a bottle at the back of his head in 4.03 “Christopher” and Eugene Pontecorvo smashed him with a Snapple in 5.09 “Unidentified Black Males.”) 

Furious about his nephew’s injuries, Paulie tears up Christopher’s front yard with his Cadillac. (An earlier scene showing Chris’ wife and daughter spending time in the front yard establishes that Paulie’s destruction of landscape was potentially life-threatening as well.) Rather than allow the feud to escalate even further, Christopher pulls back. He approaches Paulie at the Bing and apologizes. Earlier in the hour, Paulie carped at Chris when he tried to defend drinking only a club soda (“Don’t get cunty”), but now Paulie actually orders a club soda for Chris. Chris, however, decides to “man up”—he orders himself a cocktail instead. David Chase makes a clever cut here, from Chris drinking to AJ quaffing a shot with his new buddies:

DRINKING edit

The cut is perhaps a little too on-the-nose, too obviously making the point that Chris and AJ are both trying to fit in with the crowd. But the underlying point is significant: both young men are behaving passively. Chris quits his active effort at sobriety and passively has a drink instead, and AJ passively goes along with these goombah undergrads instead of actively doing the difficult emotional and mental work that would help pull himself out of his heartache.

Chris drinks too much and starts rambling (sounding a little bit like he did after Livia’s funeral in Season 3). Paulie starts breaking his balls, much to the amusement of the other guys. Chase does a slow-motion pan of the room here, with Chris in the foreground and the other men laughing in the shot’s midground. The staging of the shot reminded me of an earlier shot in the hour which had a hurt and humiliated AJ in the foreground with some construction guys laughing in the midground:

AJ n CHRIS

The slow-motion pan at the Bing is a bit heavy-handed for The Sopranos, because the show rarely ever utilized slo-mo shots. But I think the shot is justified here because this is such a consequential moment: Chris is sliding down the slippery slope of substance abuse once again, and this time he will not get a chance to recover. The scene is also consequential, I believe, because it may be at this moment that JT Dolan’s fate gets sealed…

Chris is angry and hurt but he cannot lash out at his colleagues, so he storms out of the strip joint. He soon arrives at JT’s apartment. I think actor Tim Daly was phenomenal in this series, and it is a testament to his talent and presence that many viewers think of “JT Dolan” as a pretty significant character even though he only appeared in 4 total episodes. His cumulative screentime probably comes out to less than 30 minutes. His scene here is about four minutes long, and it’s a humdinger. JT looks clean and sober, he seems to have gotten his life on track. He’s working on a deadline for a Law & Order script. (We’ve known that he has wanted to work for Dick Wolf from the time we first met him, back in “In Camelot,” and it looks like that dream has come true.) Chris may view JT’s healthy mental and emotional state as a reproach to his own sad and pathetic state—JT has been able to get clean in a way that he himself has not. Chris starts spilling out details about his criminal career, things that JT knows he shouldn’t be hearing. After saying too much, Chris puts a bullet in JT’s head.

I was quite surprised by this turn of events when I first saw it, and I’m guessing most viewers felt the same. Of course, there really isn’t anything surprising about Christopher’s murder of JT, other than the suddenness with which it happens. I don’t necessarily believe that Christopher went to JT’s place with the intention of killing him, but JT’s less-than-warm reception of him (as well as the fact that Chris told him things he shouldn’t have) made it inevitable that JT would die. JT’s death was also, in a sense, thematically inevitable because he was one of the perennial victims of SopranoWorld. He suffered at Christopher’s hands for years before finally being snuffed out by Christopher.

I think another thing that motivates Chris to kill JT now is something that I touched upon in previous write-ups: Christopher’s sense of being excluded from the world of Hollywood. Film company VP Amy Safir made him feel like nothing more than a low-life goombah in “D-Girl,” and Hollywood A-Lister Ben Kingsley gave him the cold shoulder in “Luxury Lounge.” JT Dolan, unlike Chrissie, has successfully meshed himself into the world of filmmaking and television. Chris may very well be feeling some envy. When JT tells him, a minute before he dies, that “You’re in the mob, Chris,” it drives home the point: Chris is a skinny-guinea mobster through-and-through, he can never be a serious Hollywood player. It is true that Chris did get his movie made, but he did it only by turning to his fellow mafioso for financing. Now, however, even those guys seem unsupportive, turning away from him as he battles his addictions. Chris Moltisanti is a man without a home. His sense of exclusion is complete.

I think the final scene of the hour is one of the most poignant of Season 6, and much of its power comes from the song that scores it: Los Lobos’ “The Valley.” Chris gets out of his car in the dark night and walks toward his house. He stops for a moment to upright a tree sapling that was knocked down in Paulie’s rampage. (Interestingly, we hear the song lyrics “Across the land where the earth was tough as clay” just as Chris pats some earth into place around the straightened tree; and then the next line starts “Looked at their hands” just as Chris claps the dirt off his hands.)

tree chris

Trees have been long-associated with mortality and death on this series. We might associate trees specifically with Adriana La Cerva ever since “Long Term Parking” when Chase’s camera tilted away from her death-scene up to the overhead canopy. And so Chris fixing the fallen tree now perhaps symbolically signifies that he is trying to get his mind right about his former fiancé. That little tree, along with the rest of the landscaping, also seems to represent domesticity and family life—and so when Chris uprights that tree, it also seems to signify that he is making a serious effort at being an upright family man. Still feeling a little drunk (and perhaps some adrenaline after committing murder), he half-staggers, half-swaggers—walks like a man?—up the steps into his house. He may be, figuratively speaking, a man without a home, but at least he has this house to come home to.

“The Valley” continues over the credits. Chris had hinted minutes earlier to JT that he is carrying some regrets about not entering the Witness Protection Program with Adriana, and the song lyrics seems to reflect this regret:

They could have gone
But instead chose to stay
To watch the clouds way up high
As they turned to gray

If Chris had cooperated with the Feds and pulled out of the mafia, JT Dolan would probably be alive right now. Some mysterious combination of the song’s elements—maybe the atmospheric instrumentation and the high-E note that rings through the chord changes and Dave Hidalgo’s plaintive singing—manages to turn “The Valley” into a lament and final goodbye to JT.

I’ve never discussed the way the end-credits are presented in The Sopranos, but this might be a good time to take a look at it. Many films/TV shows use an upward scroll (“crawl”) to go through the credits, which is all fine and good, but Chase prefers to use static placards which are arguably more effective at acknowledging and honoring the actors. Tim Daly gets the first placard all to himself here in his final episode:

credits1

Generally speaking, the actors are ranked in order (depending on their star-status and the importance of the character they play in the episode at hand) and grouped into the placards. The higher you rank in a particular episode, the fewer co-stars you have to share the screen with:

credits pic

It might humbling to have to share a placard with four other actors, but I think you still stand a better chance of being recognized and noticed through this type of end-credit than through the scrolling up type. Personally, I wouldn’t mind sharing a placard with twenty other actors if it meant I got to be on The Sopranos. I’d prefer to have a 10-second cameo as a toilet-scrubber on this series than to have a lead role on virtually any other series. (Of course, I have the luxury of feeling this way because I’m not a working actor. I’m sure most actors would almost always prefer the meatier role.)

___________________________________

“WHAT ROUGH BEAST”
There’s a sequence here towards the end of the hour at the Soprano home that I find very interesting. It’s late at night and Tony and AJ have each just arrived home. (Tony quickly puts away his sawed-off shotgun when he realizes that it’s only his son pulling up in the driveway behind him.) Meadow is in the kitchen talking with her mom. Just as Tony and AJ go toward the front door with this kind of slouchy walk (walk like a man?), Meadow mentions something about some people “slouching up 57th Street.”
slouching CUT

I’m probably making too much of this, but Meadow’s phrase echoes a line from W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” (a poem which becomes significant a couple of episodes from now): “What rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.” Meadow’s words seem to equate Tony and AJ to Yeats’ slouching beast (something the episode “The Second Coming” will more clearly do later). Also potentially significant: Meadow’s line now replaces the “Bethlehem” in the poem with “57th Street.” Bethlehem, of course, is the birthplace of Jesus. Manhattan’s 57th Street, in contrast, is a mecca of shopping and consumerism. Several high-end retailers and boutiques including Tiffany’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks and Louis Vuitton sit either directly on the street or just off it on one of its cross-streets. At the time this episode originally aired, there were plans to build various ultra-luxury, super-expensive skyrise condominiums along 57th. Some of these plans came to fruition and 57th Street today is known as Billionaire’s Row. In a sense, 57th Street may be our American Bethlehem, the place that represents our true American religion: overindulgent consumption.

We might remember that “57th Street” was explicitly equated with shopping and consumerism in a previous episode. In “Luxury Lounge,” one of the Italian hitmen who came to the U.S. to carry out the hit on Rusty Millio bought a watch for his mother at one of the luxe stores on the street:

57th st

Just another (possible) example of the depth and connectivity to be found on Chase’s TV series…

___________________________________

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • I keep referring to Little Paulie as Paulie’s “nephew” although technically—if I’m getting the family tree right—he is now Paulie’s first-cousin once-removed because of the revelation about Paulie’s birth-mother last season.
  • Chase demythologizes the police a little bit in this hour. Police officers were still basking in the glow of their 9/11 heroism when this episode first aired (very justifiably), but we see cops lining up here to buy tools they must know to be ill-gotten. One of them is wearing a “9/11” sweater while he agrees to illegally squash a ticket for Al.
  • Tony sings Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” as he walks down the stairs, and this song will be prominently heard in the next hour.
  • We hear a couple of lines from a famous Rush song playing on Tony’s radio: “Today’s Tom Sawyer, he gets high on you / The space he invades he gets by on you.” Perhaps the subtext is that Tony and the mob invade spaces where they’re not welcome. (The next hour will have a song about invading space too…) 
  • Contemporary capitalists.  Carlo says he is happy that Walmart exists (the stores were beginning to become ubiquitous across the American landscape around this time) because the company’s presence further opens up the ports—making it easier for the mob to do their naughty business with overseas partners.
  • Pee.  During an uncomfortable conversation with Patsy regarding AJ, Tony says “I gotta take a leak” and leaves the room. T was probably just trying to get out of the conversation, but in any case, all five episodes thus far in Season 6B have had characters talk about peeing.
  • Tony tells AJ that the half-billion-dollar music industry relies on heartache. This line is what most obviously generates the episode title, which of course comes from a Frankie Valli song. Episode 2.05 had used another Valli song as its title: “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
  • When AJ returns home after the attack on Victor, he seems restless and tells his family “I’m wired.” He’s probably feeling some of the after-effects of an adrenaline rush, but it could also be that the Lexapro (the anti-depressant his shrink prescribed him) mixed with alcohol can cause anxiousness. Alcohol can also reduce the efficacy of the drug, something to keep in mind over the next few episodes as AJ loses all of the emotional gains he made in the latter part of this hour.
  • Though we don’t know which way Tony would have voted in 2016, we have some idea which way James Gandolfini leaned politically. He told GQ prior to the 2004 election that he would be voting for John Kerry that year. The magazine noted Gandolfini’s progressive stance on several issues: “…health care, the removal of sports from many Oregon schools, corporate tax avoidance. ‘The money that goes to these islands offshore!’ he exclaims. ‘I paid more taxes than Enron one year—what the fuck is that about?'”
  • After the shocking event that starts off the next episode, Tony seems like he himself will adopt the strategy that he gives to AJ here—go out and do guy-things—when he makes plans to go out to Las Vegas. That city holds a place in our cultural imagination as a sort of chauvinistic playground for the Midcentury Man, a place for gambling and whoring and physical indulgence. But in Chase’s hands, Vegas becomes a place for contemplation and self-discovery…

====================================

Hellfighters

69 responses to “Walk Like a Man (6.17)

  1. He actually says “Chris, you’re in the mafia!”–a misquote, Ron? You’re better than that! Haha
    I never realized Bianca’s look at AJ was in response to the “need a real man” line. I missed that one. Thank you.
    At first, I thought it was silly to imply that only a conservative would read a book on George W. Bush. But, given what we know about Carmela, I decided it was fair. (Though in general, such an assumption–a member of one political party only reading about their own–is a little close-minded.)
    I was also hoping to get more clarification on AJ’s face when witnessing the acid incident. I still don’t know if he was disgusted or “turned on” by it.
    The slouching thing…you’re DEFINITELY making too much of that. I think you make great points in these posts and shed light on some references that may be missed by viewers. I think it helps an already wonderful series be appreciated on another level. But, in instances like this, you also sometimes seem to grasp at straws. “They’re slouching up 57th street.” and “Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born”?? Take a step back here. Do you really think that was the link Chase was using? Or is it more likely that you, Ron, don’t see the verb slouch used very often and this particular occurrence simply reminded you of the other? I am not asking you that to be critical. I am only asking so that you consider it. I appreciate your writing and, if something like that could be affecting it–for good or bad–I would just want you to recognize it so you can either continue or learn. All in support, my man.
    Thanks for the write-ups!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I personally interpreted the look on AJ’s face as disgust, but I may just be projecting my own reaction to the scene onto him.
      As far as the ‘slouching’ debate, I think Ron is onto something. To be fair, you generally DON’T hear ‘slouching’ used in that context very often. And I think it may be the first use of it in that context at all on the show. So, not too much of a stretch to make that connection. It would be one thing if that line occurred somewhere in Season 3. Then it’s a stretch. But four episodes from the end? Fair play.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think AJ’s expression is one of excitement and and “Mob Mentality” or a feeling of power that he wasn’t feeling before. I think he was disgusted when they beat that bicyclist up because that was just random violence and racism, and AJ isn’t racist. I think he got caught up in the acid thing, but realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t for him. It just brought home how these people are, and how his father is. He had a horrified look on his face when the 2 Jason’s said “You see this guy? Tony Soprano Jr.’ It was like uh oh. The fathers shadow again.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Re the slouching thing: In a Season 1 DVD Extra, one of David Chase’s biographical details describes him as “slouching toward show business.” It was possibly just a coincidence (and anyway, I don’t know how much Chase was involved in the production of that DVD Extra), but the phrase seems too oddly constructed not to be a Yeats reference—which makes me suspect that the Yeats line has a long-running connection to The Sopranos/David Chase.

      Of course I recognize that the verb “slouch” may have some particular significance to me, and I then might have projected that significance into the episode. I’ve tried to emphasize throughout this site that we each bring our own experience and knowledge into our readings and interpretations. I also recognized that this particular interpretation was a bit flimsy; that’s why I qualified it by saying “I’m probably making too much of this” and describing it as “potentially significant”—not absolutely or definitively or certainly significant, only potentially significant. I doubt I would have brought it up if Meadow said it in any other episode, but here, the word “slouching” potentially seems placed as a contrast to the title’s instruction to “walk like a man.” I tried to emphasize the importance of that titular instruction by closing the write-up with a picture of John Wayne standing in his signature masculine pose. I’ve never seen Wayne “slouch,” not in the movie that is referenced in this hour or in any other movie. I hope I don’t sound like I’m lashing back—I always appreciate constructive criticism—but I want to show the reasoning behind the words I wrote…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I caught the you’re in the mafia Chris bit too and I think that was a fascinating choice by the writers bc of the weight of that word. It’s not really used as much as you’d think and it almost sounds melodramatic to say it. He could have said you’re in the mob or you’re a gangster but that sounds too generic. I actually think that him saying “mafia” to triggered Chris to kill him bc it was so jarring and it seemed like Chris finally was forced to admit what he was. Not just a gangster or a crook or a even a killer…but in the mafia. The pinnacle of Criminality. And that was just too much for Chris.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great write up as usual. The “who would he have voted for” question is interesting. My take is that from a bottom line standpoint, Tony would have liked Trump’s promise to bring back more skilled labor jobs to America – since those jobs and their offshoots (shipping, carting, construction) are traditionally exploited by the mafia.

    As for Iler, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything else that I remember, so I can’t compare. But his lack of emotion rang true for me…some people are just like that. (Or maybe that’s what you meant, that Chase played to Iler’s strengths, if that’s the right word.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always thought that JT’s exclamation “Chris, you are in the mafia!” did not register with Christopher as a put down but a gut punch back to reality. I find it comparable with scene when Tony saw Paulies painting with him as a general. Tony is a soldier, even though it leads to emotionally fucked up situations like killing your cousin, with no support. Christopher is in emotionally fucked up situation with his addiction and memory of killing Adriana, but he is a soldier, even though he is not acting like one with his drunk babbling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, he realized that he said too much, and also has a resentment toward JT. I think JT represents what Chris wants to be, and his uncaring dismissive attitude pissed him off. He’s always angry, and he took it out on him. Who he is and who he wishes he was. Why did he take that drink….I get mad every time I see it. I think Michael Imperioli was fantastic in this role. Multi faceted. Violent, sad, gentle, caring…I think any type life would get him down because of his upbringing. He said his father abandoned him…although he was killed, he may be subconsciously thinking of Tony as the father figure that abandoned him.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I just posted the exact same sentiment but not as concisely as you did….no one in Chris’ world would utter that word bc it’s technically not supposed to exist, and they call it our thing. Only total outsiders would call it the mafia and that’s why it set him off. He realized that’s how the outside world would always see him: as in the MAFIA…even the accent on the word that he used was perfect….as in dude don’t you know what you are!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I could be completely wrong regarding the tree that Chris uprights in the final scene of the episode, but instead of linking it to Adriana, I just thought it was a sad little nod toward too-little-too-late. Chris is already gone. We find this out for certain in the next episode–before he dies, we know he’s continuing to shoot up, he’s high again, and he’ll be high AGAIN if he were to continue to live. Within a couple of days, everything spiraled out of control for Chris: his mob family swindled his married family, he almost killed Little Paulie, Big Paulie wrecked his front yard, he abandoned sobriety and took a drink to be accepted by the guys, only to keep drinking and become a laughingstock in front of the same guys, and he killed JT. After all that, Chris comes home, parks his car, and on the way to stumbling into the house, notices the fallen tree, and goes to great pains to reset it. And he looks a little proud: There! Fixed it! All is well since the tree is righted. And he goes indoors, ignoring the category 5-sized swath of physical and mental destruction following him, ready to swallow him whole. I felt kind of sick at the end the first time I watched this. I knew ahead of time that Christopher was going to die (and that Tony dealt the blow), but even if I hadn’t, I think I would have known with the end of this episode that Chris wasn’t going to survive the series. After everything that had happened, setting that little tree up just reinforced the feeling that Chris was totally lost, no matter how much better his actions made him feel.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The barbecue scene with Tony and Chris is one of my favorite interactions between the two of them. It shows how far they’ve both come as characters, but how little their relationship means to them now. Over six seasons, the Tony/Christopher relationship went through a slow and agonizing death and it shows based on their perceptions towards depression/addiction/mental health and father figures. Chris has a chance to admit his current attitude of the Jersey mob to the man he considers the closest thing to a father. Chris asks Tony about therapy to gain some common ground (considering Chris is in AA, goes to weekly meetings, and reads/spouts material from former addicts). But Tony doesn’t even want to humor Chris. He falls back into the domineering boss (“Turn those ribs”) and downgrades Christopher’s problems as a weakness (“Show some balls”). Chris probably realizes that the Tony from season 1 – who admitted to his crime family that he was seeing Dr. Melfi – now doesn’t want to even mention it to a member of his real family. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Chris ends the topic with a concise condemnation of his late father, Dickie. In a few words, Chris destroys Tony’s vision of one of his old father figures using newfound self-reflection and insight; meanwhile, Tony destroys himself as Chris’ father figure by using the quintessential Soprano nihilism to belittle Chris’ attempts at sobriety at any chance and refuses to bond with his nephew on a truly psychoanalytical level. A branch of the Soprano family tree has cracked beyond repair.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fully agree with your comment on the barbecue scene. It’s truly an excellent scene that shows just how much Tony and Chris’s relationship has become posioned by everything that has happened between them throughout the show. Especially Chris bascially decontructing his father and the rosy image tony painted of him to Chris in Season 4. the look on Tony’s face as Chris calls his dad a junkie truly nails the moment where Chris and Tony’s bond is shattered forever, and it makes me more anticipated to see the film next year that will focus on young tony and Dickie’s relationship. David will allow us to decide for ourseleves just how much of Dickie Tony spouted to Chris was truth, how much of it was Tony own nostaglia tinted view and him putting Dickie on a platter to influence Chris. As the series unlike with Tony’s dad left a lot of details about Dickie to be ambigious and vague.

      I love the slow mo scene of Chris looking around the bing seeing eveyrone lauhging at him, it’s a great call back to the scene where Tony saw his crew laugh at his bad plane joke and seeing Feech not lauhging at him, this being after Carmela said he had yes man not friends around him. It also allows for some truly potent moments like seeing Bobby laugh with such glee that really shows how much more of a jerk he has become in season six part two. Of even Benny laughing at Chris and Tony looking like a demon to Chris with all the smoke and that smirk, as if he’s saying to chris what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine from the Cleaver film. Truly nailing in that moment Chris realising he has nothing, no respect from the crew, sold adriana out for nothing and has nothing but a $40,000 landscape ruined by Paulie. Who truly sinks low here by insulting Chris’s daugther. You know i wonder if Coco make the same excuse Tony did of just fucking around after he recovered what was left of his teeth a few episodes later.

      Emily Todd VanDerWerff nailed it spot on when she said that Adriana’s death ended up breaking the bridge that bonded Tony and Chris together. Where it’s clear they both blame the other for her death. that Chris likely feels slighted that this didn’t buy him Tony’s trust fully and Tony resenting Chris for a number of things relating to it all.

      I spoke on AJ a few episodes ago of how Tony an dCarmella’s raising of him likely effected his dvelopment and the enviornment Aj has grown up in. That unlike Meadow, who Tony pushed to be away from him and from New Jersey. Aj has mostly been kept under tight grip by his parents, the season three finale had them bascially boxing him in during the Junior preformance, as if to symbolise that Aj will never be able to leave from his parents control, that they don’t push him to make something of himself. And Tony, here making a really narassict comment of blaming his genes for how Aj is acting now. or as Carmella sees it as, as a card.

      Of course, as this epsiode shows and Aj’s desires in the finale. If AJ was to wander or go off somewhere likely the miltary. Knowing how passive he is and easily influenced. I dread to think of how AJ could possibly turn out if he ended up somewhere like Iraq as numerous youngsters did at the time. So in a way there’s this cycle of Aj being kept sheltered by his folks and yet protected and confined to being with Carmine Jr on stuff that can hopefully keep him sated for a little while. You know i could honestly beleive AJ somewhow ending up near the Trump adminstration due to knowing someone or getting in good there. The bar is that low with Trumps administration.

      That scene of Paulie destorying Chris’s garden is one of the standout funniest moments of the season. Tony Sirico nails the perfect pissed off face as she drives to Chris’s house.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Paulies comment showed Chris that they all truly hated him. Breaking balls is all good and well but when paulie said Chris’ baby girl would be a stripper that was meant to show utter contempt. You say that to the wrong guy in real life and you can end up ambulatory. And to make it worse they all laughed!! Even Tony!! The same guy who curb stomped coco!!! That comment was terrible and I wanted to actually hug Chris thru the screen. That coupled with Dolan’s comment about the mafia was a double whammy too much to bear. He own friends were revealed to be jackals who hated him and the outside world would always see him as in the Mafia.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Blanca was AJ’s chance at establishing his own identity apart from being Tony Soprano Junior. But, in part thanks to the facade his parents created for him, his attempts at becoming a “hard-working provider” crumbled and he was exposed as a spoiled and immature little boy merely play-acting as a man. Tony, whose greatest fear was having his children poisoned by his toxicity, unwittingly pushed AJ directly into the very scenario he thought he was trying to protect him from by encouraging him to associate with the Jasons, who Tony saw as “normal” but who were actually just budding criminals and sociopaths. Tony, always the raging hypocrite, sees the Jasons gawking at strippers and gloating about their bookmaking operation and finds himself wishing his own son was like that in spite of everything he’s said about AJ through the years. AJ being AJ, he quickly unravels upon realizing his “friends” are merely interested in using him for his fearsome family name. He’s right back where he started from.

    Meanwhile Tony’s surrogate “son” Chris is likewise unraveling. After choosing Tony over Ade he’s living a lie. He’s sober, he’s married, he’s living in a big McMansion in the suburbs but his profile in the family has never been lower. Even the likes of Little Paulie are walking all over him now. Everything Tony’s ever said about “blood” are being exposed as bullshit. Chris is out of the loop now, his pleas falling on deaf ears. In what IMO is one of the saddest scenes in the series, he even decides to throw away his sobriety just to make amends with Paulie, who responds by cruelly mocking him, much to the delight of the rest of his “family”. Chris, once the up & coming future star of the Soprano crime family, is now just a joke, a goof, a totally lost soul who has no one else to turn to aside from his perpetual victim JT, who ends up dead thanks to his honesty. In a way HE’S right back where HE started from, still seeking Tony’s approval.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This is the first time I’m rewatching the back half of S6 after reading the Chase Lounge “Tony’s Vicarious Patricide” writeup, which has really revolutionized my reading of the final hours. It’s interesting that Tony’s happy to indict his father figures (Paulie, Hesh, his father w/ the gambling), but when Chris does it with one he and Tony shares, Tony’s not happy at all. Even if he pushes AJ toward that miserable fuckin’ existence, as his father did, he is at least more reflective than Johnny Boy ever was, his rage turned inward at his son’s pain. But, as always, he can’t quite bring himself to see any value in this reflection. “I HATE THIS FUCKIN’ SHIT.” Instead of walking like a man as he insists AJ and Chris do, he he is sitting and crying, and he can’t handle that. Total control? Nipping this problems in a pinch (of the nose)? That he can do. Put a shot of Tony crying in therapy next to one of his dead eyes as he suffocates Chris, and there it is, ALL there is. A man honors his debts, and here is what he feels he owes his father for these rotten putrid genes.

    Rewatching this episode (while salivating in anticipation of this writeup), I was taken by how brisk the pacing is. The editing emphasizes it rather abruptly. When Chris is complaining to his recovery friend, we get a split second reaction shot of him listening to Chris, and then scene change. Chris’s arc, that he memorably questioned in “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti,” effectively closes here, but how many of us were expecting him to die ten minutes into the next episode?

    The two Jasons almost have to be a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern allusion, two interchangeable mooks whose friendship to AJ, Prince of Newark is a legacy one at best and a poisonously unfulfilling one at worst.

    Carmela would’ve voted for Kasich in the primaries. I’d bet birdfeeder money on that.

    If I’m ever in a band again, Grim Lapdance will have to be our name.

    (Thanks as always for these Ron. I just know you will gloriously fuck my shit up with “Kennedy & Heidi,” and I look forward to it.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Did you make anything of this shot?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chris’ father in law, Al, seems to have settled in quite willingly and comfortably at his opportunity to be involved on the fringes of La Famiglia.
    While he profits from his newly acquired relationship, Sal Vitro, also on the fringes, but in a much different way, gets a call from Christopher ( at Tony’s suggestion), to resod his front lawn that was destroyed by Paulie.
    Chances are that Sal, once again, gets a job that he must perform “on the arm.”

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I live very close to a suburb of Chicago that has long documented historic ties to the Chicago Outfit, the gym that I go to is in that suburb, after I swim laps I sit in the hot tub for 10 minutes. The hot tub is a meeting place for older guys who I suspect were associates, maybe even members of the old Chicago outfit (I sure as hell am not going to ask them). These guys are HUGE Donald Trump supporters, I have no idea why, but they are. David Chase is an educated, self aware guy, so the fact that he does not like Trump does not surprise me, however I would guess that Tony would be a Trump supporter. Regarding persecution, Tony (Much like Trump) does claim persecution when it fits his needs, he often makes claims that he is scrutinized because his name ends in a vowel, or Italians had to have a Mafia because they were persecuted and could not get jobs. He claims what he does, is no different than the big companies that skirt the law for their own profit. Regarding hating Trump’s lies, Tony lies all of the time, in many cases like Trump, he may actually believe his own lies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like Obama believed his? Guy spearheaded an attempted coup…libs may well live to rue the day they tried to pull off a coup. Cuz when the right tries it, they’ll have the military behind them….not the FBI…..

      Like

      • You keep bringing up this idea of an upcoming coup… I think there are way too many decent, patriotic, country-before-party men and women in our armed forces to allow any sort of military coup to happen in our lifetime.

        Like

        • I’m just pointing out that the left has broached the idea of a coup an awful lot since Jan of 2017, and adding a “be careful what you wish for” advisement, that’s all.
          And yes, Tony would be an enthusiastic Trump supporter….

          Like

  11. I know who would have voted for Trump, Artie Bucco. All that rage inside him that he has to contain or it will get him killed by his customers. Donald Trump would be just the vehicle for that emotion.

    I don’t really understand the low regard for Iler’s potrayal of AJ. I think he is pretty convincing as a teenager struggling with… well with a whole heap of things, but also a very indulged individual. I also think his parts are some of the funniest. The ‘grim lap dance’ (if that’s what were calling it now) and his blank expression throughout. I also really enjoy him being manhandled by Tony in the penultimate episode, just the right amount of whining before being brutally hauled off the bed mid sentence!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe he was depressed initially, but then he was using it to get out of things and as an excuse. Terribly over-indulged, you are correct. He should have had his ass hauled out of bed sooner.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I can tell you for absolute certainty that Tony would’ve never voted for Hillary. Dick Cheney, president of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Who would Tony Soprano vote for? After his comment in a previous episode which Augustus & Ron reminded me of,
    “…Let me say this: Dick Cheney for president, of the fucking universe!”, I don’t think there is any doubt he would
    have backed Trump all the way to Mar-A-Lago. “That government is best which is most corrupt”, would be Tony’s
    motto, good for his bottom line.
    Another big reason is Tony’s racism. We see him in the company of different black people in many scenes.
    When he’s with the corrupt black pastor early in the series, or the black leader of a non-profit with whom he perpetrates
    the HUD scam, he’s comfortable. But black men who are not corrupted or cowed by him make him uncomfortable.
    Examples are the police officer who gives him a speeding ticket and refuses a bribe, the father of the corrupt pastor who
    wasn’t in on the son’s misdeeds, and Noah who dated Meadow and did not back down even after the ugly confrontation
    leading to Tony fainting in the kitchen.
    We can only imagine how uncomfortable President Obama would have made Tony. That president’s greatest scandal
    was wearing a tan suit to a press conference. When Biden called Obama “…clean and articulate…”, he unwittingly revealed
    his thrall to the opposite stereotype with which Tony would have been more comfortable. After 8 years of choking
    on the counter stereotype of President Obama and his photogenic family in the White House, Tony would have
    been champing at the bit to go for Trump, like Pie-O-My going for the oats after a grueling race.
    OK, I gotta go make my collections.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Noah didn’t back down? Stayed in the car while Meadow came in for her things and then his tough “He’s lucky I didn’t punch his fucking lights out.”–which he said in front Meadow and Carmela only–after returning to NY. That guy had no balls. At least he had primo note-taking skills…

      Liked by 1 person

      • FThat, Noah backing down would have meant complying with Tony’s wishes that he not date his daughter, the
        same way Dave Scatino’s brother-in-law backed down from taking things further with Carmela when he became
        fully apprised of what a monster Tony was. Noah did not comply. He kept dating Meadow until he achieved his goal,
        and didn’t break things off until shortly after his dad’s visit from the west coast.
        I can only imagine what his dad said to get him to pull out of SopranoWorld before he “…joined the ranks of the unlucky”,
        or at least the toothless – I’m looking at you Coco…

        Liked by 1 person

    • Obama did a lot worse than display a lack of sartorial awareness. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, facilitating a coup detat against Trump…

      Tony woulda been pro Trump without a doubt. Trump bought concrete from Castellano and Salerno. No doubt in my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sartorial, nice – I have to remember that. On those 4 Obama “scandals”, all I can say is:
        watching too much Fox television. The constant coup talking points sound hyperbolic at best,
        “…not even wrong” at worst. On DeCristo & Tony throwing in their lot with Trump – better watch
        your back!

        Like

        • And you my friend must have waited with baited breath for the latest Russia “bombshells” on CNNMSNBCWAPOST, etc. Those bomb shells weren’t even bb’s were they? Stay tuned for the IG report and meet me here after…

          Back to who Tony would vote for….who hated the FBI more than Tony? The same FBI that launched a coup based on peepee capers that never were…so, yeah ole Tone and Donnie got a lot in common there….

          Like

          • Sorry amigo, I don’t get my news from cable TV so I was neither baited, nor bated.
            What’s that about Vito Jr. going into a chicken coop to peepee?
            Meet you here after…? After what, 2020? ‘Course by that time you’ll be working
            new talking points, so who gives a fuck?

            Like

  14. I like the slightly pedantic way you define the correct family relationship between Paulie and Little Paulie. I will be fully pedantic and spell it out. I hope I’ve got it right.
    Nucci had a daughter, Paulie’s sister, who married and became Mrs Germani. Her son is Little Paulie. The two Paulies were uncle and nephew.
    Paulie now knows his true parentage. Nucci is his aunt; Mrs Germani is not his sister but his (first) cousin. He and Little Paulie are first cousins once removed. (In this context, ‘once removed’ means they are one generation apart.)
    At first, I thought this story of Paulie’s family – the long-kept secret, the deathbed confession – was melodramatic, and belonged in a crowd-pleasing play of the 19th or 18th century, or a Bollywood film of the 20th. But then I remembered Bobby Darin, who came from an Italian-American family. Well into his adult years, he was informed that the woman he knew as his mother was really his grandmother, and the woman he knew as his elder sister was really his mother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack Nicholson’s “sister” was really his mother as well. I would imagine that happened a lot in the 40’s and 50’s. But at least Bobby Darrin knew his family history. Paulie’s father was just an anonymous man. That has to sting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And that bit of Nicholson’s real-life history adds an interesting dimension to the plot of “Chinatown”…

        Like

      • I’ll go ya one better and the show didn’t touch on this….can Paulie be un made? Bc he can’t prove he’s one hundred percent Italian? Or even that his dad was???

        Liked by 1 person

        • RTF372 (Grouchy Sinatra)

          Despite all of Tony’s traditionalist talk he was quite ‘new school’ in mob circles. Just contrast him to Junior. If Tony found out one of his best earners wasn’t one drop Italian he’d give him an Italian name and be done with it. Then again Paulie wasn’t a great earner. I just don’t think Tony cared. He was born quite some time after the Castellamarese war, when the Sicilians like Joe Bonanno didn’t even want Neapolitans in their “thing”. Christ’s sake Joe Bananas didn’t even think Capone should have been made. Said so in his book. Nonetheless, I don’t think Tony cared. If you were from the neighborhood, could break heads, and knew how to make gravy, you were qualified.

          Liked by 1 person

          • All good points. Joe was a big fan of Maranzano who I think was staunchly Sicilian and had Masseria killed because he was recruiting non Sicilian Italians.
            I always thought that the Sicilians and Napolitans had it out in the 19 teens around the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Sicilians won and then all the Itals married each other and those regional distinctions disappeared to some degree and the Sicilian blue print became the de facto for the Italian American mob. This is distinct from Australia and Toronto, Canada, the Calabrians completely dominated.
            I did read that Nicky Scarfo in Philly didn’t like Sicilians and he was a Calabrian and this was the 1980s. He called them Siggies. I read this in his nephew’s book Prince of the Mafia. His nephew also mentioned in the book that they didn’t trust one guy because even though he was Italian it was via Argentina, with the implication being that they thought he was Hispanic ? And of course Capone and Gotti were from Napolitan blood and they were both calamities for the mob.
            Interesting stuff you brought up….

            Like

            • RTF372 (Grouchy Sinatra)

              I really think from Lucky Luciano on forward it was mostly about money. Lucky was another one that didn’t put much value on Sicilian ancestry. Meyer Lansky had more access to him than just about 99% of Italian made guys. Just look how he told Jack Dragna to basically kick rocks when he sent Bugsy Siegel to LA. I think Lucky respected Maranzano’s formation of the families to appease the traditionalists and prevent another war but ultimately money spoke the loudest.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Walden… what kind of name is that for an Italian, anyway?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was named after Mr Bobby Darin.. Walden Robert Cassotto.

        Like

        • RTF372 (Grouchy Sinatra)

          Mack_The_Knife_by_Jimmy_Smash.mp3

          Liked by 1 person

        • That so random to me. I knew that was Darin’s real name and if memory serves, he was half Italian? His dad’s side. It’s just one of those random sopranos aside that makes me wish I knew the writers so I could ask what they were thinking? Why name a character after Bobby Darin’s real first name? So many little flourishes. One of my faves is when the old ladies have their fender bender in the parking lot. Their conversation was about Julius La Rosa and Arthur Godfrey. It was such a random, long forgotten pop culture reference. Yet it completely fit the scene bc it’s precisely the sort of thing that three Italian American widowed women from the east coast in their 70s or 80s in the early to mid 2000s would have still been yapping about. My mom told me her dad was really upset about that. Google it. Godfrey fired La Rosa on the air cuz he was jealous of him. It’s such a small thing yet it shows the writers studied their characters to a molecular degree. Just like with Walden, the la Rosa reference was a small slice of a fading Italian American memory….

          Liked by 1 person

  15. Part of me wishes tht we got that red dead 2 standoff with Chris Paulie and tony in the finale lmaoo “I gave you all I had tone”😂 Paulie would for sure be Micah in tht situation lmaoo 😂😂😭😭if Chris found out what paulie told New York 🐀

    Liked by 1 person

  16. RTF372 (Grouchy Sinatra)

    I think the political theme of this review is very appropriate because so much of this episode’s theme is similar to the messaging Trump used in his campaign. “Make America Great Again” really means the same thing as “Walk Like A Man”, when speaking the language of the modern American right.
    Tony would undoubtedly be a Trump supporter, his nuanced differences with Trump noted. Tony would have bought into Trump’s style and messaging as much as he did Gary Cooper’s, despite Trump being anything but silent. Trump is hardly strong either, but he’s good at pretending he is, and that’s all that matters to “Tony Soprano’s America”.
    Carm would go Trump, too. Maybe a bit more grudgingly than Tony, but she too would throw out any nuanced differences and fall into line with what’s best for the “family”, as she always eventually did.
    I think all of the mob guys on the show would go Trump, except for maybe Hesh. He always seemed to have a head on his shoulders that was impervious to knee jerk, reactionary political messaging unless of course anyone compared the plight of their ancestors to that of the Holocaust victims. When Hesh’s daughter was falling for the benevolence of modern day evangelicals, Hesh warns, “You wait”. I wouldn’t describe Hesh as a liberal but he when it came to the modern right’s real agenda, and what it would mean for all minorities, including Jews, he knew the score.
    “I’ll have a club soda”.
    Michael Corleone has a club soda in Cuba, when Fredo has his Banana Daiquiri (Spanish for Banana Daiquiri). There have been sober mobsters (at least in movies anyway), and no doubt sober Christopher channels Michael Corleone in the mandatory bar settings of mob life, until this scene, when he falls off the wagon and essentially becomes Fredo.
    “Because when we drink we’re unpleasant to be around”, says JT, who Chris should have contacted before he had the drink.
    While JT’s AA scripture is otherwise irrefutable, I think there’s more going on with Chris and Paulie at the bar than an alcoholism relapse. Paulie, perhaps harking back to the political theme of this episode, is an ‘elephant’ ….and an elephant never forgets… With the thought of Little Paulie still simmering, he was waiting for Chris to show a weakness that he could exploit and humiliate him with in retaliation, and Chris delivered faster than expected.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah but you overlook one key point about Hesh….he was as pro Israel as it gets and so is Trump. Given the hijacking of the Dems by vile anti semites like Omar and the Michigan chic, do you really think Hesh would cast his lot with them and NOT Trump??? Given the penchant for today’s Dems to liken Israeli to Nazi Germany, would Hesh feel at home there? This ain’t FDRs party no more….hell its not even Obama’s…..

      Liked by 1 person

    • RTF, your point about Paulie simmering & lying in wait rings true. I’m also reminded of some commenters on the “Remember When” autopsy
      pointing out that if Paulie had copped to being the rat in the Ginny Sack debacle, Tony would have had him clipped. I think this may
      be one of Tony’s motivations at constantly prodding at Chris’s weakness for booze. As long as Chris kept giving in, Tony knew he
      couldn’t rely on him. If Chris had showed strength by continuing on the sober path, the way Paulie stuck to his denials, Tony might not
      have felt justified in playing reaper.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s