Where's Linguo the robot when Judge Ryan Keefer needs him the most?
Our reviews of The Sopranos: The Complete First Season (published August 14th, 2001), The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season (published March 28th, 2002), The Sopranos: The Complete Fourth Season (published November 11th, 2003), and The Sopranos: Season Six, Part II (published October 23rd, 2007) are also available.
"Everyday's a gift, but does it have to be a pair of socks?"—Tony Soprano becomes more and more disenchanted as his "gift" becomes more and more corrupted by the life he leads.
Fans had been waiting for an eternity to see new episodes of The Sopranos hit the airwaves on the pay cable network HBO, with 19 months elapsing between the end of season five and the beginning of season six. Even creator David Chase was getting tired of the show, and admitted that season six would more than likely be the series' last. So as we round third and head home with everyone else, how's the ride?
Facts of the Case
Well, the usual run of twelve episodes spread out over four discs for everyone to witness and enjoy. Season six's episodes are:
• "Members Only"
(The following section will more than likely reveal plot spoilers, character discussions and would just generally be bad if you haven't watched the show before, so read this at your own risk).
Just to give you a little bit of background; I love watching The Sopranos, and I don't mind when these little layoffs in between seasons occur. I also think that anyone not named Gandolfini or Falco that wins a television acting award in which anyone named Gandolfini or Falco is nominated usually doesn't deserve the award. The funny thing is that didn't start out being the case. When I first saw the teasers for the then-fledging show to air, because of the anticipation for Analyze This, I was expecting a cheap, semi-knockoff gangster show that would fade away. But then as I watched the show more and more, I noticed the show that was, in fact, quite serious, with many different layers of family tensions and relations, aside from those of the "man of the house" variety. And when last we left Tony (James Gandolfini, The Mexican), Carmela (Edie Falco, Sunshine State) and the gang, Tony was fleeing a FBI raid at Johnny Sacrimoni's (Vincent Curatola) house, coming home to safety.
In Season Six, the hiatus was explained away as "Johnny Sac" being brought up on federal RICO charges, while Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent, Goodfellas) serves as the de facto head of the family during his proceedings. Phil and Tony have some still-lingering blood between them from season five when Tony's cousin Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi, Fargo) killed a family member of Phil's.
Things start off innocently enough in the opening episode, and then the proverbial carpet gets pulled out from under the viewer when Tony is shot in the stomach by Junior (Dominic Chianese, Godfather Part II, When Will I Be Loved) and remains in intensive care with a coma. "Join the Club" is clearly an attempt to score Falco an Emmy nod as she wonders what to do about Tony, not to mention herself, upon seeing him and discovering the news, but she turns in an amazing performance, one of her best, and arguably her best work since the end of season four, when Tony and Carmela finally had it out about his continued infidelities.
And yes, Tony does manage to regain consciousness and pull through, and discovers periods of spiritual enlightenment during his final days in the hospital. One really effective scene for me, which built up my hopes on where the season would go, was at "The Fleshy Part of the Thigh," when Tony is discharged from the hospital, all is quiet except for a church bell ringing in the background while a slow close up on the back of his head transpires, and as he's relaxing in the backyard of his home, Pink Floyd's "One of These Days" starts to play. Both of those things were really effective and gave me chills at the time and made me wonder what the ominous things were to come.
Little did I know that what was to come was the stuff that after-school specials are made of. Vito Spatafore (Joe Gannascoli, Mickey Blue Eyes) is finally discovered to be a homosexual (after a more than surprising scene in season five where Finn discovers this news), Tony's crew tries to find him so that Tony can talk to him (Tony is wavering in between the "who cares?" and "let's whack him" points of view), while those under Phil simply want him dead, as Vito is married to a family member of Phil's. The whole discussion about being gay and in the mob in the 21st century for an entire freakin' episode was about as entertaining to me as a salad and vinaigrette dressing is to some of the big-boned mobsters that appear as regulars on the show. It advanced nothing in the way of subplots, other than serving as an excuse to escalate tensions between Phil and Tony. And since both were pissed at each other anyway, who cares? Bottom line, seeing Vito in a leather bar and wondering how Tony was supposed to accept it may very well be the point where the motorcycle was clearing the ramp and over the shark's head.
However, after Vito is found and dealt with, we get back to the tensions with Phil and Tony, as a couple of Tony's members (including Silvio, a.k.a. The E Street Band's Steven Van Zandt with a beard) kill one of Phil's close lieutenants, and even blow up a club that was part of Phil's territory, Phil decides he wants to dish out payback without putting it directly at Tony. However, the stress of hiding Vito's death from his family and being boss seem to get the better of Phil, and he has a heart attack, and Tony comes in and gives him a little talk about what Tony experienced under similar circumstances, and both bosses seem to get to their senses, so all may be well heading into the final stretch of the series, right?
A disappointing aspect of season six for me was that some of the events that occurred to some of the supporting characters were almost ignored. Christopher (Michael Imperioli, Summer of Sam) was still trying to deal with having to have his fiancée Adriana (Drea de Matteo, Joey) killed for being an FBI snitch, so he briefly fell off the sobriety wagon and used heroin, only go back on it again, and even became engaged to a woman in the process. AJ (Robert Iler, Daredevil) was embracing more and more of his father's name and lifestyle, until Tony found out and dealt with him on his most blunt level to date.
The purveying thing that you keep seeing as you watch season six of The Sopranos is that no matter what the characters try to do to find happiness, it's the life that they lead that always reminds them that that can never be possible. A peripheral character early in the season wants to leave the life, and finds out that he can't, and hangs himself for it. The whole saga with Vito communicates the same thing, albeit in a longer story arc. Even Tony tries to enjoy life after dealing with mortality, and is unable to do so effectively. It's almost as if they still have to pay for their previous sins.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Aside from a personal regret of not seeing this released on HD DVD (its release has been postponed), the one episode that stood out as one of the better ones in a different way was "Luxury Lounge." Christopher was becoming more and more involved with films, and was looking to produce a "Saw meets Godfather" vehicle, flew to LA and met with Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast), which proved to be pretty funny. Not half as funny as when Lauren Bacall (Key Largo) was mugged for her celebrity gift bag though.
For fans of the show, it's not the best season in the world in terms of quality. You're talking to someone who (aside from the first season) found season five to be the best that the show's done collectively over the course of a season. Season Six, Part I, as HBO lists it, is a disappointment and shows that wasted potential may be worse than no potential at all.
The writers are found guilty for throwing the ship sideways and distracting us from the intriguing loose ends that are left in The Sopranos series. They need to take a ride with that guy, so they can go out and do that thing…
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Scales of Justice
• Selected Episode Commentaries with writer/creator David Chase, writers Terence Winter and Matthew Weiner, and cast members Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Tony Sirico
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