40. Seven Souls
Episode: Members Only (SE6, EP1)
Characters: Agent Harris, Agent Goddard, Vito, Janice, Domenica, Bobby, Gene & Deane Pontecorvo, Finn, Meadow, Raymond Curto, A.J., Adriana, Carmela, Tony and Junior
“The ancient Egyptians postulated Seven Souls. Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name.” The sixth season kicks off in a brilliant way. Nearly a year has passed since the final episode and we get a snapshot of the characters’ lives at this point. During the sequence, a two-minute narration by William S. Burroughs is heard from the album ‘Seven Souls’ by ‘Material’. It’s the perfect mood setter for the beginning of the end.
In one of the first therapy sessions Tony has with Dr. Melfi, the subject of depression comes up for the very first time. Tony obviously has feelings of depression, but he has another problem. In his culture, this therapy shit doesn’t go down. “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper, the strong silent type?”, Tony asks Melfi. “That was an American! He wasn’t in touch with his feelings; he just did what he had to do.”
But Tony doesn’t have much of a choice. Since the ducks left, he does feel depressed. A combination of therapy and Prozac will now have to help him be a happier gangster. “The ducks that preceded your passing out”, Melfi tries. “Let’s talk about them”. Tony walks away. Yet this is definitely the moment when a new door – the door of psychiatry – is opened for Tony.
The episode ‘College’ teaches us a lot about the main characters. While Tony is killing rats in Maine, Carmela has therapy of her own. She confesses to Father Phil that she has allowed evil in her house. She is not at peace with herself. How can she be when she is living with a monster? In this early stage of The Sopranos it is still a possibility that Carmela would take action and leave Tony, the only right thing she can do. But the church is giving her an alibi not to. Divorce is deemed wrong, so she chooses the easy life of sin. This dilemma makes Carmela’s struggle all the more interesting.
Christopher was warned before when he briefly visited hell; stay out of the Mafia. He chose to stick with Tony anyway leading to this moment. At his making ceremony he sees a raven sitting on the windowpane outside. This is definitely a bad omen. When you see the picture of St. Peter burn in his hand you know for sure; this is gonna end badly. Great use of symbolism! Another interesting aspect of this scene is that Eugene Pontecorvo is getting made as well and Tony says; “once you enter this family, there’s no getting out.” This will come back in Season 6 when Eugene finds out the hard way Tony wasn’t joking.
David Chase likes to mess with his audience’s expectations. He kills off Christopher, probably the second most important character of the series, in an entirely unexpected moment. Everybody knew that sooner or later he would have to go, but surely this would happen at the end of a long dramatic episode and in a very dramatic way. Now, he goes in the beginning of an episode and in a very silent way. Still, it is a pretty harrowing scene. Chance provides Tony with the opportunity to rid himself of a ‘weakling’ who had become a liability, and – predatory as he is – he takes it. The dream really is gone now. What did you expect? Christopher was listening to the soundtrack of ‘The Departed’.
This is a brutal moment in the series to once again remind the audience that they are watching sociopaths at work. Junior has just been made Caesar, and he is immediately (mis)using his power. In this scene, Junior’s soldiers kill dope peddler Rusty Irish, because he sold designed drugs to Junior’s tailor’s grandson, who consequently killed himself by jumping off Patterson Falls. The killers are visibly having a blast when they throw the terrified dealer off the bridge.
In ‘Whitecaps’, Tony bought a house called Whitecaps, but changed his mind due to his marital problems. The owner won’t pay him back his deposit, so what does he do? He sends two underlings to the guy’s house in his boat with the biggest speakers ever and they start playing Dean Martin all night. David Chase described this method of intimidation ‘cultural warfare’, because Martin is Italian. It is also the final scene of the fourth season. The overall message; Tony is still powerful, but his private life is all messed-up.
This is a crucial scene in the final season. Tony is trying to persuade Little Carmine to take the top spot, because he hates the current New York boss Doc Santoro. But Carmine, who was always mocked for his lack of brains, is the only one of these characters who made the right choice in life. He turns down Tony’s offer, because he is enjoying life with his wife and kids. This contrasts beautifully with Johnny Sack, who is in prison and can’t even touch his family members. Or with Tony, who is always stressed out like hell. Little Carmine really is smelling the roses.
32. The Real Soprano
Episode: Army of One (SE3, EP13)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, Meadow, A.J., Junior, Silvio, Gabriella Dante, Bobby, Johnny, Ginny Sacrimoni, Christopher, Adriana, Patsy, Furio, Artie, Charmaine Bucco and Janice
Shitfaced or not, who ever knew Junior could sing like that? With the beautiful ‘Ungrateful Heart’, he provides a very fitting closing to the excellent third season. Look out for that moment where the drunken Meadow crosses the street, it seems visually related to the parallel parking scene in the final episode.
This is a real low for Tony. Janice has, for the first time in the series, done something brave to improve herself. She went to anger management class and is now successfully dealing with minor irritations. Tony can’t stand the new and improved Janice, so he starts to provoke her in the cruellest way he can find. “What’s French-Canadian for ‘I grew up without a mother?’ Sacrebleu! Where is mi mama?” Janice explodes and threatens Tony with a fork. He leaves satisfied. The Kinks ‘I’m not like Everybody Else’ plays over the end credits.