My Favorite TV Episode of All Time

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The Sopranos
Episode 26 – Funhouse (Season 2 Final)

Directed by
John Patterson

Written by
David Chase & Todd A. Kessler

Regular Cast
James Gandolfini … Tony Soprano
Lorraine Bracco … Dr. Jennifer Melfi
Edie Falco … Carmela soprano
Michael Imperioli … Christopher Moltisanti
Dominic Chianese … Corrado ‘Junior’ Soprano
Vincent Pastore … Salvatore ‘Big Pussy’ Bonpensiero
Steven Van Zandt … Silvio Dante
Tony Sirico … Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri
Robert Iler … Anthony ‘A.J.’ Soprano
Jamie-Lynn Sigler … Meadow Soprano
Nancy Marchand … Livia Soprano

Guest Players
Jerry Adler … Herman ‘Hesh’ Rapkin
Federico Castelluccio … Furio Guinta
John Ventimiglia … Artie Bucco
Dan Grimaldi … Patsy Parisi
Frank Pellegrino … Frank Cubitoso
Robert Patrick … David Scatino
Louis Lombardi, Jr. … Skip Lipari
Matt Servitto … Agent Harris
Sofia Milos … Anna Lisa
Maureen Van Zandt … Gabriella Dante
Toni Kalem … Angie Bonpensiero
David Margulies … Neil Mink
Nicole Burdette … Barbara Giglione
Tom Aldredge … Hugh DeAngelis
Suzanne Shepherd … Mary DeAngelis
John Fiore … Gigi Cestone
Robert Lupone … Bruce Cusamano
Barbara Andres … Quintina
Sig Libowitz … Hillel
David Anzuelo … Flight Attendant
Kathleen Fasolino … Meadow’s friend
Ray Garvey … Airport Guard
David Healy … Vice Principal
Ajay Mehta … Sundeep Kumar
Jay Palit … Indian Man

Wrap Up
Tony is feeling pretty good, despite his mother busting his chops after Janice left. He solves it by giving her airline tickets of the Scatino bust-out, so she can go and visit an old aunt (aunt Quinn, the other miserabile). He’s earning good enough money with a prepaid phone card scheme to buy Carmela a mink coat and he’s not so depressed anymore. Another reason for Tony’s untroubled state-of-mind is the demise of Richie, ‘All my enemies are smoked’, Tony tells his crew optimistically during a diner. But it is too good to be true, his unconsciousness tries to tell him. He gets food poisoning the day after. And in a fever dream Silvio tells him, ‘our true enemy has yet to reveal himself’, in true Al Pacino style. Silvio is even wearing the maroon vest Pacino wore in The Godfather III.

Pussy’s not feeling so well. He has to give his phone card earnings straight to FBI Agent Skip Lipari. He didn’t get food poisoning though, even though he ate at the same restaurants; an Indian place and Artie Bucco’s. Tony suspects Artie’s shellfish, but when Artie calls Pussy they find out he doesn’t have any symptoms, while they had different courses at the Indian place. Tony starts dreaming again, about him at the boardwalks. First he dreams that he sets himself on fire in front of his friends because he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer (‘what if they’re wrong?’). Then he dreams that he shoots Paulie Walnuts during a card game. He discusses the meaning with Dr. Melfi in a dream therapy session, while he also talks about Pussy. ‘Pussy’ in multiple ways.

Tony knows something is not feeling right about Big Pussy. He also knows someone has to get whacked, because of the Paulie dream. In another dream sequence, a fish who looks and talks like Big Pussy tells Tony he has been working with the federal government. Tony still doesn’t want to believe it, but when he wakes up he knows what has to be done. A little later, Tony and Silvio come by Big Pussy’s house to pick him up to help them buy a boat. Tony, still sick, pretends to get another attack and goes into the upstairs bathroom. While Silvio keeps Big Pussy downstairs with Angie, drinking coffee, Tony searches the bedroom. He finds what he was looking for; wiring equipment and tapes. When Tony comes downstairs he says, ‘who’s ready to buy a boat?’

Paulie Walnuts is waiting by the boat and Pussy is getting nervous. The boat departs and when open water is reached, Pussy is taken below deck, where Tony confronts him with his betrayal. After denying it, Big Pussy has no choice but to confess. He knows his number is up. And after a last round of tequila with his friends, the inevitable happens, Tony, Paulie and Silvio shoot Pussy and he drops dead in the cabin. His body is placed in a bag with weights and entrusted to the Atlantic Ocean.

When Tony comes home, his mother calls to tell him that she is being held by airport security for the Scatino tickets. Not much later the FBI comes by with a warrant. Just when Tony is handcuffed, Meadow comes in with her friends, one day before her graduation. Luckily Tony gets off easy but he is still concerned. The season ends the way it started, with a montage of all the Soprano crew’s businesses, such as Barone Sanitation, the Jewish owned hotel, the phone card scam and David Scatino who’s divorced, broke and leaving town. The scene is scored by The Rolling Stones with ‘Thru and Thru’, an insanely great choice.

At Meadows graduation party the whole Soprano cast is present and it’s one big happy family again. Tony stands alone in the living room, smoking a cigar and reflecting on recent times. The final shot is from the ocean, where Pussy sleeps forever.

Why Great?
This final episode of the second season is extremely well written and directed. It is a powerful and surprising final episode that reminds of a Greek tragedy. Tony has to make his hardest decision yet. This is totally necessary in his leadership position, but he was also the one who loved Big Pussy most whose death is therefore a great loss for him. And for the viewer as well. Pussy’s passing and the dream sequences leading up to it are so far the most exciting and memorable moments of the Soprano saga.

When I first watched ‘Funhouse’, I just couldn’t believe it. I was hoping for a terrific episode to wrap up the season, like season 1 did with ‘I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano’. A conventional finale that neatly ties up the remaining storylines, although The Sopranos was never conventional. ‘Funhouse’ did something else entirely. By adding twenty minutes of dreamtime I got much closer to Twin Peaks than to the mob films it originally seemed to be based on. It does resolve the main remaining story – that Big Pussy is indeed ‘singing’ for the feds – but it does so in a brilliantly surprising way. By delving into the main character’s subconscious and making him realise the ugly truth his conscious self couldn’t accept.

Michael Imperioli (who plays Christopher) has a theory*1 about the episode. That Tony didn’t have food poisoning at all, but that it was the knowledge that he had to kill his friend that made him so sick. And killing his friend he does. The scene on the boat, of which the interior scenes were shot in a studio, is a dramatic highlight of the show. Brilliant acting by the cast, especially James Gandolfini and Vincent Pastore as Pussy. It’s ridiculous that season 2 didn’t win the major Emmy Awards that year, but they weren’t ready for The Sopranos yet. The show has been groundbreaking from the beginning, and this episode really took it to another level again.

Finest Moment: Pussy on the Brain
Tony is having fever dreams while suffering from bad food poisoning. All dreams have certain elements in common; danger, cancer (destruction from inside out) and Pussy. It all leads up to this final dream; the dream in which Pussy – in fish shape, but it really looks like Pussy! – reveals to Tony that he is working for the government. It is in moments like this that The Sopranos is at its most powerful; using a dream as a method to really push the plot forward. In the first season, when his mother wanted him whacked, Tony was in denial and started fantasising about a Madonna. But he didn’t acknowledge the truth until he heard his mother speak on the FBI tapes. Now, Tony has learned to listen to his subconscious. He has been having a strange feeling about Pussy for a long time and now he is open to the ultimate truth. When he wakes up he knows. The fish is also a brilliant find. In a macho gang like the Sopranos, it is considered unmanly to betray your friends. Therefore, it is Pussy – the guy with the feminine name – who’s a rat. There is also a pussy joke in there, pussy smells like… you get the picture. The reference is also to death, as in ‘sleeps with the fishes’, and it foreshadows Pussy’s ultimate resting place, the ocean. This dream is the perfect crossover between the series’ essentials; the mob and psychiatry.

*1 Talking Sopranos Podcast, episode 26 – Funhouse.

5 Unforgettable Twin Peaks 2017 Moments

The famous film critic J. Kleyngeld named Twin Peaksone of the 5 must see TV-shows before you die’. One of its many feats is predicting its return after 25 years. This highly anticipated moment happened last year (actually 26 years later, but let’s not nitpick). I finally saw the show on DVD and I’m very impressed. It captures the strange atmosphere of the original, while simultaneously creating something uniquely new.

The show was produced by Showtime who gave creators David Lynch and Mark Frost complete freedom, or so it seems. A wise decision. In 1991, we left the beloved main character Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) behind in Twin Peaks after learning he was possessed by demon Bob. So what comes next? Twin Peaks was never about the plot, but about the unsettling and darkly humorous experience. But the main driver of the story is this: there are now two Coopers. Bad Coop and Good Coop. Only one gets to live…

What were the defining moments of the new show for me? Here are five that I thought were brilliant:

1. Departing the Black Lodge (Episode 3)

After spending 25, or 26 years in the Black Lodge – where time has no meaning anyway – Good Coop can leave using no normals means of travel. It is hard to describe everything he goes through, but the highlight is his arrival on a cosmic tin box where a mysterious woman tells him: “When you get there, you will already be there.” This weirdness was too much for Loesje, so I watched the rest of the 18 one hour episodes by myself.

2. GOD (episode 6)
One of the most hard-hitting scenes I ever saw on television; the shocking death of a boy who is brutally hit by the car of typical Lynch villain Richard Horne. Witness is Harry Dean Stanton who sees the boy’s soul ascent to the heavens after which he exclaims: “God”. Then he comforts the devastated mother. Blessed is he.

Reminds me, Stanton recently departed himself, like quite a few other actors from the original Twin Peaks crew: Catherine E. Coulson (Margaret Lanterman aka The Log Lady), Miguel Ferrer (FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield) and Frank Silva (Bob). And off course David Bowie, whose character Phillip Jeffries makes a return as water boiler of some sort. Let’s hope Lynch and MacLachlan live for at least another 120 years, so there can be a few more sequels.

3. Weirdness Galore (Episode 8)

There are probably uncountable modes of consciousness and Lynch captures many of them in the episode Gotta Light? which has to be the most unconventional episode ever produced for mainstream television. It is without a doubt my favorite episode of the season, and even one of the greatest thing Lynch ever did. There is incredible camerawork in this episode, like the long floating shot over the ocean. Then there is the dreamlike atmosphere, the eerie sound design by Lynch himself, and plenty of deep dark mystery to uncover for the fans. Outstanding.

4. Gun Control (Episode 16)

Not sure if this is satire on America’s gun control issues, but it surely seems that way. Even Eastern European accountants carry around the most advanced semi-automatic weapons in the USA. This leads to this hilarious suburban shootout in which Tim Roth’s and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s assassins both get blown to pulp. “People are under a lot of stress, Bradley”, comments Mitchum brother Rodney. One of the funniest and most outrageous scenes of violence in recent memory.

5. Coop’s Back! (Episode 16)

It is well known that Lynch can hook you in while letting essentially nothing happen for long time spans. He takes this to the next level here by leaving his main character practically a vegetable till episode 16! When our favorite doughnut eating detective finally returns, we know it’s been worth the wait instantly. Bravo!

5 Must See TV-shows Before You Die

By Jeppe Kleyngeld

In this age of distraction a.k.a. entertainment, a lack of time is always a factor. There are way too many great TV-shows out there to see them all, so which ones should you pick? Many are great to watch, but which ones are truly essential and epic? I assassinated my darlings and wrote down the absolute best. Before you die, you should definitely see these shows in their entirety. I calculated this will take you about 13.263 minutes of your life (or 221 hours). Trust me, it is worth every second.

1. The Sopranos
5 TV Shows - The Sopranos
The greatest drama series of all time about a small Mafia family in modern New Jersey. While ‘The Godfather’ shows the highest level of the mob hierarchy, and ‘GoodFellas’ shows us the everyday life of street level wiseguys, ‘The Sopranos’ has the psyche of the mobster as a central theme. Brilliantly complex, layered and beyond entertaining, ‘The Sopranos’ is the best thing to ever hit the small screen. With writing and a cast you can only dream off, led by the now legendary James Gandolfini, may he rest in peace.

2. Breaking Bad
5 TV Shows - Breaking Bad
A chemistry teacher with lung cancer steadily transforms into a crystal meth kingpin… and ruthless murderer. This philosophically charged odyssey through the dark corners of the human mind is an unforgettably tense and emotional rollercoaster ride. One of the rare series that is consistently brilliant throughout its running time. Absolutely unmissable.

3. I, Claudius
5 TV Shows - I, Claudius Snake
BBC-adaptation of Robert Graves novels’ about the reign of four Roman emperors: the mighty Augustus, the bloodthirsty Tiberius, the insane Caligula, and finally the wise Claudius who lived through all periods and serves as the navigator/protagonist of the mini-series. ‘I, Claudius’ is dialogue heavy and is almost completely filmed in the studio, but… the dialogues and acting are to kill for. Watching ‘I, Claudius’ is like having front row tickets for the greatest theatre in the world. Every minute you are longing for more and can’t wait to find out what will happen next. An immortal classic.

4. The Wire
5 TV Shows - The Wire
The major problems of an American city (Baltimore) experienced through all corners of society: drug dealers, police, politicians, school staff, high school kids, junkies, dock workers and media men. David Simon’s reinvention of the cop genre is a prime example of superior storytelling that – despite of all the street legends – always feel authentic and above all… human. It’s all in the game, yo.

5. Twin Peaks
5 TV Shows - Twin Peaks
David Lynch, in collaboration with writer/producer Mark Frost, captured the imagination of audiences worldwide with one of the most legendary television series to emerge in the nineties: ‘Twin Peaks’. What starts as a slightly offbeat whodunit, evolves into a complex and superbly intriguing mystery thriller. ‘Who murdered the high school beauty queen Laura Palmer?’, is the original premise. But with all sorts of supernatural stuff going on, new and bigger questions arise, such as: ‘what is the Black Lodge?’. The plot in ‘Twin Peaks’ often takes a backseat to just let the many bizarre characters interact with each other. The show often feels like a platform for all the crazy ideas that Lynch, Frost and other collaborators could come up with.

What makes the final result so great is the seamless integration of genres. With delicious black humour and countless fantasy elements such as dwarves, giants, aliens and demons, the viewer will get hooked in no time. It is constantly absorbing, even during long stretches in which basically nothing significant happens. ‘Twin Peaks’ is an endlessly fascinating show that took dramatic television into an entirely new realm.

And good news for the fans. In 1991 when the show aired, Laura Palmer made a creepy prediction:

5 TV Shows - Twin Peaks 2

So that means that in 2016? Yes, it does. ‘Twin Peaks’ will return.

Hannibal: De TV-serie (recensie)

Door Jeppe Kleyngeld

Seriemoordenaars en psychopaten zijn in trek sinds Dexter. Maar nu deze hitserie op zijn einde loopt, vonden verschillende producenten het tijd worden om twee van de beruchtste killers van het witte doek maar eens naar het kleine scherm te halen. Norman Bates (Psycho) mocht opduiken in Bates Motel en Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs) in Hannibal de TV-serie. In beide gevallen betreffen het prequels.

In Hannibal volgen we speciaal FBI-medewerker Will Graham. Deze profiler heeft zoveel empathie dat hij zich geheel kan verplaatsen in de geesten van seriemoordenaars. Jack Crawford, hoofd van de FBI’s afdeling voor gedragswetenschappen, neemt Graham mee door het land om seriemoordenaars op te sporen, maar vreest voor zijn mentale welzijn. Daarom schakelt hij de briljante psychiater Dr. Lecter in die Graham mentaal gaat begeleiden.

Hannibal is gebaseerd op personages uit het eerste boek uit de Hannibal-serie Red Dragon. Kenners van de Harris boeken zullen dan ook zeker dialogen herkennen uit dit werk, maar ook uit de andere delen van de reeks is geput om de mythologie van Dr. Lecter vorm te geven. Zo is de verminking, waarbij er van een slachtoffer een engel is gemaakt door zijn longen als vleugels uit te klappen, afkomstig uit het boek Hannibal.

Mads Mikkelsen zet op formidabele wijze de culinaire kunstenaar Hannibal neer.

Mads Mikkelsen zet op formidabele wijze de culinaire kunstenaar Hannibal neer.

Ik was in het begin nogal sceptisch over deze serie. De inferieure eerdere sequels en prequels (Red Dragon, Hannibal & Hannibal Rising) op dat punt hadden mijn honger voor meer Hannibal Lecter al gedempt. Toen ik echter zag dat Mads Mikkelsen de rol van de beruchte psychopaat vertolkte werd mijn interesse toch gewekt. Ik heb de carrière van Mikkelsen gevolgd sinds ik hem zag in Pusher II op het International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2005. Een briljant acteur. Als iemand het zou kunnen flikken was hij het wel.

Bovendien is het concept van een serie over Hannibal in de jaren dat hij nog actief is als werkend massamoordenaar en psychiater een buitengewoon fascinerend idee. Maar alles valt of staat met de uitvoering. En gelukkig kan ik meteen melden dat die uitermate geslaagd is. Niet direct in het begin overigens. De eerste vier afleveringen van de 13 zijn behoorlijk zwak, vooral omdat er daarin geen aandacht wordt besteedt aan de karakterisering van het personage Hannibal.

Ik vreesde dus dat ze het verknald hadden, maar alles komt goed. Meer dan goed zelfs. Hannibal is bij vlagen briljante televisie. De show kruipt langzaam onder je huid en blijft daar vervolgens nog heel lang nasidderen, het effect dat de beste televisieseries – zoals Twin Peaks – kunnen hebben. Hannibal is een unieke combinatie geworden van enge, intelligente, fascinerende en baanbrekende televisie.

'Hannibal' is visueel prachtig met onuitwisbare indrukken van grafische horror.

‘Hannibal’ is visueel prachtig met onuitwisbare indrukken van grafische horror.

Het baanbrekende zit hem in de opbouw en structuur van de show. Lang niet alles wordt weggegeven, maar je wordt als kijker juist uitgedaagd om zelf te ontdekken wat de motivaties van de personages zijn. Daarbij voorzien de schrijvers je via de personages van fascinerende psychologische inzichten, die je kunt gebruiken om een majestueuze puzzel te leggen die nooit klaar is. Daarbij gaat het niet om wie de gezochte seriemoordenaars zijn – die worden meestal vrij snel en gemakkelijk gevonden – het gaat om wat de menselijke geest nou écht drijft. Als kijker wordt je dus ook een soort profiler, een sublieme zet van de makers.

Het grootste mysterie bij het psychoanalyseren is Hannibal zelf. Je leert hem gaandeweg het eerste seizoen kennen, maar een behoorlijk deel van zijn karakter blijft gesloten zodat je als kijker kunt blijven interpreteren wat hij wel en niet is. Hannibal wordt gedefinieerd door zijn acties. Er komen dingen op zijn pad, en hoe hij hier steeds mee om kiest te gaan bepaalt wie hij is. Je leert hem kennen, maar hij blijft toch steeds verassen. Fantastisch.

Gelukkig hebben de schrijvers ook geen ‘bovennatuurlijk’ personage van Hannibal gemaakt, zoals in de eerdere vervolgen. Als actieve seriemoordenaar is zijn grootste uitdaging om zijn misdaden te verbergen voor justitie en daarin schept hij een duivels genoegen. Lecter speelt een groots spel waarin hij zich roert in de wereld van de FBI, psychotherapie en collega seriemoordenaars. Maar niet alles gaat voortdurend van een leien dakje. Hij is gewoon super slim en, zoals een echte psychopaat betaamt, zoekt hij het gevaar graag op.

Mads Mikkelsen zet de rol op uiterst subtiele wijze neer. Hij doet vaak heel weinig, anders dan Anthony Hopkins die voortdurend in onbeteugelde psycho modus zat. Maar dat was ook een Hannibal Lecter die al gepakt was. Mikkelsen toont de modus operandi van de nog onontdekte Lecter, en daar past zijn subtiliteit uitstekend bij. Bovendien gaat er een grote intelligentie schuil achter zijn indringende ogen. Bij ieder woord dat hij zegt, hang je als kijker aan zijn lippen. Naast het briljante spel van Mikkelsen, zet Hugh Dancy op indrukwekkende wijze de getergde Will Graham neer. Laurence Fishburne vult de cast mooi aan. De rasacteur is energieker dan ooit en weet van de -normaal toch wat saaie- Jack Crawford een memorabel personage te maken.

Een briljant aspect van The Silence of the Lambs was dat er naast Lecter een andere angstaanjagende seriemoordenaar in het spel zat in de vorm van Buffalo Bill. Hannibal zit vol met dergelijke donkere geesten. De moordscènes die Will onderzoekt, zijn de meest creatieve en macabere ooit op film vastgelegd. In tijden waarin we aan steeds meer gruwelijkheid en horror gewend zijn, verdient Hannibal een groot compliment voor de wijze waarop het op momenten écht angstwekkend weet te zijn. De onheilspellende dromen van Will, de lugubere moorden en de spookachtige locaties maken de serie onvervalst griezelig. Vooral de aflevering waarin een meisje met het syndroom van Cottard (neurologische aandoening, waardoor ze de waan heeft dood te zijn) op moordpad gaat is doodeng.

Het einde van de serie is op een vreemde manier bevredigend en maakt hongerig naar meer. En dan vooral meer van Mikkelsen’s Lecter. Jazeker, de Deense acteur maakt er echt zijn personage van. En dat is meer dan indrukwekkend als je in de voetsporen van Anthony Hopkins treedt. Een oude passie van mij is met Hannibal weer aangewakkerd. De passie voor briljante seriemoordenaars en compleet gestoorde geesten. En daarvoor ben ik de makers van Hannibal bijzonder erkentelijk. Kom maar op met seizoen 2!

Hannibal - 5 stars