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The Countdown: Five Best — and Worst — Sopranos Tangent Episodes

April 25, 2006

In honor of the last two episodes of The Sopranos, both of which are part of the sometimes great, sometimes embarrassing tradition of Sopranos Tangent episodes, my next few posts will count down the five greatest Sopranos tangent episodes, as well as the five – or three, haven’t decided yet – worst Sopranos tangent episodes. Without any further ado, here’s Number Five of the Five Best:

5) The FBI-tapping episode (Season 3)

When Season 3 premiered, it was like Pedro Martinez taking the mound on opening day in 2001 against the Baltimore Orioles. How do you follow up two of the greatest seasons ever? Well, this episode, the first of the season, was like Pedro wiping his brow, facing down the batter, shaking off a sign… and throwing a ping-pong ball underhand.

Starting with a takeoff on the Peter Gunn/Spyhunter theme song, nearly the entire episode was concerned with the FBI’s sometimes ham-fisted attempts to bug The Sopranos household. While the whole thing went on way too long, the episode is interesting for showing the lengths the FBI is forced to go to get evidence on a known criminal, and also for adding an undertone of suspense into Tony’s criminal dealings at the house (an idea that was cut off at the knees when Meadow borrowed the bugged desklight for her dorm room, which illustrates one of my pet theories: Tony isn’t a brilliant criminal, he’s just ridiculously lucky. To be addressed in a future post…).

This ep also deserves points for cojones. It gave many of us our first hint that David Chase couldn’t give a flying crap what us fans think or expect. He’s got us by the balls and he knows it.

(Epilogue: Pedro pitched brilliantly in 2001 but was hit by an injury mid-season and ended up only pitching 117 innings. He was never quite the same pitcher again. The same could be said for The Sopranos. Like Pedro, The Sopranos’ best two seasons were in 1999 and 2000. Despite taking a downturn in 2001, both The Sopranos and Pedro started from such a ridiculously high level of achievement that they were still more often than not the best thing in baseball, or on TV. But both were on so infrequently – and when you did get to see them, they were both sometimes frustratingly mortal – that you couldn’t help but reminisce about the 1999 and 2000 seasons, and be thankful you saw some of the greatest pitching – and best TV – man has ever seen. Which leads me to a question: when does The Sopranos’ contract with HBO run out, and if it does, will David Chase have a public falling out with the network and take the show to Showtime, where the weaker competition will mask Chase’s declining skills for a few more years, and where the ratings-hungry execs will put up with his antics regardless how loony he gets? Isn’t Chase overdue for his midget mascot phase?)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil permalink
    April 25, 2006 12:27 pm

    I often find the first episode of every season a let down. Maybe it’s the fact you have to wiat for 16 months and then Chase spends the episode showing what has gone on in the Soprano’s life the last 16 months, for example why has AJ suddenly aged 3 years or Meadow has gone anorexic. I believe my favorite part of this episode has to be when they see Tony’s water heater and realize it’s going to explode and they joke about it.

    As far as Tony being lucky, I totally agree. He’s been the target of the most inept hitmen of all-time and Junior being the most inept almost succeeded. Of course this show is all about inept hitmen, how many times can Paulie and Christopher chase a guy into the woods? And whatever happened to that Russian dude?

  2. Sah permalink
    November 20, 2011 12:53 pm

    The absolute worst episode is season 6 episode 16…. it is just badly written and a stupid farce… others throughout season 5 and 6 are not as decent as the amazing first 3 seasons, but episode 16 takes the hit. And as for Paulie and chris chasing people into the woods… once.

  3. Sah permalink
    November 22, 2011 10:26 am

    sorry twice…

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