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Last night’s Sopranos episode (April 25, 2006)

May 1, 2006

From guest blogger Jeremy Sachs.

“Sometimes we lie to ourselves for so long it becomes impossible to know the truth”

-(paraphrased) Vito to his firefightin-johnny cake makin hunk of manmeat

“You the man!”

-Hanger-on to AJ

These two lines of dialogue aptly represent the character arcs of both Tony and AJ and a return to form after last week’s mostly useless episode. Tony’s hypocrisy is on full display, as he first uses his supposedly transformative post-shooting experience as both a pick up line and as a justification for an extramarital romp. He also decides to sell the building housing the chicken store, despite his earlier protests that to do so would rob the neighborhood of its history and character. In these two decision, the contradictions inherent in Tony’s life have never been more clearly on display. Family is paramount, except when particular family members get in the way (see the dearly departed Adriana). Tradition is sacred, as long as the repositories of said tradition are not vying for control of the business (see the shunting aside of pre-Alzheimer’s Junior).

While these themes have been a constant throughout the series, where this episode stands out is that Tony is finally realizing the tensions between his words (to Dr. Melfi- “How can I cheat on the wife who’s taken such care of me since the shooting?”) and his deeds (his psuedo-encounter with the real estate agent). As the agent unbuttons the shirt his wife lovingly buttoned just minutes before, Tony suddenly puts a halt to the proceedings. When Tony returns home, he starts a fight with Carmela over nothing, perhaps in an effort to lessen the guilt he is feeling. Is this the beginning of a new Tony, a Tony who is capable of remorse before or during a questionable act (rather than the usual post- act regret expressed via his panic attacks), a Tony who acknowledges the lies he had told himself?

Surprisinly, the other major arc involves AJ. It’s surprising because over the course of the series, AJ has changed all the way from a fat dumb spoiled child to a thin dumb spoiled slightly older child. But after a succession of events that include-

1. his mom having to wake up him so he wont miss his planned assassination of Junior

2. his poorly thought out attempt to kill Junior fails miserably

3. his father being more upset with him for crying than for an attempted murder-

AJ agrees to intercede in a landlord dispute for a friend in the club, and the friend replies that “You the man!”. As AJ looks in the mirror shortly afterward, he realizes that he is anything but a man. He’s failed out of school, living at home, working in a dead-end job, and totally reliant on his father’s name, connections, and money to survive. The only appropriate response to such a realization- a panic attack. A hint, perhaps, that father and son are more similar than either would care to admit.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Brad Glaser permalink
    May 2, 2006 11:36 pm

    It feels like AJ is finally coming into his own. This is the first episode to focus heavily on him that was actually interesting in regards to his arc and character and not just in its impact Tony and Carmela. He could actually be interesting to watch over the course of this season.

  2. May 4, 2006 3:25 am

    I agree completely. I’ve always had serious doubts about Robert Iler’s abilities as an actor — I’ve never been sure whether A.J.’s apathetic incoherence was the result of a character choice or simply an actor’s limitations, but this episode gave me my first glimpse of Iler’s talents (um, is competencies a better word?). Compare his panic attack scene in this episode do his panic attack in Season 2 (?) at football practice. Then, he just hit the ground. This time he actually communicated the emotions he was supposed to communicate: intense anxiety and a sense of being overwhelmed.

    But did anyone else find the Vito-Johnny Cakes plot a bit like a gay porno movie? The joint Harley ride, the hulky firefighter, the makeout session in the field… it was all a bit too fantastical to be believed. Not that I’d know what gay pornos are like or anything…

  3. May 4, 2006 3:29 am

    By the way, I was also struck by the changes we saw in Tony in this episode. Not only did he refuse easy sex with a hot brunette — his favorite kind of woman — he spoke honestly to A.J. about why he doesn’t think he should begin a life of crime. It wasn’t a self-centered rant about how Tony’s worked too hard to have his kids do this, or a self-loathing speech about how he wants A.J. to have it better than he did, it was just a heartfelt expression of his feelings: “You’re a nice guy, A.J. That’s a good thing.” If this were the old Tony, he would have beat the crap out of A.J., or at least have screamed at him until his voice was hoarse. This new, softer Tony is very interesting. Hopefully Chase and his gang will actually do something with it.

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