Warning: I give stuff away about the Sopranos from earlier seasons
“Can I just get some macaroni and gravy?”
Paulie Walnuts, The Sopranos. While visiting Italy with Tony and Christopher in Season 2, this was Paulie’s classic response to the authentic Italian cuisine he was given. Ahh, Paulie…..is there a greater guy in the universe?
Anyway……I just had to put in my input in, as everyone seems to be doing. I think the ending to the Sopranos last night was the most spineless, cowardly way for a show to go out….but I don’t really think it matters. Why? Because the Sopranos hasn’t even been a good show for the past 4 years.
I’m a little upset with myself…..I’ve been thinking all day about how I was going to absolutely roast the Sopranos, and then, just out of curiousity, I took a look at one of my favorite writers and what he had to say about it, and he really liked it. I hate it when that happens…..he’s skewed my damn thoughts, and taken away from some of my rage. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not pissed off….I’m gonna try my best to lay it out as I see it.
In my opinion, when the Sopranos came out, it was the most revolutionary TV show ever. I don’t use that term lightly: look at TV these days, and the kinds of shows we see: Interesting shows with intricate plot lines, good dialouge, and excellent characters. FX has a slew of shows like this; HBO has about 25, 23 of which may be awful, but still. The culture of TV has changed. Go back in time to mid-90s and you wouldn’t see this stuff. The Sopranos, with the help of being shown on a network that allowed sex, swears, violence, and pretty much everything else, showed us that a TV show can be brutal, intellectual, and politically incorrect, all at once. It showed us that TV shows could break away from the idea that eveyone had to be pleased in order to keep the ratings up: without ratings to hamper them, they pretty much shit in the face of the modern TV drama was at the time. And it was a wonderful thing to watch.
I didn’t start watching the Sopranos until the third season was finished: watching the DVDs, I started at Season 1, and made it all the way through Season 3.
They were the best three seasons of television I have ever watched.
The reasons were countless: Without going into the details, it was mind-blowingly good. It was one of those shows where you feel like you knew the characters like you went to school with them for 12 years.
Tony, the boss who ran his crime family with an iron fist, but who was sometimes a softie at home.
Christopher, the out-of-control, hotshot newphew (in the early days).
Silvio and Pussy, Tony’s go-to guys.
Paulie, the typical tough-guy, and one of the funniest characters on any show ever.
With these characters as a base, a beautiful thing was created. Brutal violence and brutal honesty combined to make a specatular thing.
The First Season only scratched the surface. In the Second Season, we started to mee the truly interesting characters: Tony’s sister Janice, one of the most despicable witches in TV history; despite this, she brought alot to the table in the early days.
An even more monstrous character was Richie Apprio (forgive me if this is spelled wrong, as I think it is). I think of every Sopranos character ever, Richie Apprio was by far the most under-appreciated and underrated. He was an absolute pychopath who was truly fantastic all the way around. Season 2, in my opinion, was the Season of Richie Apprio.
In Season 2, the plot lines became more intricate. There was the Pussy situation (for those who watched back then). There was the memorable trip to Italy, where Christopher first got a taste of the drugs that would ruin him, and Paulie got a taste of Europeans distaste for Americans. There was Furio, who for a few episodes was one of the most badass characters ever. Every Episode was brilliant.
And finally, Season 3….in my opinion, the greatest season ever. It was the Season where we all got to meet Ralphie, the most memorable character in the show’s history. He was one of those few characters who I can only describe as someone that You Loved to Hate. Don’t get me wrong….we all hated Ralphie. I hated Ralphie….he was an awful, awful person. But didn’t you just love to hate him? When he killed the stripper and Tony punched him, when he made horrible comments in public, when he challenged everyone’s sanity……we hated him, but we loved to hate him. Ralphie added a sort of joy to my life. (I would describe Janice, on the other hand, as someone we Hated to Hate…..but I think she still brought something to the table for Seasons 2 and 3). Add to all this that Christopher and Paulie were in their absolute primes (in my opinion, the Episode when they got stuck in the woods with the Russian is the most memorable episode ever), and Season 3 is simply untouchable. It should go down as one of the Greatest Seasons of Television for any show in any genre…..period.
Why am I reminscing about all this? Because in my opinion, the Sopranos officially died after Season 3. Hell, I’ll be the first to admit it….I wasn’t too interested in them until everyone was saying how good they were (thats why I watched). I mean, I never had HBO…..but still, I was one of them. I wasn’t there in the beginning….I heard the buzz.
Once the buzz started really buzzing, the inevitable pitfalls started coming. Suddenly, other acting jobs came up for the stars. Contracts got stuck in negotiations. Movies had to be done. Between Season 3 and Season 4, about 2 years elapsed.
When it came back, it was never the same. Don’t get me wrong…..the single greatest moment in TV watching in my life came up (when Ralphie got killed….that was even more mind-blowing to watch live for me than when the Pats won their first Super Bowl). But the show just wasn’t the same show. The writing wasn’t as good. There wasn’t as much action. Things slowed down. At the end of the Season, Tony and Carmela got divorced. That was it. That was the focus of the entire season. I remember watching and thinking, “Uh-oh, this show will never be the same.”
And it wasn’t….ever. People who have only watched Seasons 4-6 haven’t really been watching the Sopranos….they’ve been watching the ghost of the show that once was. Sure, there were new characters, and new plot twists, and more murders…..but it had a certain tame edge to it. Take, for example, Tony B., Tony’s cousin who gets out of jail.
Tony B. was played by one of my all-time favorite actors, Steve Buschemi. Buschemi directed a few episodes before, notably the episode with the Russian from Season 3. So it seemed fitting that he come. But as great an actor as he is…..Tony B. was kind of lame. I might shot for making this statement, cause a lot of people really loved Tony B……but he was boring. What did Tony B. ever do that could compare with Richie and Ralphie? Nothing…..thats what.
Maybe I’m being unfair…..its difficult to keep a show like this fresh for a long period of time. But like it or not….its been stale for awhile.
And thats why this whole Finale thing bothers me. This entire final Season, there’s been a feeling like this show was sort of drifting into parts unknown. Like any good story, there should be three parts: the take-off, the flight, and the landing. The take off was fine, but in my opinion, the Sopranos Airplane has been flying at tree level for the past few seasons, just waiting to make a safe landing. When it was decided that it was indeed time to land, the plane started wavering all over the place.
All the episodes this season seemed dis-jointed and unconnected: Tony fought Bobby Baccala; Tony took peyote in Vegas; Tony lost trust in Paulie. It almost seems like a guy going through his mid-life crisis, grabbing at every plotline before its too late. In the end, the show, like the guy, burned himself out.
And so that’s where we were left with three episodes left: a bunch of broken, unpromising plotlines. Then the whole ordeal with Christopher, which, despite my whole feelings as expressed in this post, was still very moving; the violence towards the end; and the last episode.
I wouldn’t feel angry if the entire last season was treated differently. If they had just slowed down the last season, and addressed some of the old plotlines more clearly (Unlce Junior, ect….) it wouldn’t have stung so much. But instead, they had a bullshit season where nothing happened, and then tried to make up for it in the last two episodes. I felt like I was watching two boxers who played around for 12 rounds, and then gave it their all in the last 30 seconds, just appease the crowd. In a lame excuse for a Finale, old plotlines were addressed (somewhat), old characters popped-up (Meadow’s friend Hunter….I’m sorry, but thats totally lame), and all was supposed to be made well with us. After clearing all that up, they gave us the ending that simply everyone now feels the need analyze.
Well, I won’t analyze it….cause its bullshit. This was not a show ending…..it was a showing playing with diehard fans. All that fade to black crap is shit….maybe if something happened it would be acceptable, but nothing did happen, so its garbage.
Whether there is some kind of movie to wrap things up or not, this was a pathetic way to put a show to death…but, as I said earlier, it doesn’t really matter anymore, because it hasn’t really been the Sopranos for awhile.
Sadly, people will continue to discuss this like it means something. In the meantime, I’ll recall one of my favorite memories:
In the pilot episode, Christopher has to kill a Polish guy, who starts talking about sausage. In Classic Christopher fashion, he goes, “You guys have sausage?” The Polish guy goes, “Yah.” And Christopher goes “Wow, I thought there was only Italian and Jimmy Dean. Who woulda thought.” Two minutes later, he put a bullet in the guy’s head. The was the Sopranos…..brutally violent, brutally honest. Its a shame that it has become something entirely different: just another show to talk about at the water cooler with everyone else.
Until Next Time,