Monday, May 07, 2007

HBO Sunday Night: The Sopranos

Episode 82: "Walk Like a Man"

The simmering tension between Christopher & Paulie came to a head this week

"Everything turns to shit" - Tony to Carm

I'm not sure if that little slice of wisdom was meant for Carm, or if it was a warning shot fired across the bow by creator David Chase, letting us know that this family drama of ours could be turning into one giant shit storm right in front of our very eyes.

Because this week's episode was filled with more heartache, depression and dependency issues than a month's worth of Dr. Phil. Seriously, I felt like I needed therapy when it was over.

And although I applaud Chase for attempting to include as many characters as possible in this brief mini-season, the fact that so many loose threads have been introduced so far virtually ensures that some of these fibers of narrative fabric will be left dangling, possibly forever.

We open with yet another scene of Tony in bed (by my count this is about the 14th such scene this season, three this week alone). When he ambles downstairs, he finds lovesick AJ sulking on the sofa and Carm attempting to goad him out of his funk with an offering of French Toast. "I know this is hard to believe but food is not the answer to every single problem," he snaps at her.

"Well neither is acting like a whiny little bitch, " Father of the Year candidate Tony chimes in.

(BTW, obviously young AJ doesn't understand the psyche of a traditional Italian woman- food is indeed the answer to every single problem)

Tony brushes off AJ's signs of depression by telling him to take the day off, then asks Carm what they did to deserve such an attitude. Nice parenting, huh?

The other story this week involves the relationship between Christopher and the rest of the family, mainly Tony & Paulie. Chrissy's father-in-law Al is fencing the hot power tools Paulie & Tony hooked up from the Cubans down in Miami, and although times should be good, the lingering venom between the old-school tough guy and baby boomer hothead keeps things icy. When Paulie chastises Chris for not toasting with alcohol, Chris is instantly reminded how none of his so called "family" members really understand his dependency problem.

Meanwhile, Tony has turned into a rat. Okay, so he's not selling secrets about Phil Leotardo and the NY family, or revealing the whereabouts of any missing former business associates, but he does cross the taboo boundary that exists between every mobster and member of the Bureau- the bridge of cooperation.

When Tony sees his Fed buddy, Agent Harris, eating at Satriale's, he decides it might be a good idea if he piled up some federal credit, in the form of handing him the names of the two Arabs who used to frequent the Bing and who may or may not frequent a radical Islamic group, in exchange for a recommendation letter redeemable at any future Federal sentencing.

And just like that the sand in the hourglass of Tony's life as boss of the New Jersey family is about to run out.

Look, say what you will about Tony's personality, lifestyle, and parenting skills, but there is one thing that he could never be accused of and that's being a rat. Granted he hasn't crossed into Sammy "the Bull" Gravano territory here, like Christopher hints at later, and if these guys do turn out to be terrorists he might actually be doing a good thing, but a boss ratting out a potential criminal to the cops goes against everything La Cosa Nostra stands for. And something tells me that Tony is going to pay dearly for this sin.

The Christopher/Paulie situation gets cranked up a few notches when Paulie's nephew boosts some of the tools from Al's shop not once but twice. The first time it happens Christopher bangs on Paulie's door demanding to be reimbursed for the goods, which Paulie politely refuses to do ("you can suck the money out of my ass" he tells him). Enraged that Tony won't do anything about the slight against his family, after the second theft Chrissy enacts a bit of his own brand of justice: he beats Little Paulie silly and then throws him out a second-story window.

Uh-oh. That little action sends Paulie into a fit of rage, and as Christopher is apologizing to Tony, Paulie turns his Caddy into a giant Garden Weasel and shreds Chrissy's $40,000 worth of landscaping into a lot full of lavishly-colored mulch. Classic Paulie.

With an all-out war between the two looming, Tony suddenly brokers a peace treaty and they all meet up at the Bing to bury the hatchet; that's when Christopher takes the plunge back into the deep, dark end of the pool. He agrees to toast Paulie with a glass of scotch, and as soon as he takes that first sip, we know that things will end very badly for Chrissy and/or some of those close to him.

When Paulie starts to razz a buzzed Chrissy about, of all things, his little daughter growing up to become a stripper, and he sees the rest of the guys laughing at him, Chris staggers out of the place realizing that he has lost all touch with the people he once felt closest to. With nowhere else to turn, he heads to JT's (Tim Daly) apartment ready to spill his guts to his fellow AA member ("I'll give you stories that'll make your hair curl" Chris tells him), but he refuses to hear any of his sordid confessions.

"Chris, you're in the MAFIA," JT bluntly puts it, and the reality of that sentence momentarily sobers him up. He's right, and what do people who are in the mafia do when other people reject or humiliate them? They blow that person's brains out, which is exactly what Chrissy does to his screenwriting 12-Step comrade.

To wrap things up, Tony sends AJ to a therapist, and he admits that he is depressed & suicidal, so the doc puts the kid on Lexapro and sends him off to deal with his problems. AJ starts to go out more, but that means getting involved with Tony's buddy Patsy Parisi's son Jason, who is running numbers at Rutgers while getting an education in computers, strippers and booze. When the guys torture a debtor by dripping acid on his toes, AJ gets a rush from the act, and the son's indoctrination into his father's world has come full circle.

Both are depressed, tortured loners who long to be good but lean towards the bad, and both turn to vices to get through their emotional problems. There is a scene in Melfi's office when Tony breaks down, telling her "it's in (AJ's) blood, this miserable fucking existence. My rotting fucking putrid genes have infected my kid's soul. That's my gift to my son."

And that may be Chase's gift to us; in the ultimate Godfather tribute in this season full of them, AJ could take over the family business when Tony is either dead or incarcerated, ascending to the throne just as Michael, the one former innocent & unassuming member of the Corleone family, rose to power in Don Vito's absence.

Or, as some people have speculated, AJ could O.D. from a fatal mix of booze and pills, who the fuck knows.

During the scene in Melfi's office, Tony tells her it will be his last visit, because he can't see the point of therapy. "After all the complaining, the crying and all the fucking bullshit, is this all there is?"

Why do I get the feeling that by the last episode of this epic saga, we the viewers will be left asking ourselves that same exact question?

No comments: