Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sopratutto, Sopranos

The thing that is absolutely riveting for me about this final season of The Sopranos is the way the series carefully reinforces the idea that the characters who we have grown to love, and fear and puzzle over, are all remaining entirely true to their natures. These men (and they are primarily men) are murderers, extortionists, adulterers, bullies, thieves. In short, gangsters. Each episode this season, which I literally view with trepidation and a feeling of being physically ill, drives home this point.

Tony Soprano, the depressed, sometimes befuddled and anxious Mafia don, still elicits sympathy and a grudging compassion.

With son AJ's attempted suicide, cousin Christopher's untimely accident and death (at Tony's own hands), Dr. Melfi's sudden and humiliating abandonment of Tony, brother-in-law Bobby's assassination, his enemy Phil Leotardo's murderous plot to eliminate the Soprano family and Silvio's near murder, Uncle Junior's lack of funds to support his stay at the asylum and sister Janice's pleas to help out financially, Paulie's increasing unsuitability as a family member, wife Carmela's alternating bouts of maternal anxiety, binge shopping and icy disdain, daughter Meadow's dropping out of med school ... who wouldn't feel compassion for the guy? It seems everything is conspiring to destroy Tony.

Villainous, treacherous Tony ... yes, the plots are so cleverly conceived and the characters so richly drawn that we still feel for Tony above all.

I have asked fellow devotees (each one fanatically committed to the show) how they imagine that it will end in the final episode on June 9th. The gossip has been an on-going theory that Tony will be murdered in the final episode.

But based on the second last episode I have an uneasy feeling that he will not die but that Tony will eliminate someone very close to him: the compassionate but perhaps ineffectual Dr. Melfi as if to reinforce the idea that this is not a "normal" human being who can be "fixed" but a dangerous sociopath whom in the end cannot be trusted or cured despite our best efforts.

I think the series which began with the comic if innovative premise of a gangster seeking therapy will end with the unhappy realization that it was a dangerous and fruitless enterprise.

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