Monday, May 14, 2007
The Sopranos No. 83: Kennedy and Heidi
BLOGGER'S NOTE: If you have not seen this episode yet, look away and DO NOT READ THIS POST.
By Edward Copeland
Sometimes it's easy to forget the ability of The Sopranos to catch a viewer by surprise, especially as it approaches its endgame. There always have been moments that spring out of nowhere: Janice shooting Richie; Melfi's rape; how and when Ralphie's end came about; a demented Junior shooting Tony, mistaking him for Pussy Malanga. However, especially after last week's episode which seem to set it up that Christopher (Michael Imperioli) might be the one to bring down the house of cards, either by spilling the beans, by his drunken murder of beleaguered screenwriter J.T. Dolan (Tim Daly), by being caught up in a terrorism investigation or by taking Tony out himself in repressed guilt over the murder of Adriana (Drea de Matteo), seeing Christopher suddenly die in a car wreck — and not just because of the wreck but because Tony (James Gandolfini) essentially suffocates him afterward, may be the most shocking moment David Chase and his writers have produced in a long time on the series, if not ever.
It's also a tribute to the ever-lessening secrecy in this World Wide Web that this giant twist had been kept quiet (at least as far as I know, I don't go looking for spoilers). I have to admit that when Tony started admitting murders to Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) and then woke up, showing that was a dream, I was momentarily concerned that Christopher hadn't really been killed. Thankfully, that was not the case. Not that I think any of these figures truly should be considered tragic ones: After all, they are thieves, killers and generally scum.
Still, now that Christopher's arc is over, he may be the closest the series came to creating one, especially in the hands of Imperioli's deft and textured performance. He gave up his dream of screenwriting early on; he became a killer for Tony; he seriously tried to stay sober, only to time and time again be knocked off the wagon by the nagging of his criminal co-workers. Finally, he gave up the love of his life. He could have tried to run off with her into Witness Protection, but he was too weak to make that choice and handed Adriana's fate over to Tony.
Sure, he did eventually get to become involved in moviemaking but all it did was make Tony, who once groomed him to be his successor and insulation from the law, suspicious of him and looking to Bobby (Steven Schirippa) as a better choice. Last week's episode, "Walk Like a Man," really laid out Christopher's torment and, in a way, this week's episode almost portends a Persona-like transference of Tony and Christopher's characters. Last year, it was Tony preaching that every day was a gift and to stop and smell the roses; last night, Christopher preached that. Then, after his death, Tony seemed to want to become Christopher, hightailing it to Vegas to hook up with one of Christopher's old flames, indulging in his ever-growing gambling addiction and overindulging in drugs.
Earlier, when he whines to Melfi about Chris "pitying" himself over Adriana and his own lame attempt to comfort Carmela (Edie Falco) with the tree-branch-could-have-killed-the-baby story, he complains that once again, he is "the asshole." That's right, Tony is an asshole. At the same time, we see A.J. (Robert Iler) joining in with the mob's future but being depressed and disgusted by the brutality and racism at the same time. I'm curious to see where they are headed with this.
Then, Christopher gets to unwittingly give Paulie (Tony Sirico) a posthumous kick in the teeth by upstaging the death of his beloved Nucci (Frances Ensemplare), but really Paulie showed more grief about Christopher's death even with that event than Tony did. What are we to make of that ending, where a peyote-influenced Tony shouts in the desert "I get it" after seeing the light in the sky, an unmistakable reference back to that mystery beacon when he was in the coma last year? (Many, including myself, thought he said "I did it," but HBO confirms that the writers say it was "I get it.")
It seems almost foolish to try to outguess Chase on where he's heading when he can still surprise as he did last night. I'll just watch and hope it's something as satisfying as most of these new batch of episodes have been so far. Until then, a fond farewell to Christopher Moltisanti and the great Michael Imperioli. Sure, we are only going to be deprived of your presence for three episodes, but you will still leave a vacuum.