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Flavio Sapha
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Posted: 26 June 2018 at 3:26pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Man, I may have watched the whole series 5 or 6
times...with Greg doing this ep-by-ep thing, I may go back
once again!
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Flavio Sapha
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Posted: 26 June 2018 at 3:29pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

JB: It's interesting, to me, that some have compared this
show with GAME OF THRONES -- not in terms of content,

++++

There´s this clever Wisecrack video that points out that
both shows depict "interregnums", periods of chaos and
transition, due to a void of central power...

Link!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 30 June 2018 at 12:17am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

“House Arrest”.


A highly-entertaining, low-key, “calm before the storm” episode. Lots of fun to be had from watching Tony deal with his self-imposed “house arrest”, while Junior deals with his literal one.

I’ve really developed an affection for Junior. Steals ever scene he’s in, and his extreme sarcasm and sailor’s mouth (juxtaposed with his giant glasses and friendly face) are comedy gold. In this episode alone, we see him having to deal with a stent, a CPAP machine, and getting his hand stuck in the kitchen sink. For six hours. Hilarious.

Meanwhile, Gandolfini ably portrays Tony’s boredom and frustration with having to—gasp!—actually spend some time managing his legitimate business. After not having even been in his own office for eight years. Hilarious. 

Nothing of major consequence happens in this episode, but I really appreciated the down time with the characters. Lots of fun and revealing little moments. In terms of character exploration, Dr. Melfi actually gets the most to do, since she’s still struggling with her growing alcoholism and her inability to drop Tony as a patient. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 July 2018 at 10:08pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

“The Knight In White Satin Armor”.


A great episode which has some big laughs mixed with important developments. 

It’s simultaneously funny and sad to see Big Pussy become gung-ho about working for the FBI...and then his stakeout of Christopher (...who plans to steal Pokémon cards!) ends in that horrific car accident which puts an innocent man into a coma. Yikes. 

Carmella’s increasing depression and paranoia over Tony’s infidelity is moving stuff, too. Edie Falco does a wonderful job of portraying her hard-as-nails exterior when in public, and her vulnerability when she’s alone. There’s also a big laugh when Vic Musto realizes that Carmella came to thank him for stopping their affair before it started, since he’s absolutely terrified of Tony Soprano, and wants nothing to do with his family. And, in addition to Irina name-dropping the episode’s title, and Janice wearing a satin wedding gown, Vic could also be considered Carmella’s hoped-for knight in white satin (paint) armor. A nice, subtle bit a thematic resonance, there.

Quite a twist to see Uncle Junior determine that Tony is better for his operation than Richie. The entire season has been building toward a civil war, or another attempt on Tony’s life, and seeing Junior suddenly take Tony’s side—If mainly for selfish reasons—is rather refreshing.

But, of course, the big moment in the episode is Janice’s murder of Richie. Unfortunately, I was accidentally spoiled regarding this twist, a few weeks back, despite my attempts to avoid spoilers as much as possible. So, it didn’t have as much impact as it would have. That said, it’s quite a shocking moment. One of the big laughs of the episode is when Janice says “He usually takes out the clip!” when referring to her creepy gun-sex roleplay with Richie. Of course, in retrospect, that was obviously a setup for this big twist. Quite a way to (literally) send Janice packing. 

Amazingly, Janice has solved two major problems (namely, herself and Richie) for Tony, and yet the use of “I Saved The World Today” over the closing credits serves as ironic juxtaposition when set against the continuing disintegration Tony and Carmella’s marriage.
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 09 July 2018 at 12:09am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Janice is a great character! NOBODY can get on Tony's
nerves as well as she can! :)
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Trevor Krysak
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Posted: 09 July 2018 at 5:20am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

You're nearly up to the third season. Get ready for Ralphie. For fun count the number of Gladiator references. There are a lot of them.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 10 July 2018 at 4:43pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

“Funhouse”.


A very gripping and memorable season finale. It lulls one into a false sense of security, since it initially gives the impression that it’s gonna be a “decompression” type of episode which depicts Tony’s inner life via his fever dreams. Nope!

The dream sequences themselves are properly surreal and well-done. Lots of neat little camera and sound design tricks. And, of course, Tony’s subconscious tells him what we’ve known for some time: Big Pussy has been flipped by the FBI. 

Unfortunately, I knew going in that Pussy wouldn’t survive the series. That tidbit filtered into my brain via the pop culture grapevine, some years ago. That being said, the whole sequence of events is masterfully executed, if you’ll pardon the phrase. Tony makes use of his illness to search Pussy’s bedroom, and things just go downhill from there. The whole sequence on the boat just builds and builds and builds tension. The fact that it’s on a boat allows for the use of handheld shaky-cam, which adds to the tension and uneasiness of the sequence. This is a plot thread that’s been waiting to be tied for quite some time, and it doesn’t disappoint. Pussy is a likable mobster, so his departure from the show is unfortunate. But, it feels properly earned.

Of course, immediately after Pussy’s murder, his “disinformation” causes the FBI to come knocking on Tony’s door, which is a wonderful bit of karma. The ending montage after Meadow’s graduation could be viewed as a sort of “triumph montage” for Tony, since things are going relatively well for him. That last shot of him, back to full health, cigar in hand, could be seen as an ascendant moment. But...there’s an emptiness and a sense of melancholy to the whole thing. Like it’s a hollow victory, since Tony, y’know, just murdered one of his best friends.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 05 August 2018 at 10:04pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

“Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood”.


The third season starts off with a bang, and it’s a hilarious one. This episode is relatively light on the drama, and big on the laughs. The FBI’s efforts to bug the Soprano home (The Sausage Factory!) in the aftermath of Pussy’s death are full-to-bursting with gags. My favorites would be the use of the PETER GUNN theme, the Feds rolling back the videotape to examine the condition of Tony’s water heater, and the agent staking out Carmella (Mrs. Bing!) being far, far more interested in Adriana and her amorous tennis instructor.

The B-story here is Tony (Papa Bing!) dealing with Patsy’s likely knowledge that Tony ordered his brother’s murder. Great moment when the A- and B-stories briefly collide, as the Feds watching the Soprano house catch sight of Patsy’s half-hearted assassination attempt on Tony, his half-hearted suicidal gesture, and his whole-hearted unirnation in Tony’s pool. 

Meanwhile, AJ (Baby Bing!) continues to rebel, and I immediately got the vibe that Meadow’s (Princess Bing!) roommate is bipolar, which will probably go somewere. Guess we’ll see.

A wonderfully fun and clever episode, with the ironic ending—the FBI’s determined efforts yielding a recording of a boring conversation between Tony and Carmella about roughage and floss—serving as the icing on the cake. 

I’m delighted to see that the show has resisted the temptation to go all-dark, and retains the sly sense of humor that has so endeared it to me!
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 2:41pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

This is the one series that gets
better with every season.
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Benny Hasa
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 10:56pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

This is the one series that gets 
better with every season.

---------

Will have to disagree with that statement.  First season is the hands down best, followed by the second season.  Third season has its moments and the best episode of the series, but not quite on par with the first two. 

Season 4 was a step down, while season 5 started moving things back in the right direction. 6A was almost a complete mess and the worst season, while 6B once again moved things in the right direction, but nowhere near the pinnacle of the first two seasons. 

Despite that, I still think this is the best TV show EVER, and even though I've watched through it nearly 5-6 times, I get the urge to watch it again. 

I think it would be hard to argue that this is a show that gets better with each season due to numerous elements, but if you're game I would like to hear why you think it gets better with each season. 


Edited by Benny Hasa on 06 August 2018 at 10:57pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 12:04am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Despite that, I still think this is the best TV show EVER, and even though I've watched through it nearly 5-6 times, I get the urge to watch it again. 
+++++++

I still vote BREAKING BAD, but I have yet to watch THE WIRE, and obviously haven’t finished THE SOPRANOS! 
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 2:08pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I'd strongly disagree. I find the
earliest seasons woth Tony's mom and
Big Pussy to be the weakest, by far,
and yet still excellent.
The last especially, (both parts) is a
masterpiece in television drama.
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Benny Hasa
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 10:21pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

I'd strongly disagree. I find the 
earliest seasons woth Tony's mom and 
Big Pussy to be the weakest, by far, 
and yet still excellent.
The last especially, (both parts) is a 
masterpiece in television drama.

---------

Care to explain your rationale? I'm just curious as to your thought process as season 6A was met with a lot of distain (and still is) amongst Sopranos fans, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that the back end of the series was better than the front half. (Until now at least)
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Benny Hasa
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 10:24pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

I still vote BREAKING BAD, but I have yet to watch THE WIRE, and obviously haven’t finished THE SOPRANOS! 

--------

BREAKING BAD is really solid all the way through.  While there were times the SOPRANOS felt weak, that feeling never happened with BREAKING BAD.  However, I still find the Sopranos more re-watchable and entertaining in the long run, which is why it's my favorite show. 

THE WIRE is a fantastic show, and one of the most realistic. It's very well made, but a bit too depressing for me.  I watched it once, loved it, but have never felt the desire to go back. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 August 2018 at 10:41pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

“Proshai, Livushka”.


I know a visual effects shot when I see one. I’d read that Nancy Marchand had died during the show’s run. The purpose of this episode became immediately clear to me in the scene where Tony visits Livia. It was a clever and necessary thing for them to do by using digital compositing, stock footage, and a body double to give Livia a final scene before writing her out of the show. 

Marchand’s death very clearly threw a wrench into the plans that David Chase and the other writers had developed. You can see her getting frailer and frailer, thoughout the second season. Very sad. So, this episode is both damage control and...well...filler. We do get a lot of good moments though, as well as the introduction of Joey Pants(!) to the series.

The best stuff is the Tony/Janice material. Janice remains as absurd as ever, from her chicken-shack job (and her young, coworker fiancée), to her golddigging for her mother’s vintage records at the funeral, to her “feelings circle”. Tony’s reactions to her nonsense are always priceless, and Gandolfini doesn’t disappoint.

There’s also a brilliant, spooky, blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo by Big Pussy, which seems appropriate, given the context.

The climax is the best sequence in the episode, as everyone airs their feelings about Livia and the funeral, with Carmella hilariously serving as the sarcastic voice of reason.


A necessary episode, but not an unpleasant one. The unpleasant, real-world circumstances do hang over it like a cloud, though.
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David Miller
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Posted: 17 August 2018 at 1:12pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

I disagree about the necessity of Livia's digital zombification. The producers may have wanted to wring more narrative elegance out of the Livia's departure by killing her off on their own terms, but part of death's power is how it unexpectedly robs survivors of closure, and I don't think what the show came up with was more powerful than her sudden absence would have been. 

The closure the show achieved by having James Gandolfini recite dialogue at a post-it note at best demonstrated his heroic faculty with sight lines, and not much else, since by the very nature of the digital assembly, he could only repeat or expand on previous moments he'd built with Marchand. Moreover, cutting together a performance from digital scraps dishonored Nancy Marchand's own craft. 

The wake was frickin great, though. 
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Vinny Valenti
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Posted: 18 August 2018 at 4:20pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Greg, now you've caught up to where I actually started watching the show in real time. Several perceptions were warped as a result. Throughout season 3 and most of the others, there's no explicit acknowledgement that Carmella and the kids know that their father is actually a mob boss (as well as a murderer) - so I was watching the show under the assumption that they don't know, and that made me sympathetic towards them. I believe between season 3 and 4 I caught up with Seasons 1+2, where it's explicit that they all know damn well what he does (given the attempts on his and Christopher's life, 'College', etc) - and that completely changed my opinion of them. They actually knew that Tony lives a life of crime and murder - and they really don't care. After that realization, I found it nearly impossible feel anything for them.

And on that note, the way Joey Pants showed up in this episode, it was as if he was a cast member all along - so I was so confused that he was neither seen nor referenced during the first 2 seasons. That made no sense to me.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 18 August 2018 at 9:07pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Yeah, Carmella and the kids’ non-reactions to Tony’s business life are a part of the show’s moral fabric (or lack thereof). Again, I find myself drawing comparisons to BREAKING BAD, where the supporting characters’ eventual reactions to Walt’s life of crime (ranging from rage to horror to denial) are a vital part of the show. In particular, Skyler finding herself trapped and married to a monster, and desperately trying to protect her kids from the horrors and dangers that Walt has brought into their lives. BB is a story about a man selfishly turning to evil to satisfy his power-lust, and the resulting havoc and devastation it brings to his family, who want nothing to do with any of it.

THE SOPRANOS, on the other hand, depicts a world where mob life is par for the course for a mob wife (and kids). That’s just the world they live in. It’s a generational thing, and everyone in that orbit is used to the life. Carmella is clearly enamored with the wealth and comfort Tony’s life brings, and the kids A) Have known and loved their father for their entire lives; B) Aren’t really aware of the particulars of Tony’s criminal activities. 

THE SOPRANOS features an open secret that everyone is basically okay with, whereas BREAKING BAD features a major paradigm shift and transformative experience which completely destroys a once-happy family. Two brilliant—yet very different—explorations of similar subject matter. The key difference is that Tony Soprano is able to be introspective and doubt himself (hence the therapy), whereas Walter White lies and justifies his increasingly-monstrous actions until almost the very end.

The key component which anchors THE SOPRANOS and makes these (morally) horrible characters likable is the charm and humor of the actors. On some subliminal level, we know it’s all just pretend, and so allow the actors to charm us and tell us this story. Gandolfini lets us see the charm and vulnerability of Tony Soprano, and both he and Edie Falco have an inherent likability.

BB is also similar in that way, with Bryan Cranston finding just the right balance between the Jekyll and Hyde halves of Walter White. Not enough charm to necessarily keep us rooting for Walt, but enough to keep us engaged and wanting to see how his story ends...and whether or not he gets his comeuppance.


Anyway, I didn’t find Joey Pants’ introduction to be particularly intrusive. Just another associate who we haven’t seen, ‘till now. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 29 August 2018 at 10:57pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

“Fortunate Son”.

A dense episode with a lot of moving parts, particularly (and appropriately) involving fathers and sons. Christopher comes back into the spotlight for pretty much the first time since he was shot, back in the second season. Of course, Chris is essentially Tony’s surrogate son, but their relationship is strained due to Chris’ impulsiveness and immaturity. Meanwhile, Tony’s actual son, AJ, is also frustrating him with his lack of enthusiasm in in football and his desire to not go to college.

And then there’s Jackie Aprile, Jr., who clearly doesn’t have the spine for mob life. Tony wisely wants to keep him out of the business, but of course Chris enlists Jackie as getaway car driver for his desperate robbery of the benefit concert. Not exactly the sort of high crimes one would expect from a made man, but it’s fitting that Chris’ crash course in the realities of being made would be humbling rather than empowering. A fun touch: The first time we see Chris after he’s made, he appears to be driving a brand-new car.

The bulk of the comedy in this episode comes from the oddest of odd couples: Janice and Svetlana. Janice’s golddigging and scheming know no limits, and her theft of Svetlana’s prosthetic leg is both pathetic and hilarious.

The whole bit with Tony’s flashback/repressed memory is very interesting, and drives home the generational theme of the show, as does AJ’s fainting spell in the final scene. The mob life, the mob code, and the violence of the mob is a generational cycle. I saw the opening ceremony of Chris getting the summons to be made almost as a parody of a job promotion-type scene in any other sort of drama. Tony, Chris, and the others are locked into their habits, codes, and violent acts because it’s what they know. It’s what they’ve been taught. The violence of Johnny Soprano begat the violence of Tony Soprano. And, on some level, it almost seems like Tony’s inner child still can’t quite accept the life that he’s living. 
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Petter Myhr Ness
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Posted: 30 August 2018 at 12:37am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

The violence of Johnny Soprano begat the violence of Tony Soprano. And, on some level, it almost seems like Tony’s inner child still can’t quite accept the life that he’s living. 
--

I agree, and I feel that it's one of Tony's few redeemable qualities. He realises that he's caught in this life, but he does his best to steer the younger generation away from it. He certainly doesn't want AJ to see him the way he saw Johnny, knowing the impact it would have. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 30 August 2018 at 8:02am | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Exactly, Petter. Even his nasty, racist attempts to keep Meadow away from Noah seem to have their basis in his occasionally working with Black criminals who “don’t want my son with their daughters, just like I don’t want their sons with mine”. Casual racism aside, it almost comes off like Tony not wanting to risk any chance of violence involving his kids, because violence is the only life he knows.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 September 2018 at 10:36pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

“Employee of The Month”.


I knew this one was coming, since the pop culture grapevine had previously spoiled it for me at some point or another. Dr. Melfi is perhaps the most likable and upstanding character on this show, and seeing her brutally raped is quite horrifying and unsettling. I’m also slightly uneasy with certain aspects the aftermath almost being played for laughs, such as Richard’s overreaction when learning that the police bungled the chain of custody. It almost feels like this brutal crime doesn’t quite have the emotional weight that it should, both on the characters and on the audience. 

Of course, the rape itself is really just a catalyst for the actual story point that’s being explored, which is a continued examination of the dynamics between Melfi and Tony. The entire point of the episode is laid down in that final scene, where she’s tempted to tell Tony everything—which will certainly cause him to unleash his full wrath against her attacker—but chooses not to. Great moment. Indeed, I read that this episode won the Emmy for Best Writing in a Drama Series, and I’d say it’s well-deserved.

Meanwhile, Johnny Sack (namesake of BREAKING BAD’s Juan Bolsa, a reference I now get) has entered the picture, and Ralph has taken Richie Jr, under his wing. Lots of setup for conflict in future episodes, here.

I must say the the sight of Janice literally golddigging with a metal detector was quite funny, as was her “finding God” after being attacked by Svetlana’s things. Very satisfying to see them smack her around, too. Janice is a horrible, obnoxious character. And I say that in a loving way, because Aida Turturro is great in the part, and the character is highly entertaining to watch.
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