Monday, June 04, 2007

Bang Bang at The Bada Bing

Oh no! Not Silvio!

Up until his long run on The Sopranos, Steven Van Zandt was best known as a guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. During shows, Bruce would introduce his band mates with special titles, and Steve was often called "the minister of faith and friendship, keeper of all that is righteous." When it comes to The Sopranos, I think the same title could apply to Silvio Dante.

Has there ever been a more dependable, more level-headed, more trustworthy, more loyal consigliere in mob fiction than Sil? Tom Hagen was great and all, but he just didn't have that affectionate, co-conspirator streak for his boss. Silvio's last name is Dante, but he's been more like Virgil, accompanying Tony as they navigate through the myriad layers of this hellish snakepit. But Silvio never reached the 9th circle of traitors.

Last night, when his loyalties were put to the test, Sil never even wavered. He knew a bigger, better, and probably safer deal was waiting for him in New York, and he answered by strangling the mutinous son of a bitch who brought it to his attention. Though I feel the worst for Bobby's children, now left with Janice as their only parent, Sil getting shot just sucks.

The scene itself, however, was a finely-tuned piece that played every note of my nerves like a staccato solo. That was a seriously intense episode, with the suspense mounting the whole way, and when Sil was trying to lamb it out of The Bing and Phil's crew came roaring into the lot, guns blazing at Sil and Patsy Parisi, OH NO! was all I could think. Even in the rain of bullets, Sil turned to grab his gun. Then, of course, the unexpected hilarity of all the strippers and Bing patrons standing there topless and gape-mouthed staring, and even funnier, them scampering out of sight so as not to be seen as witnesses! Then a slow pan of Silvio in the front seat, unconscious and bloodied. And then the poor neon-yellow outfitted motorcycle guy getting squished as collateral damage -- truly ghastly. And the strippers watching that, too!

Truly a sick scene -- and I do mean that in the cool, youth-version of the term sick.

So this is what it's come to for Tony, huh? Alone in the dark on a strange bed with no sheets, holding a shotgun to his chest. His inner circle is destroyed -- Sil probably won't regain consciousness, Christopher is dead and so is Bobby. His trusted therapist and de facto cumare Dr. Melfi has broken up with him, and he's had to remove himself from his wife and children. Exactly what's left for him to fight so hard for now? All that remains is Paulie Gaultieri.

Could it be? Could it possibly be that Paulie ends up top dog in New Jersey when all the dust settles? And how about Patsy Parisi as his partner? Couldn't be coincidental timing that Carm and Tony get quizzed by Charmaine and Artie (I love Artie) about Meadow and her dating Pat Parisi, with Charmaine remarking how it's odd that Patsy is one of Tony's underlings. And we've been left to question Paulie's loyalty all season, and were reminded again last night that he's the cockroach of the Soprano family. He may not be considered "management" by the New York crew, but he has "survived the '70s by the skin of his balls" because he's one tough walnut.

How will Agent Harris play into all this? Sure, he's always had a good rapport with Tony, so it wasn't shocking that he tipped Tony off about the ordered hits. But what is strange is that Harris has all this information even though he's supposedly working the terror detail. Phil Leotardo himself said it last night. There are five families, and the New Jersey gang is just a pygmy outfit. Even more damning, Tony's never done time. Tony's not a big prize, but the Feds have been putting a case together against him, and Harris just buttered him up. Do they want Tony alive merely so they can offer him a deal? As Kupferberg alluded to this episode, sopranos are singers. And Tony has enough dirt on the NY crew to sing an opera.

How about that scene where Dr. Melfi broke up with him? So unprofessional! Such a scream! Her bitchy therapist Kupferberg finally got through to her. But we all know it wasn't in her best interest. His smug satisfaction and jealousy over her prize patient couldn't contain itself. You'd think therapists would be better at masking their true emotions. But he had to commit the cardinal sin of revealing Tony's identity in a crowded room, even while admonishing her for being immoral and unsafe for treating him. And yet -- the peer pressure and humiliation worked. Finally, with a tainted eye, Jen, not Dr. Melfi, but Jen sat in bed and read the paper about treating sociopaths.

And it most surely was Jennifer, not Dr. Melfi, who dumped Tony in session. They've had their spats before, and it's at those times that her professional veneer gets thin and her personal interests become transparent. It wasn't a doctor dismissing a patient, but a woman dismissing a man who'd disappointed her. Pissed off that he'd "defaced her reading material" in the waiting room! Him, clueless about what's really eating her, asking if she was being hostile because he'd made that crack about her being divorced!

And of course, all his righteous indignation and seething was kept to a minimum as he cockily replaced the steak recipe into her defaced "Departures" magazine in the waiting room before leaving. It's not exactly the ending of "Casablanca", but these two star-and-gun-crossed, would-be lovers have finally parted. And it ended with a bigger dose of reality than cinema breakups generally hold, meeting the same fate as most tragic couples do: Neither one is wiser or better for the experience, really. They're just worn out, beat up, and let down from the whole thing.

Also speaking of things that aren't very rewarding, there's AJ. Even though Melfi chastised Tony about his preferred method of parenting, wanting to stick his foot up AJ's ass, by asking him if he was a better man for "having several assorted pairs of wingtips and loafers inserted into his lower bowels" (I'm gonna miss Melfi the most!), AJ tripped Tony's triggers at the wrong time. Tony basically pleaded for AJ to grow up and be responsible for a short time, but AJ was stuck in his terror-minded, selfish myopia and made his Uncle Bobby's death and his father's potential murder all about his own depression and inability to "maintain", and so Tony gave in and finally dragged him out of bed and screamed at him to pack his bags.

Frankly? I thought it was long overdue. Though wingtips being forcefully inserted up my lower bowels weren't the most happy experiences of my life, I needed it at times.

I was happy to see Rosalee Aprile at least one last time. She's Carmela's Silvio. Even though she's been through the shit, with a dead husband, murdered son, and then "gone missing" boyfriend, she, unlike AJ, has been able to "maintain" and also stick by Carm's side no matter what. Is she a reflection of Carm's future? No longer the queen of the family, but no longer encumbered by those trappings, either. Free and breezy to enjoy a trip to Paris without being haunted by visions of dead friends?

Phil Leotardo, he's gone into hiding, same as Tony. However, there are glaring differences between their situations. Phil is still insulated and safe. His crew was given orders and so far, they've been successful. Meanwhile, Tony's "glorified crew" from New Jersey has bungled their jobs and paid the price. Paulie accepts responsibility, but in the end, does that really matter?

Tony is left to fight for his life -- and not much else. His family is destroyed, his friends have either forsaken him or are dead, there's no one left to keep the faith, and is what he's fighting for all that righteous anymore?

There's a saying that comes from the opera -- It's not over until the fat lady sings. Well, right now, on this show, she's backstage, clearing her throat. Or is possibly a fat man named Soprano, laying on a bed, holding a shotgun, who's getting ready to belt one out before the curtain falls?


Myfanwy Collins said...


Don Capone said...

The writers are doing something that I love. The entire run of this show we were made to root for Tony and his crew, despite the fact that they were all clearly sociopaths. Tony was the lead character, we saw things from his POV, everything revolved around him. It still does, but now, suddenly he and his family are the hunted ones, the weak ones, and the stronger family is poised to take over. We see the Sopranos mob family for what they really are: criminals, killers. They are all meeting the fate they always knew awaited them, and the writers are not letting them (or us) off easy. Maybe Tony survives, but like Susan said, what does he have left?

Anonymous said...


I can tell the way you write about The Sopranos that you are as passionate about the show as I am. Hell, you have to be even more in love with it because you're Italian to boot. I'm right there with ya, and I feel both your excitement and sadness about the show's approaching conclusion.

Along with Syl and Christofuh and Bobby, I'm going to miss the whole Sopranos family and crew. I love Arte Bucco too, and wish he had a bigger role this season. And then there's Janice--oh dear, dear, conniving, passive aggressive, always seeking a fine line bewteen eternal bliss and her own internal bitch, Janice. What a great character she is! I'll miss her every hooded glance and scorned lip twitch. And Carmella Soprano! My gawd, the mobster's wife in denial who is finally out of the closet and at peace with the thug life that came with her thug husband, but who still wants to go back in the closet by telling Arte and Charmaine that her daughter Meadow has given up medicine and is now studying CONSTITUTIONAL law! Omg, what frikken hoot Carm is! Never quite at peace with the truth about her life OR the fantasy she concocts for herself. I wouldn't want to marry Carm (I can't afford to buy her a new mink every time I want to get laid) but I will miss her dearly. And oh shit, I'm already missing Johnny Sack. I'll never forget the episode where he is sitting on the toilet with the door wide open, smoking a cigarette and talking casually talking about life and business with Tony, but when he's not on the pot and they're both standing outside, Johnny becomes worried again about appearing undignified. How very fucking old school, indeed! And don't even get me started on Paulie ffing Walnuts! That guy will survive in my mind by the skin of his nuts for the rest of my life, for saying lines like, "Check out the stems on, Blondie. It's good to be young." Yes, Paulie, it is.

And by the way, Paulie, how the hell did you end up sending those imported hitmen to the wrong fucking address? Oops, right? Ya know, Syl, he actually began to sweat there a bit towards the end. But you sure do seem to be kind of relaxed during this final shitstorm, Mr. Walnuts. By the skin of your nuts? Hmm...

But no matter how it ends, and who betrays who, Mr. Chase has given us, the audience, quite a gift with his story and all these wonderful characters. They're part of us forever now, and that's good enough. It's been a fun ride. And after next week, the beginning of withdrawal.

Fantastic blogging as ever Susan!

J. Scales