26 November 2011

"The Sopranos" The Complete Fourth Season

The Sopranos The Complete Fourth Season
Starring James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Drea De Matteo, Aida Turturro, Federico Castelluccio, John Ventimiglia, Vincent Curatola, Steven R. Schirripa, Katherine Narducci and Joe Pantoliano
Created by David Chase
DVD Released: 28 October 2003
List Price: $49.99
800 Minutes

The fourth season of The Sopranos is the one that has hit home the most for me in my recent revisiting of the series. Tony's contentious relationship with Ralph eventually leads to what is still one of the greatest fight scenes I've ever seen in TV or film. Johnny Sack, underboss to Carmine Luppertazzi, is drawn into the conflict after learning of a wisecrack made by Ralph at the expense of John's wife, Ginny. He also fans the flames between Tony and Carmine, manipulating all parties.

Throughout this subplot of the season, I found Tony a rather sympathetic character. Who among us hasn't had our work lives made miserable by other people? How often have we had to defend people we wanted to slap ourselves, because our position required it of us? In my personal life of late, I have found myself alternately frustrated by the behavior of other people as well as being forced to be diplomatic on behalf of others. I know how badly Tony must have wanted Johnny and Ralph to kill one another, just to be rid of their drama. He wanted to side with Johnny, but had to side with his own underling to keep the respect of the rest of his captains. Who hasn't been in that situation?

Moreover, there's the conflict at home. Tony is oblivious to it, but his wife Carmela and his enforcer Furio have begun to lust for one another, each of them dangerously close to acting on their desires. Beneath even that lust, though, is a growing dissatisfaction within Carmela concerning her marriage to Tony. Cognizant of her own vulnerability through her complete dependence on Tony, Carmela begins pushing for a change in the family's financial situation to ensure her security in the event something should happen to her husband. It's easy to see Carmela's perspective, yet as series creator David Chase notes in his commentary to the finale, "Whitecaps," Tony is not entirely at fault for their conflict. He has valid complaints of his own for a change.

I haven't been a cheating mob boss, but I can admit that my inability to manage my depression for the last year has been the epicenter of most of my personal life drama. It would certainly be easier for me to accept my current situation if I had been a serial cheater; at least then I could hang my head in complete shame and know that I made choices that led us here. My physiology, however, is an entirely different critter than an absence of moral fortitude. Still, there were arguments made by Carmela that cut me to the quick...and some made by Tony that I silently cheered. I clearly could not relate to their subplot the first time through in the way that I can relate now.

It's not all doom and gloom for Tony, though. He becomes involved with a race horse, Pie-o-My, and discovers a passion for not just racing but this specific horse. As I reflect on this last year, I can see the various Pie-o-My's in my life--little things, mostly, like blogging, comic books and Flickchart--that managed to distract me from my stress and depression from time to time. Watching Tony enjoy being around Pie-o-My reminded me, for instance, of how excited I was when Natasha Badhwar and later Jeri Ryan shared a link to my post "On Depression," and the flurry of reactions that I received. Or even just the minor thrill I got discussing the DC Comics relaunch with other comic book fans...fleeting and entirely trivial, but it was really just the ability to momentarily get lost in something entirely unrelated to my woes that meant so much to me. I understood this time around just what Pie-o-My meant to Tony.
Did I use the past tense to talk about Pie O My?
As a TV season, I have to say this is one of the finest. I rated every episode at least 4-stars, and I found several 5-star episodes, too--including the last five episodes of the season. The fight between Tony and Ralph is stunning; the awkward dinner Meadow has with her friends and her parents; Bobby Baccala's heartbreaking grief; the intervention for Christopher; the disintegration of Tony and Carmela's relationship...These are the kinds of situations that we all face--or desire, in one way or another--and it is again a reminder that The Sopranos was great not because it glorified the criminal life but because it gave us a new way into looking at ourselves.

On an entirely personal note, the episode "Everybody Hurts" really unnerved me. In this episode, Tony boils over with rage after learning that his last girlfriend, Gloria, has committed suicide...and his longtime friend Artie Bucco nearly succumbs to it himself after getting into debt with Tony. I haven't really processed that episode's effect on me, but I can assure you that was a very troubling episode for me to watch.

First Season | Second Season | Third Season | Fifth Season | Season Six, Part I | Season Six, Part II

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