16 November 2011

"The Sopranos" The Complete Second Season

The Sopranos The Complete Second Season
Starring James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Vincent Pastore, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Drea De Matteo, David Proval, Aida Turtorro and Nancy Marchand
Created by David Chase
DVD Release Date: 6 November 2001
List Price: $49.99
696 Minutes

"The Richie Aprile Season." Throughout the second season, Tony (Gandolfini) is harangued by an FBI task force intent on bringing him down, drama from his sister Janice (Turtorro) and then there's Richie Aprile (Proval)--fresh out of prison and driven by a massive chip on his shoulder. This is to say nothing of the residual conflicts from the first season, chiefly the antagonistic relationship between Tony and his mother (Marchand) and Uncle Junior (Chianese), who conspired to have him killed...or suspicion over Big Pussy's (Pastore) whereabouts.

Next to the first season, this is the one I've watched the most; I rented it on DVD from Netflix back in the day, then re-watched it later with my wife once I got her into the show and now this third time through. Plus, I re-watched a few episodes the first time around when various friends would pop in so I've seen some episodes four times. It's a busy season, but I confess that this time around I was struck by how much less cohesive it is than the first season.

In many ways, it seems that the central question to the second season was: "What next?" and that it was asked as much of the creators as the characters. The real strength of the second season is that we see a lot of growth from the three younger characters: Christopher (Imperioli), Meadow (Sigler) and A.J. (Iler) all begin to come into their own. Most of us either went through similar phases of growth ourselves, or perhaps we were there when others went through them--a friend, a sibling, perhaps now as a parent--so again, the strength of the series is that its storytelling taps into universal experiences. For instance, A.J. questions the existence of God and the futility of life. I can still recall how great an epiphany that felt like for me the first time I had those doubts. It felt like I had grown into true vision and was no longer an ignorant child.

As for the DVD release, there are four commentary tracks and two brief featurettes. None of this content is remotely as insightful as the dialog between David Chase and Peter Bogdanovich on The Complete First Season box set and I have to confess I was pretty disappointed by the bonus content here.

I don't know if it's because of my state of mind this time through or what, but I found that The Complete Second Season hasn't held up as well for me as the first season. It's worth noting, I'm sure, that before I began making my way through it this time I had learned that my marriage was going to end. It's hard to really get into much of anything amid something like that so perhaps this season is fine and I would have been hard to win over regardless of what I watched in the last few days.

Yet, I'm aware that perhaps this was the right season for me at this time. It questions how we adapt to a changing status quo and God knows my status quo is changing! In some instances, we adapt by trying to reestablish the status quo and in other instances all we can do is forge a new one. I must now do the latter. Who knows? Perhaps my new status quo will involve wire taps, busted kneecaps and a visit to Italy.

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