IT'S NOT a dream. It's Purgatory.
When I had my annual summit with "Sopranos" creator David Chase a few weeks ago, I complimented him on having the onions to put a major dream sequence like this so early in the season, considering how many fans complain about the dreams.
"I, frankly, would not call those (episode two scenes) dreams," he said, which sent me scurrying back to watch my DVD over and over again, until (with some help from my wife) I got it.
Here Tony's stuck in Orange County, quite possibly the most personality-free corner of the world, with no way to leave (a k a Purgatory). On one end of town is a shining beacon (Heaven), on the other, a raging forest fire (Hell). Over and over, he stops to assess the worth of his own life, asking, "Who am I? Where am I going?"
Then he steals the identity (sin) of Kevin Finnerty -- a heating salesman who lives in one of the hottest states of the union (Arizona) -- checks into another hotel, and falls down a red staircase, at which point he learns he has Alzheimer's (eternal damnation). And while Carmela's busy in the real world telling him he's not going to Hell, Tony's in Purgatory debating whether to tell his wife this is exactly the fate he has in store.
To read the rest of the review, click here, then come back to comment. I'm a lot more curious about reaction to this one than I was about the premiere.