Monday, May 22, 2006

Batts all, folks!

"The Sopranos," episode 11. From today's review:

Hey, it could have been worse. Fat Dom could have told Carlo to go home and get his shine box.

"The Sopranos" cast has so many "Goodfellas" alums that the writers can't help but pay occasional homage. In season one, it was Christopher shooting that baker in the toe, and last night it was Carlo and Sil's virtual re-creation of the taunting-inspired murder of Billy Batts -- played by smilin' Frank Vincent, the man at the center of this new mess.

This is very, very bad what these two did. Phil can get away with killing one of Tony's captains because Vito was marked for death anyway and because, hey, he's the boss of New York. Even if Tony wanted to go to the mattresses, he doesn't have the manpower to do it. But if/when Phil -- who's wanted Jersey blood since the Tony B. thing -- figures out what happened, he can rain five boroughs worth of fury down on Tony and what the late Carmine called "a glorified crew."

As Tony drove away from Satriale's, you could see him figuring out exactly how much trouble he's in. And after he finished that mental calculus, what's the first thing he did? He called his construction buddy to get AJ a job, because he knows he may not have much time left to straighten the kid out. (The shakycam scene in the garage, where Tony's desire to help AJ battled mightily against his impulse to smash his face through that windshield, was one of James Gandolfini's finest moments.)

And while Tony was realizing how small and vulnerable he is compared to New York, half a world away, Carmela was having her own sense of self smashed to bits. In Caldwell, she may be hot stuff, but when she sees France with all its treasures and history, she realizes she's just another insignificant speck, and that "it all gets washed away."

To read the rest, click here. Then come back to comment.


Louis said...

Did you find the scene of Vito's kids reading the newspaper report particularly touching, or am I just a sucker?

Marsha said...

Then I'm a sucker too, Louis. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut by that one.

Alan, thanks for showing me that i'd never make it as a TV writer. You see all sorts of stuff that I never understand until I read your column...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Here's a third vote for "touching." The show is often very effective at showing the impact this stuff has on completely innocent characters (usually kids).

Thanks, Marsha. This is a job that, on paper, anybody could do, so I always have to dig deeper to separate myself from the 300 million other Americans with a couch and a remote.

Anonymous said...

Alan - While I find that you rarely separate yourself out from the other 300 million tv watchers, something about the Sopranos brings out the most insightful in you.

Maybe its because its the show that deserves the most insight.

How insightful can you really be about Grey's Anatomy?

Did you watch Desperate Hos? Two hours of dreadful silliness. Awful.

Brian said...

What was your take on Phil's reaction to everything? First the closeup on him gripping the sheets during Vito's murder, and then the later shot of Phil wide awake in bed were obviously supposed to signify something, but I wasn't sure how to interpret them, especially the shot of Phil in bed.

dez said...

I couldn't tell if Phil was enjoying Vito's torment in a sick way, or if he was feeling uncomfortable because it could easily be him in Vito's place (he was in the joint for a long time, after all, and a guy's gotta go whatever boys do when there aren't any women around!). I can't tell what's up with Phil, but I'll say he's evenly matched with that harpy of a wife of his!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, Brian, lots of possibilities, including:

-Phil did that thing in the can that you get a pass on, and he's only going after Vito because of his wife, and the brutal murder has made him uncomfortable;

-Phil did that thing in the can that you get a pass on and hates himself for it, and he's taking it out on vito;

-Phil kept with the band of the hand in the can and his outrage over Vito is entirely genuine, and he was gripping the mattress because he was enjoying it.

Plus many others. There are times when I definitely feel like I overanalyze the show; I got an e-mail from one of the writers telling me that the Fat Dom scene was not intended as an homage to the "go get your fucking shinebox!" scene from Goodfellas. (Bacala's model train through the tunnel last week, on the other hand? Absolutely a North by Northwest gag.)

Brian said...

Thanks. It's amazing how many people on the TWOP boards are convinced that the Fat Dom scene was a Shinebox reference, too.

Laughed out loud at the 'band of the hand' line, I'd never heard that.

bill komissaroff said...

Anyone else feeling like the Vito/J-Cakes/New Hampshire sojourn was kind of a waste of time?

Steve said...

The note from the writer on Fat Dom's death not being a homage is suprising to me. I thought that Vito's death also paralleled the end of Joe Pesci in Casino, where Vincent also betrayed the victim and beat him to death.

Maybe Vincent's just been in a lot of violent stuff over the years.