God, I don't even know where to start. Wait, of course I do. Let's start with Tommy smacking around his ex-wife, forcing her onto the couch and raping her until she gets into it. Seems a notable event, dontcha think?
On the one hand, Tommy and Janet's have had a dysfunctional relationship since the start of the series, one bound up in anger and mutual self-loathing, so in the context of everything the show has done, I can believe that she might start to enjoy it. But the show has such a pattern of misogyny and pathetic characterizations of women -- in one sequence, Tommy took successive phone calls from Janet the shrew, Sheila the doormat, Maggie the alcoholic bitchy skank and Mrs. Turbody the sexual predator -- that I don't care whether it was consistent or not. It made me uncomfortable and unhappy in a way even the most extreme TV and film almost never does.
As I've said in the past, there's a difference between letting your characters have a despicable point of view and letting the show as a whole have it. The men on "The Sopranos" do evil things all the time, but the writers never try to suggest that, say, Paulie was perfectly justified in smothering an old lady to death so he could steal the money under her mattress. But when Tommy marches out of Janet's apartment, having no doubt just produced the Gavin heir he was struggling to create at the sperm bank, the tone of the show was just as triumphant and unrepentant as the look on Tommy's face.
I'm not saying I'm done with the show yet, since I had already accepted it as a brilliant comedy and a deeply flawed drama, but I think I may have to start treating it the way I did "ER" back when I was still watching it. This was a couple of years into the Maura Tierney era, and the writers had turned Abby into such a pill that I would TiVo the show and then fast-forward anytime she appeared on screen. At this stage, I may have to start skipping over any "Rescue Me" scene that isn't all-male.
And even there, it's not always safe. Probie's "I'm not gay but you kind of are" was just embarrassing. When "The Sopranos" did the Gay Vito storyline, it was an obvious attempt to have some fun at a supporting actor's expense, but the show also took it seriously. Vito was gay, he was conflicted about it, he did find some measure of happiness with Johnny Cakes but they also fought, he went into denial about it to get back into his old life, etc. This was just about making Mike Lombardi squirm, and the tone of this week's scene in no way matched last week's closer where Probie and his buddy rested their heads against each other for comfort after a tough day. Plus, the roommate may be an even more pathetic caricature than any of the women on this show. Ugh.
Some other random thoughts:
- The reason I haven't given up on the show yet is for scenes like Lou and the bum arguing over who gets to touch the third rail first -- and the bum realizing that Lou's life is worse than his. Now that's the blend of comedy and pathos that the show does so well, and it worked because Lou is a fully-realized character, and so well played by John Scurti.
- Good opening scene with the bus -- one of the more extended on-the-job scenes we've had in a while -- and if you ever questioned whether Al Sharpton was anything but a publicity hound, his willingness to play himself in a scene that makes his usual shtick seem self-aggrandizing and foolish should put that doubt to rest.
- On the one hand, I'm glad the show hasn't forgotten that Franco doesn't have legal custody of his daughter, since in the real world that would come back to bite him eventually. On the other, I worry that Susan Sarandon's going to be the one doing the biting, just as she's turning out to be the only decent female character on the show.
- This was the first episode of the season that I watched live on FX, including the previews. Do they always seemingly give away so much of the next episode? I feel like I just watched the trailer to a Robert Zemeckis movie and don't need to go buy a ticket.