Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch...

Today's column reviews the first two episodes of "The Sopranos," though I'm pretty vague on detail since Sopranos Rewind will be back for all that spoilery overanalysis beginning Monday:
Give Team Soprano two weeks before you make up your mind about the new season.

It's not that Sunday night's premiere is bad. If anything, it's a superb refresher of what makes Tony Soprano tick, as well as the deepest look we've ever had at Tony and Janice's childhood and their current relationship.

But after spending most of last season fielding complaints about the sluggish pace and focus on minor characters like Eugene Pontecorvo and Artie Bucco, I imagine the premiere -- a leisurely hour set largely at Bobby Bacala's cabin in the Adirondacks and featuring only four significant characters -- will lead to New Jersey's 911 operators getting overloaded Sunday night with calls of exploding heads, steam escaping ears, teeth being ground down to dust, etc.

So, before I can preview the new season in more detail or look back on the merits and flaws of the last one, I should say up front that episode two is more quintessentially "Sopranos," with use of virtually every major character (save, I think, Uncle Junior), mob intrigue, black humor and, yes, whacking. (Though there's some of that in the premiere.) If the premiere drives you nuts, know that something more your speed will be coming quickly.
To read the full thing, click here.


Adam said...

Whichever character believes in the "all fines accumulate at Free Parking" is correct.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Just be careful where and how forcefully you voice that opinion, Adam. It's apparently a controversial one.

TL said...

The free parking jackpot is a house rule, but is not part of the official rules.

Anonymous said...

"It's a brilliant illustration of just what a monster Tony can be, no matter how much we try to like him. . ."
Does this mean "New Tony" is finally being laid to rest? (It's a joke! I jest!)

I don't get this notion that Chase and the writers seem to hold that plot and character analysis must necessarily be inversely proportional. We've seen that assumption not to be true with The Wire, as well as other shows in the David Simon canon. Even movies that are meant to be character studies (e.g., "Mouchette," which I watched recently) can have interesting plots as well.

Ultimately, most of Chase's problems with the fans are self-created. Yes, Chase has said that the Pine Barrens episode was meant to be a stand-alone, but starting probably in season 3, the show has been inconsistant about whether we should expect developments to carry over to future episodes or not. Sometimes events carry forward; sometimes they don't -- almost arbitrarily.

Fan frustrations with season 6-A stem from the fact that the show has gone on too long (for financial reasons). Chase and the writers have run out of interesting things to say about these characters. Let's face it: Tony's psychological makeup is not that complicated and has been more or less fully explored. So in season 6-A, we got plot lines that were recycled or just repeated, and for originality, the writers looked to "Brokeback Mountain" and various dream/afterlife episodes of "MASH." It sounds like the first episode of 6-B is "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" with the names changed.

I'll keep watching this year because I want to see what happens, but as has been said regarding "Lost," if there's not going to be "big" plot developments, each individual episode should be entertaining. Too many episodes in 6-A did not meet this standard.

Anonymous said...

That long, rambling post was mine, by the way.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Paul, I see what you're saying, and I don't necessarily disagree. (Getting back to the Good-Looking Corpse discussion from last week, I think "The Sopranos" would have been much better off if Chase had stuck to his insistence on only doing five seasons and planned accordingly.)

That said, I would say both these episodes live up to your "but are they entertaining?" standard, especially the second one, which showcases my favorite unheralded actor of the series, Vince Curatola as Johnny Sack.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember what I was doing last week, but I managed to miss that thread. Interesting debate.

Anonymous said...

The only great ep last season was when Carm went to Paris. the show has been dreadfully boring for years with little to no bright sposts since at least end of the 2nd season. It is a cash cow and Chase and co. don't have the balls to stop sucking at the tit. truly sad, because of this, "the wire" only gets a 10 ep last season (though you know those 10 eps will KILL!), Deadwood and Carnivale get canceleld before the time and HBO refuses to do one show that sounds even interesting.