Monday, April 23, 2007

Sopranos 6.15 "Remember When" notes

Tony dismisses "remember when..." as a the lowest form of conversation

There was the parallel stories of Tony and Paulie vs. "Anthony" and Junior. The kid admired Junior, was gratified in being drawn into his orbit and collaborating with him, compared him to his father, and became disenchanted with him in his age and weakness, and ultimately became homicidally rageful at him. Tony looked up to Paulie, being awed by him as a kid, also used Paulie as a vehicle to consider his relationship to is father, also became and continues become disenchanted with Paulie's flaws and mannerisms, becomes (almost) homicidally angry at him. I think the key to the episode is the difference between the two stories. What accounts for Tony's impulse control at the end (not killing Paulie), in contrast to the total lack of control shown by the kid who simply could not handle the severe disappointment with Junior?

Tony's a guy who, in the past 2 episodes, has been disappointed by Bobby and Chrissy (loved that he's still so embarassed by Cleaver that it "didn't occur to him" to bring a copy for Beansie, only a hat), and now he's disappointed by his own memories. Paulie's the guy he looked up to and idolized - sometimes wishing Paulie was his father, no less - and now he's just a doddering idiot who doesn't know when to shut up and barks laughter at Three's Company. Maybe there was an allusion to AJ in his underwear giggling at his instant messager to emphasize the point, but I sort of got the sense in that scene that Tony was thinking to himself, "I once wanted this buffoon to be my dad? I once wanted to BE this sad old guy?"

If Tony's current life is a result of hero-worshipping and wanting to emulate people like his dad and Paulie, and he understands now that the reality of Paulie is that he's imperfect almost to the point of being intolerable... then what does that imply about his dad? What was the point of these 25 years since he "made his bones"?

Junior appears to have accepted the equivalent of a chemical lobotomy in order to avoid a harsher facility.

From Slate: "Most telling is the fact that Carter Chong's subsequent violent flip-out is triggered when Uncle Junior fails to live up to his celebrity killer-mob-star status. Chong had wanted to become Uncle Junior's junior partner. When Uncle Junior agrees to numb himself out with meds, a disillusioned Chong violently attacks the Soprano mobster for this betrayal.

What that outburst suggests to me is that The Sopranos' creators are acknowledging that making violent goons whose whole lives are essentially one long killing spree—they don't kill 32 at a time, but they've probably killed a comparable number in their lifetime—seem so sympathetic, even in some ways admirable ("family" values, etc.), might have real-world consequences. As Chong's mother puts it, "You're becoming a bully," and it's because of "that gangster."

Almost as if in their final season they're engaging in what I would call laudable introspection, though some might see it as admitting to feeling guilt."

Maybe admitting guilt. Maybe criticizing that audience segment that watches the Sopranos mostly for the casual violence and are upset when it's not in an episode.