Monday, May 07, 2007

People Like Us

We’re beginning to understand where The Sopranos is headed. We always suspected that creator David Chase was carrying on his seven or eight-year dialogue with his audience from a conservative vantage---“conservative” in the obvious sense of “Why can’t things be like they used to?” as well as the more oblique “There are limits to man’s capacity for [insert noun here],” not “conservative” as in, say, “Dick Cheney,” who gives all you conservatives a bad name‑‑‑and now we’re (almost) certain of it.

Chase is winding it down by going even deeper and darker, to the point that “disturbing” is the only fit adjective for the last two episodes. He’s telling us that we, the audience, are the suckers and saps that a real-life Tony would consider us to be---if not as morally corrupt as the protagonists themselves---for making an emotional investment in his characters and even considering the possibility that there is something redeeming or endearing about Tony, Carmela (they’ve done their best by their kids!) and the rest.* The ceremonial masks of suburban New Jersey are off, the ancient teeth are bared. We’re reminded that these people are leeches, sociopaths, killers---and, as in life, no one seems particularly smart, or anywhere near as smart as they think they are (we always place our own personal self near the top of that list, right below Dick Cheney). When the screenwriter J.T. Dolan (who said he was working on a Law & Order script!) reminded a fallen-off-the-wagon Christopher that “You’re in the Mafia ...” in Sunday’s episode, Christopher drunkenly repaid his fellow 12-stepper for that bland but portentous observation by casually drilling him in the forehead with his 9 (he was aiming for Tony and missed).

Thanks, we needed that. We’re feeling better, and we expect to be on top of the world when Chase brings the curtain down four weeks from now.

*Our own bond with Tony was sealed in an early episode as he and feckless son A.J. struggled to change a flat on the side of the road. When A.J. whined that "maybe we should just call Triple-A," Tony set him straight: "In our family, we change our own tires."

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