Monday, May 2, 2011

The Sopranos, season 3, proper.

Every show has a golden season, usually right in the middle of its run, where the writers, actors, and producers just really seem to be on . . . Season 3 of The Sopranos is the golden one; nothing can or will ever top it. If you don't see any other episodes of the show, see these, because they are A-number one, y'all. Ready?

The FBI takes almost an entire episode to plant a microphone in Tony's basement (nice sound mixing, The Police/Peter Gunn Theme); Adriana bends over in the world's shortest tennis dress. Livia and Tony are back on speaking terms ("don't wave your hanky at me!"), but only briefly, as she kicks the proverbial bucket in episode two. Carmella speaks the truth about Livia during a memorial at the house; everyone uncomfortably agrees that the woman was basically horrible. Christopher gets made; Meadow dates a young man who happens to be African-American. Dr. Melfi is raped, and while her ex-husband fumes over her assailant's Italian surname, Jennifer yearns for Tony to seek revenge. Junior has cancer; his chemotherapy causes him much discomfort. Ralph Cifaretto impregnates a young stripper whom he later beats to death. Tony takes up with Mercedes saleswoman Gloria Trillo, Carmella gets lots of guilt-jewelry. There is tension with the Russians, first the man who assaulted Janice and later the six-foot ex-commando whose universal remote Paulie shattered; Paulie and Chris spend an unpleasant evening in the middle of the Blair-Witch forest in January as they try (unsuccessfully) to hunt the guy down. Anthony Junior is a fuck-up, but less so than Jackie Junior. Jackie Junior gives Meadow ecstasy, bangs her, lies to Tony, carries a gun, shows up at crew gambling parties, gets lap dances, is worthless at Scrabble, cheats on Meadow, does crank, shoots up one of Ralphie's card games, is beaten in chess by a six-year-old, and basically proves he is without a doubt the dumbest man to walk the earth. The season ends at Jackie's funeral.

New Characters:

Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri (Steven R. Schirripa), assistant to Junior Soprano, reluctant wearer of Santa Suit for Bada Bing family Christmas party. He made appearances in the last season but got a lot more screen time this time around. Unfortunately takes a lot of abuse, mostly because of his weight, but is probably the kindest man of any crew.

Gloria Trillo (Annabella Sciorra). Mix between Glenn Close's Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction and ("Oh! Poor You!") you guessed it, Livia Soprano. Extremely unstable. Patsy Parisi cautions her to stay away from Tony, stating: "The last thing you see (on this Earth) will be my face. It won't be cinematic." Uncomfortable, but nicely played. We'll see how that one pans out in season 4, yeah?

Jackie Aprile, Junior (Jason Cerbone). This entire character *slays* me. WHAT. DID YOU. THINK. WOULD. HAPPEN. YOU. IDIOT? But again, extremely well played. If I wanted to get philosophical, I'd say that the Mafia's decline can be attributed to generational ("army of one?") issues such as with this guy right here. I think Dirty Harry said it best, "You don't listen, do you, asshole." (Statement, not question), and that was in the seventies.

Johnny "Sack" Sacramoni (Vincent Curatola). Underboss of Carmine Lupertazzi's New York crew, relocated with his wife, Ginny, to New Jersey. Good at stirring up controversy and playing guys against each other, despite assurances of not wanting to stick his beak in. I love that they call him Johnny Sack. And that he hides from his wife to smoke, "Ginny thinks I quit."

Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano). Man, what a nut job. And the hair is really difficult to handle. But also, a very instrumental character in the season's crazy, exciting events. He's just smarmy and unpleasant. Yuck.

The focus on Season Three was obviously big on story and less so on style and film technique, although there are some really nice thematic things going on and the music was killer as always. Steve Buscemi directed the outstanding, "Pine Barrens," where Paulie and Chris hunt the Russian in the snow, and it was extremely visceral and well done. The foreshadowing of Jackie Junior's demise during the chess game was nice, too: Michael K. Williams (OMAR from The Wire!) says, "I think you're done for," as his young daughter makes her move, "look at the way she's developing her knights," just as Tony and Ralph have carefully developed knights of their own to move in on Jackie.

It's all really, really well done; definitely my favorite season.