Sopranos: The Complete Second Season
Even as the forth season is filming and the first three seasons are in repeats on HBO, the release of the complete second season of the Sopranos on DVD as been widely anticipated. There is good reason for this excitement; this is one of the best-produced series on television. The second season picks up a little while after the first ended. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is now the boss of the mob family to everyone but the FBI. For that dubious distinction he allows his fathers brother, Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) to take the rap. Tonys hippy sister Janice (Aida Turturro) also returns home, with her own agenda, of course. She has her eyes on a fortune her mother inferred was hidden in her home. Fresh out of prison is Ritchie (David Proval) the brother of a former boss. He is well past loose cannon and well on to psychotic. He demands his own turf back and is constantly butting heads with poor Tony. Adding to all these problems is the return of Tonys lieutenant Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore). Pus is working for the feds and is often wired. While the FBI is hot on Tonys heels his family life is a roller coaster. His wife Camilla (Edie Falco) is flirting with the house painter, his daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) is hanging out with kids that drink and drug and his son AJ (Robert Iler) has discovered existentialism. It is little wonder that Tony returns to his psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). Melfi is back from a narrow escape from the mob and has a definite emotional problem with taking Tony back. She is afraid but seems to be addicted to the rush. This mix of a soap opera and the Godfather will hold your attention through the 13 episodes. What is interesting is these are not nice people; they are killers yet you are compelled to keep watching. Perhaps the audience can identify best with Melfi, hating the things they do but mesmerized by their lives. America has had such a fascination with the Mob. Just look at the popularity of films like Godfather (well at least one and two) and the Goodfellows. Between this release and the recent release of the Godfather trilogy you can enjoy a mafia month of viewing.
The acting here is far above what has become standard for TV. Even considering the catch phrase of the cable station, Its not television, its HBO; this ensemble cast works so well together the viewer can tell they are all devoted to the project. Gandolfini avoids the normal pitfalls of playing a mafia boss, while he remains strong and in charge he can switch to a devoted father in an instant. There is one touching scene where he has disappointed his son by missing the last swim meet of the season. Tony takes a pizza up to the boy and what follows is a father son moment worthy of any screenplay. Falco as the long-suffering wife is incredible. With just a glance she can convey more emotion than most actors can with the best written dialogue. The writers have not relegated the ancillary characters to filler or background. Each character is fully developed and the audience gets enough background on them to care. Rather than display these characters as just parts to fill a certain sub plot they interact on an emotional level.
There are numerous directors taking on the formidable task of presenting this show. While that often results in a lot of discontinuity for a series here it adds several different perspectives. Since each episode focuses on a different aspect of Tonys life having several directors helps in presenting various viewpoints. What remains consistent here is the quality. Each director permitted to take the helm seems dedicated to providing the best show possible. In the second season the plots take a increasingly bizarre twist. Dreams are intermingled with reality without the usual clichés of waving the picture, black and white views or the like. In each episode the placing is perfect. The vast amount of expository material and background is seamlessly inserted between scenes of intense action and drama.
The disc is extremely well done. The audio list listed as 5.1 Dolby but the use of the sub woofer is extremely light. It is mostly utilized for a loud hit or the opening and closing music. The video is crisp and clear. Every detail is pristine. You can see the victims sweat on his brow as the hit man approaches. The title is listed as having a commentary track. This is confined to the episodes 4,9,12 and 13. The rest of the extra features are also light, two featurettes and web links. If you are a fan of this show this set is a most have. If you are interested in what others are talking about get this and the first season and get into a well written, directed and acted show.