Sopranos: Sixth Season Part 2
On January 10th, 1999 something happened that changed television forever. HBO premiered a new crime drama, the Sopranos. While there have been many television series and films about life in organized crime this one took the concept into a previously unimagined direction. The crime boss, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) was wealthy and powerful. He also suffered from anxiety disorder and began to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). Torn between his two families, the ‘normal’ one and his crime syndicate, Tony showed a more human side to the mob than ever before. HBO instantly became the leading channel on cable. Millions of households subscribed just to watch this series. Every Monday morning fans would gather at the water coolers all over the world to discuss the latest episode. The series was also known for it’s much longer than usual breaks, some lasting longer than the season. Normally, fans would lose interest and the series would be dead. Not so with the Sopranos, the audience would wait patiently for the next new episode. All of a sudden mob related terms became part of the pop culture lexicon. Phrases from the series became normal, everyday usage. Every comedy show around would run a parody. Never before has a television series had the impact this one did. It was announced that the sixth and final season would be split in two. The first half would consist of 12 episodes ending on June 4th, 2006. The last 9 episodes would not start until April of the following year. Everyone waited with baited breath to see how the last episode would play out. Would it show Tony finally killed? Would he go to jail? Perhaps he would get to live happily ever after with his family. Series creator David Chase was well known for his twists and almost surreal sequences. It was not altogether unexpected that the last minutes of the series would be something that would become part of television history. Now, HBO brings the final episodes of this ground breaking series to DVD and we can all complete our collections.
As this part of the season opens Tony and Carmela (Edie Falco) are enjoying a nice country weekend with his sister Janet (Aida Turturro) and her husband Bobby (Steve Schirripa), one of Tony’s captains. A fight breaks out and the two come to blows. Tony knows that Bobby may be a made guy but he has never had to kill anyone. He sends Bobby to perform a hit in Canada. The audience is lead to believe that Bobby left evidence behind and the Feds will be after him any minute. This is just one of many examples of misdirection contained in these final episodes. Chase is telling us right off the bat that nothing is going to be how you expect. Tony’s main rival, John "Johnny Sack" Sacrimoni (Vince Curatola), is serving time in a federal prison. He is also dying of cancer. Holding the reigns of the New York mob is Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent) who is still holding a deadly grudge against Tony. Even with those closest to Tony things are beginning to break down. Tony’s trusted Consigliere Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) is ill and feels he is not ready for an all out war between New York and New Jersey. One of Tony’s oldest friends and must trusted captains, Paul "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri (Tony Sirico) he getting worse with his habit of telling old war stories to anyone that will listen. Tony feels that the time is coming when Paulie has to go. Even Tony’s cousin Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) becomes a liability. He has fallen off the wagon and started to take drugs again.
Tony is not able to find much relief at home. Carmela is worried about the house she built to start up a real estate business. Their son A.J. (Robert Iler) was involved with an older Hispanic woman, Blanca (Dania Ramirez) who has a young son. While Tony and Carmela are glad to see A.J. is finally moving towards responsibility their prejudice is against any union. When Blanca dumps A.J. he spirals into a deep depression and becomes involved with some friends also from mob families. They are the next generation already involved in book making but unlike the older mobsters they are unwilling to hold to any established rules. Tony’s daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) has become romantically involved with the son of any mob boss. Both want to turn their backs on the family business and remain civilians. Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) is still suffering from dementia only the money is running out and he is moved to a less than ideal State sponsored facility. For years Dr. Melfi has been a place for Tony to go to try to regain his balance. After years of treatment that does not seem to have gone as far as it should she decides to break their therapy.
Chase has set so many possible scenarios in play that anything could happen. Instead of a lot of whacking, many of the old crooks fall to natural circumstances. Time has taken its toll and even the most powerful mob boss can die from medical causes. True to form the show went out with controversy. It is only fitting since this series has broken so much ground anything else would have disappointed at least some major portion of the audience. Unless you have been on assignment in deep space for the last year you know how the series ended. Millions of people got up to check their cable connections as the screen went black. People protested that there was no ending. I have to disagree and here’s why. A cat featured prominently in the last few episodes. Go to a search engine and look up Schrödinger's cat. Basically it is a quantum physics thought experiment where a cat is both alive and dead at the same time. This is the brilliance of the last moments of the series. Forever Tony will be in that state of quantum uncertainty. Instead of going one way or another he can be in any condition you can imagine. If you want to think that the man in the ‘Member’s Only’ jacket came out of the bathroom and killed Tony, sure, that happened. If you think the he went on eating onion rings with the family then that’s okay as well. By leaving the ending open you can let your imagination run wild. Chase has succeeded in doing what few television creators have managed to do. He has ended one of the most popular series with an ending that will frustrate and please everybody. He has given us a piece of television history that will remain for a long time. If you can’t make everybody happy then keep them all guessing. Whether you liked the ending or not the odds are you were talking about it for a while afterwards.
HBO has given us a fond goodbye to this series. Like the others the DVD box set is exemplary in its standards. The anamorphic 1.78:1 is perfect. The Dolby 5.1 audio brings every nuance of the sound track to life. When you purchase this set you not only finish your collection but you are adding a piece of pop culture history to your home.