|Index||5 reviews in total|
Another year, another finale, and just like its predecessors, Season
3's epilogue shows no signs of pandering to expectations: it's an
adult, tragic tale of retribution, lost hope and much more.
First things first: the fate of Jackie Jr. With his safety completely linked to Ralphie's decision, the poor kid's hours are numbered, and ten minutes into the episode Vito Spatafore (Joseph R. Gannascoli) sticks a bullet in his brains. The murder causes great sorrow, especially when it comes to Meadow, who starts drinking and being rude to everyone. As if that weren't enough, Tony also has to deal with his other heir: A.J. has been expelled from school for stealing a test, and is punished by being sent to a military academy.
Whereas the previous series ended with a major death (Pussy), Army of One gets that detail out of the way immediately, so that it can focus on the effect Jackie's premature demise has on those surrounding him: the funniest scene is arguably the one where Jackie's sister proves a lot smarter than the grown-ups by not believing the drug deal story and insisting her brother was clipped by "some fat f*ck in see-through socks" (pretty much Vito's profile). There is also (unintentional) humor in Anthony's face-to-face with Major Zwingli (Tobin "Jigsaw" Bell), head of the military academy, although the laughs actually make the scene more tense.
The show's biggest victory, however, lies in the perfectly structured final scene: for once (barring the series finale) it looks like one of the seasons ends on a cheerier note than usual (without giving away anything: Dominic Chianese's singing voice is beautiful), while in reality the almost lyrical atmosphere conceals a heap of silent despair. Bravo.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After a short stay at the Boonton Inn, Jackie Aprile meets his grisly
fate at the hands of rising star Vito Spatafore. The story agreed upon
is that he was killed in an ecstacy deal gone South in the projects.
Innkeeper Ray-Ray summarises Jackie Jr's life story succinctly after
the OG wannabe forfeits another chess match with Ray's promising young
daughter: "How you expect to win if you don't play it through?(it
wouldn't be the last time actor Michael K Williams would espouse such
sharp street parlay, playing the unforgettable Omar in HBO's 'The Wire'
just less than a year later)" Tony no longer feels obliged to his
predecessor and best friend Jackie Sr, exclaiming when Jackie plays
that card over the phone: "The warranty on his death certificate
expired two weeks ago. Your bullshit expired along with it!"
Blood runs thicker than bullshit however, and Tony now feels a greater need than ever to 'save' Anthony Jr from Mobster's Son syndrome. After stealing exam papers, not even his fledgling football career could save him from the Dean's wrath this time and Tony determines to send his son to military school against Carmela's wishes. But the panic attack AJ had earlier in the season recurs when he collapses in full military regalia upon observing the 'total dork' in the mirror. Yes, that "putrid, rotten f*cking Soprano gene" didn't skip a generation and now Tony feels responsible for his unfortunate son's shortcomings.
This is an episode very much about the burden of patriarchy, for Tony and American society at large. He regales Melfi with the story of his great-great grandfather who drove a cart of olive oil off the side of a mountain. "Maybe that was a panic attack," he muses. All we know for sure is that the only Sopranos afflicted by this condition are male. Being men, they must hide their feelings, suppress their true selves and never show weakness because... Well, they don't know why. It is this institutional insanity that men like Tony and Major Zwingli of the Hudson Military Institute must perpetuate to retain their power. AJ represents a generation of men not quite liberated from this, but at least in transition.
For the FBI, it's business as usual too. Sil, Paulie and Chris are arrested on Super Bowl Sunday at Jackie's funeral, on charges of intent to racketeer, only to have their bail paid by half-time. The explosion in counter-terrorism after 9/11 wouldn't affect the small circle of federali we would grow familiar with in later seasons too much, and actually bring the otherwise patriotic Tony closer to them. In the meantime, agent Deborah Ciccerone will become the vivacious Danielle Ciccolella, Adriana La Cerva's new best friend, as part of the Bureau's plan to get close to Chrissy and hopefully buy-bust their way up to the Don. It's a move that would pay off in dividends, as Tony would disseminate more and more of his orders through his wayward nephew in seasons to come. If the arc of the first three seasons represented the mob triumphing over the law then the arc of the latter three would correct that imbalance.
But for now, having lain Jackie Jr to rest, the two families of Tony Soprano will gather around at Vesuvio's to hear Junior sing a Neopolitan-American ballad of love. The old man's soaring performance of 'Core 'ngrato', or 'Ungrateful Heart', reduces most of the adults present, who remained dry-eyed throughout Jackie's funeral, to tears. But his grandniece Meadow sees through the conceit and wants none of it, throwing food at the aging soprano, much to the amusement of her contemporaries. Noticing this, her father chases her out onto the street where, confronted by him at the roadside, she mournfully denounces their lifestyle as 'bullsh*t'. Returning inside to the dinner, he tries to enjoy a Soprano family moment with one less duck than usual. The music then crosses the diegetic boundary, seguing into a French then Chinese rendition to demonstrate to us that what has resonated with these hypocrites is something generational, not cultural. It will not last.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jackie Jr. hides in the projects but this doesn't save him for too
long.Next day once he steps outside he gets shot. The "family" makes
the reason for the death drug dealing, but the younger ones see through
it. AJ breaks into his school and gets the exams. This makes Tony want
to send him to military school.
A good season finale. I actually suspected to see Jackie Jr. on the run most of the episode. But they decided to get over with it fast and concentrate more on the funeral. It was great to see how Jackie's sister pretty much described how the death of her brother went on. And at the end Meadow left her family unlike in all the other finales before.
I'm not sure if the death between seasons 2 and 3 of actress Marchand
caused a drastic rewrite of season 3 but, if it did then it doesn't
show as season 3 delivers another splendid thirteen hours of television
that is as consistently riveting as the two seasons that have gone
before. We open with an episode mostly focusing on the FBI putting a
bug into Tony's house in an attempt to bring down the family in a
thread that remains in the background while we return to the normal
day-to-day pressure of the business family and the family family.
Yet again this makes each episode to be engaging and satisfying. There are overblown moments, funny moments, dramatic moments, revealing moments and reflective moments but the key to the success of the show is that they all flow together into one overall narrative season 3 did not have scenes or moments that made me consider fast-forwarding them, just the opposite. During the season I didn't think it would totally be that way. Ralphie being dropped in out of nowhere and positioned the way he was with the character he had put me in mind too easily of Richie from the previous season. Likewise Gloria being introduced into the story seemed to be too obvious as to where it was going giving Tony more drama from a part of his life that had been done before. To a lesser extent Jackie Jr also seemed to be a thread that had been covered in season 2 with a young man trying to break his way into the organisation by attacking it and getting a name; this was not helped either by how the young man in this season also relates to the "disruptive Capo" character in this season. These seemed like problems at the time but, as these characters and threads settled in, while they may have had a familiar feel, they were all made as engaging and intelligent as I would have expected and they were certainly not just mirror images of what had gone before.
I focus on these things because of them sticking in my mind but the season has a lot going on and in particular makes good use of the wide array of characters that it now has. Tony is still the focal point of course but more and more his family and associates are as well developed and rounded as he is as a character. Meadow and AJ are fuller characters than before while Paulie, Silivio, Christopher and Bobby are all reliable for solid turns whenever they are on the screen. Carmela and Dr Melfi both have improving characters and the threads led by them are as engaging as they main thrust. The show uses all these characters well and delivers many revealing moments without making a big show of them even though we have plenty of violent, bloody moments which makes for easy hooks the best scenes are often the more subtle and subdued.
The cast continue to benefit from the strong material. Gandolfini is tremendously at the mercy of his own character, his delivery is spot on and he is a great central presence. Falco plays her more tragic figure equally well. At times her material lacks the variety given to her on screen husband but she is still very good. Imperioli adds to the Greek tragedy feel to the show but in this season his character is a bit too simple and he is not given as much to do. I'm not a massive fan of Turturro although it is mostly because I don't like Janice that much her turn is good though. Chianese's Junior is reliable and does well with each moment he is given. Schirripa's Bobby steps up to join Sirico and Zandt as great characters. Iler and Sigler both do better than previous seasons although Iler doesn't seem totally up to at some points. Cerbone, Sciorra and Pantoliano all do well by joining the cast for this season.
Season 3 gave me a few niggling problems in regards some of the threads echoing earlier threads but these turned out not to be a problem. This left season 3 to be yet another strong, engaging and satisfying season in this amazingly consistent series. The hype around it may put some people off but pure and simple this is just a well-written and engaging show with lots of characters and threads that all work equally well to make a great whole.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jackie Jr. pays the ultimate price, and Meadow goes off on a tear. Bad boy AJ ends up in military school, run by none other than Tobin Bell of "Saw" fame. As a reaction to Jackie's murder by "drug dealers," Meadow declares she will be leaving school to backpack across Europe, which results in some very tense and tear-filled moments with her dad. She also tries to get Tony to admit he is mafioso, which gets her his patented death stare. At Jackie's post-funeral reception, Junior sings an old Italian song while a drunken Meadow throws wads of paper in his direction -- until Tony chases her out of the room and down the street. A quick moment, with Meadow and Jackie's sister who blabbers on and on about the mob in front of a civilian's daughter, almost brings down the house. Quite an episode. It is a tossup as to who owns it, Meadow or Tony.
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