|Index||5 reviews in total|
After scaring the crap out of Chris Moltisanti and having Brendan
Filone killed in Episode 3, Corrado "Junior" Soprano finally steps into
the spotlight, quietly dominating the events of Pax Soprana.
The title originates from Pax Romana, a political move by Emperor Augustus (a constant reference point in The Sopranos - see the name Livia) that kept the Roman Empire together without useless bloodshed for over a century. The similarities are obvious: Tony must prevent his uncle from disrupting the Family, and therefore agrees with the other captains to name Junior new boss of the NJ branch, while secretly pulling the strings behind the "capo" 's back. This is a smart move, as the FBI will focus on Corrado instead of Tony, but the plan comes close to backfiring when Junior sends his henchman Mikey Palmice (Al Sapienza) out to whack "uncomfortable" individuals. Things don't fare much better on the domestic front, either: not only is Carmela angered by the discovery that her husband's shrink is a woman, she also has to deal with the slight trouble of Tony being temporarily impotent because of his medication. On top of that, she demands he rely on her for emotional support rather than Dr. Melfi. In other words: be it one family or the other, they will both bite you in the ass at some point.
In the end, though, despite all the attention that's given to personal problems, it's the business aspect that matters the most in this episode, all thanks to the sublime double act between Gandolfini and Chianese: the former, normally a package of volatile primal energy, is very subdued and calm, pacing his words slowly in order to win sympathy and exposing the more calculating side of his character; the latter, a veteran of gangster epics (he played Johnny Ola in The Godfather: Part II), sidelines the hotheaded ex-thug seen in previous episodes, revealing a more ambitious, authoritarian figure, one that looks suited to be boss but will inevitably screw things up due to his old-fashioned view of the world. He is Vito Corleone to Gandolfini's Michael: a respectable but ultimately inadequate leader who no longer understands the dynamics of Family affairs. He is frightening as hell, too. How he never got an Emmy for his work on the show remains a frustrating mystery.
Pax Soprana is a damn fine episode, and makes for an entertaining and intriguing 50 minutes or so. Its title is derived from Pax Romana, a political but peaceful move made by the Emperor Augustus that managed to hold the Roman Empire together for over a hundred years. Comparatively, Tony must plot and move in order to keep Junior, who's not really fit to be the Boss, from disrupting the family. Now that Junior has finally gotten what he wanted the most, the man thinks he can start taxing and bumping off anyone who he sees fit (and that drug dealer getting thrown off a bridge was pretty disturbing). So naturally, the mob comes to an already stressed out Tony who previously named Uncle Junior as the Boss of New Jersey to keep head off of himself whilst secretly running things. It seemed for a while that plan backfired, until Tony manages to get his points across to Junior over a duo of conversations to ease down the activities. Things aren't faring much better on the domestic side either as Carmela, in addition to discovering Dr Melfi is a woman, now has to deal with Tony being temporary impotent, apparently due to his Prozac medication. She's quite funny in this episodes, coming out with witty remarks to offend Tony at their anniversary dinner and waking up in the night to Tony quipping "You want sex?" excitedly. After an insightful talk with the priest, Carmela wants to do her best to be THE woman in Tony's life, something that she makes very clear to him as they relax in the garden. It's a touching moment, only to be made ironic by the fact that Tony is trying (and failing) to get it on with his Russian lover and is now having sexual fantasies in his dreams about Dr Melfi. Poor guy. I could see this coming, but I didn't anticipate Tony telling Melfi straight up that he loves her and makes an advance towards her. Professionally, she keeps her cool and upsets Tony by telling him this feeling is a by- product of the success they are having as psychiatrist and patient. It'll be interesting to see their relationship develop now that Tony's got his feelings for her out in the open. Amid his envy of horses and personal problems, it's the business that matters in Pax Soprana. Gandolfini is unusually calm calculating, choosing his words carefully so that he can get sympathy whilst Uncle J side-lines the violent ex-thug we've seen in previous episodes. He almost looks the part as the boss but is clearly gonna mess things up. Junior finally gets his big moment in the end of the episode, which happens to be my favourite scene of the series so far. An FBI agent is present as Junior gets crowned amongst the salutes as is a killer beat. We are then taken to the FBI headquarters, where an agent is sorting out the order of the mob on a wall. We see all of the six big hitters. As Junior's photo is pinned above the rest and word 'Capo' is crossed out from his name and replaced with 'Boss', thus proving Tony's plan has worked, the camera focuses on Tony before panning upwards at the new head of the New Jersey family, before fading out with the beat intact. What a great ending. It really makes me wonder what more is to come from the due of Tony and Junior.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It would seem that the New Jersey mob of 'The Sopranos' has a lot in
common with the Roman Empire under Octavius: their government is
largely influenced by a woman named Livia and they are run by a
dictatorship, but within the republican principles of 'checking the
pulse' of the subjects -to name only two. This would be the first time
the show explored the political idea of Tony/Junior as
Octavius/Augustus or the Mafia as the Roman Empire (after touching on
it a few episodes ago) and it wouldn't be the last.
Moving from ancient history to Greek mythology, the story also tackles Tony's Oedipal complex in relation to maternal figure Dr Melfi. His dreams of her change from matriarchal nightmares to sexual fantasies in which she opens the shower door, nude, inviting him in as she would her office. Now he looks to her for the guidance his mother Livia can not give him, the companionship his wife Carmela can't and the sex his comare Irina won't allow him anymore. It's a tough load for Melfi, the psychiatrist who admittedly leads a sheltered life.
After his posthumous rejection, we come to know Tony the animal lover a little better when he muses to Heche of his disregard for human relationships, how he would rather 'just f*ck' without the '100 questions and the guilt' like his Jewish friend's horses. Here, he envies them while the ducks in his pool were just great pals. This facet of his complicated character, who surprisingly never raises his voice for the duration, will be further explored later in the series.
On the family dynamic of the first season, it would seem the circle is complete, as this episode explores the fraternity of the mob when Tony stands up for his 'brother' Heche in the face of 'father' Don Corrado. He argues with his brother, vents frustration at him, gives him scolding looks but in the end we know Tony is not a totally selfish man, handing a wad of his earnings over to Heche. The sorority will also be brought into the limelight in later seasons. Tony also has male problems of a more physical nature when the Prozac threatens his libido, harking back to the dream he had in the pilot where a pelican (or 'duck') stole his penis, which, as Heche would say: "no man can go without." Or mobster, for that matter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Junior is taking over the role of a boss, he now starts making life of
others harder by wanting to tax them and also arranges a killing of a
man for just being a drug dealer. And Tony goes through dealing with
relationships with women in his life, including falling in love with
Dr. Melfi to the point that he even steals her car to get it fixed.
I was not a fan of mafia killing somebody for a small crime such as being a drug dealer. But this is part of the show where we feel the ugly side of the organization, I mean they are mafia not do gooders of society.
What I loved though is Tony dealing with women. His little fight with his Russian lover and the feelings of love for his psychiatrist. All great scenes and I hope to see ore development with Dr. Melfi as it seems to be bothering her and will make the show even more interesting.
While Tony is treating Uncle Junior as the head of la famiglia, Junior begins screwing things up and makes everybody angry as hell. So Tony must finesse the old man. The FBI meanwhile moves Uncle Junior to the head of the famiglia list on its bulletin board. At home, Tony has a problem: he has become impotent to his meds. He also, under the influence of them and because his treatment under Dr. Melfi is moving forward, professes his love for Dr. Melfi and even kisses her. Talk about trouble in paradise. Carmela senses things are not working in her favor and, after chatting with her priest, decides to win Tony back. Tony has a couple of dreams, both involving Melfi. The first has her show up under his covers (and for half a second, at least in my head, she looks an awful lot like Meadow). A second dream has her show up nice and wet and naked in his shower. When Tony wakes from that one, he quickly rolls over to make sure it is Carmela lieing next to him. His double-take is priceless. A near-perfect episode.
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