Did it make us an offer we couldn’t refuse?
It was as customarily brilliant as ever, with dialogue you could skewer a pig with and the relentless violence was tempered by sporadic gunfire bursts of hilarity.
How did it make us feel like ‘made men’?
• This first episode seemed, as much as anything, a refresher course in the ways of Tony Soprano and his two families – his wife and children and his mob – and he was perfectly reintroduced. Digging up his senile Uncle Junior’s backyard in search of some cash the old man had buried, the suspicious Tony spies a neighbour watching him. Quick as a flash, his instinctive sense of guilt prompts him to pipe up. “Moles,” he reassures her. “Are they eating through your sprinklers too?”
• The patsy to demonstrate Tony’s mean-spiritedness was Gino. Gino had given many years loyal, and often lethal, service to Tony’s gang but had recently been bequeathed $2m after an aunt died and wanted to leave the mob and move to Florida. Gino first buttered Tony up with some expensive watches, before carrying out a hit for Christopher, but all to no avail. Faced with a wife who had her stony heart set on a move to the sun (and who unlike Carmella couldn’t be simply bought with expensive gifts), as well as his guilt over his covert role as an FBI informant and a drug-addict son, he hanged himself.
• The way in which Tony’s empty life was unravelled as everything was reduced to a fiscal value, at both work and home. The son-in-law of an associate of Tony’s was almost killed after a brutal attack by neighbouring mobsters; $50,000 was the fee they had to pay to Tony for their actions.
• Meanwhile, Tony’s domestic disharmony, that has always provided an amusing counterpoint to his despotism over his mob, was delightfully illustrated once more. Wife Carmella and Tony spiced up their sterile relationship with a number of visits to a sushi restaurant that Carmella soon came to view as “their special place”, but when Tony when their innocently to eat alone she acted as though he had been unfaithful and their happiness dipped over this trivial, materialistic matter.
Carmella herself had been busy, showing off that she and Tony are well-matched for their superficiality and senseless love of material goods. Given a new Porsche by her husband, she spent little time in re-forging old friendships as an excuse to show off her new car. Tony, meanwhile, satisfied himself with a new boat.
• The humour is still as ribald and black as ever. Psychologist Dr Melfi chastens Tony for when he tried to suffocate his mother by placing a pillow over her face. “Sure I grabbed a pillow,” he scowled. “But that was just to keep my hands occupied.”
• Tony’s domestic dreads were further shown by his worries over his weight. Stepping on the scales, he was about 21 stone so he removed his shoes and clothes until it went down closer to 20 stone. He did this as one of his henchmen Vito had recently slimmed right down and was boring everyone in the office with stories of his diet and exercise regime, a subplot that acutely observed the banality of a mobster’s life.
• Uncle Junior gunning Tony down after imagining him to be an intruder. The wounded Tony then went through a Frank Spencer/Inspector Clouseau routine that saw him grasp the telephone to call for help but inadvertently wrench it from its socket because of his portliness. He then crawled through the kitchen door, skilfully shot from above so we could see every sinew of determination on his podgy face, but didn’t have the strength to speak to the 911 operator. Of course, we know he lives as we’ve next week’s trailer.
Will we be leaving any horses’ heads on E4’s pillow?
• Perhaps wishing to exploit the fad for mysticism, such as that propagated in Lost, the episode began with some mumbo-jumbo about Ancient Egypt and how each person has seven souls and upon death each is stripped away one by one.
• Tony’s most loyal henchman Silvio, the gangster with an eternal frown that looks like the balconied floor of a majestic manor has collapsed onto the ballroom below but the lord doesn’t have the funds to replace it so it remains in a state of perpetual ruin. Unless we’re forgetting something, he has never had a significant sub-plot based around him and all he does is sit around morosely in the office shrugging his shoulders or kow-towing to Tony’s didactic.
• The sense that we’d seen pretty much all of these plots before just with different people and with slightly different resolutions. Gino’s circumstances were not dissimilar to Big Pussy’s, who was also an FBI informant (only he didn’t have a nagging wife), as Tony showed the same cold-blooded callousness to each of them. And now he’s become a ‘capo’ and with Adriana murdered, Christopher has become a rather tedious stereotype when he was once the catalyst for many of the best plots. But hopefully that will soon change.