Sopranos Season Three

Prod. David Chase
Sins of the fathers…Season Three of the Sopranos (yes, I know we’re going at a bloody clip) is much stronger than its predecessor,
almost as if the out-of-control Ralphie (Joe Pantaliano) was infecting the entire show. We have beatings, a grim rape, numerous bullets to the head, and plenty of people not thinking straight at all.
Tony tries to keep one son (his) out of the business, going as far as enrolling him in a military academy. Yet he fails to keep the son of his former boss–the drippy Freddie Prinze Jr.-lookalike Jackie Jr.–out of the game, despite numerous warnings and slappings about. The results are inevitable, tragic, and a waste.
Elsewhere, some of the episodes this season are some of my favorites. The premiere, Mr. Ruggeriostktktk Neighborhood, focused on a few days in the life of the Sopranos as the FBI try to plant a listening device in their house. It was a taught, time-specific episode, unlike the rather loose, rat-ta-tat plotting of a usual episode. Plus the use of the bootleg mashup of “Every Breath You Take” and “Peter Gunn” was hair-tinglingly brilliant. (The female tennis instructor who had the hots for Adrianne also tingled the body, just not the scalp.) I also liked the Blair Witch-meets-Joisy episode where Paulie and Chris get lost in the woods after being overpowered by a hardy Russian they have taken out to whack. Their fate juxtaposed with Tony’s problems with his hot goomah (Annabella Sciorra, oozing sex) brought out the black comedy this show does best.
Two missteps: the very awkward final Livia episode, where Marchand was pasted electronically into one last scene with James Gandolfini (memories of Bruce Lee in Game of Death!). It didn’t look right and it was obvious, awkward, and sad that Gandolfini was acting to air. The episode came back, though, and delivered a knock-out ending as Carmela lets rip at the wake and speaks what’s on everyone’s mind.
The other sour note was Chase’s attempt to universalize the sad song sung by Uncle Junior at the finale’s funeral. The soundtrack switched from the Italian song to a Chinese ballad, a Portugese fado, and beyond, a real jarring experience.
This third season ends with numerous loose threads, and the sense that the chaos hinted at here is one mistake away from exploding.

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