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Monday, May 14, 2007

Sopranos: Tony Cuts Himself Loose


I don't know about you, readers fair, but my apartment was in mourning last night. We were in mourning for Christopher, whose loss seemed so sudden and cruel, but we were also in mourning for Tony, in mourning for every ounce of Tony's humanity that has saved us from hating him over the past decade or so of the show. As a wise friend of mine said last week, the two are the most similar characters on the show; they both have a deadly mix of vicious brutality and sentimental angst.

There was something deeply uncomfortable going on last week when Christopher, flipping steaks, told Tony,"I thought you of all people would understand... you undertand the human condition." Christopher knows Tony's "weakness" is like his own and Tony can't stand it. And it's ironic that their final moment last night would come moments after Christopher asked the newly aggressive Tony, "whatever happened to 'stop and smell the roses?'"

Here's the rub-- Tony doesn't want to smell the fucking roses anymore. Or cry about the ducks, or the mangled baby seat, or the endless loss of innocence that comprises everyday life, the sad state that AJ bemoans in therapy. T no longer wants to hear that nagging voice telling him that every day is precious. He's had enough with those pesky emotions that complicate his life, that make him sad, that take away his balls when he confronts Phil.

As he tells Melfi in the dream sequence, Christopher was an "emotional drain"(or strain, I forget) on him. T justifies to himself that killing Chrissy means getting rid of a potential rat or traitor or fuckup, but the real reason he did it was to cut himself loose from the vulnerability that Chris shares with him, that Chris was never able to supress quite as well as uncle T. It's the classic literary device of the alter ego. Chris and Tony screwing the same women is a maifestation of their twinned state; they have too similar hangups, they're intimate in too many ways.

As Salon's always insightful Heather H. (who puts those Slate blowhards to shame) writes, "We're being offered a glimpse of just how many layers of self-deceit it takes for the man to get up in the morning, given all of the brutal acts he's committed. Tony feels alienated not only from his own feelings, but from everyone around him as they mourn Christopher's death in earnest."

After Chris' funeral, Tony's wild journey into the unleashed Id of a Vegas peyote trip reveals an utter narcissist unburdened by human emotions--as does his looming confrontation with Phil. His puking is a purge of his past, his grimacing and shouting and vulgar laughter in the casino and the hills are a revelation of a purely animal, purely self-gratifying state of mind. He's winning now at the roulette table, yes, winning in the masculine world he longs to dominate, but we liked him better when he had a little bit of loser, a little bit of Chris, in him.

The question of redemption now rests on AJ's shoulders, and Chase and co. are not making it clear in any way whether the only "son" left is going to enter his dad's world of male aggression and cruelty or leave it in time to save his soul.

Added thought: I keep feeling as if Tony's suffering from a massive onslaught of PTSD, that his morality has been thrown off due to the relentless drumbeat of his memories of brutality and violence that have finally penetrated.

Added thought 2: Tony also thinks he's God at this point-- he feels as if fate has conspired to put Chris' life in his hands, and the casino and mountain scenes reveal the fact that he's replaced his sense of mortality with a false concept of invincibility.

1 comment:

  1. You wrote:

    "The question of redemption now rests on AJ's shoulders, and Chase and co. are not making it clear in any way whether the only "son" left is going to enter his dad's world of male aggression and cruelty or leave it in time to save his soul."


    Christopher was Tony's de facto son. Tony's weak son. AJ is, in fact, Tony's true son. AJ is coming to terms with his world. He's now not only attending college, he's attending Mafia college. He's learning the facts of his life.

    First he was confused. But his confusion is passing, as he told his shrink. As we saw when he was revolted by the beating of the black bicyclist, when he helped hold down the dead-beat college gambler. He told his shrink it's painfully obvious that the world is twisted beyond repair. AJ is enrolled in Life 101.

    Tony told Dr. Melfi the only thing he gave his son was his putrid genes.


    To save the world from any further torment, AJ will kill Tony.