started this series of blog posts, I meant to do it weekly. Life got in the way. But hey, here I is! I'm back. And here's more.
As I've mentioned, these posts are full of SPOILERS. If you have not watched the series and think you will one day, avoid them. If you have, read and argue with me below. As I also mentioned, these are meant to be casual posts. I put my time in when it comes to studying cinema. Now I'm just here to have fun.
Watching this again in rapid succession, it really struck me how little happened
in season 3. The only two storylines that begin and are resolved are
Jackie Jr. (with a predictable/inevitable ending) and Tony's new girl on
the side, which includes the chilling scene where he beats her. The
mob stuff was peripheral, most of it appearing to set up events in
season 4 - Ralphie established as a loose cannon, Adriana flipping,
etc. -- but not getting much traction here.
Interestingly, creator David Chase had a firm storyline in mind for season 3, but it had to be scrapped when the actress who played Tony's mother (Nancy Marchand)
passed away. Initially, the season was supposed to focus on Tony
trying to make amends with her in order to keep himself out of jail.
(You'll recall that at the end of season 2, some stolen airline tickets
were linked to him.)
Instead we got Ralphie the prick, Meadow the whiner, and Jackie Jr. the dope.
Ralphie is, of course, a prick to end all pricks.
Meadow, meanwhile, pissed me off all season with her incessant whining.
She may be cute, but damn is
she an entitled bitch. Most of her stories, especially the Noah story
("Meadow dates a half-black guy and Tony doesn't like it"), were wasted
screentime. and Jackie, well, halfway through his story you just stop
rooting for him because he's a dope.
On the other hand, Paulie running Christopher ragged
is excellent stuff, Junior and Bobby interacting is pure gold every
time, and the show smartly puts Dr. Melfi aside once it's clear there
isn't much more for her to do other than provide a way for Tony to
express what he's feeling.
Her choice not to have Tony take care of the rapist was the
noble, respectable thing to do. It's also not what I would have done.
This is the moment in the series where she loses me. I RESPECT the
choice and respect that she decides to hold onto her dignity and
humanity. I respect that she refuses to allow herself to get pulled
into that world.
I'd want that bastard to pay.
what a big moment it is for the series, I think the rape episode is
pretty uneven overall. The writing is at times ham-handed and clunky,
too on-the-nose in setting up Melfi's choice. Further, to start and
finish a storyline this important to the character and her relationship
with Tony Soprano in just a single episode was too accelerated an
approach. She should have grappled with her difficult choice for a few
Not that that's Lorraine Bracco's fault. She is amazing here. In fact, I didn't notice first time around just how damn GOOD she
is throughout this whole series. Just a dynamite performance. I always
thought of Edie Falco as having the series' standout female
performance -- and it makes sense, given how amazing Falco is -- but
Bracco goes toe-to-toe with her with ease.
episode does have one of the highlights of the series. Go back and
watch the last few minutes, the way it comes to a close. It's brilliant,
including the second best cut to the credits of the series. So yeah,
there is that. Great close to a highly controversial episode.
University" is the episode
where Ralphie kills his stripper mistress. It's got a weird standalone
feel to it that few Sopranos episodes have, as if it could take place
anywhere in the timeline, yet it had a HUGE impact on this show's rep
because it was brutal and ugly and highly uncomfortable. Seeing this young girl get brutalized, the callous way people treat her. It's pretty awful.
Yep, Ralphie sure is a bastard. A different sort than Richie,
but a bastard all the same ... the kind you love to hate but don't
want to leave the screen (unlike, say, Janice, who I'd happily clip
from the series despite all that her conflict brings to it).
Some other random observations:
Meadow's time at college is almost always some of the most boring television of the entire series. It's watchable only because she's easy on the eyes. DAMN throughout this season Meadow scenes sure do drag. No, I don't give a rat's ass about her roommates, thanks.
Bobby Bacala was one of my favorite characters first time around. Still is on second viewing. The guy is absolutely endearing. I always get pissed when Tony and Paulie run him down. Really. What a fantastic character. Steve Schirripa injects amazing humanity into the role.
Another great revelation was that the actor playing A.J., Robert Iler, really comes into his own as a actor here. He's got the confused teenager down pat. There is a
great scene in the last or second to last episode in which he is in
uniform for military school. He breaks down crying. Crying is no big
deal, most performers can fake their way through it fine, but his
breakdown was utterly convincing, awkward in that teenager way, very
pained, lots of layers. Great stuff.
So yeah, there was a lot of great stuff here, to be sure -- Pine Barrens! (which, to pick a nit, obviously wasn't filmed in the Pine Barrens; and I know the Pine Barrens) -- but as a whole the season seemed to lack the direction and focus of the series best stretches.