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Monday, April 17, 2006

The Wonders of Northern New England

Having spent some time in New England, I can attest to the beauty of this area, particularly Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There is something idyllic about it, not in the massiveness of the American West with its wide open spaces and huge mountains but instead on a much more human scale. Why, you ask, am I starting this post by extolling this region? But, the Sopranos, of course. (Spoiler alert.) David Chase seems to agree that this region represents a sort of innocence and (possible) escape, but if the past is any guide, the freedom is illusory.

In one of the first episodes of this epic series, Tony ran into an old "friend" while showing Meadow the fine colleges of Maine (Bowdoin, Bates, Colby). This individual was someone who had become a rat and been placed in the witness protection program. Needless to say, when all was said and done, Meadow ended up going to Columbia, and by the time the visit was over, Maine's population had decreased by one.

So last night Vito finds himself in the libertarian wonderland of New Hampshire. (The state motto--Live Free or Die (which you have a first amendment right to hide on your license plate)--provides the episode's title.) In almost Alice in Wonderland or Lost fashion, Vito finds himself driving through foul weather, hits a tree, and walks to . . . gay paradise? He finds a lovely B&B, a great diner (with Johnny Cakes and homemade sausages) with a gay couple among the patrons who are . . . treated just like any other couple, and (what else) a great antique store where he learns he has a fantastic eye (of course he does). So naturally, Vito will simply settle down to a life of happiness in NH . . . or probably not.

Meanwhile back in NJ, the family is not handling Vito's outing too well (although they provide a treasure trove of double entendres). Tony, as usual, has the most nuanced perspective, and thanks to his therapy sessions, you can really see his dilemma. (Episodes like last night's show why the shrink angle works so well, particularly when not overdone.) Tony wants to act like Paulie--be disgusted, side with Sen. Sanitorum (sic)--but he really isn't. In the end, Tony actually holds the live and let live philosophy, but unfortunately recognizes that in his world, image is everything (as we learned last week (see Johnny Sack)). He is treading a fine line and needs to find ways to justify not whacking Vito (his wife, kids) without hurting his own reputation. But if Vito shows his face, Tony will have to act. (We also learn that Tony is a fan of the L Word--nice and hysterical props to a Showtime show(which I've never seen).) I sense (and hope) that after last night the Vito story will not take center stage, but it once again illustrated the constant struggle Tony has to deal with. It will ultimately have what is likely to be a tragic denouement. (Although with the Sopranos you never know; we could simply never hear from Vito again--perhaps he and the Russian from the Pine Barrens end up shacking up in NH.)

Two final thoughts: Michael Imperiolli deserves more credit for his outstanding acting. Christopher's stupidity is simply priceless. His explanation of why his arab clients are not al queda was genius and his discussions of Vito's sexuality and what to do about it were classic while containing an element of (accidental) genius. Second, the brewing tension between Angie Bompensiero and Carmela is fascinating. As Angie becomes one of the boys (as Vito becomes one of the girls?), Carmela sees that she is not a part of this life. Of course, considering that Angie's husband (Big Pussy) sleeps with the fishes, maybe Carm's life isn't so bad. Yet she too is seeking some role/purpose in her life (as, of course, is Meadow). The spec home (with, as we see, her petty corrupt father) is just one outlet and so far a failed one (thanks in part to Tony). Where Carmela goes will be interesting to watch.

Until next week with Christopher in La La Land, that is all.


Blogger Bailey Quarters said...

I too enjoyed the L word shout out. To me, last night's episode felt a little bit like filler.

I have to disagree with Isaac's assessment that Tony is to blame for Carmela's lack of success. To the contrary, I find it sort of sad and appalling that Carmela is blaming her father and Tony for that failure. She just doesn't get it. I find it especially rich that she voted for George Bush!

I was also glad to see Meadow called out on her hypocrisy. I think both Carmela's and Meadow's story lines tie back in with Carmela's conversation with Melfi while Tony was in the hospital -- they are complicit in the crimes Tony commits.

I don't care too much about Vito as a character, but I hope he escapes. I think there's a nice resonance between this show and Big Love -- both shows in a way are about people trapped and isolated by choosing to live outside the law.

4/17/2006 1:51 PM  
Blogger Isaac, your bartender said...

I didn't say that Tony is the cause for Carm's lack of success, but his lack of caring about taking care of the home inspector has played some role in it. Of course, and as Bailey points out, this all fits in with Carm's complicity in Tony's crimes as she wants Tony to do whatever he does to get the building permit straightened out--and I don't think she expects him to hire a lawyer to challenge the inspector's ruling. But I do think Tony's indifference to Carm's project is obviously and rightly noticed by the Mrs.

4/17/2006 2:02 PM  
Blogger Sally-Anne said...

I too loved Christopher's bases for his assessment that the Arabs were not al quaeda. He was so serious when he mentioned the dog that I asked a friend whether it is common knowledge that terrorists are forbidden by their own code from having pets and I just didn't know it.

4/19/2006 12:08 PM  

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