The Sopranos: Season 2

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The Godfather. A film that has been name-checked and whose characters have been quoted and impersonated several times throughout Season 1 and 2 of The Sopranos. It’s a classic mob movie, perfect in almost every way yet somehow, when it came to making a sequel they were able to top it. The Godfather Part 2 is one of the greatest films ever made and in many people’s eyes surpasses the original. Season 2 of The Sopranos is The Godfather part 2 of TV shows.

There were elements that I wasn’t wild about which I will get into later but for sheer emotional weight, for shock value, for magnificent character driven storytelling, this season was outstanding. It’s obvious that when you spend two seasons with the same people you will become more attached to them, so there is an inbuilt advantage to crafting affecting story lines with the second set of episodes. But to build on that attachment, to build on the emotional connections we felt during Season 1 and to push them takes real quality work from all the writers and directors on the show.

Season 2 begins with a hint of a new venture for the crew and then a montage to show where everyone is and what’s been happening since we last saw them. This happens to the soundtrack of ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ by Frank Sinatra. I totally understand its use and its purpose in the show and it’s an all time classic… but unfortunately the song means something completely different to me. I’ve made a video of what was happening in my head when the opening montage was on screen.

For the record, I remember almost none of Season 2 from when I watched it originally. I don’t know why but the first season stuck with me. I remembered more scenes, more dialogue than on Season 2. I may as well have been watching this for the first time. There are two characters that are introduced that I remembered and both of them will stay with me until I die because I hated them so much, I couldn’t forget them even if I wanted to… I’m sure it might seem obvious at this point but if you haven’t watched Season 2 of The Sopranos, while I am truly humbled that you would still decide to read this, there are spoiler alerts in place…because there is no way to talk about this season without talking about its conclusion.

First things first, I glossed over Livia Soprano in my last post, but with good reason. You know when you’re so upset and angry at someone in real life and you know you shouldn’t send them the incredibly angry, over the top message you have saved in your phone? The message that will do irreparable damage, that you know makes you look like a monster? A message that you know as soon as you send it you’ll feel terrible about it? Well that’s what my post about Livia would have been like. I felt pure, solid hatred for this woman.

Every time she spoke, every time she prodded someone, every time she manipulated someone I was shaking my fist in fury. “I wish the Lord would take you too, Livia” I muttered to myself whenever she asked the Lord for a favour. It felt like she was pure evil and such a superb villain. And even the very idea that Tony’s mother is the villain is wonderful drama. Now, the other reason I glossed over Livia apart from writing a torrent of abuse directed at an old lady, was because I knew the hatred I felt for her was nothing compared to the hatred I had for Richie Aprile. Better the devil you know.

The good thing about Livia was that as much as I despised her, I always wanted her to be in the show. She challenged Tony, pushed him around and he could never push back, or at least he refused to push back, so he could never defeat her, he could only ignore her which is what he chooses to do. With Richie, from the very first time he was on screen I wanted him gone. This was a whole new level of hatred.

I have trouble with characters whose motives I can’t understand. I hate watching a movie or a show with a bully in it. The bully in It or the 30-year-old high school bully in Stranger Things irritate the hell out of me. I cannot understand those characters or ones like Richie. At least with Tony, he does terrible things but I understand the motivation. But when someone turns up and just reigns chaos on everyone for their own selfish reasons and inflicts pain and damage on other people just because they feel like it? Oh, it infuriates me. I genuinely find it hard to watch. So whenever Richie was on screen my eyes rolled, my toes curled, my skin crawled.

And that’s what Richie is, a great big irritating ball of chaos and anger. I couldn’t enjoy the drama that he brought to the family the same way I enjoyed Livia’s drama and Uncle Jun’s drama. I just wanted him and Janice gone. But that’s part of what made the season’s ending so great. I was so invested in getting rid of him. In my mind, I was telling myself that I wasn’t watching Season 3 if Richie wins. When he’s discussing making a move to kill Tony, which of course I know doesn’t happen, I was talking to the screen, swearing vengeance if he ever did anything against Tony… Look, it’s possible I need to take a break from this show…

I mentioned that there were two characters that were introduced in Season 2 that I didn’t like. It’s fairly obvious who the first one was. The second was Janice. She really did irritate me for quite some time. But as happened with Livia, my disdain for her decreased marginally as the show went on because I only have a certain amount of hatred in me and Richie was taking a good chunk of it. Janice elevated herself to hero status when she took that no good rascal out. I was shaking my fist in triumph! I also could not believe that I didn’t remember that from the first viewing. I figured that I must have tried my best to wipe Richie from my mind first time round.

A minor plot line I wasn’t overly fond of was Christopher and Adriana getting into the movie business. It’s a pet peeve of mine to see films within films or in this case films within TV shows. I cringe a little when I see an actor acting as an actor. Does that make sense? When Chris goes to the acting classes I just wanted them to be over. Much like in Season 1 when Adriana wants to be a music producer, I wanted all of that to go away too. I consider actors playing musicians in films and TV to be a much bigger problem in the world than plastic. Two seasons in a row Chris and Adriana have been involved in story lines that I didn’t care much about, will they make it a hat-trick in Season 3?

We have to talk about Pussy. The first meaningful action of Season 2 is his return and his demise is the bookend in Episode 13. The main thing I will miss about Mr. Bonpensiero moving on is hearing Tony say his name. He pronounces Pussy with an H in the middle. His story arc is handled really well. We know that Tony knows something is wrong from the very first time they speak in the first episode and he doesn’t forget. As soon as everything else is taken care of, the fish in his dream tells him there’s one more thing he has to do. I don’t think I’ve ever written that sentence before. This show is truly groundbreaking!

On Tony’s trip to Italy we’re introduced to Furio. Tony trades money for his services and his first act in America is to break a man’s arm and punch a woman repeatedly on the face… but he’s one of the good guys so it’s fine, right? I haven’t forgotten about Dr Melfi or Carmela. The spotlight will shine on them in a future post.

If this is The Godfather Part 2 then we all know what follows. Part 3 will be a disaster, right?

 

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