Sopranos by Mike Baron

SOPRANOS

Watching the Sopranos is like watching a train wreck. Horrible but mesmerizing. At the end of the series, only a handful of characters are likeable. Tony Soprano is one of them because he’s charming, magnetic, and empathic. When he says he loves Big Pussy or nephew Christopher, you believe him, because he believes himself when he says it. That doesn’t prevent him from killing them when it suits his interest. Big Pussy bites in the second season because he was squealing for the Feds. The same thing happens to Christopher’s fiance Adriana. Her death was particularly horrible.

Most of the characters have the impulse control of infants or mad dogs. Most of them have scenes when they take something the wrong way, or the right way, and explode in violence often with horrendous results. You marvel. All these adults, most of them doing very well for themselves, who can’t control themselves. But it is a criminal enterprise. Violence is the glue that holds them together. Paulie, Christoper, Bobby, Silvio, Vito, Janice, they all go off like hand grenades spraying blood all over itself. I lost track of Tony’s murders. The federal fink in the first season, the dumb shmuck who did a drive-by on Christopher, Ralphie, and most deliciously, Richie, who slugs Janice because he’s a thug and she’s a bitch. You hate Richie from his first appearance. “Don’t give me those Manson eyes!” He looks mean, like someone who has never enjoyed anything but other people’s pain. So when Janice gets Richie’s gun and shoots him twice, you cheer. He had it coming. Then Tony comes over and cleans up after his sister. Early in the series, they dismembered the bodies at the sausage factory and then… Shudder to think.

Tony shags one gorgeous broad after another, despite his resemblance to Little Huey. It’s his animal magnetism. He exudes power. Gandolfini’s portrait is one of the great acting jobs. Every word and gesture was natural. The other actors were great too, but it’s Tony you remember.

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