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The Death Spiral: "The Sopranos" meets "Thomas the Tank Engine"

Posted Nov 18 2008 12:10am



The train literally came off the rails on last night's pentultimate episode of "The Sopranos." Tony's brother-in-law Bobby was murdered inside a model train store, and his body fell atop a model train display. The shooters kept firing, even after he was down. Bobby's corpse broke the track, and the model train came off the rails in front of a model building with the word "Newark" on it. The little model people reminded me of the people in the live action "Thomas the Tank Engine" videos. The scene was staged and edited fabulously.

"The Sopranos" is like the train wreck that we can't help but look at. Also, I got the impression that the tiny model people in the train set represented us, the viewers of the show, getting our vicarious thrill watching violent, Mafia-oriented entertainment. I got the same impression from a later scene in which a large group of people emerges from the Bada Bing in reaction to gunshots being fired.

The long-awaited New York/New Jersey bloodbath commenced last night. Phil Leotardo and ordered the decapitation of the Soprano crime family, namely, Tony, Bobby, and Silvio. Tony, forewarned by the FBI's Agent Harris, tried to hit first, but his imported Italian killers murdered the wrong people. Bobby is dead; Silvio is in a coma; and Tony, and Phil both are in hiding. Patsy Parisi managed to get away when Phil's hitmen came for him and Silvio; that may or may not be significant next week, depending on whether or not he runs into the open arms of the FBI. Carmela and Meadow fled the mansion on Tony's orders, but we didn't see A.J. leave, not even after Tony drained the pool. Those ducks won't have anywhere to return to.

Something very bad may happen to one of Tony's immediate family members in the final episode. Phil was bitching about how the New Jersey family doesn't adhere to formal initiation etiquette or otherwise respect this Thing. Tony tried to calm Carmela by saying that families are untouchable. I sense doom for A.J. or Meadow. The show has always been filled with irony when it comes to the Mafia code of honor. I suppose that code of honor is like most rules--they're useful when someone else violates them, but irrelevant when you do.

Something bad could happen to Dr. Melfi now that her own therapist has outed her as Tony Soprano's shrink, but I suspect that her bitchy tirade at Tony is the last we'll see of her. There's too much to cram into the final episode to throw her into the mix in any significant way. Melfi's tirade may foreshadow Carmela's final break with her husband, I don't know. I do think that Melfi--like the model train people and the crowd at the Bing--is a sort of stand-in for the viewers of the show. Melfi was fascinated by Tony, but, ultimately, she decided he was beyond redemption, and she rejected him. The irony of that is that therapy was the only time Tony was pretty much honest and on-the-level. However, psychiatry didn't do a whole hell of a lot for him.

I loved Carm's line about A.J.'s stay in the psych ward: "One more week of this . . ." Hee! First thing next Sunday, methinks, we'll have the final dream sequence of the show. Last night's episode ended with Tony falling asleep, watching the closed door at the foot of his bed. The "Cleaver" poster seems to dominate the office at the Bing, so a dream related to Christopher's crappy movie would make sense. Finally, what to make of A.J.'s obsession with terrorism in the Middle East. Are we going to see a car-bombing or something, or is A.J.'s interest a subtle commentary on who are the real terrorists on this show?

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