The Sopranos finale started with a subtle episode that was designed to feel like a dream. A big chunk of the show was spent up in the Adirondacks where Bobby Bacala and his lovely wife Janice (Tony's sister) have a summer home. The show's title comes from Janet's gift of home movies Janice converted to DVD for her brother's birthday. It also suggests that the past somehow played a part in the storyline. The past haunted Tony and Janice throughout the episode.
Last night's episode started with a flashback to the day Johnny Sac got arrested. But something was added to the flashback. If you recall, Tony was meeting with Johnny that day, but ran away when he saw the Feds coming over a hill. He ran home for miles through the snow. In this flashback, we see Tony dropped his gun. And we were shown a young boy watching from a window in Johnny Sac's house. I'm still not clear who the young boy was and I'm actually not sure he was watching from Johnny's house.
After this scene, Tony and Carmella were awoken by pounding on the front door, the kind of pounding that policemen do early in the morning when they're hot for an arrest. Carmella jumped out of bed and asked "is this it?" I was wondering the same thing. Was this it? Was Tony going to be arrested? He was.
The Essex County police department arrested him because his gun was used in crimes committed by the young man who had found the gun in the flashback. The charge may have been that Tony Soprano owned a gun? I'm not sure how that works, but it doesn't matter because the charges were dropped so the Feds could pick up the charges later in the episode. We briefly saw Tony in jail. And just to keep the show feeling real, the scene came complete with a guy using the toilet for all the world to see. Tony made bail and was welcomed home by his family and crew with the exception Christopher whose absence was not explained. In a parallel scene we see the Brooklyn crew welcoming back Phil from his stay in the hospital. In those few minutes, we caught a glimpse of most of the people who will most likely be making up the drama for the upcoming season.
Well. None of the above really matters much for the episode at hand except that it caught up the viewers with the what's been happening since the last season. When the Sopranos is on hiatus, the characters lives advance - they do not stop. So, we get the feeling that we are really following their story lines in some kind of real time, well, real for television anyway if that makes sense.
So. While Tony was dealing with his arrest, Janice was hassling Carmela about coming up to the Adirondacks for Tony's birthday. Carmela was hesitant but Janice was a total dick about it. After Tony's lawyer told him the gun charges have been dropped, Tony decided to make the trip after all -Most likely because Bobby was working out some kind of shady dealings with some Canadians. I don't think he really cared about seeing his sister.
The scenery up in the Adirondacks was breathtaking. And Tony spent a lot of time staring out at the big lake much like he stares out at his pool. While Tony and Bobby were bonding over automatic weapons in the woods and speed boats on the lake, Bobby revealed a weakness to Tony. He told Tony that he never killed anyone, that his father never wanted him to be a killer. We see Tony filing that one away in his mental cabinet under "things to use against people later on."
And while the men were out playing, Janice was filling in Carmela on the work she'd been doing with her therapist. Her therapist explained to Janice that their mother was a splitter - that she wasn't happy unless everyone was at odds with each other. And that once Livia's children started talking, she stopped loving them because she didn't like her family to express opinions.
Chase, the show's writer, always manages to keep Tony's mother involved in the story line.
The birthday dinner was surprisingly tension free, except for when Janice told Tony he's changed. Tension started building right there because we could see Tony filing that one away under "grudges to hold against my sister." Tony received two very nice gifts. One was a set of golf clubs from Carmela and the other were the home movies mentioned earlier on.
Dinner blended into a Monopoly game which started out nice enough. But as the liquor bottles emptied tensions started rising. I was nervous watching the game because Tony can't stand seeing his sister have a good time and he always has to ruin it and I knew this was some kind of quiet before some kind of storm. The first indication that there was going to be a problem came when Bobby objected to the Free Parking rule, which is an accepted home rule that everyone plays with - except Bobby Bacala. And when he started saying how it's wrong for people to make up rules in a game which has printed rules, I got the feeling he was referring to something else, perhaps about his life as a mobster, perhaps about how the rules of being promoted to Capo don't quite apply to him because Tony never moves him ahead.
As the bottles emptied, the game grew more intense and Janice decided it would be fun to tell a frightening story about when Tony and Janice's father shot a bullet through a woman's beehive hairdo. Tony objected to Janice telling this story because it paints their father in a bad light, and he can't accept the fact that his father had any thing to do with the bad parenting he recievedd. So, Tony started to make cutting remarks about his sister in retalliation. Eventually, Bobby stood up for his wife and asked Tony to stop dogging her. But Tony didn't stop and Bobby slugged him and they had a big fight and Bobby won. Bobby beat the tar out of Tony. After the fight Bobby ran out to his car and Carmela helped Tony off the floor. Tony had gotten a monopoly piece stuck to his face (some thankful humor to dissipate the scaryfeeling and give the viwer a brake from the tension - a perfect example of good directing/writing whatever) and Carmela flicked it off.
The next day Bobby and Tony went to their meeting with the Canadians while Janice and Carmela were left to wonder what's going to happen next. Janice told Carmela a story about how she blew up at ex-boyfriend once for hitting her (which was actually a sanitized version of the incident where she shot and killed Richie Abril) to illustrate how Janice is actually like the Soprano father and then explained that Tony is actually more like Livia, their mother. Their father would react to things immediately while their mother would let things simmer. This angered Carmela because she thought Janice was implying that Tony was simmering about the previous evening's fight and she shouted at Janice that Tony was not a vindictive man.
At the meeting with the Canadians, Tony offered to kill someone for them in order to get a lower price on expired Fosamex. And guess who he wants to do the kill. Yes. That's right. He wants Bobby to do the kill. Tony proved that even though he said there were no hard feelings regarding the fight, it was actually going to cost Bobby something. In the end, Bobby committed the murder because he knew it was a mistake to punch out the head of his crime family. He took his lumps. He paid the price.
In the end, Tony was watching the DVD his sister made for him. He was watching in that tired, amused way he always seems to watch TV. Who knows what he was thinking?
This episode laid out the groundwork for what's coming up in this final season. It was a good episode and completely in keeping with Chase's style of layering and building and taking his time with a good story.