Monday, May 14, 2007
HBO's Sunday Night
It was like any other scene of a mafia soldier driving around the big boss man, Tony Soprano, as they comment on music, the power struggles with the New York crew, and what they should do about their current problems. And then... it wasn't.
For one, we the viewers KNEW that Christopher was high, that he'd fallen off the wagon in the previous episode, had shot a screenwriter in the head and left him lying there because he was too high and drunk to think. Tony didn't know these things. We knew that Tony was royally pissed at Christopher about his slasher-movie Cleaver, because it depicted Tony as a lout of a boss raging in his basement in his white robe, and showed the darkest, seediest sides of Tony, despite Christopher's objections. We know that every time Tony looks at that Cleaver mug, his disappointment in his nephew balloons to gargantuan proportions, and he actually thinks he'd be better off if Christopher would just go the way of Adrianna. But he also knows he can't ask any of his other soldiers to do it.
So Christopher, high, possibly drunk, maniacally flipping through stations and only half-listening to Tony rambling beside him, veers off the road, and the car flips over and over and over (it seemed like it would never end) only to land in a mangled heap. Tony at first is worried about Christopher, who's lying there gurgling and moaning, and looks like he's by far incurred the worse injury. But when Christopher mumbles that he needs Tony's help -- "I won't pass the drug test" -- Tony's concern turns into cold-blooded rage. He stares at him, gets him to repeat it, establishes without a doubt that Christopher -- despite Tony's threats and talks, despite the intervention, despite all the people Christopher has hurt in the past -- is using again. He then glances into the back seat and sees the baby car seat with the tree branch through it, and he knows that if Christopher doesn't manage to kill himself, he will kill his daughter, his wife, and/or possibly Tony the next time. He knows there will ALWAYS be a next time.
He gets out of the car and hobbles around to the other side. Is he going to switch places with Christopher? Will he help him this one last time? He dials 9-1 on his phone... and then he stops, closes the phone, and complete dread washed over the audience. Christopher begins spitting up copious amounts of blood, and is choking on it. Knowing he can't breathe through his mouth, Tony says nothing, leans in through the car window, and with his left hand, pinches shut Christopher's nostrils. There's absolutely nothing in his eyes. James Gandolfini (who earns every single penny they pay him on this show) has this remarkable talent for slightly lowering his head and making those eyes under the hooded eyelids just stare into a person until their blood runs cold. MY blood runs cold just watching him. Christopher doesn't have the strength to fight him. He glances over, and there's not even a look of surprise on his face. It's as if he knew all along this moment was coming. He lasts a LOT longer than we, and probably Tony, thought he would, but eventually his head lolls to the side, and Christopher Moltisanti -- Tony's nephew, surrogate son, and most eager soldier at one time -- is dead. It was a remarkable moment in the series, and while many people thought Paulie would be the one to take out Christopher (or vice versa), having Tony do it was the only way it could have gone. The guy drove me nuts over and over again, but this was just a shock beyond anything the show's delivered, in my opinion. It was a brilliant scene.
From there Tony puts on the face of the grieving uncle, while dealing privately with the guilt of feeling immensely relieved. What's interesting is he never seems to feel guilty because of actually murdering Christopher, but for pretending to be broken up about it. He attends the wake, where Carmela is beside herself with grief, and doesn't even go up to the body. He's been closer to Christopher's dead body than anyone will be, and he doesn't need a second look. (In a rather amusing twist, Christopher DOES seem to get the last laugh when Paulie's aunt who he thought was his mother -- or mother who he thought was his aunt... which one actually died?? -- dies, and everyone goes to Christopher's wake instead.) He then heads of to Vegas to hang with Christopher's Vegas stripper, play poker, and do peyote. A couple of episodes ago we saw Tony's luck falling apart, and every time he'd lose a game of roulette, he'd glare at Christopher like he was the reason. Now he can do no wrong at the roulette table, and he attributes the death of Christopher to his new-found luck.
Meanwhile, Tony Jr. is part of the Little Mafia, and they're vile little creatures. AJ's life is like a caricature of his dad's, as he goes to a doctor who's sub-par compared to Melfi; is on drugs that don't work as well as Tony's; tortures and beats helpless nerds at school who owe his friends some money; and falls apart, wondering why "we can't just all get along??" Will he end up succeeding his father, or will Tony Sr. have destroyed what's left of the Mafia before AJ can get there and instantly obliterate it himself?
Over on Entourage, the mood was decidedly happier (the mood on the nightly news is decidedly happier than the Sopranos, for god's sake) as Drama's new show starts up, Turtle makes eyes at a girl who loves sneakers, and E and Vince FINALLY hook up with Ari again (oh happy day!!). Drama is afraid of the reviews coming out, and while I figured early on his reviews would be terrible but the ratings would be high, the revelation of that was still pretty hilarious. Basically, Drama's on According to Jim -- no critic worth his/her job actually likes the show, but too many people watch the damn thing for it to be cancelled. The clip they showed was just AWFUL (every word that Variety critic had to say about Drama was deserved) but hey, it's no secret that television is, for the most part, aimed at the lowest common denominator. The scene of Johnny being "distracted" at the rub and tug was easily the most uncomfortable scene I've seen all year -- I couldn't even watch. I've also been sad that Lloyd isn't getting enough lines this season, so having him break the good news to Drama at the end was awesome.
And now it looks like Vinny and E will be producers. I saw the big ratings twist coming, and when Turtle watched Sneaker Girl in his side mirror, I just knew his car would get smucked, but I didn't see the producer storyline coming, and I think it's a great direction to take the show. What will happen when the star of Medellín is also the owner of the script and producer? It could be great, but it could be a disaster. Personally, I'm hoping for the second, because watching Ari being just one bad phone call away from a heart attack for the next two seasons will be a beautiful thing.