Artie and Livia: To Tell The Truth.

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Was Livia truly in the early stages of senility? I was sure before my third re-watch of the first three seasons that she was completely faking it, until I noticed moments in season one where she seems genuinely confused, namely in “46 Long” and “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano.” However, I’m not convinced that she was completely unaware of her actions and used her failing memory as a scapegoat.

Unexpected slips in memory and spatial awareness are common enough even in those not experiencing some cognitive decline, but Livia’s slips in these episodes are a little too far off base to be explained away by planning or a poor night’s sleep alone.

On the phone with Tony in “46 Long,” only the second episode in, she puts him on hold to take her pan of mushrooms off the heat. Instead of moving immediately to the stove, she looks across the street to watch a package being delivered to her neighbour. She regards the mail woman with suspicion, then picks up the phone and asks who’s on the other line, forgetting that she was talking to her son less than a minute ago. Her food goes up in flames in a small grease fire that renders her helpless. She panics, incapable of putting it out, even with Tony’s patient instruction. Livia may be prone to histrionics, but this incident doesn’t seem connected to anything, and there’s no reason for her to fake it, especially if she’s trying to avoid Green Grove.

Then, her conversation with Artie in the season finale. Acting on news of the probable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Artie decides to pay her a visit. He greets her by asking if he remembers her. She says she does, but mixes up Tony and Johnny, “remembering” that Artie and Johnny used to play Little League together. Along with forgetting that her husband has been dead since 1984, she fails to make the connection between his age (and her own) and Artie’s. Artie is a baby-faced forty-something who, despite the bald pate, looks barely of his twenties. All you have to do is look at him to know that this baseball scenario is impossible. For someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, this error in episodic memory could be a clue to her mental state.

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Sad kitten.

She at first thinks Artie’s mother is still alive. She asks after her, and he gently reminds her that his mother has been dead for six months. Livia carries on as if she hasn’t heard, asking if she’s still on “that crazy diet.” (What, Atkins? Scarsdale? Ephedra? Talk to me, Liv.)

Artie was not prepared for this awkward moment and it’s pretty well played. It’s actually sad, something few scenes with Livia are. He came prepared to see a woman he’s known for most of his life, who was a familiar (if not always warm and cuddly) fixture of his childhood. When he makes a graceful recovery, trying to save her from embarrassment by offering her some pasta, you can see how little he has changed over time. He’s still as polite and respectful to “Mrs. S,” as he sweetly calls her, as if he were standing in her kitchen with Tony after a sweaty game of summer baseball.

 

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The wild gesticulator.

What I like about this scene is its quiet insight into Artie’s character. You can just tell that he’s the kind of guy who hates hospitals and nursing homes, even though this is only a RETIREMENT COMMUNITY! It’s in the cautious way he enters the room, unsure of what to expect, certain only of his fear of places like this. The way he makes small talk about the sunniness of the room. If there were dirt for him to dig his toe into, he would. We don’t know how Artie’s mother died, but he may well have spent more time in institutions recently than he cared to. He’s probably still scrubbing the smell of antiseptic off his skin. We’re not just learning about Tony or Livia here.

Artie is someone who cares for little else than his restaurant. It’s more than his pride and joy, it’s his lifeblood. It’s his constant prop, and it is both his saviour and his downfall in this scene. He relies on food to ease the tension, using it as an ice-breaker in case things are uncomfortable, as most first-time visits like this are. He does it to self-soothe, knowing that he might find a very different woman than he remembered on the other side of that door. And of course, he does it out of the goodness of his own heart because he’s such a darling and loves to cook. I’m not that cynical or analytical. But it is the one thing that Artie knows best and is a big part of his life. It’s only natural that it’s going to be something of a coping mechanism for him. And what kind of Italian would he be if he didn’t bring food? He’s no mangiacake.

But the food also brings about a moment of clarity for Livia. She tells him that Tony was responsible for the explosion at the original Vesuvio. This prompts a tense scene with Artie holding a gun to Tony’s face, something I’m sure neither could have imagined even in their wildest dreams.

 

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Vesuvio erupts.
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IT WAS YOU, FREDO.

With a cocked rifle on his shoulder, Artie reiterates how great his loss is: He didn’t just lose a restaurant, he lost a legacy. (All the more reason to dig determinedly into that rabbit recipe down the road in season six’s “Luxury Lounge” as he tries to prevent further loss.) Against his will, he has now been drawn into that vicious Soprano eddy that threatens everyone who rows a little too closely, whether by accident or intent. Even just being in the same waters can leave you immune. Tony is like a vortex or black hole, something he calls Gloria, likening her to mommy dearest, in “Amour Fou.” Eventually, everyone who knows him will get sucked into his world in one way or another, even if they start off in good standing.

This is the case with Livia. Part of why Tony loathes her so much is because he knows how much they are alike. She has a talent for reeling people in.

 

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#NotAllItalians

“I loved my new place so much and this ruins everything!” Artie says, still pointing the gun. Not even the love of the game can make him feel better. Thinking that the restaurant hit was random is difficult enough, but to find out that his best friend and customer, who has had a hand in his success because of his patronage, was responsible? That hurts more than getting your hand stuck in a pot of hot spaghetti sauce.

Also, is that the same gun he shot the rabbit with? God dammit!

There’s a dash of humour with some regional snobbery when Artie unveils his dish. Livia gives it that classic Soprano look of disdain. “Oh, Northern.” Southside Soprano turns her nose up at cavatelli in a duck ragout. Geddafuckouttahere.

 

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Go to the source. I love the “moozillness” tag.

When he asks if she remembers Vesuvio, it seems to bring her back to the present. We all know that smells have been scientifically linked to memory, especially working memory, where such a link between the present smell and the past event or thought would occur. The location of the primary olfactory nerve, which registers and controls the sense of smell, is only three synapses, or neuronal junctions/steps, away from the hippocampus, the famous storehouse of memory and emotion. In “Fortunate Son,” Melfi tries to explain this in simple terms to Tony, using Proust’s madeleines as an example of how certain food odors (gabbagool, in his case) can trigger a memory. Tony sophomorically dismisses the whole thing as  being “very gay.

For Livia, it has nothing to do with a specific smell linked to a specific memory, just that food equals restaurant, which to her equals her son, who, for better or worse, never seems to be far from her mind. She never conveniently forgets who he is, or who they are.

If that’s true, that the food is a cue, then her admission is downright evil. Malice is Livia’s specialty. She drops it on Artie right after he tells her how much he loved her PB and J’s.This cute little gourmand is reminiscing about a simple childhood pleasure, and she chooses that exact moment to burst his bubble. Revenge really is a dish best served cold.

There is something in the way that she says it that makes me think the spontaneous revelation is intentional. She says it the way that she says “poor you” or “I wish the Lord would take me now.” It’s that quavering, wishy-washy tone that could be misread by someone like Artie, who is unfamiliar with her ways, as sadness and regret. The slight quiver makes it sound like she’s telling him something she wishes she didn’t have to; something that could be followed by “I’m sorry, but it’s for your own good.” Only she does want to, now that she’s aware of who’s in front of her. It was in no way premeditated because she didn’t know he was coming to see her. It shows how sharp she still is in some ways. She saw an opportunity and took it. At least some part of her brain is still like vulture-like, waiting for the right moment to swoop down and grab its prey.

Artie taking Livia at her word after witnessing her confusion seems a bit strange. I think he had a silent inkling about Tony’s involvement that he never wanted to admit to, and now, after thinking it over, realizes it makes the most sense. Charmaine has been right about Tony all along.

He also leads with his heart 99% of the time, and this entire situation is wrapped up in deeply personal history and nostalgia. 

There is also the earlier incident of a confused Livia banging on the door of the Soprano home, looking for her now-deceased sister, Settimia. Looking like a specter–literally a shadow of her former self, clad in a light jacket that covers her nightgown–the wailing Livia sounds like a banshee. This is an appropriate resemblance, for she is frequently a harbinger of doom and is at the forefront of the contract on Tony.

 

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Setteeeeeeemiaaaaa!

 

Jeremy and Meadow are making out to Howling III in the living room. (My idea of a hot date.) The gate clanks outside, making him jump. It’s the classic teen scare scene: “Was that your parents?!” Nobody wants to be walked in on, especially not if your girlfriend’s dad is a mob boss. Eager to get back to making out (and seeming to be the only one. Meadow is more interested in the Georgia O’Keeffe symbolism of the blooming clit-flower on screen), he agrees that it’s probably nothing. That’s what they always say in the movies before someone dies! Everyone makes it out alive, but I think Jeremy killed a pair of pants, crapping himself.

There’s a small thing to be said about fear here. I think everyone’s worst nightmare is seeing a family member decline before them. It’s a peculiar thing to lose someone who can still stand before you, sometimes in body only. Jeremy’s fear is different from the kind that AJ and Meadow (and even Artie) feel. You won’t find it in any cheesy horror sequel from the 80s. It’s too much to bear, so it goes unsaid between them, spoken only in troubled glances.

Calling up to his open window, Livia calls  AJ “Dickie,” mistaking him for Chrissy’s father, Dickie Moltisanti. When he corrects her, she tells him to get back into bed because he has whooping cough. More timeline confusion. Once inside, she calls Meadow a faccia brutta (ugly face) when she tries to tell her that Settimia is dead. The look of righteous anger on her face cracks me up. It’s just so familiar to me. Such indignation! This is your typical Italian grudge in action. God knows what she thinks Settimia did to her. I wonder if she’s invented something entirely new or is going after her for a decades-old slight, only now remembered.

Meadow reminds her of who she is, with the same gentleness that Artie will use with her later. Coming around only slightly, Livia tells her granddaughter that she can’t bear to stay in the same house as ol’ ugmo, who has obviously slithered off into the same crack in the sidewalk from whence she came.

A cop arrives, responding to reports of a wandering woman. Standing in the foyer, she brightens at AJ and pinches his cheek (“Ow! Shit!” Nonnas, dude.)  The officer asks if she knows who he is. Livia smiles confidently. “Of course! He’s…” She trails off, faltering. After a moment, during which AJ and Meadow exchange a knowing (and I think heartbreaking) look, she regains awareness and identifies him as her grandson, but there’s no pride in it. Only dismay and confusion.

To digress momentarily, I have to tell you, I love baby AJ. He’s had a rough season so far. He’s constantly in trouble at school and risks being slapped with a controversial diagnosis of ADD that threatens his already low self-esteem. He had to attend Jackie Sr.’s funeral, which is usually a boring, scary, and confusing thing for a kid. I was around AJ’s age when I went to my first funeral. Not fun. I probably got pocket money while there, but it wasn’t my idea of a good time. But I didn’t have to contend with the knowledge that my father was a mobster and get a snotty, told-ya-so look from my sister. Maybe she is a little faccia brutta.

 

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Protect AJ.

 

For me, Livia’s surprise visit cements my opinion that she is not faking it entirely. Her appetite for destruction seems to stop with her grandchildren. She’s always a little softer with them and has no reason to mess with them. There’s no need to go through them to get to Tony. She’s proved quite capable of going directly to her target.

That’s not to say that she didn’t pretend at other times. Something within her is still sharp enough to home in on Artie’s weakness. She’s really aiming at Tony, but she’s aware of how devastating it will be for him, too, and doesn’t mind that he’s caught in the crosshairs. He’s just a means to an end. The glint in her eye when Tony goes to smother her speaks volumes. Accustomed to her ways, having been jerked around by her all of his life, and watching her do it to others, I agree with him that she was smiling, quite aware and proud of what she set in motion.

These establishing episodes serve to confuse as much as enlighten. This mix of truth and falsehood help us to empathize with Tony and his family a little. We become part of that tug-of-war between fact and fiction,  never sure if we are being led down the garden path, or if we can trust her. Just when we think we’re out… she pulls us back in.

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A few random things

Some thoughts on my thoughts. Pile ’em up.

I was thinking over Paulie’s visit to the psychic, which ended with a freaked-out flounce where he denounced them as “fucking queers.” Could he really have meant that any other way? I wanted to believe otherwise, but I think that’s just my own hopeful interpretation.

Paulie is at least ten years older than Tony, meaning he grew up in an age when it still might have been used without homophobic intention, even though its use as a pejorative dates back to the 20th century. And of course, word meanings change over time, or may have multiple meanings at any given time, even if there is a popular overarching definition.

I was just picturing his little ma making that gossip queen face (see below) over coffee with friends and going, “Well, isn’t that queer?” and meaning strange. This is a woman whose vulnerability may have nothing to do with age, and everything to do with naïveté, leading her to be duped by ahem, Mike Hunt.

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Even though Paulie is about as warm as a Sno-Cone, I think that he picked up some of her qualities and characteristics. Innocence is just not one of them.

Moving on to another Sno-Cone… Uncle Jun.

In “Boca“, after his secret gets out, he heads to Bobbi’s office to break up with her. An unsuspecting Bobbi expresses concern for his lateness, and tells him about her dinner plans. Not cut out for the kitchen like Carmela, she has planned a take-out feast of barbecued chicken, salad, and a lemon meringue pie. While she waited, she had a piece.

Now it’s time for Junior to say his. He backs her against the filing cabinet, fist at the ready. This is a familiar scene we’ll see repeated in Tony and Carmela’s bedroom in “Whitecaps“, without the first-person POV.

Shaking with rage, he drops his fist. He reaches for the desk instead. HE SHOVES A CREAM PIE IN HER FACE. It cracks me up, but not because the actual assault is funny. It’s the attention to even the finest points. Little details with big impact. Apple pie? Fuhgeddaboutit.

The general misogyny of this and many, many other actions is pretty gross, but to its credit, this is probably one of the show’s least violent attacks on a woman, at least physically. It is definitely humiliating, but considering the fates of Tracee and Adriana, it is of milder consequence. That said, it’s pretty sad that the only alternative to death is degradation. Internal scars are no less important than outward ones.

To show us that Junior isn’t completely without heart, we see him storm out onto the street, on the verge of frustrated tears. They had been together for sixteen years. Junior never married, and Bobbi ends up being his last romantic interest. He, like AJ, let pride be his guide. This, I think, upsets him more than anything. He is angrier with himself than with her, but you know how the Soprano men deal with their anger. In bocca al lupo next time, Bobbi.

I like Sopranos Autopsy’s comparison to Edward Hopper’s Night Shadows. This, in turn, reminded me of Phiz’s plates for Charles Dickens’ Bleak House et. al.

 

Speaking of “Whirecaps” (when am I not?), I’d written that this was the first time we’d seen Tony physically threaten or intimidate Carmela.

Wrong!

I was forgetting the fight in “Bust Out, when he throws her against the couch. This time, she is mad at him for not coming to AJ’s last swim meet. In both cases, she springs first, unleashing years of pent-up anger on him. He of course can’t see the bigger picture, and views her reaction as an overreaction. After all, he already gave AJ the opportunity to spend time with him, and he passed it up to go to the mall. An eye for an eye, etc.

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Not a glitch in the matrix

While watching the first season, I said that it was easy to imagine Melfi unwinding with a glass of wine after work.  This is either coincidence or some strong writing on their part to guide my imagination in that direction, because she begins drinking to cope with the strain of having “T.S” as a patient.

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T.S Eliot?
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Nope, that other living waste land.

This little detail was kind of cool, because until now, I’d never thought about a therapist using initials only. It makes sense for protecting client confidentiality, but I  wonder if she does it only for Tony because of his notoriety. Watching in 2015, it’s also nice to have a visual cue that isn’t on a computer or smartphone. This episode is almost sixteen years old!

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SIXTEEN?

Melfi admits to Elliot that she has begun drinking alone between clients, mainly before she sees Tony. She has even developed a slight dependence on Ativan. He later finds out the exact identity of her patient, arming him with ammo that he frequently and unfairly launches at her during their sessions. He even goes so far as to identify him at a dinner with colleagues in “The Blue Comet” (which I just saw in full for the first time the other night, what the fuck?)

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#justpsychiatristthingz

Melfi’s professional choices and morality are often questioned, given that she keeps Tony on as a patient, even allowing him back after giving him an ultimatum to get serious or get out. But I think Elliot is way worse. As important as it is to dig deeper, to help someone get to the heart of why they act the way that they do, and dig up roots if necessary, this is not what Elliot does. He goads her, accusing her of getting off on the thrill of her weekly tête-à-tête’s with the head of Jersey’s most notorious crime family. That might be a tiny bit true, but Melfi wastes no time defending herself.

What a condescending fuck. As if he wouldn’t feel the same.

Thinking of Bevilaqua, I linked to the scene from Goodfellas where Karen admits that having her honour defended and being given a gun to hide turns her on. It’s funny that Lorraine Bracco plays both roles because there’s a bit of Karen in Melfi. This is actually a character that a lot of women admit to relating to, proving that superficial attraction to dangerously powerful men like Tony is not new or unusual, or even anything to be ashamed of. The allure of the ~bad boy~ has long existed and been perpetuated in fiction, but this is what I like about The Sopranos. They give us a woman who is not simply a hanger-on, nor a wise, all-knowing Pollyanna. Being a psychiatrist does not mean that she is always perfect or logical, or immune to certain human trappings. Elliot might be hitting a nerve, but that doesn’t mean he now has her pegged. He wishes she were so uncomplicated.

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It only takes one call, Jenn…

From the first, Melfi is torn between her feelings, which run the gamut from empathy, to fear and disgust; to attraction and intrigue; to anger with herself and Tony. These remain ultimately unresolved, mixed, and ever changing, which is the magic of it all. There is no breakthrough via therapy, no complete letting go of this feeling or that one, save for the brief sexual intrigue that she felt early on. She stays conflicted, drawn to him like a rubbernecker passing a trainwreck. (Or like a moth to the flame, like Gloria? Hmmm.) Elliot’s idea of the perfect psychiatrist is one who can be completely objective, emotionally separate from their cases entirely. Again, this is a nice goal, and partially true — but only partially. He’s basically a robot who needs to come off the cross and hand in his license.

Even though she drops Tony in “The Blue Comet,” it has taken her years to reach that point, and is so out of character that I don’t know what to make of it. I’m just going to pretend it was an elaborate hallucination, like Isabella.

After the rape in “Employee of The Month,” she admits to Elliot that she would never use her connections, but that she would be lying if she said she hadn’t thought about it. Two of my favourite Melfi scenes are that one, and the closing one in the office with Tony, where she comes close to telling him everything. Kill it, Lorraine!

I kind of ship them, even though that would’ve been a bad and unfulfilling road to go down. (Not to mention that Employee would’ve been a shitty, cliched place to start it.) It was their scenes that drew me to the show in the first place. I fell in love with their chemistry, which is just as good as the spark between Edie and James. But that’s not the whole reason I like that part.

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Now kiss!

I like it because Tony’s concern is real. It illustrates a rare willingness to improve or examine himself. Not knowing the real cause of her bruises (she told her clients she was in a car accident), he immediately asks if it was something he said or did. He approaches her gently, cautiously. He is not motivated by revenge, as he surely would be if he knew what really happened. It is different from when he tells Meadow he would “take care of” Coco in “The Second Coming.” There, violence is immediately implied, backed by parental love and protective instinct. This is a voluntary emotional offering of the self. It’s an understandably tentative one, but it is an offering.

Even though I’m going to watch the finale soon, I’m by no means finished. I’m just going to start all over again. I have a lot to say about that and other episodes, about Ralphie, Ade, Tony B… VITO, OMG VITOOOOOOOOOO.

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Back To The Beginning

Jump with me, if you will, back to the first season. Seeing the pilot again in May instantly sparked millions of thoughts; so many, I could hardly keep up with my pen. Thoughts on family (not la famiglia), depression, machismo, sympathy for Tony. These have all been tackled by various bloggers and columnists since 1999. Discussions abound about sociopaths, manipulation, and the evergreen puzzler of why so many women are attracted to this self-admitted miserable prick.

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You lie down, confess your secrets, and you’re saved!

One of the easiest ways we’re made to feel sorry for Tony is through childhood flashbacks in the first season. As soon as you can identify with the scared, confused child, you’re going to lower your guard and think differently about the man in front of you. This is, of course, part of what Melfi is trying to do: get him to connect with his inner child.

Constant angel, Livia Soprano.

It helps that he grew up during the easily-idealized 60s. The first flashback is to the Summer of Love, 1967. He’s a kid playing in the neighbourhood. A little boy who wonders why his dad favours his sister, Janice, and why his mom yells at him all the time and threatens to jam a fork into his eye. Where’s Mr. Rogers when you need him?

We hear little about Tony’s father, proving that everything that is taken to therapy really is about their mothers (I’m only half serious). What’s certain is that Johnny Soprano was not the most demonstrative man. The only time in Tony’s memory that his father was nice to him was after his arrest the day the amusement park was raided. Otherwise, he was as cold and calculating as his wife, using Janice and the park as a front for his mob meetings. It is probably here that Tony swears that he will never repeat history, and makes an effort to keep affari di famiiglia separate from affari di cuore. Seeing him make sundaes with AJ at the end of “Down Neck” helps to contrast the nearly non-existent relationship Tony had with his own father, and remind us that he’s doing his best.

You also see adult Tony as a secretly goofy guy. He fucks with Cusamano, asking him ominously to hold on to a box of sand. He knows Cuz will think he’s being made an accessory to some nefarious plot. Carmela tells him, “you’re cute when you’re being a bad boy.” It’s a rare moment of easy flirtation in a notoriously troubled marriage, where you catch a glimpse of what attracted her to him to begin with. It’s also the only time that Carmela will be able to speak lightly of Tony’s misdeeds.

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Who’s my sweet little murderer?

One of the things I noticed immediately was how everything unfolds perfectly. There is no shaky first season. How rare is that? Maybe almost as rare as a mobster who falls in love with baby ducks.

The ducks, Melfi theorizes, symbolize his family. Meadow will be going away to college, Carmela is unhappy, and AJ… is AJ. Tony’s mother, unharmed by the pseudo-stroke, is still manipulative. As the first season progresses, Tony’s life and status are precarious. With the police promising indictments in “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti“, he is faced with two options: Hide the stash and deny everything, or join the witness relocation program. Hope above all that Christopher’s impulses don’t get the best of him. Pray that the day he and Carmela are empty-nesters does not come before he can handle it.

Matters are further complicated when they smell a rat. Fearing that Tony’s therapy sessions will lead to the exposure of carefully guarded information, Tony becomes the target of a hit, orchestrated by his Uncle Junior. Junior is also motivated by Tony’s public ribbing during a golf game in Boca, where he mocks him for eating pussy. (A surprisingly un-macho thing. Never until this show would I have equated going down on a woman with sucking dick, but they do. Lots of thoughts on that one.) “Cunnilingus and psychiatry brought us to this!”

A later scene shows Carmela’s and Tony’s playful sides. As she gigglingly tells him what she heard from Gabby Dante, they look like any other couple getting ready for bed. He tickles her, prodding for the truth, before she spills Roberta’s secret. A woman got Junior Soprano, the capo, to go down on her! Hilarious. Power play.

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Someone who does not bend to Tony’s power until absolutely necessary, and then with unapologetic anger, is Dr. Jennifer Melfi. She is the coolest psychiatrist you’ve ever seen. She has mastered textbook detachment and objectivity, at least on the surface. Her dress is conservative bordering on frumpy (even for 1999), though this doesn’t stop him from fantasizing about her.

Hey Carm, nice dye jo–
JESUSMARYANDJOSEPHANDALLTHEBLESSEDSAINTS

You could easily imagine her spending her nights alone with a bottle of wine and her work, like Dana Scully. But she too is more complex. This is one of the many wonderful things about The Sopranos: it seemed to spring up fully developed, a media Athena, leaping from the head of Zeus (David Chase), already armed. Melfi is shown with friends and family. She has a son with her ex-husband. They argue about her work, their marriage, Italian stereotypes. These glimpses into Melfi’s life are brief, but not boring. They are not inconsequential: through them, we learn that she and Tony have a mutual friend in the Cusamanos.

Melfi having dinner next door to Tony and eventually spying on his house from the bathroom window was a cute moment. For all of her professionalism, she can’t resist taking a peek. It’s a humanizing move. Without it, it might be too easy to see her only as The Psychiatrist. Such nuance so early is commendable.

Any cannoli?

She is still professional when she tells Tony that she was “in the neighbourhood,” lest he hear it from a second source, and draw his own conclusions. He laughs about it with her. “So, uh, you saw my house?” You’re not really sure what he’s thinking. He says it with a smile that could be sly or shy. It’s like that sentence that can be read seven different ways, depending on the emphasis. He could be hopeful that his obvious wealth makes him more appealing, increasing his chances with her. He could be uncharacteristically shy, or contemplative. He softens considerably when he explains why he loves her so much. Interestingly, he’ll love Gloria for what seem to be the same reasons: she’s different from any other woman that he knows. But Gloria has an edge that Melfi lacks.

It is Melfi’s resistance that makes her powerful. She won’t accept bribery in the form of gifts. She does not bend to his angry outbursts. She questions him and demands more from him than probably any woman in his life. The reason why he always gives in and returns weekly is that he knows he needs help and actually wants it.

Most women’s knees buckle when he shows interest in them (lucky for him….), but not Melfi. She’s not afraid of him, as I suspect all women are or come to be; not enough to let him take over. Even when gets into her face, this time with a death threat instead of a kiss, she remains calm. Agrees.

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Quite literally saving face.

She’s far from passive, though. When Tony returns to tell her she should leave town for her own safety, she initially refuses. When he phones her at her makeshift home-cum-office motel room, she bluntly asks if he’s watching her. In a closing scene, he tracks her down at a diner, dominating her physically (but non-violently) by placing his hands on hers, then moving the cutlery aside, telling her not to scream. Though her body language betrays understandable fear, she continues to dismiss him. “Fuck off. Get out of my life.”

How’s the bagels?

The tension is eased momentarily when she tells Tony that a patient of hers can no longer eat bagels because she committed suicide in her absence. It’s a darkly funny way of showing how Tony’s actions affect everyone, not just his immediate circle, of which Melfi is arguably now a part.

Tony leaves quietly, heeding her request. He looms into the frame outside of the diner, the blue sky and old-fashioned sign visible over his shoulder. Shot in muted tones, it’s as if his world has been drained of colour. He just stands there. Now what?

brill
Where did I park?