Tony Soprano ate my Lunch (Spoilers)

The brilliance of The Sopranos always strikes me in waves. It’s a story that cannot be underestimated. Think of Vito Sapatafore, killed by all his closest friends for being gay. All along he was alone. The same is true for Christopher Moltisanti, who shortly after breaking his sobriety with a person he feels safe with, is mocked and belittled publicly by that person in front of all their laughing ‘friends’. Christ takes his wrath out on a TV writer he knows, shooting him in the head to let off steam, much in the same way he pummels his fiancee Adrianna. He beats her, cheats on her, and then when he thinks she has cheated on him he goes ape-shit, pummels her again and nearly kills Tony himself. Everyone in this show pretends to be so tough but they’re more sensitive than the PC crowd. A joke is nearly enough to start a mob war. A joke about a man’s sexuality is enough to get a glass smashed in his face. A woman belittling a capo’s manhood is enough for him to beat that woman to death. All these men are cowards with a massive chip on their shoulder. All of them are insecure children who use violence to cover up their profound feeling of being undermined. Those who live only for power become paranoid and insane. Meanwhile, side characters like Adrianna la Cerva swallow domestic abuse and lie after lie after lie about everyone who gets whacked ending up in ‘witness protection’. She actually believes it all, and like the sounds of a train that permeate the inevitable tragedies of the series, she ends up murdered by a man who once talked on the gossip vine about her apparently giving Tony a blowjob. Everyone is disposable. Pussy dies, Jackie dies, Christopher dies, Silvio dies, Bobby dies, and what? There is no end. it keeps on rolling, ‘this thing of ours’. No matter who gets killed, no matter what lie has to be swallowed, power pushes itself toward its own ends.

All these people are completely alone. All of them are like children smacking each other on the playground. They have no inner lives and no ability to think so they take everything out on the external world in the form of violence. Comparing this show to Breaking Bad is just masturbation – Breaking Bad is good but it has no pretense whatsoever to the kind of psychology that goes on in The Sopranos, and the depth of the lows of all these mobsters’ souls. Walter White’s biggest speech “I am the danger” is just tough talk given to his wife at a time in the story where he is essentially a slave waiting to be killed by a boss. Furthermore, in Season 4 Walt’s most egregious act is directly performed to save his own life. The moral play is comparatively shallow. I never felt the darkness in Walt’s soul anywhere near what the characters in The Sopranos have inside them. You just can’t equate ‘a good series’ with a masterpiece. What element in Breaking Bad, or any other TV show (save for possibly The Wire) really, can amount to six seasons worth of hanging out with the guys, talking about ‘family’, all the great scenes, knowing that at any moment any of these characters would murder each other if it suited their interests, and seeing that as the story pans out this is exactly what happens? Everyone is disposable. Life is the ‘big nothing’. The Leviathan of power grinds out, chewing up and spitting out everyone who seeks to control it or rise up inside it. This series is one of the all-time masterpieces. Watching the entire series again after seeing how it all pans out, the theme becomes obvious. Its theme is on a magnitude that only the greats of classic literature and the best movies can aspire to. I mean, there’s a scene where Paulie and Christopher nearly kill each other. How do they diffuse the tension? They kill some innocent waiter, then bond over it later. The violence has to go somewhere. Directed at your best friend or the innocent, it builds up and these monsters release it one way or another.

“We’re all a family.” “You’re only as good as your last paycheck.” The fantasy, and the reality, of power. The little mafia rules, in the minds of these psychos, like not being gay, or not hitting made men, supersedes all human moral judgments. Same way that Bill Clinton can get impeached for cheating on his wife but for bombing a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, scarcely a half-interested ‘sorry’ and the world looks away. Moral dissonance is everywhere. The Sopranos is a portrait of it. This is why it’s great art. This is what art is for.