There are themes for every season of The Sopranos; whether it be family, business, or Season Five's two Tony Sopranos. This season; which is filmed as one and cut into two so that the very last episodes, while still a part of this season, will air in 2007 (whew...got that?); is about death. Specifically , Tony's death.
There is no other way to end the series, Tony has to die: whether through the treachery of his troops or by his own hand.
"I'm gonna put a bullet in his fucking mummy head!"
Welcome to the family, Anthony Junior.
Since the beginning of the show, fatherhood (not just family) has been the overriding theme. The way Tony has raised not only AJ and Meadow, but his 'nephew' Christopher; and what Tony's life choices would do to his family. Chris proved his loyalty last year when he had Adrianna taken out, and AJ is just now crossing that threshold between sullen teenager and angry young man (Also: are we hinting, oh so delicately, that AJ might be gay? The Jack White haircut; the interest in interior design; the possible eating disorder? This would put another spin on Vito's line, ""Maybe he was a homo and thought there was no one he could talk to about it...it happens you know.").
According to the opening episode William Burroughs monologue, AJ is "Ka, the double. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead."
We're also shown that Meadow is the Khu, Guardian Angel (and Tony's only reliable conscience throughout the course of the series).
Burrough's monologue continues (but not on the show): "The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense-but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go back to Heaven for another vessel. The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the Land of the Dead."
Tony will die, one of the kids may go with him (or both).
The first episode felt a bit rushed, but it had a lot of exposition to do away with. It may have seemed odd to focus so much on one soldier's desperate attempt to leave the life, but it was just another way of drilling into our heads that these are choices these men have made for life. There is no leaving. "No wonder the papers call this 'the year of the rat'".
Will Tony turn over to the feds? Or will Chris, who's becoming buddy-buddy with the feds who haunt Satriale's? Both are possible, but I can't help feeling that all of this political Mafioso stuff, who's ratting who out, and who's in power and so on, is all a red herring. It's not going to matter, in the end, who the boss is or where the power is, but what happens to the family: the real family.
So in episode one we get old mobsters keeling over dead in FBI cars; Bobby playing with trains; and Tony's battle with the scale (it reads 280. He takes off his shoes. Still 280. Takes off his pants...still 280).
But, as we've come to expect, there's a twist: by the end of the episode, Tony is crawling on the floor, bleeding his life out, shot in the gut by a senile Uncle Junior, reaching for the phone to dial 911.
The second episode was written by David Chase, the shows creator, and it puts Season Six right on track: the writing is sharp, the performances are great, the drama is real. The gut-wrenching sight of Tony's bullet wound, Uncle Junior's interrogation ("If somebody shot my nephew it was him himself. He's a depression case."), Christopher holding a weeping Carmela, Janice's look-at-me meltdown. Every note is right, every beat is true.
Tony's coma dream that occupies half of the second episode is about identity:
Doctor: What is your name?
Tony: What does it matter? I won't know soon, anyway.
Tony is on the threshold of the hell that Carmela damned him to way back in Season One. Costa Mesa is burning, the bar is 'dead' (hell as Southern California, only a New Yorker could write that).
When he meets the only person in the bar who knows the man who's taken his identity, he tells Tony: "He drives a Lexus...It's a joke, Infiniti, Lexus".
Kevin Finnerty is the other half of Tony, the half that will not survive the coma.
The light pulsating on the edge of the horizon: does Tony go toward it? Does Tony find his wallet? Is he forever trapped in the role of another person? Or, in the end, did that second person ever really exist?
Tony, his entire life, has convinced himself that he is more than the measure of his actions, that he is more than a brutal psychopath.
"Lose your arrogance", says the Buddhist monk that slaps him.
This season, Tony will not escape judgment.
The Sopranos Episode 6:1; Members Only: B
The Sopranos Episode 6:2; Join the Club: A+