Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"I Get It!"

I don't watch television. At least not prime time network television. I do like those true crime shows on A&E, Discovery, and Court TV, but other than that television bores me. I used to watch some television. But after Seinfeld and Married With Children were cancelled that was it. Probably the last one hour drama I watched was the original Law & Order, but I gave up on that years ago.

However, I do watch The Sopranos. For me The Sopranos is the Holy Grail of writing. A lot of people grouse about bad episodes or slow seasons but I have found it consistently brilliant. I see two and three new movies a week and the only one that's come close to The Sopranos in the writing department this entire year was The Lives Of Others. That's how great I think this show is. How superior.

Now that we're down to the final episodes it's been fascinating to watch how unfinal they've been. How for the last six episodes things have been happening like they did in every prior season with no sense of momentum towards any kind of conclusion. But that's the brilliance of the program; real life seldom feels like a third act -- it just doesn't work that way.


Last night Tony killed Christopher. What a perfectly Sopranos moment because we all saw what the tree had done to that child's car seat, and once again we somewhat empathized with evil.

After the murder, Tony finds himself shockingly relieved Christopher's gone and eager to get others to share his relief by expressing his indignation over the car seat. Unsuccessful and needing to think through his lack of grief, Tony heads for Vegas and lives vicariously through Christopher: He takes drugs and hooks up with one of Christopher's girls. Along the way his luck turns around and he wins at gambling again. Later, under the influence of peyote he sees the lighthouse he saw in his hallucinations of Hell when he was in a coma after being shot and proclaims, "I get it!" And now everyone's trying to figure out what that means. Here's what I think.

This show is and always has been about Tony Soprano's desire to find happiness. The conflict keeping him from happiness has always been between the good in him and the evil necessities of the job. For a few seasons we hoped he might choose good. We hoped he might take that bundle of cash and fly off with his family like those ducks he so desperately envied for the simpleness of their existence. But more and more Tony's gone the other way. He's chose evil to retain his status and lifestyle. He's murdered friends and relentlessly cheated on his wife.

Tony's surprised lack of grief and palpable relief at murdering Christopher taught him something and that's what he "got." He figured out that the conflict between good and evil has been the source of his unhappiness. And now he understands that choosing one over the other will end this conflict.

Think about it: He killed a young man who was like his son only to discover it removed a thorn in his side and a pain in his ass. And now he's in Sin City, high on drugs, and committing adultery with a woman of unreal beauty. He enters a casino, sees the Devil grinning at him and has a miraculous winning streak. And guess what? He's happy. Life is good.

And, so, he gets it. He gets that what's made him unhappy wasn't the adultery, but being conflicted over it. He gets that what made him unhappy wasn't murdering Christopher, but trying to deal with him. For six years we've watched a man struggle to find happiness and I think this means he's found it. It lies in completely letting himself go. He's learned that his conscience will now allow him to do what's necessary to remove the conflicts.

The song playing before Tony killed Christopher was "Comfortably Numb." Tony's finally achived that. In the soul of a sociopath.


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