So the premiere for this last batch of episodes of The Sopranos happened Sunday night, and I'm only getting to posting on it now. Why? Well, in part because I felt the necessity to watch it over again, there were so many subtle things going on that I swore I saw, and needed to confirm. One thing I did confirm was that it was a pitch-perfect beginning to the end of the series, and it reminded me of a recent interview with David Chase, in which he bristles at the mention of some criticism from fans about the lack of action:
I'll say, 'You want to see nothing?' And I'll do less. Sometimes it's hard not to enjoy that you're irritating some people.
- David Chase, Entertainment Weekly, #929
Case in point: right off the bat, Tony's house is raided and he's sent to lock-up for weapons charges. From there the episode is set to simmer for a long period of time as Tony and Carm hang out at the lake with Bobby and sister Janice. The wackjobs who were begging for violence were surely squirming in their seats, as Chase dripped his psychological-dialogue-driven dramatic drips on their forehead. I (and most Sopranos fans, I imagine) was riveted from start to finish, as everything Tony does now seems like it's dripping with impending doom.
Music plays a big part in this doom, as it usually does with the show. When Phil Leotardo is welcomed home, we hear the song "Trouble in Paradise" by The Crests, and if we're not already clued in, Tony is ridiculed (referred to as 'Pork Chop'), and hinted (again) at being a problem. And if you listen carefully, the lyrics "some devil told my angel a lot of lies" say just as much about who's got Phil's ear as whose cheek he squeezes to end the scene.
Even what seems like a song thrown in for fun, like James Gang's "Funk #49," is open for interpretation. The lyrics "think there's trouble brewing" are sung as Tony gets off the phone with his lawyer, thinking he's in the clear, but we know different. The next night, the ladies partake of some karaoke, and their song choices are, again, relevant. Janice sings The Rolling Stones' "Out of Time," but we only hear the lyrics "but you can't come back and be the first in line," which is what Tony's been feeling since she came back several seasons ago, trying to reassert her status as his big sister, oldest of the Sopranos. She's battling Tony for power of the family, in her own way -- or should I say, in her mother's way. It's easy to see her undermining Tony's power via Bobby much the same way as their mother whispering in Uncle Junior's ear. Once Tony catches on, she'll really be out of time. Meanwhile, when Carmela sings The Everly Bros. version of "Love Hurts" (hilariously off-key) I have to ask, is there a more appropriate song for Carm to sing?
Then, after a lot more drinking, comes the (already) legendary Monopoly game. "Killer Joe" by the obscure Rocky Fellers plays as Bobby takes affront to community money going to the Free Parking space instead of the bank. "You know the Parker brothers took time to think this all out. I think we should respect that." With that we're reminded that Bobby plays by the rules, even though he's up to his eyes in organized crime (and carries the name of his killer father). Then Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" plays, as Tony is caught stealing $500 from the bank, but that's not the song's only purpose. It's also a clever play on the growing underlying tension, as the song is cool jazz played in 5/4 time, which belies an underlying feeling that something's off, as our ears are used to 4/4 time.
Later, after Bobby pops his hitman cherry (Tony's perverse punishment), he's born again, much like Michael in The Godfather (and don't those lake scenes remind you of II?). The song that backs this baptism is The Drifters' "This Magic Moment" and it all seems so serene, but didn't we hear that song drift earlier in the episode, only to be cut-in by news of a car bomb in Iraq? Does anyone remember who was 'the car' in that game of monoply? (boom)
1. "Trouble In Paradise" - The Crests (w/ Johnny Maestro) - Phil Leotardo is welcomed back into the fold
2. "Funk #49" - James Gang - Tony and Carm drive out to the lake
3. "Out Of Time" - The Rolling Stones - (Karaoke) Janice sings this defiantly
4. "Love Hurts" - The Everly Brothers - (Karaoke) Carm sings this off-key
5. "Killer Joe" - The Rockyfellers - Tony, Carm, Bobby and Janice play Monopoly
6. "Take Five" - Dave Brubeck - Tony, Carm, Bobby and Janice play Monopoly
7. "This Magic Moment" - The Drifters - First comes in on radio as Tony sits staring out at the lake, before changing into a car bomb story in Iraq. Then played again at the end as Bobby comes home from first kill and through the credits.
More: Even though I didn't include it, it's worth mentioning the ducks returning briefly as a theme here. As Tony sits and ponders life (and getting beat up by Bobby), a duck flies over, and in the background Janice's daughter sings the nursery rhyme "Five Little Ducks."