Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Sopranos - Season 5

Multiple people told me I don't really have to watch past season 4, but I enjoyed the fifth as much as any other. The beginning seemed a tad stale, but the second half really picked it up with the increasing importance of the power struggle in New York after a boss dies without naming a successor. The show started out kind of small, focusing on a few high members of a Jersey family, but it's widened the scope as it's gone on. Despite the larger nature of the mob part of the show, it's really still about Tony Soprano. There's a lot on his plate again, with his cousin Tony B. (played by Steve Buscemi) getting out of his jail, trying to reconcile with Carmella, and Chris' problems with drugs and his place in the family continue. Some of Chris' actions seemed just a little too out there to me, like loaning his friend from rehab some money and then beating him when he can't pay as appears to be the typical mafia thing to do, and seeming completely oblivious when it drives the friend back to heroin. But there's a big payoff at the end involving his long-time relationship that to me was one of the series' best moments.

Buscemi is one of my favorite character actors, partly because he's just so weird looking, but also because he can play a lot of parts well. Every season of the show seems to introduce a new family member to be a thorn in Tony's side, but Tony B. is probably the most nuanced and interesting. He has more personal conflict about what he wants to be before he falls back to his old ways, and the familial connection with Tony makes dealing with him more difficult. The impact of the violence this season was felt the least, because it seemed superfluous and almost comedic too often, and some revelations about certain supporting characters just seemed shocking for the sake of it. It's still entertaining, just not up to the same standard of excellence as it was previously. With the end of the series now in sight, I'm coming to appreciate what it did for the medium. It really is great, and I think it helped bring about this renaissance where dramas and even comedies are able to have continuity and long-term, satisfying storylines instead of just keeping the status quo at the end of every week. The advent of TiVo and DVR letting people catch every episode probably played a big part, but I like it a lot more than sitcoms and procedural cop and doctor stuff.

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