Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#51
Fly on, your attachment to the series if I read you right became admittedly intertwined with hope for a redemption in Tony, spiritual or something akin. But I feel like Chase resolved this question as early as "Mr. and Mrs. Sacramoni Request" when Tony beats up Penne Arrabiatta (name?) unprovoked: his first act of violence post-coma, motivated by an impulse to preserve his alpha male status. True, he moves in fits and starts but that was the "new Tony" quickly crumbling. Violence and cruelty were going to persist in Tony. Certainly by the time he wrestles with sympathy for Vito yet ends up ordering his execution anyway for the sake of business, we understand the way Tony's internal struggle plays out. I don't necessarily view it as a "big con" but merely an artistic decision to invest his main character with a persistent subconscious crisis to make him a richer character, and perhaps one more representative of mankind generally, that was never meant for long to promise any personal transformation. I don't even think people being unable to change was a major theme or any kind of point Chase was trying to make. And, as he points out in one interview, the children are better than their parents, if still corrupt.

As Chase talks about the audience using Tony as their alter ego, it seems he also felt another part of his audience was using Melfi as their alter ego. And the therapist dinner party, Yochelson study and final Melfi lashing out felt, to me anyway, that they were reflecting this part of his audience, that he felt unwisely invested in an illusion. I have to assume Chase would deny trapping people by designing their illusion rather than holding them responsible for nurturing this unrealistic hope on their own. In the past you've cited an interview (NPR?) where Chase addresses Tony's personal growth by saying curtly, "He's a gangster." Even more than obeying the "rules of the genre", I'd say we know Chase has a deep distaste for artificiality in drama. In citing the choice of Journey, Chase pointed out in so many words that, last song of series or not, it still has to be a song that a guy like Tony Soprano feels like hearing as he's waiting for his family and his food. I just doubt he ever seriously considered Tony becoming a better person person and the resorting to brute violence so soon after grasping "Every day is a gift" hardly seems to me like a dirty trick.

I also doubt Chase considered the question of whether Tony dies prematurely to be as insignificant as you seem to- a discrepancy that would probably always lead one to feel disatisfied in the ending. But mostly I think the last scene was much more than an action sequence, though it was also a brilliant one. I thought it profoundly reflected the essence of the series and the life Tony has built and his inner turmoil, and connected directly and complexly to the anxiety presented in the pilot. All the action, dialogue, songs on the juke box, the tiger on the wall and ultimately cut to black combined to elevate the last scene beyond empty action sequence. I also don't believe, even if he left ambiguity in it, that he meant it to be such a great mystery about what happens as opposed to presenting a portrait of Tony's death that is inherently indefinite- if that distinction reads. I too think the last scene is the balancing act others suggest between Tony's experience of being unaware of what is happening and our being entertained by an suspense sequence as the audience of a TV show with more information. That's a matter of taste but I thought it was totally successful. (I also think that contradiction is alleviated by Tony having the vaguest awareness of Members Only. He's in the background, Tony checks him out twice and barely. Like when something happens and you realize after the fact that you were unconsciously aware something was wrong all along.) But more than that, I think the last scene succeeds as a dance between our being inside and outside Tony's perspective. I think it's about much more than answering the plot point of does he live or die with a yes or no.

Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#53
harpo, that was just a terrific post, great thoughts well-articulated.

harpo wrote:As Chase talks about the audience using Tony as their alter ego, it seems he also felt another part of his audience was using Melfi as their alter ego. And the therapist dinner party, Yochelson study and final Melfi lashing out felt, to me anyway, that they were reflecting this part of his audience, that he felt unwisely invested in an illusion. I have to assume Chase would deny trapping people by designing their illusion rather than holding them responsible for nurturing this unrealistic hope on their own.


I think that succinctly sums up Chase's view of the matter.

I can't deny that Melfi was certainly the closest I had to an alter-ego in the series (and my screen name suggests as much). But there's one, extremely crucial difference between Melfi and viewers like myself: we were privy to so much more information about Tony than she ever was. Yes, we were certainly privy to his violence and to the ugliest things he did. But we were also first person witnesses to almost everything else that happened in Tony's life. We were directly inside his dreams, NDE, and his drug-induced hallucinations (both of them), directly inside his daily encounters, seeing things she never saw, hearing things she never heard, getting the benefit of literary symbolism (e.g., Tony taking up arms against the bear in his own back yard, suggesting an approaching war against his own inner gangster) that she could not have had as a character in the drama as opposed to an audience member.

The original conceit of the show (a gangster in therapy) itself suggests that if there were to be some remarkable, transformational development that would take him out of that lifestyle, it would naturally occur towards the end of the series because the fundamental tension upon which the show rests is the incongruity of the two things: introspection for someone whose violent lifestyle and deeply repressed conscience makes him naturally averse to introspection. If I was too patient waiting for that breakthrough, it was because I knew that what I hoped would happen couldn't happen until very close to the end.

I don't feel it was entirely my fault for taking all the subtle signs of some approaching, real character growth for Tony seriously. I definitely had the glass half full mentality in this exercise, but Chase is the guy who poured the water in the glass in the first place and, as such, I think he bears some responsibility too.

In the past you've cited an interview (NPR?) where Chase addresses Tony's personal growth by saying curtly, "He's a gangster."


But what you didn't include in this quote is the context. It went like (paraphrasing from memory), "As I was writing season 2, I suddenly got fed up with all the moralizing about Tony and thought, you know what, he's a gangster. And that's enough to say about his emotional growth, for now."

Are you saying there's no room in that quote to assume that somewhere, down the road, there wouldn't be MORE to say about what Tony is or could become? The "for now" is a qualification that I chose not to ignore, although it was one that ultimately led nowhere, obviously.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#54
LOts of assumptions here. As most of you know, imo, i think Tony did experience some level of redemption, and i don't follow any of these arguments at all, because of that. As i've posted extensively elsewhere- for example, the epiphany after Vegas ("i get it!") and his reconciliation with Carm, his kids, etc. i know he did bad acts after some of these redemptive moments, but lots of non-gangsters have that experience as well; just because you are born again, or redeemed, etc., doesn't mean you cannot end up in a backslide- its just that now you have consciousness of it differently, allowing you to propoel forward and onward out of it. Maybe he'll kill half as many victims this year than last, etc.

i simply do not experience any level of disappointment about Tony "not being redeemed" . i'm not even sure whether an outsider can ever observe or even know about something so personal in someone else's life. If Chase were to somehow show Tony going to Church and filling the donation box for murder victims, or interviewing with the Feds for Witness Protection like in Heny Hill's case (Goodfellas)- i think it would ring false and corny.

As we know in real life, Henry Hill "back-slid" after going into Witness Protection , committed some more minor crimes (not murder), and his wife left him to return to her family. But does that mean we know or can deny if he had any level of redemption? i believe he did. But the fact that he's still here on earth means he has to live out the burden of his cross and continue to fight his own demons- occasionally failing at it, probably until the day he physically dies. Only the most saintly of people can manage otherwise past their redemption while still living on this earth.

So getting back to how CHase would show Tony's redemption, well, maybe he already did, or decided not to show us more until another future time. Maybe in the end, he was just showing us Tony's Grace- not redemption- by not revealing to us and showing us directly his physical death that last night of the series. Grace, because it had nothing to do with Tony's actions, but everything to do with Chase's choices as Tony's creator. A mercy given from above without fee or the recipient having earned it. That mercy can also be the source of Tony's redemption, like Lady Meadow about to enter the doorway.

Chase, imo, was not wanting to put himself in the position of the great dispenser of justice on Tony. In fact, he seemd to despise audience members who wanted to do that- especially with blood and guts. Chase was showing us his mercy (as i just posted in the "No good Deed Goes Unpunished thread, Chase, imo, thinks of his ending as showing the good deed of mercy towards his finest creation, but then Chase got punished for it by the audience who wanted more definition). Mercy: a quality i'll bet most people don't think of in Chase until they really know him very personally. And this show was his most personal revelation.

Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#55
You refer to the case of Henry Hill above, Bada. With all due respect, what redemption ? To quote another former racketeer, "YOU CANNOT BE SEERRIOUSSS!". Let's be honest here Bada, Henry Hill only did what was best for Henry Hill. Faced with a jail sentence of about thirty years he betrayed his friends. Where's the redemption in that ? He himself then went on to commit more crimes, one of which was becoming a TV chef, I believe, and putting out Italian cookery books. Maybe on his death bed he may express true remorse but up 'til now, like Tony, he simply hasn't.

You mention his reconciliation with Carm as some kind of redemption on Tony's part. Surely the truth is that it is she who takes HIM back, not the other way around. He still cheats on her ( in Vegas ). He more or less admits to her he will still cheat but that he promises it won't interfere with her life. In other words he'll simply be discreet. Again Bada I say, where's the redemption in that ?

You say as well you believe Chase didn't want to be "the dispenser of justice" in dealing with Tony. I don't think this was the case, IMO. What he didn't want to do was SHOW Tony's demise. And far from this being an act of mercy on his part, no matter what he says now, IT WAS to piss a section of his audience off. The section that rooted for Tony all along and now want "justice" meted out. Hypocrites! The fate of Tony is not about "justice ", or " getting his just desserts " but more about keeping it as real as possible. The fact is he is not a ( orange ) cat and doesn't have nine lives. "Every thing comes to an end".

Your faith in humanity is truly to be admired Bada and I wish I had half your positivity. But redemption has to be earned, it is not a given.

Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#56
dsweeney wrote:But redemption has to be earned, it is not a given.


Speaking only of Christian redemption, it is definitely not "earned" in the sense that most people think of that term, i.e., living a good life entitles you to redemption. Rather it is a gift granted by grace to all those who sincerely believe in Christ as their redeemer and who feel genuine sorrow for their sins. Faith and contrition are the only prerequisites.

That said, I agree with you about Tony. I certainly don't think he achieved any measure of Christian redemption, and that's the only kind that really matters or makes sense to me because of my own life experiences and beliefs.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#57
I knew I had phrased it badly Fly. What I meant by "earned" was that there must be a degree of genuine remorse and REPENTANCE for one's wrongdoing. And not just for a day or two while you're in the mood for it either. Tony shows temporary hope when he stalls with the estate agent on being reminded of Carm doing up his buttons, but this is soon forgotten after killing Christopher and he sleeps with his goomah in Vegas.

I still think the "I get it" moment relates very much to this. I think he believes now that whether he repents or not, or finds redemption or not, doesn't matter a damn in the great scheme of things. We're part of something bigger and the small matter of morality is irrelevant. He is beyond even hope of redemption and what's more he doesn't care any more. I don't think we can necessarily say from this that Chase feels people can't change. Just that this "gangster" can't.

Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#58
I don't think that redemption is the key to Tony's fate. Does feeling genuine remorse spare him from being hit? On the other hand continuing to be who he was doesn't necessarily mean that he was hit either.

Some innocent people were killed during the the course of the series. Others like Bobby, who were involved in the business didn't deserve to be killed. He was a reluctant killer who only recently "popped his first cherry". He was a loyal and loving husband and father. He was used by Janice for her own selfish ends. He had an almost child-like innocence with his love of model train sets.

What was the message conveyed in having him killed?

The little that I can gather from Chase's philosophy about life seems that he takes an existentialist or even absurdist view of being. From what I understand he is a lapsed Italian protestant (not Catholic). He might have dabbled with eastern and native American belief systems but I do not think that it forms the basis of his world paradigm. This is not say he has no moral compass either. He might be cynical to a degree but I also suspect he is a humanist in his outlook.

If we subscribe to the view that Tony was 86ed that night at Holsten's the reason for that is more mundane than moral retribution for his life's tresspasses.

It was the world he lived in and the world he chose. He took risks and with it comes the potential of violent death. It has more to do with chance or probability, in that some day or one day, a mafia don will likely be murdered in the same way that a footballer will likely be injured.

Ren or Chase decided to end the story of Tony Soprano when it did. If Tony did die it was more to do with his luck finally running out.

That and perhaps Chase had nothing more to say about Tony Soprano.

Unless of course somebody convinces him to make that movie. But as times goes by that is becoming more and more unlikely.

Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#59
What would Melfi say about your word choice on "If I was too patient..."?!

I see why you identify with her though since any good shrink wouldn't let "for now" slide. But maybe this here is why every shrink I've ever gone to has been annoyed by my own resistance. I focus on the driving emotion of the quote- if you remember it right- being "fed up". At contemplating growth in Tony. An emotion which jibes with Chase's general annoyance expressed in other places at false, unnatural growth common on TV. It just seems like most possible scenarios for redemption in Tony was always going to bump into strong boundaries of what he felt comfortable doing with Tony. I just always believed Tony would follow the path we saw in Vito rejecting a new life and honest work to return catastrophically to New Jersey, or Phil's inability to retire with his grandkids, or Chris's relapse into drugs.

There was probably just a fundamental conflict between the ideas of Christian redemption and hope that would be your ideal and Chase's desire to reflect a more cynical world view (though he alleviates the bleak picture by pointing out incremental generational improvement), explore the idea of violence and cruelty in the world and to rebel against TV convention he disliked. To quote what they say was Larry David's mantra when he ran Seinfeld, "No hugging, no learning." It's my own taste but the lack of redemption I saw didn't detract from my appreciation of the show or even from watching the recurrent impulse toward it within Tony that would never die but always be overpowered. (I don't root against people or the world becoming better in real life in case anyone is wondering.) It's probably because The Sopranos authentically tapped into such deep philosophical currents that people craved it to be in harmony with their own deepest feelings about life. But maybe unfortunate in a way if the absence of that harmony, especially unexpectedly, spoiled for anyone what I myself took to be an artistically beautiful (albeit terrifying) end.

Re: The movie is "in the works"(!)

#60
harpo wrote:What would Melfi say about your word choice on "If I was too patient..."?!


Good one.:icon_biggrin: Although I only lasted a year in psychotherapy, and that only because my dad wanted me to try it for a while.

It just seems like most possible scenarios for redemption in Tony was always going to bump into strong boundaries of what he felt comfortable doing with Tony. I just always believed Tony would follow the path we saw in Vito rejecting a new life and honest work to return catastrophically to New Jersey, or Phil's inability to retire with his grandkids, or Chris's relapse into drugs.

There was probably just a fundamental conflict between the ideas of Christian redemption and hope that would be your ideal and Chase's desire to reflect a more cynical world view (though he alleviates the bleak picture by pointing out incremental generational improvement),
Forgive me if I'm about to get too personal, here, and forgive me also, DH, for continuing to take this thread off topic. I'll deal with thread splitting later, but this is too important for me to let go.

The reason psychotherapy was so empty for me is because a shrink could never tell me anything about myself that I didn't understand 10 times better on my own and because my crisis really wasn't psychological: it was existential and spiritual. Psychiatry is almost completely impotent, in the broad sense, to cope with either of those conditions.

I wasn't an abused child like Tony was. I wasn't repressing emotions. I was painfully introspective and aware of the causes of my depression. I had parents and family that so loved and valued me -- and whom I so loved and valued -- that it spoiled me for marriage or even a serious romantic relationship (which may frighten some people, but not me). Romantic love, for me, pales by comparison. Yet I wanted to die and ultimately saw no purpose or redeeming value to life. And this all happened before I was 25 years old and before either of my parents died.

I instinctively knew what a year of therapy and prozac proved, that the discipline was incapable of helping me through those issues. So I have always had great appreciation for the limitations of psychiatry.

Had the Sopranos stayed entirely within those limits with only vague forays into religious philosophy and existentialism, I would have completely agreed with you about the lack of wisdom in pinning too much hope on a moral turnaround for Tony. I was always a bit tempered in my enthusiasm for signs of growth in him, even with the incredible symbolism of season 5.

But the stakes were raised exponentially in Join the Club/Mayham when Chase decided to depict a near death experience and a metaphysical realm of existence. Moreover, despite the palpable eastern religious philosophy permeating the episodes, he littered it with subtext and symbolism of Christian redemption, which I take very, very seriously. Once it got to that point, all bets were off.

I was literally shivering -- goose bumps, teeth chattering, the whole bit -- after Join the Club ended. I read and posted for 2-3 days straight with hardly any sleep. I simply couldn't believe he (Chase) was going to go there. I didn't think it could happen on television in this day and age and didn't think he believed enough in it himself to attempt to depict it onscreen. But after that episode, I suddenly thought it possible that he had recently experienced something himself that changed his beliefs and that an outcome for Tony which would have seemed foolish a year before was now entirely possible.

I eventually made my peace with his choices up through Kennedy and Heidi (which, to me, ends the most important aspect of the question of Tony's fate). It's not what I would have preferred, and something in me rebels at the notion that Chase would involve Christian redemption symbolism in the NDE but give Christ such a ridiculously poor advocate (the minister that pays a hospital visit) in the episode following. (As I always say, it's a shame to hold Christianity -- and much of the Bible -- against Christ). But looking back, I'm still incredibly grateful that Chase made the exploration. My most fervent hope is that his own search results in a more authentic experience of Christ than the one Tony had.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

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