Test Dream as Blueprint for Rest of Season

#1
I'm on about my fourth or fifth epiphany regarding various aspects of The Test Dream. This one unites the Plaza as heaven and place of rebirth epiphanies I got courtesy of Bravado and chaseisgod, respectively <img src=http://www.ezboard.com/images/emoticons/happy.gif ALT=":D"> , and folds in many additional insights (my own and others') that otherwise didn't integrate well for me before or make total sense. The result, I think, is a more cohesive interpretation of the dream from beginning to end. I've inevitably repeated a lot of stuff here but have tried to link where possible also.

I try hard to remain 100% spoiler free while still feeding my online Sopranos addictions. And though recklessly posted spoilers at other forums ruined a few surprises for me earlier this year (e.g., the bear in ep 1, AJ's super-glued face in ep 4), I'm being extra careful these days not to expose myself.

This post is merely an interpretation of Tony's dream based solely on the 60 odd Sopranos episodes that have already aired. Yet the illumination I felt when all these lightbulbs suddenly came on together was so bright and the dream seemed at once so exquisitely drawn as a blueprint for how this season might resolve itself that those with strong aversions to spoilers may wish to exit this post now.

Of course the other possibility is that the bulbs blinded me, and all this is utter crap. It all depends upon the degree to which Chase is using the dream as Tony's own prophecy about himself or as merely an exposition of his unoxygenated anxieties and wishes. I tend to believe that the very title, "The Test Dream", means Tony is going to confront an escalation of circumstances foreseen or presented in the dream, and each will present a "test" of maturity for Tony. In other words, I think the dream will prove prophetic. So, with that proviso, here's what I "see".

Melfi as Tony's "New" Mother

The Plaza has already been discussed as a metaphor for heaven and as a place for a spiritual rebirth for Tony. The symbolism supporting both notions is abundant in both the pre and post dream sequences. And there is no doubt that the mother of the reborn Tony is Dr. Melfi, which is why she was seen walking through the lobby as Tony checked in.

This "new" Tony was conceived in the first scene of this series when he is framed between the legs of a nude female statue in Melfi's waiting room. The long, slow, often unproductive gestation took place over the ensuing years in fits and starts while Melfi's colleagues repeatedly told her she was wasting her time with an untreatable "sociopath" and while she persevered in blind faith that there was something worthwhile in him. The long-delayed quickening occurred in the scene from Two Tonys when Melfi finally stepped gingerly outside her therapist boundaries to issue the moral judgment he had to hear if the "second" Tony he wanted to show her was ever to be born alive.

The first signs of labor were glimpsed in Irregular Around the Margins when he came back to Melfi in an unprecedented effort to avoid a hurtful and destructive conduct and continued through the landmark therapy scene in Unidentified Black Males, where his confession of a 20-year secret both produced and cured a panic attack on the spot and left him comparing therapy to defacation. As Melfi told him then, she preferred to think of it more like childbirth.

With the labor done, The Test Dream is all about the birth and growth of this second Tony, Melfi's Tony.

God Gives Baby Tony the Task of Leaving the Mob

Called literally "baby" by the whore's voice in the first dream scene, Tony crawls across the floor in his boxer diaper and finally makes the unprecedented admission that he misses his wife desperately (Tony projecting through Carmine). Right away, one of the two major tests in The Test Dream is alluded to: reconciling with Carmela.

The other is set up when he answers the phone and hears the voice of "God" or whatever Tony considers closest to God (the voice of good, voice of omnipotence, his own inner voice, etc.). And though I'm almost certain just from the sound of the voice that God is "played" by David Chase, the naughty hilarity of Chase, god of the Sopranos, playing God on the phone almost by itself authenticates Chase as the speaker.

The hitch is that Tony doesn't think it's God, partly because He's ordering that "'our friend' has gotta go". Perhaps like the audience, Tony mistakenly thinks he is supposed to kill Tony B, not yet comprehending that this can't be the case because Tony B is not made and because "our friend" is unequivocally a term in gangster circles for a made guy. TS' confusion is cleared up later when the black guy in the street challenges "which Tony" he was "supposed to cap", and TS realizes Tony B was never his true target. Playing up once again the "two Tonys" angle that has run throughout the season, TS recognizes in that moment that the Tony he is to kill is the gangster half of himself. He is to kill his own gangster persona to fulfill his "born again" fate in a straight life. Viewed in this light, it's easy to see why the phone voice was in fact God's and why it fits with the overall highly moralistic, spiritual rebirth themes of the episode.

Honeymooners

As I've posted elsewhere, the Honeymooners exchanges with Gloria/Melfi (who are integrated in character because the initial cues drawing Tony to Gloria were so Melfi-centric) were IMO primarily to show the hyperbolic realization of Tony's "sad clown" self image. Melfi challenged him several times on the truth of that image, pointing out that rage was his response to sadness, not humor. Yet, in the dream, he's so amused by emotionally painful things that he spews his drink out in an explosion of laughter. The sad clown finally replaces the sad raging beast. And the replacement feels so invigorating, Tony even admits that, beyond merely taking a dump, "maybe this is a little like childbirth". An interesting admission from a newborn, to say the least.

Over this hurdle, or test, Gloria/Melfi gives him his next one.

Reconciling with Carmella

Tony is figuratively a little boy as Johnny Boy drives him to "the job" at the Soprano house ("no, Dad" to his father's offer to sit up front.) His moral immaturity is marked not only by who's driving the car but by the detritus of Tony's gangster life (three gangsters Tony killed). But fortunately his "good" alter ego or "straight life" guide, Artie, rides with him to the job, too.

Once inside, Carmela chides him like a child for being late and improperly dressed and for trying to escape into television. When he offers that it's more interesting than life, she points to "A Christmas Carol" and tells him it IS his life. So even within the dream, he is being told he'll have a Scrooge-like rebirth that takes place over a single evening in the form of spiritual visitations (dreams) that will move him to profoundly change his life.

He certainly passes the Carmella test in the dream, changing from a sweat suit to a dapper dress suit (a sign of great maturity to Carmela, who fondles his lapels and tells him how good he looks). He also loses a baby tooth. And he leaves the house reunited with her, taking a single car instead of the two separate cars Carmela first demands and arriving arm in arm with her at Vesuvio.

Meet the Parents

The first question is why Makazian as Finn's father? I believe it's because, as Tony points out in the bathroom, Makazian "doesn't do this (mix in the Mafia/criminal life) anymore". Makazian exhales in satisfaction while "tinkling" and tells Tony, "This feels good, doesn't it," once again evoking Tony's metaphor of bodily excretion for psychological relief.

Moreover, as Makazian's mistress told Tony, Makazian was "very unhappy with how he turned out", "didn't like himself" for the illicit path he'd chosen, and that was ultimately why he killed himself. So Makazian killed his inner criminal just as Tony is being asked to kill his inner gangster (the seemingly irrelevant difference here being that Makazian went too far and killed his corporeal self, too). Thus, in the dream, Makazian represents Tony after he has successfully killed his gangster half.

Now we come to what was undoubtedly the most unresolved question of the dream for me up until yesterday: why Annette Bening as Finn's mother? Well, as others have pointed out, one of her most notable roles was as the love interest of famous gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, and in her own life she tamed through marriage one of Hollywood's most notorious skirt chasers. And SofiaGiovanna made the equally insightful observation that in her last big role in American Beauty (which I saw but remember almost nothing about), Bening played a woman afflicted with "perfectionist materialism to the max, way worse than Carmela could ever be".

The important convergence of these three ideas IMO is that Bening therefore may well symbolize to Tony a woman who wants a wealthy, properly house-trained, domesticated gangster. She wants the excitement, big house, money, and power status that comes from having a kick-a$$ alpha male mate but with none of the unpleasantness (infidelity and violence near her family).

Sound like anyone we know? Yes, right down to the overtones of "house training" that later appear in the dream when Carmela's only condition for Tony returning to their marriage is that he give up his "horze" because it $hits all over the house and leaves a bad smell. Just as Tony is projecting himself and his desire to leave the mob onto Makazian, he is projecting Carmela, or his worse fears about who she really is, onto the Annette Bening composite that is Makazian's wife.

Carmela as Obstacle to Tony Leaving the Mob

The Carmela projection only gets more disturbing as the dinner scene progresses. Bening asks Tony hopefully, "How long can you (Tony, the faithful gangster) stay?" When he says he'll have to leave to take care of something (kill his inner gangster), she sighs in genuine disappointment. Carmela proudly tells Tony to show off the trophy of his recent personal growth (the baby tooth he lost when he ostensibly promised fidelity and reconciled with her.) Everyone at the table stares admiringly, and shortly after another baby tooth plops out.

Bening then offers, "We know all about you, and I think it's great." The mismatched mix of personal pronouns here is very telling. She and Makazian (i.e., Carmela and Tony) know that Tony is now a properly house-trained gangster, but only Bening (i.e., only Carmela) is satisfied with that amount of growth. Makazian/Tony still know the more challenging growth (leaving the mob) is ahead, which growth is foreshadowed by the second shed tooth.

When Bening observes that a lot of people felt Finn (projected as AJ at that moment) would never amount to much, real Carmela agrees, thinks "the dye has been cast". Yet when Makazian chimes in to offer that "Finn" was pretty hopeless but was salvaged by Tooth Fairy Money (i.e., the benefits to AJ, however overdue and reduced, of Tony leaving mob life), Bening silences him, says they shouldn't talk about that and to just drop it. As Tony's projected vision of Carmela, Bening is denying or avoiding the notion that there is anything good in AJ's future which leaving the mob could salvage. And this seems to fit actual Carmela's dream-like image in All Happy Families of AJ racing uncontrollably down the driveway in his big wheel.

When Makazian embarks on his song solo, real Carmela stays rapt and smiling throughout. Bening is comparably smiling and reveling in the sugary lyrics until the second time Tony taps her shoulder and warns that "something bad is going to happen", when her demeanor turns hostile and she looks at Makazian (i.e., toothless, non-gangster who continues to blissfully serenade her) with expressions ranging from disgust to "please just get this damn song over" impatience.

Tony and Makazian then get up to go to the men's room, and it is Bening who sternly gives the Godfather warning, "I don?t want my husband coming out of there with just his c--- in his hands," to which real Carmela vociferously agrees. So clearly Tony fears that Carmela will not support his desire or decision to flee the mob during this impending crisis with Tony B and New York. She wants him to face it "with his gun".

In the bathroom, the weapon Tony finds is not a gun but the Valachi Papers, which, for reasons expounded on here, I think means he might ask for Uncle Junior's blessing on a deal where Tony agrees to testify against Junior at his retrial in exchange for witness protection for his family. Notably, Tony tells Makazian he has a "good boy out there", reflecting Tony's view that there IS something salvageable in AJ's future and that he could still end up like Finn if Tony will go ahead now and leave the mob.

Makazian admonishes that what has just happened is not real life . . . but what is about to happen is, i.e., the hail of gunfire from Tony B at Phil Leotardo. Perhaps this means Tony S ultimately thinks any deal to nail Uncle Junior is just a nice but hopeless fantasy.

In the street, Tony S is unarmed and unprepared to kill Tony B, who, as I posted here, may actually not be guilty of the Leotardo hit, thus the finger gun at the end. Such a scenario would make a huge moral dilemma 100 times greater for Tony S.

TS, meanwhile, is reminded by the black bystander that his real job is to kill the gangster, Tony Soprano. This he does by "fleeing the mob" of people around him, sparked by Annette Bening's line, "There's something Bugsy about him."

This line really puzzled me, but a google search turned up this tidbit (which I think MadScoprion may have already posted somewhere):

<blockquote>Quote:<hr>In gangster circles, the nickname "Bugsy" is often a term of endearment or honor. It is given out to those racketeers who show no fear in sticky situations or who are willing to step up to jobs that others are afraid to take.<hr></blockquote>

Almost sounds like the scene from High Noon that was playing in Vesuvio, doesn't it?:-)

So in Tony's heavily conscience-driven dream, being "bugsy" and being "the strong, silent type" like Gary Cooper could mean running away from the mob, not by ratting but by just running.

The ensuing chase is especially notable for two aspects. First, those who, unlike me, have seen Frankenstein report that the chase strongly resembles the scene where a gang of angry townspeople and the doctor that created the monster are all chasing him down the street. Second and most notable is that Carmela is leading the pursuing mob in Test Dream.

Perhaps Tony's unconscious is suggesting that Carmela has helped create the "monster" that is Tony Soprano, gangster, because she wants all the perks of the lifestyle, but, when the chips are down and it matters most, she will not support him in his decision to quit.

This is a good place to note that Annette Bening is dressed entirely in white during the dream while real Carmela is dressed in black, perhaps suggesting a transition (death) or a duality: as there are "two Tonys", there are "two Carmelas". While the good Tony has been stifled under the weight of gangster Tony for years and is now poised to break free and take over, the good Carmela has also fought demons (her own and Tony's) for years. Her early success was much greater, but perhaps now, exhausted from the fight, her darker counterpart is emerging victorious.

Artie as "Good Father", Tony "Cutting Ties" with the Mob

Regardless of Carmela's lack of support, Tony passes this test. He follows Artie's path to safety, Artie assuming the role of "good father" in this phase of the dream. He smokes cigars, not emphysema-causing cigarettes, and drives Tony away from the mob in Johnny Boy's car, complete with dead gangsters in back. But these are dead guys that Tony didn't murder, because a good father doesn't raise a murderer. And while Tony's tie was fully in tact when the gang was chasing him in the alley, inside the car it is cut off, signifying his cutting of his mob ties.

Some have puzzled over the meaning of Artie's remark in the car, "I'm wiped out." I puzzled as well but favor the interpretation that doing the "right thing" is hard work, is often tiring, and requires sacrifice.

I've already posted at length regarding Artie coaching the Tony/Charmaine sex. It boils down to Artie teaching Tony that monogamous sex with a wife is the best kind and that it's fine to integrate an idealized female love object (wife) with an idealized sex object (whore). Charmaine and "whorses" represent this integration, and Tony is astride Pie-O-My in the living room when he next asks Carmela to reconcile.

Tony's Attempt to Silence His Voices of Doubt

As I rewatched the Coach Molinaro scenes, I'm less persuaded of my initial interpretation, which was that the coach was his conscience. He seems more to represent Tony's voices of doubt and regret. For example, he lights into Tony for not "cleaving himself away" from the bad crowd he hung with and for trying to blame his parents, especially his mother, for his Mafia lifestyle. These are reproachful voices not unlike voices of conscience, but they are very acerbic.

Yet the coach also mistakenly pegged Artie as the "worst of the bunch" when he in fact was far from it. He also tells Tony he (Tony) will likely always take the easy way out of a problem, i.e., the path of "wrong" over the path of "right". This sounds less like conscience than like doubt or discouragement.

Also in the realm of doubt, when Tony says he has a wife, the coach questions, "Do you?" In view of how Tony chose to describe her ("she's got the house worth a million two because I'm successful"), I'm tempted to interpret the coach's remark (as projected by Tony) not only in the obvious way of "you have no wife because you treated her like $hit for too many years." I hear, "Do you really have a wife if she won't support your attempt to 'cleave yourself away' from the bad bunch you hang with?"

The last thing the coach says is "you'll never shut me up", which means that no matter how many of the tests from this dream that Tony passes in real life, he will likely always have doubts about the choices he will make.

But the earliest signs for reborn Tony are hopeful: his first symbolic act of breaking mob ties was when he broke the "T" off the Toberlone candy bar and let Chris take the remainder. His second encouraging act was the phone call to Carmela and how the dialog was all about him wanting to be home with her, even bringing him to the brink of talking about the "whorse"/"horze" problem.

Carmela's Death

Someone asked me in another thread why I have been suspecting ever stronger (since episode 5) that Carmela would die this season. I'll add to that list a couple of very strong pieces of foreshadowing from Test Dream that I've not mentioned before:

1) When Tony gets to his "heaven" at the Plaza (the "other side" to Carmine), he has pictures of himself with Meadow and a solo photo of AJ. The one family member's photo missing is Carmela's. Whatever side of the veil of death they are all on, it's not the same side as Carmela.

2) When Makazian gets to the lyric in the song, "And now that we've come to the end of our rainbow," he suddenly shifts and holds his gaze on Carmela.

3) During their ending phone conversation, the light that Tony keeps wondering about does gradually creep across Carmela's pillow in successive shots. The sun is literally rising as they speak. Yet right after she laughs at his Esterhauz joke, the screen goes immediately black on her face and you hear him ask the question again, "Is it light there yet?" Something about that editorial choice was just unspeakably jolting and ominous.


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Re: Test Dream as Blueprint for Rest of Season

#3
Hey Fly, really surprised to see virtually no replies to this thread, and after all the effort you put in to analyzing the dream! I think your summation of the dream's meaning is just about perfect, and supported well enough to convince me that it couldn't possibly mean anything else. Really, I just love coming to The Chase Lounge so much, just to read things like this.

Can not wait to see this place hopping again in a few months!

Re: Test Dream as Blueprint for Rest of Season

#4
UP, I think the reason there's no replies is because this thread was imported from the Sopranoland forum, and that board was the victim of a hack a while back which killed a lot of old posts. If you look at a lot of the season five threads, they are the same way. A shame.

Kudos to Fly, though, for the very thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis.

Re: Test Dream as Blueprint for Rest of Season

#5
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. Some great intepretations there, which certainly make a mockery of all the ranting and raving from so many fans at the time who proclaimed 'Test Dream' one of the worst episodes ever. Is there anywhere on the forum where FlyOnMelfisWall expands upon these theories with regards to the episodes that followed (Long Term Parking and All Due Respect, both crucially important in the grand scheme of things) and season 6a? I'd be interested to hear them, especially in terms of how this episode relates to the Kevin Finnerty story? Dunno whether there's an explicit link or not, but the point he/she made about the light in the final scene when Tony is talking to Carmela on the phone sent a chill down my spine and instantly made me think of the Tony's coma.
Fantastic brain food either way. And to think some people still think this is just a show about gangsters eating pasta, swearing and killing each other.

Re: Test Dream as Blueprint for Rest of Season

#8
Wow, great interpretation of "The Test Dream" episode. This has become one of my top 10 favorite Sopranos episodes of all time. It is really an episode that makes you think and has a lot of deep meanings. One of those episodes that you can't watch enough, because you will probably pick up something new every time you watch it. Thanks to FlyOnMelfisWall for the great analysis. I picked up on a lot of things that were mentioned, but still had a lot of questions about the episode until I read the post. It gives me a excuse to watch the episode again! To fully understand eveything.

Re: Test Dream as Blueprint for Rest of Season

#10
I'm glad this thread still sees some activity. It's been quite a while since I've read it, and I've gone through some important revisions of interpretations in my own mind since I wrote it, which was back in the week after that episode first aired.

I must also remind that several key interpretations in this post owe not to me but to chaseisgod and bravado. Sadly bravado is no longer posting with us, but chaseisgod is still here. Would be curious to see how he may view this episode now 3 years on.
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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