All Tony's Fathers

#1
This episode provided a lot to chew on in relation to what is increasingly being revealed as Tony's difficulty in identifying one true father figure. Going all the way back to Down Neck, Tony talked about how Johnny Boy "wasn't around much", spending much of Tony's youth apparently either incarcerated or socializing with mob cronies and goomars.

When Melfi asked Tony early on to talk about his father, Tony suddenly had a flashback in her office to Junior throwing him a baseball, Tony dropping it, and Junior yelling "heads up". This is significant, first, because the word "father" didn't make Tony first think of Johnny Boy but of Junior. Second, the memory Tony had was not of some moment when he felt really loved by Junior but of a chastisement for dropping a baseball. That incident seemed to resonate with Junior's more serious indictments of Tony's athletic ability, indictments so damaging to Tony's self esteem that they figured in two of the three most serious eruptions ever between them (Junior revealing how ashamed he was to face his friends when Tony dropped a pop fly (Boca) and, of course, the perrennial sting of "you don't have the makings of a varsity athlete", which led to the "he's dead to me" of season 5.)

Tonight we learned that Tony wasn't sure whether his father was ever proud of or believed in him. And we even hear that, at one point, Tony wished Paulie was his dad.

Putting this together with last week, we know that Tony might well have loved Dickie Moltisanti more than any of these guys and considered him a real friend, someone he could respect and look up to. But Dickie was killed when Tony was still a kid of about 10. So the one guy who might have been the best surrogate father for Tony never got the chance to complete the role.

As others have noted, Melfi has been steadily trying to get Tony to critically examine his father and the impact he had on what Tony has become. Tony has shown very little willingness to consider the issue thus far and insists on preserving this increasingly false image of him as a "good guy". A good guy who rarely spent time with his kids, who wouldn't leave his goomar when his wife was in the hospital miscarrying their child and in danger of dying, who came perilously close to shooting Livia in the head in a fit of rage, and whose compliments to his son were apparently so rare that the one leaving the biggest imprint was praise that Tony had not "run away like a little girl" after seeing a finger chopped off.

Despite Tony's resistance to taking him off his pedastal, I feel there has to be something substantive on the horizon here. As Melfi said, Tony never saw his mother chop off a finger, and it wasn't she who sent him out at 22 to whack a bookmaker. He's a gangster primarily because Johnny Boy, and all his other father figures, were gangsters. And it's time Tony shifted some of the blame for what he's become from his mother to them. That seems a necessary stepping stone to putting the ultimate blame where it belongs, on himself.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#2
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote: He's a gangster primarily because Johnny Boy, and all his other father figures, were gangsters.



Fly,

You missed the one "father-figure" in this episode that isn't of the same heritage or religion-Hesh. Tony still seems to want to talk to Hesh when he needs get something out or just talk. With everyone else on the phone, Tony always seems to be short with them, but just the opposite is true when he's talking to Hesh.

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#3
I'm curious whether people think it was Johnny Boy or Paulie who, during Tony's flashback of shooting the bookie, said 'come on kid, do it' --- at first I assumed it was Johnny Boy, but on second listen I think it sounds like Paulie. If so, I would assume that is what really triggered Tony's anger toward Paulie (making Tony's behavior much less random than it might other seem to some)

Regardless of who it was, it's so telling, IMHO, that Paulie refers to Tony as having been 'bit shaky' during the hit. On one hand, that's to be expected (frightening to think of someone who wouldn't be shaky in that situation) on the other, part of me is surprised to hear Tony described this way. I hope more details of this killing will come out in a future Melfi session.

separately, below is a slightly edited post I put in the general forum earlier (before this thread was started) seems more appropriate here:

I really think tonight's episode points to a major therapeutic breakthrough (or maybe just a breakdown?) coming for Tony regarding his feelings about his father.

We all know how sentimental Tony can be ... along with the obvious issues of their long friendship and Tony's initial admiration for him, Paulie's talk about how great Johnny Boy was and how he loved Tony should have inoculated him against Tony's murderous thoughts ... at least in the short term. (I suppose one could argue that they did protect him - but Tony seemed to be very seriously thinking about picking up that knife.)

So, would Melfi say he was transferring his subconscious rage toward his father onto Paulie? In particular, the heavily implied rage Tony harbors toward Johnny Boy having for pushin him to kill the bookie? An event that in tonight's episode came back and threatened to destroy Tony and his family?

I liked how Jr.'s story was so punctuated by father-son (literal or otherwise) references. (Jr. talking about his father, the Asian guy's father issues, the Asian guy so intently studying Jr. throughout the episode and then acting out what he'd been taught, and, of course, Jr. calling the Asian guy 'Anthony.) (sorry I keep saying 'the Asian guy' - I didn't catch his name)

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#4
The father figure in Tony's life is important. Consider Soprano Home Movies where Janice is constantly comparing the two siblings and then comparing them to Livia or Johnny. I think we are also going to see Tony's realization of what he is like as a father. Based upon AJ's recent failings and a lot of exposure for AJ in some of the previews, there has to be an additional arc dealing with Tony's relationship to AJ and relating that to his relationship with Johnny and his other surrogate fathers.

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#5
As mentioned in the episode feedback thread, I think there is much going on with the absence of Junior in Tony's life - in essence, the loss of yet another father-figure (whether good or bad influence.) It makes me wonder if there might be some issue with Hesh now (since we see Tony asking for a short loan due to his gambling debts.)

Tony is slowly becoming more and more isolated, it seems to me. One wonders if his fate might not be far removed from that of the longest father-figure in Tony's life - Uncle June. If he does not confront what these men truly meant for him and his life, he might end up exactly that way.
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Re: All Tony's Fathers

#6
Well, I don't know how to read this.

Tony had a chance to kill his father figure (Paulie) in this episode and couldn't do it, symbolizing the fact he has never been able to slay the Johnny Boy dragon.

On the other hand, the fact that he DIDN'T kill Paulie could be seen as a repudiation of his gangster upbringing and lifestyle. After all, Paulie annoys him and, worse, has a big mouth, which threatens Tony. That's usually been enough to make him act. But this time he didn't.

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#7
HagensBing1977 wrote:Fly,

You missed the one "father-figure" in this episode that isn't of the same heritage or religion-Hesh. Tony still seems to want to talk to Hesh when he needs get something out or just talk. With everyone else on the phone, Tony always seems to be short with them, but just the opposite is true when he's talking to Hesh.


Very good point, HB. With the loan situation and Hesh in the previews for next week, perhaps we'll get some amplification on that relationship as well.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#8
EdaMaria wrote:I really think tonight's episode points to a major therapeutic breakthrough (or maybe just a breakdown?) coming for Tony regarding his feelings about his father.


A breakthrough seems pretty imminent from the looks of things. I'm almost dreading its occurence even though it's what I've always wanted for Tony all these years. I know that "Clarity can't be a bad thing" according to Melphi, but in Tony's case where his true nature has been at odds with the choices he's made for so long; manifesting itself through panic attacks, constant agitation, and over-eating among other things, the final realization and acceptance at this point that "All of (his) choices were wrong" will probably be more destructive than therapeutic. The fact that he could not bring himself to kill Paulie on the boat shows his unpreparedness in confronting any issues he has surrounding his emulation of Jonny Boy/Junior. With Tony's recent gambling troubles bubbling to the surface, however, it seems that he will be unable to ignore these larger issues through his recreational and self-destructive activities for very much longer.

(Edit: On second thought, maybe Tony's gambling isn't as self-destructive as it seems. Gambling is actually a direct challange to Jonny Boy, who in the infamous pinky-cutting episode explicitly told Tony never to gamble. Maybe subconciously Tony would like his own pinky cut off for the life he has chosen.)

On a side note, suicide has never seemed to me to be a very probable exit for Tony, even with his allusions to it in a few Melphi scenes from prior seasons. I just never imagined he could get to that point. But after last night's episode and his gradual decay ever since he came out of his coma, I can't help but feel it'll at least be considered by Tony at some point in the future. A breakthrough of that magnitude and the collapse of his idolization for Jonny Boy would more than merit it, I just hope that he would decide not to act on those impulses.

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#9
EdaMaria wrote:I'm curious whether people think it was Johnny Boy or Paulie who, during Tony's flashback of shooting the bookie, said 'come on kid, do it' --- at first I assumed it was Johnny Boy, but on second listen I think it sounds like Paulie. If so, I would assume that is what really triggered Tony's anger toward Paulie (making Tony's behavior much less random than it might other seem to some)


It was Paulie. His participation in the murder was the reason he was on the lam with Tony.

EdaMaria wrote: it's so telling, IMHO, that Paulie refers to Tony as having been 'bit shaky' during the hit. On one hand, that's to be expected (frightening to think of someone who wouldn't be shaky in that situation) on the other, part of me is surprised to hear Tony described this way. I hope more details of this killing will come out in a future Melfi session.


In chat just recently, several of us were talking about what flashbacks we'd like to see. I put in my vote for a flashback to Tony's first whacking. I am not spoiled, so it was slilghtly freaky and quite exciting that it happened in the very next episode, even though it was much more flash (as short as a camera flash) than back.

Honestly, though, I think we could see this coming after Soprano Home Movies. Tony talked about how murder was a "big fat pain in the balls". "Virgin" Bobby completely misssed the psychological weight evident in Tony's demeanor when he said it, instead agreeing based on the tremendous risks of apprehension and prosecution.

The use of the song "This Magic Moment" was used to convey the point that the weight of the ultimate crime never really leaves. When Tony is on the docks confronting his age, declining physical prowess and health, and general unhappiness, he hears the song "Magic Moment" waft out from the house. He puts his head back and lets the breeze blow over him by the lake, trying to capture his own magic moment of tranquility, trying to feel the "great wind" carrying him along. But as soon as he reclines, Bobby, who is free of the same weight of murder, dials the tuner to a different station, one giving the grim story of death and warfare in Iraq. At that point in time, Bobby doesn't need or respond to the sentimentality of a song like "Magic Moment" while Tony, per usual, finds that those moments of tranquility are few and fleeting and always interrupted by the reality of killing.

How different Bobby feels when he returns from his first hit. Now there is a mix of emotions as he scoops up his little girl and looks out over the lake. He has crossed the "magic moment" in time when he took a human life simply because that person meant money for the gang with which he's associated. He tries hard to shake the burden while embracing Nica, but he can't. He is forever changed.

As I posted in the SHM forum, I think Tony chose this method of revenge against Bobby because, at some level, he must sabotage the "happy wanderers" of the world, he must bring down anyone whose moral character or tangible efforts at self-improvement he envies. And he imagines this killing to be the most damaging act he could do to Bobby because he imputes to him the damage he himself suffered when he took his first life.

So SHM made it feel inevitable that Tony's first killing would at some point be brought up. And, again not surprisingly, we hear that Tony was apparently just as shaken as Bobby in doing it. He recalls the details, recalls seeing the victim on the ground pleading, recalls the gun in his hand, recalls Paulie urging him on. He knows exactly how old he was at the time, not his approximate age. He recalls that it was only a week before his first child was born. Two life landmarks, of widely disparate kinds, tied together in time.

So, would Melfi say he was transferring his subconscious rage toward his father onto Paulie? In particular, the heavily implied rage Tony harbors toward Johnny Boy having for pushin him to kill the bookie? An event that in tonight's episode came back and threatened to destroy Tony and his family?


That's a very interesting thought, one that seems to make a lot of sense. How nice it would be if Melfi actually got the chance to discuss this with Tony. Having been burned too many times before with hopes that Tony will share something in therapy (more of his dreams, impulses, etc.), I'm reluctant to actually predict anymore.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#10
He's a gangster primarily because Johnny Boy, and all his other father figures, were gangsters. And it's time Tony shifted some of the blame for what he's become from his mother to them. That seems a necessary stepping stone to putting the ultimate blame where it belongs, on himself.

I feel certain that at the end Tony will recognize his father, Jonny Boy, as being the bum he was -- not a loving father, but a destroyer. But this realization will not save him. It might save AJ, but I think that Tony is destined to die. Correction: Perhaps Tony's soul will be saved with the epiphany, but not his life.
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