Emphasis on Fathers and Sons

#11
I am starting a new thread on this topic because I feel that the first episodes of this second half of the season have had tremendous overtones dealing with father-son relationships. I saw a post in the decompression thread from FOMW that touched on this, but it appears not to have been developed there and I think that the overwhelming number of father/son relationships that have been talked about on the show in these three episodes deserves some real attention. I am not one who likes to speculate about what's coming down the pike, but for those who are expecting AJ's demise, this might be some fodder.

Evidence:

a) Last week's therapy session with Melfi, when Tony talked about how he tried to raise Christopher like a son, and how he saw Christopher's dad like a father figure.

b) Uncle Junior's asian friend talking about how he was all messed up in the head because of his father's unrealistic expectations and lack of support. He told Junior about his math test when his father asked where the other four points had gone.

c) Numerous discussions in this episode and in the lake house episode about Tony's father, Johnnie Boy, who we haven't heard about in a long time.

d) Tony's mention of how at times he wished that Paulie had been his father.

I will have more thoughts on this after I watch the episode again, but I wondered if anyone else had noticed the prevalence of these father/son discussions.


EDIT: And I am a big fool, I somehow missed the big thread already devoted to this topic. My apologies to the admins for having to clean up my mess.

Merged for you, sir. Great to hear from you again. DH.

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#12
As sort of a disconnected connect, I have also been reflecting on the "thankless job" of being boss -- a point that has been catching some attention in the writing recently. (i.e. Johnny Sacc's explicit recognition of this fact in the last episode, Tony's numerous statements throughout the season, a glimpse into Uncle Junior's sad, demented life, and Carmine Jr.'s story about the empty box and his father).

As it relates to the father/son aspect, I went through a brief review of the episodes in my head and struggled to find a positive father figure who is in fact "thanked" by having grateful or successful children. Arguably Meadow is loyal and successful, but is hardly grateful, and in very few ways has Tony ever been an admirable father.

I wonder how much of a connection there is between mafia success relying upon being able to "cut off" even one's best friend at any moment, and the concomitant inability of any of the mob guys to support their kids through difficult times, or in most cases, times in general.

I am sure that there are some examples of good fathers -- actually, Bobby Baccala just came to mind -- and notably, it wasn't until recently that he had ever had to kill anyone.

Does the thankless boss/bad father connection strike anyone else in any particular way?

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#13
Has anyone mentioned the story of Jackie Aprile and his son? Jackie Sr wanted to keep Jackie Jr out of the business -- and Tony promised him he'd keep him straight -- but Jackie Jr wanted to be like his dad, got into big trouble, and Tony ended up ordering him whacked. I'm sure Tony's still carrying around the guilt about this father and son.

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#14
peeayebee wrote:Has anyone mentioned the story of Jackie Aprile and his son? Jackie Sr wanted to keep Jackie Jr out of the business -- and Tony promised him he'd keep him straight -- but Jackie Jr wanted to be like his dad, got into big trouble, and Tony ended up ordering him whacked. I'm sure Tony's still carrying around the guilt about this father and son.


Good point about the Jackie Jr saga, I remember Tony in a therapy session just before Jackie Jr's fate was sealed talking about how he tried to be a better father to him then his actual father, it all ties in.

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#15
nen10dough wrote: 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.

When I read the word "unpreparedness" in your post quoted above, I *immediately* thought of season 5's "The Test Dream". The end of that episode shows Tony waking from a dream where he tries to shoot his high school coach (another father figure), but fumbles it, while the coach berates him for not being *prepared*. When he talks about this dream to Carmela on the phone, it's clear from their conversation that it's a recurring nightmare.

I never even had a working theory on what the dream meant up till now, but after reading your post. . . I think it could be that the coach dream-- obviously important in Tony's psyche since it's a recurring one-- is all about Tony's unpreparedness to deal with his father issues. His inability to shoot the coach, then, could be seen as his total unpreparedness to direct any of his rage towards his father.

When Melfi predicted Tony's total decompensation in 6A, she linked it directly to his inability to face the reality that his uncle had shot him. Tony was, at the time, still aglow with the "Each day is a gift" mentality. That glow seems long gone by now.

And taken in the context of all the father/son relationships and themes bubbling throughout the series (already described so well by others here), given all the examples we've seen of Tony's total lack of insight into his real father's character and effect on him, it seems to me that Tony's feelings towards Junior, and towards his father, are going to be pivotal as the show wraps up.

How sad it is to type those words. . . "as the show wraps up". . . sigh. . . :icon_sad:

When Tony first learned of his mother's plot to kill him at the end of season 1, we saw him almost immediately afterwards try to smother her with a pillow. Yet somehow, Junior, who actually *ordered* the hit, continued to have a relationship with Tony (And not just for business purposes) all through the second season, the time when Tony was referring to his still-living mother as "dead to me".

So are all these unresolved father issues going to be the catalyst of (a) a future breakthrough in therapy, if he finally faces these issues, or (b) Tony's total decompensation, as predicted by Melfi if he stays in denial. Or both? Could Melfi turn out to be the ultimate, however inadvertent, cause of pushing Tony over the edge?

Remember how he reacted when he found out Livia had tried to kill him. We next saw him in the hospital clutching a pillow in his hands, doubtless on his way to smother her. Thing is, with Junior locked up and only a shell of himself, with Johnnyboy long dead, there's no father figure for Tony to avenge himself against if he is pushed over the edge by confronting his rage towards his father(s).

It would be an interesting development, however unlikely the prediction. . . perhaps Melfi, in doing her job as a therapist well, tries to draw out the root causes of Tony's personality and choices, pushing Tony to talk more about his father, Junior, his male role models, and she touches the nerve a bit too hard or once too often. I'm remembering Tony's reaction in season 1 the first time Melfi suggested that he had rage towards his mother: he flipped a coffee table over, screaming and cursing while invading her personal space, then stormed out after announcing that she's lucky he didn't kill her.

So if Tony really, really, really started talking about his father issues, it would be a therapy "breakthrough" of sorts, but of the most negative kind imaginable, and who can guess whom he'd pick to vent his rage against. Not Paulie. I think that ship has sailed (no pun intended) after the last episode. And all the rest of his father figures are dead, except Hesh. Will he lash out at Hesh after getting himself into heavy gambling debts with him? Or is the most likely person for Tony to direct his unleashed rage *himself*? Either way, get ready to witness some really world class decompensation, and fast.

I expect everything I've just written will be proven wrong as the season progresses. :icon_wink:

It's great to be back posting; I have to say, though, that I've been reading the posts pretty thoroughly since the start of season 6. There are just too many intelligent, provocative messages to respond to, how does one know where to begin??? And so often, I find that others have already said so very well what I was thinking of maybe posting tomorrow, or the next day, or. . . . :icon_biggrin:
--wgw

"there's some folks out there that if they don't get it, you can't tell 'em." (louis armstrong)

Re: All Tony's Fathers

#16
wgaryw wrote:When I read the word "unpreparedness" in your post quoted above, I *immediately* thought of season 5's "The Test Dream". The end of that episode shows Tony waking from a dream where he tries to shoot his high school coach (another father figure), but fumbles it, while the coach berates him for not being *prepared*. When he talks about this dream to Carmela on the phone, it's clear from their conversation that it's a recurring nightmare.

I never even had a working theory on what the dream meant up till now, but after reading your post. . . I think it could be that the coach dream-- obviously important in Tony's psyche since it's a recurring one-- is all about Tony's unpreparedness to deal with his father issues. His inability to shoot the coach, then, could be seen as his total unpreparedness to direct any of his rage towards his father.


I had always seen the coach as kind of a "demon" (complete with bright red jacket) of Tony's doubt about what he did with his life after he left high school, the demon of doubt about who he, Tony, really is. Is he truly the Tony that had secret yearning to be a football coach or the Tony that wound up leading a very different kind of "sport"? (The "Two Tonys" and Soprano/Finnerty dichotomy all over again.)

The coach says things throughout that conversation that can be taken two markedly different ways, one where he seems to be chastising Tony for becoming Tony the gangster and one that seems to be chastising him for NOT becoming Tony the football coach. Tony hopes to "silence his doubts" about his true identity by killing this demon, but he fails, meaning he will continue to be plagued by doubts about who he really is and what he did with his life.

However I have to say that your analysis is positively brilliant and has offered much food for thought. There is that line in there that resonates very clearly with your interpretation where Molinaro asks if Tony blames all his problems on his father and Tony replies, "no, more my mother". With a satisfied grin, the coach replies, "even better".

When Melfi predicted Tony's total decompensation in 6A, she linked it directly to his inability to face the reality that his uncle had shot him. Tony was, at the time, still aglow with the "Each day is a gift" mentality. That glow seems long gone by now.

And taken in the context of all the father/son relationships and themes bubbling throughout the series (already described so well by others here), given all the examples we've seen of Tony's total lack of insight into his real father's character and effect on him, it seems to me that Tony's feelings towards Junior, and towards his father, are going to be pivotal as the show wraps up.


I agree.

When Tony first learned of his mother's plot to kill him at the end of season 1, we saw him almost immediately afterwards try to smother her with a pillow. Yet somehow, Junior, who actually *ordered* the hit, continued to have a relationship with Tony (And not just for business purposes) all through the second season, the time when Tony was referring to his still-living mother as "dead to me".


That always puzzled and bothered me. Bothering me even more was Melfi weighing in on these matters without knowing ANY of these people and getting a view of them only through Tony's subjective (and often skewed) portraits. When Tony told her that Junior had let Livia off the hook for the hit because she was loony, Melif replied, "Your uncle loves you." I thought that absolutely represented Melfi's professional nadir, a moment of extreme incompetence. With that one statement, she herself justified Tony continuing to view his mother as the dominant if not sole source of his psychic injuries, the truly defective parental figure in his life.

It would be an interesting development, however unlikely the prediction. . . perhaps Melfi, in doing her job as a therapist well, tries to draw out the root causes of Tony's personality and choices, pushing Tony to talk more about his father, Junior, his male role models, and she touches the nerve a bit too hard or once too often. I'm remembering Tony's reaction in season 1 the first time Melfi suggested that he had rage towards his mother: he flipped a coffee table over, screaming and cursing while invading her personal space, then stormed out after announcing that she's lucky he didn't kill her.


Good point. Rage and violence are certainly the ways Tony has dealt with hurt most consistently and smart money would bet on that to continue.

But I also think there's a chance that the decompensation will take the form of deep, deep sorrow, depression ("rage turned inward"), and perhaps an uncontrollable fit of crying. Recall that in Johnny Cakes, Elliot asked if Tony had cried or reported crying over the shooting, and Melfi disappointedly reported "no". In the same episode, Tony shouted at AJ to "stop crying" twice, in keeping with his aversion/discomfort when anyone has ever become tearful in his presence. Then, in the next breath, when he learns that AJ tried to do what Michael Corleone did to the men who tried to kill his father, largely because he thought that would be the best way to please and prove his love to Tony, Tony says that AJ makes him want to cry.

Many of us felt that Tony became more emotional in Stage 5 when talking about Christopher -- a surrogate son that plays right into this father/son dynamic -- than he's ever been before with respect to any human being. So somehow I get the feeling that extreme outpouring of sorrow will be a part of whatever decompensation is coming.

Excellent post, wgaryw. I hope you keep 'em coming.:icon_wink:
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

#17
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:I had always seen the coach as kind of a "demon" (complete with bright red jacket) of Tony's doubt about what he did with his life after he left high school, the demon of doubt about who he, Tony, really is. Is he truly the Tony that had secret yearning to be a football coach or the Tony that wound up leading a very different kind of "sport"? (The "Two Tonys" and Soprano/Finnerty dichotomy all over again.)

The coach says things throughout that conversation that can be taken two markedly different ways, one where he seems to be chastising Tony for becoming Tony the gangster and one that seems to be chastising him for NOT becoming Tony the football coach. Tony hopes to "silence his doubts" about his true identity by killing this demon, but he fails, meaning he will continue to be plagued by doubts about who he really is and what he did with his life.


Very interesting, and I see your take as a sort of "parallel" interpretation more so than a conflicting one. At the time, in season 5, I saw the dream only as a reflection of Tony's immediate problem, which was whether to kill Tony Blundetto. And on that level, it does fit, but as with so many parts of the Sopranos, there are so many levels beyond the surface worth considering, and so many valid ways of interpreting things. I've never experienced a show that pays such high rewards for repeated viewing and detailed analysis. Here we are, discussing season 6b episode #3, and discovering that it may shed new light on a dream sequence from season 5.

There is that line in there that resonates very clearly with your interpretation where Molinaro asks if Tony blames all his problems on his father and Tony replies, "no, more my mother". With a satisfied grin, the coach replies, "even better".
I forgot all about that!!! I'm rewatching the whole series (as I'm sure many of us are), but I'm only up to season 3, so I relied on memory alone in recalling the "Test Dream" episode. It certainly fits in nicely, doesn't it???

Bothering me even more was Melfi weighing in on these matters without knowing ANY of these people and getting a view of them only through Tony's subjective (and often skewed) portraits. When Tony told her that Junior had let Livia off the hook for the hit because she was loony, Melif replied, "Your uncle loves you." I thought that absolutely represented Melfi's professional nadir, a moment of extreme incompetence. With that one statement, she herself justified Tony continuing to view his mother as the dominant if not sole source of his psychic injuries, the truly defective parental figure in his life.
Ah, Fly, this is why I love this forum in general, and your posts in particular. . . your observation about Melfi's take on the attempt on Tony's life is spot on, absolutely valid, and still, it never even crossed my mind before reading your post. And I've watched season 1 at least 5 times by this point.

You're right. In retrospect I don't know why I didn't notice it. She has no basis (that we've seen at least) for making such a sweeping judgment. Do you think this was intended, or just sloppy writing?

My gut feeling-- and that's all this is, a gut feeling-- is that David Chase was really not interested in Tony's father until the 2nd season, and really moreso the 3rd. He's described the arc of season 1 as always having been about Livia's hit on Tony, the major change being that he intended to kill Livia off at the end of the season, but found that she was too great a character (and Marchand too great an actress) to kill her off.

I think the whole father-issue thing for Tony is kind of like the ducks-in-the-pool thing, one of those mysteries whose meaning has emerged organically out of the writing itself, not from a pre-planned, architectural design. It's as if the writers were reacting to how little attention was paid to Tony's father and his effect on Tony in the early seasons, and gave it meaning by translating it into a psychological issue for Tony in itself: that Tony has such troublesome feelings towards his father that he avoids serious contemplation of his father almost completely. The lack of attention paid to his father in the writing, then, becomes fodder for an interesting bit of character development.

Rage and violence are certainly the ways Tony has dealt with hurt most consistently and smart money would bet on that to continue.
The thought has crossed my mind more than once that he might possibly do some harm to Dr. Melfi, a truly disturbing prospect. However consistent this may be with his history, I know I REALLY don't want to see it. . . it was hard enough to see her attacked by a stranger in season 3; I think seeing her attacked by Tony would really be too much for me.

But I do think it's a possibility.

But I also think there's a chance that the decompensation will take the form of deep, deep sorrow, depression ("rage turned inward"), and perhaps an uncontrollable fit of crying.
I hope you're right, because that could be a catalyst for a real catharsis, and a lasting change in Tony's character. And I have to say, your post elsewhere about your belief that the series will wrap up with Tony finding redemption in discovering in a deeper way Carmela's real love for him, is just about the only way I can picture the series wrapping up on anything approaching a positive note. But I don't think Chase is willing to let these guys off the hook even that much. . .

Many of us felt that Tony became more emotional in Stage 5 when talking about Christopher -- a surrogate son that plays right into this father/son dynamic -- than he's ever been before with respect to any human being. So somehow I get the feeling that extreme outpouring of sorrow will be a part of whatever decompensation is coming.
*Excellent* point. Anger is so often a defense against feeling sorrow, it *would* be a major breakthrough for Tony to fully experience sorrow without covering it up immediately in a cloak of hostility.

And this all fits in so well with the recurring theme of the "Gary Cooper type" that Tony idealizes so highly, the real man who keeps his damned feelings to himself.

Excellent post, wgaryw. I hope you keep 'em coming.
Thanks, Fly. :icon_biggrin: I always enjoy your posts (and I read every one of 'em). This is by far the most interesting and intelligent Sopranos forum on the web. And believe me, I know-- I've checked them all. :icon_wink:
--wgw



"there's some folks out there that if they don't get it, you can't tell 'em." (louis armstrong)
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