Circling the Bowl

#1
Much like the rest of the posters and visitors to this site, I consider myself to be fan of The Sopranos, however, with the onslaught of the most recent, terribly written/acted episodes, I question whether the remaining episodes can actually save the series.

Last night's episode only served to continue to allow the writers of the show to throw unnecessary story lines and plot diversions at the viewers. Granted, the entire series has been wraught with symbolism and metaphors, but I find that the story lines contained in the most recent episodes have almost served to be nothing more than filler instead of justification to extend the life of the series.

The whole plot line with Hesh? C'mon, how far-fetched was that? Throughout the series, Hesh has been the only one that Tony can turn to for honesty and guidance. Some would say that this episode marks the further deevolution of Tony, however, I would assert that we have seen enough of that already. We need no further proof.

BTW- What was up with the writers killing off Hesh's girlfriend at the end? Completely useless and a waste of time. Further demonstration of the decrease in the quality of the show.

The whole thing with the gambling seemed more than a little unrealistic. To tony, who covets money and security above all else, gambling to such an extent would seem completely against his sense of personal beliefs.

Is is just me or does Tony's whole crew seem to function like they are joined together in the recreation room of some geriatric nursing home? The show never shows them scheming and scrapping like it did in earlier episodes in the series. The whole "crew" has become boring and stale.

Why is it that Tony always seems to be on the defense when it comes to dealing with other mob families? When Tony told John to go "F" himself, it was the first time Tony really asserted himself to NY, however, it was over something that Tony had no real right to do. Tony's cousin messed up and he should've let Phil exact his revenge in the traditional manner of the mob. The writers, and Chase, only further served to convolute and already disjointed and careless plot line.

It is a shame that at this point in the series, we are all clammering for the return of the mythical Russian who escaped from Christopher and Paulie in the woods. How pathetic are we all to hold on to this storyline when Chase himself has given up on it?

Don't even get me started on the Tony/Kevin Finnerty story line.

I think that there is something to be said for the series being like a work of art, however, at what point does the art diverge from being entertainment to an outlet for the eccentricities of the show's creator, writers and producers? The time has come to stop the insanity. If there were no more episodes in the can, I think that I could live with it. I has been less than impressed with the last several seasons. The actors are PHENOMENAL, however, there talents are being underutilized with the way that the series has played out over the course of the last few seasons.

Re: Circling the Bowl

#2
While saying that the actors are phenomenal, you also say in the first line that recent episode are terribly acted? Say what you will about the writing, I find it impossible to believe that anyone could find that the actors in this series have ever - even in the latest episodes - been anything less than sensational.

Concerning the rest of your post, I understand what you are saying. That's not to say that I agree or feel similarly (because I don't), but I can still appreciate the validity of your complaint.

Art is entirely subjective, and yes, I consider "The Sopranos" a piece of art in every sense of the word. No matter the medium of artwork, be it a painting, a piece of music, a film, no one piece will ever be unanimously praised. Yes, David Chase's television show is the result of great deviation from convention, but at no point has it become divorced from "entertainment" for me. It fact, it was the eccentric, avant-garde style of the show that attracted me to it in the first place - There is nothing on television like this. The fact that I have no idea where Chase is going to take me week after week is the most alluring quality of the show. The series has definitely evolved over the years, continuing to surprise me - not with an increasing amount of graphic violence, blood and gore (an easy route for Chase to take) - but with ever-deepening emotional resonance; richer, more fully-realized characters; and reflections on what it means to be human. For a television show to pull such strong feelings from me is very special, and much more meaningful than a few extra gunfights or mafia executions.

The slower pace and invocation of deeper, philosophical themes as of late is not for everybody. The other major allure of the series is the look into the dangerous lives of a New Jersey crime family, and it's easy to see why this is. These characters are intimidating, dangerous, and thrilling, invoking an interest in them akin to the attraction Dr. Melfi has for Tony's power in the show. And in today's popular culture, graphic violence is enough already to build a fanbase, an element "The Sopranos" has never been afraid to exhibit in unflinching detail. If one is more interested in the the mafia-drama aspect of the show, it's understandable that they would be less than thrilled with some recent storylines, such as the metaphysical journey of a comatose Tony Soprano, or the quiet pondering of questions like "Who am I? Where am I going?" As a person trying to see a potentially decent human being in the likes of Tony Soprano, despite his capacity for committing the most evil acts imaginable, I was thrilled by the Soprano/Finnerty storyline, and hoped his awakening from the coma would yield a spiritual and moral awakening of sorts. Different people look for different things from this series ...

As far as this specific episode, many people have already pointed out several of the points you made about Tony's gambling or conflict with Hesh being far-fetched or out of character. The difference in Tony's demeanor is not a departure from his character, it's the growth of the character. He now has a problem with Hesh, but he also has one with most of his other crew members as well. He's becoming increasingly isolated and alone, most of which is due to his own actions and increasingly hostile attitude. The gambling seemed like a very sudden development, and perhaps it wasn't adequately set up. But you must take into account the liberties the writers have to take, with so much more to story to tell, and so little time to tell it. Perhaps with extra time, it would have been a more well-developed plot point, and made to seem more realistic.

I have full confidence in where Chase is taking us, heading into the final five. The show has developed and changed over the years, and I've never stopped appreciating where it's taken me. It's unfortunate that Chase's continued dedication to taking risks and challenging his viewers has lost him some fans along the way, and I wish everybody could appreciate the series for the same reasons I do. But as I already said, art is entirely subjective, and it's impossible for Chase to satisfy everybody.

Re: Circling the Bowl

#3
UP-

You summed up so many of the feelings I have about the show. The Sopranos is completely art to me as well. I'm a huge music fan, and I've defended some of my favorite works in music as art, so the concepts of what art is vs. what entertainment is are something I think a lot about. The Sopranos is the best example of art I can think of in recent pop culture.

In my opinion, a body of art changes. It has an ebb and flow. It swoons this way and then that way. It's confusing one second, makes perfect sense the next, is completely satisfying one moment, and then is frustrating the next. As long as it never loses it's vision, it'll take you on a crazy ride. That's what art does, and that's what The Sopranos does for me.

A lot of people's frustrations with the show tend to stem from expectations they have. With The Sopranos, most of those stem from it straying too far from a show about the mafia. Love it or hate it, the show has been making an attempt to be more than a mafia show.

Re: Circling the Bowl

#4
AJColossal wrote:Love it or hate it, the show has been making an attempt to be more than a mafia show.


Yeah, 100%. And before, I said that it's impossible for Chase to satisfy everybody. But more than anything, I admire Chase for making the decision to satisfy no one before himself - To remain true to his original vision, while resisting the urge to deviate from it in the wake of unfavorable fan response.

I think that there is something to be said for the series being like a work of art, however, at what point does the art diverge from being entertainment to an outlet for the eccentricities of the show's creator, writers and producers? The time has come to stop the insanity.


Trace123321, what it really comes down to is that this is Chase's brainchild, and he has devoted the last decade of his life to realizing it. Imagine spending a decade of your life working on a single painting, during which time everybody looking over your shoulder is giving you unprecedented praise and admiration - Until the final year or so. At that point, it's too late to change the direction for that piece of art, and you really had your heart set on doing it your own way the entire time anyway. To modify it just to please others, especially at such a late point in the process, would compromise the integrity of the entire piece that you spent so long perfecting.

At this point the resolution of the show has as much to do with Chase's satisfaction as it does with the fan's. The show is an outlet for Chase's eccentricities, and always has been - But an artist's resolve to express himself despite the inevitable backlash from his fanbase is anything but insane, and nothing, if not fully worthy of respect and admiration.

I'm not saying you must admire the product, as I fully appreciate that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I'm merely suggesting that you give Mr. Chase a little more credit for what he has done as a truly original, creative mind - even if you don't always appreciate the creation.

Re: Circling the Bowl

#5
Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, I would not dispute that, nor would I ever assert that everyone has to agree or disagree with me, however, I think that given the tone and direction that the series has taken, the decline of the product cannot just be merely explained as the evolution of the series, or to the artistic direction of Chase.

The appeal of the series to many was the fact that it was not your typical mob-related drama that we have all become so used to seeing. Diversity and variety is key, and welcome, however, at this point in the game, I firmly believe (and this only my opinion), that Chase has crafted the series in such a way as to get people to over analyze each frame of footage to the point that viewers and followers of the show actually create subplots and dream up messages and symbolism that is not really anything to begin with in the first place.

I continue to assert that the quality of the product has deteriorated, and although many people continue to follow the series to the point of obsession, I truly believe that the show itself has become a mockery of what it once was. There are way too many "jump the shark" moments in this series to note, however, last night's episode was wraught with moments that do not do the series and the characters any justice.

To the point about giving Chase credit for his truly creative mind, I am sorry, but the whole beleaguered, bland and useless storyline as it relates to Vito alone negates any credit that I might have given to Chase.

Re: Circling the Bowl

#6
Trace123321 wrote:Diversity and variety is key, and welcome, however, at this point in the game, I firmly believe (and this only my opinion), that Chase has crafted the series in such a way as to get people to over analyze each frame of footage to the point that viewers and followers of the show actually create subplots and dream up messages and symbolism that is not really anything to begin with in the first place.


But that's true of all art, isn't it? I've heard authors say that readers will find things in their books that they never intended. And while we fans may go overboard, I don't think there's any question that Chase has loaded this series with symbolism. I think part of the fun is to hunt for clues, etc.....

Re: Circling the Bowl

#7
Trace123321 wrote:

The whole plot line with Hesh? C'mon, how far-fetched was that? Throughout the series, Hesh has been the only one that Tony can turn to for honesty and guidance. Some would say that this episode marks the further deevolution of Tony, however, I would assert that we have seen enough of that already. We need no further proof.

BTW- What was up with the writers killing off Hesh's girlfriend at the end? Completely useless and a waste of time. Further demonstration of the decrease in the quality of the show.



Now I found the Hesh thing very telling. Throughout the series, Hesh has been the elder statesman that Tony always respected. What I found interesting from the last ep. was two things:

1) How quick Tony would turn on just about ANYONE when it came down to money

2) Hesh's true feelings toward Tony. From the beginning, we were mostly hidden from things from Hesh's point of view. I was a bit surprised to hear the venom spew from his mouth.

As for the girlfriend thing, that showed another ugly side of Tony. He had just finished telling Cawm that he's up... way up. Then cut to Hesh's house where he tells him he's sorry for his loss. That was mostly a pat on his own back (cofirmation that he's way up) rather than a comforting sentiment to an old fiend.

You're witnessing a crumbling Tony from the inside out.

Re: Circling the Bowl

#8
chaseisgod wrote:But that's true of all art, isn't it? I've heard authors say that readers will find things in their books that they never intended. And while we fans may go overboard, I don't think there's any question that Chase has loaded this series with symbolism. I think part of the fun is to hunt for clues, etc.....


Couldn't agree more, great post!

Re: Circling the Bowl

#9
I agree with Universal Polymath's painting analogy when it comes to David Chase's ending of the series. The problem with The Sopranos is that there is such a wide variety of things that attract people to the show. Some love it for The family stuff, some for the mob stuff and violence, some love it fot the drama and depth to these characters and some people like it for the wiseguy humor. All of the above make the show what it is, but for a show that attracts people for a wide variety of reasons it is bound to dissapoint people no matter how it plays out. The show has also set such a high standard for itself it is sometimes hard to top itself every week. Not every episode can be a homerun, but it should be able to advance the story into the next phase. My only complaint about the series is maybe they have to many people involved in the creative process. It seems like certain stories start up and never end up going anywhere or just plain come out of nowhere (Tony doing coke in Season 5, Tony's gambiling problem, Carmella's back and forth interest in what happened to Ade, Tony's different conflicts with his top guys this season) They might have a case of too many cooks spoil the soup. But make no mistake about it there is nothing on TV like it and maybe after it is over the critics can appreciate the entire series as a whole once everything plays out.

Re: Circling the Bowl

#10
Trace123321 wrote:Much like the rest of the posters and visitors to this site, I consider myself to be fan of The Sopranos, however, with the onslaught of the most recent, terribly written/acted episodes, I question whether the remaining episodes can actually save the series.

Last night's episode only served to continue to allow the writers of the show to throw unnecessary story lines and plot diversions at the viewers. Granted, the entire series has been wraught with symbolism and metaphors, but I find that the story lines contained in the most recent episodes have almost served to be nothing more than filler instead of justification to extend the life of the series.

The whole plot line with Hesh? C'mon, how far-fetched was that? Throughout the series, Hesh has been the only one that Tony can turn to for honesty and guidance. Some would say that this episode marks the further deevolution of Tony, however, I would assert that we have seen enough of that already. We need no further proof.

BTW- What was up with the writers killing off Hesh's girlfriend at the end? Completely useless and a waste of time. Further demonstration of the decrease in the quality of the show.

The whole thing with the gambling seemed more than a little unrealistic. To tony, who covets money and security above all else, gambling to such an extent would seem completely against his sense of personal beliefs.

Is is just me or does Tony's whole crew seem to function like they are joined together in the recreation room of some geriatric nursing home? The show never shows them scheming and scrapping like it did in earlier episodes in the series. The whole "crew" has become boring and stale.

Why is it that Tony always seems to be on the defense when it comes to dealing with other mob families? When Tony told John to go "F" himself, it was the first time Tony really asserted himself to NY, however, it was over something that Tony had no real right to do. Tony's cousin messed up and he should've let Phil exact his revenge in the traditional manner of the mob. The writers, and Chase, only further served to convolute and already disjointed and careless plot line.

It is a shame that at this point in the series, we are all clammering for the return of the mythical Russian who escaped from Christopher and Paulie in the woods. How pathetic are we all to hold on to this storyline when Chase himself has given up on it?

Don't even get me started on the Tony/Kevin Finnerty story line.

I think that there is something to be said for the series being like a work of art, however, at what point does the art diverge from being entertainment to an outlet for the eccentricities of the show's creator, writers and producers? The time has come to stop the insanity. If there were no more episodes in the can, I think that I could live with it. I has been less than impressed with the last several seasons. The actors are PHENOMENAL, however, there talents are being underutilized with the way that the series has played out over the course of the last few seasons.



The Tony/Hesh story isn't that far fetched. It shows how money can come between friends. That is very realistic.
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