dad1153 wrote:-Tony's therapy session with Melfi: Tony's rejection of therapy masking his obvious desire for it to help him (and the blame he assigned his own geneology for AJ's suicidal thoughts) could be as close to a breatkthrough as this character is capable of. Being in therapy means being willing to reach inside yourself and admit to yourself (and the therapist) things you wouldn't want even your most intimate friend, lover or spouse to know about who you truly are. Some of us that have been to therapy (myself included) walk out when we reach a point at which we as fragile people cannot (or are not willing to) go deep inside ourselves too see who we truly are. . . . Can/will David Chase take us (and Tony) along to this dark place? Or, as in real life, will Chase choose instead to show us the well-worn path many of us have followed of letting the baggage we didn't get rid off in therapy continue to slow/affect us down 'till the bitter end?
Only four episodes left to find that out.
chaseisgod wrote:Basically, the message is, you are what you are, and nothing you do is going to change that. Christopher gets high. Christopher gets sober. Christopher gets high. Christopher gets sober. Tony appears to glimpse some self-knowledge, then immediately reverts back to his self-destructive ways. Meadows finds boy, Meadow loses boy, Meadow finds another boy. AJ appears to be growing up, then becomes a little boy all over again, totally dependent on his family. Everytime Carmella appears fed up with the Mob Life, Tony gives her a fur coat or the money for a spec house and she reverts right back to form. In a lot of ways, this show is very repetitious.
Because David Chase has said he was helped by therapy, I thought Tony might be, but I don't see that as realistic anymore. In fact, I think it would be totally out of character and false for Tony to have the breakthrough we've all been looking for. There have been too many other chances. He always reverts to form.
The other theme, which Tony voiced last night, is, "Everything turns to shit." I've wondered before why Chase has such a fecal preoccupation, highlighted last week by Little Vito. I think I got my answer last night, as bleak as it is.
I'm not looking for any hopeful rays of sunshine as this series concludes. In fact, I'm starting to think the real message is, Don't try to change. It'll only turn out badly.
How great is a work of art when people can hold opposing viewpoints that both seem perfectly valid?
The key in last night's therapy scene to me was that Tony related, for the first time, his need for "therapy" to A.J.'s well being. He even states that he had already prepared his final farewell to Melfi but that after A.J. started "talking suicide", he, Tony, was "trapped [in therapy] forever." And then, after laying out the ostensible truth, that AJ was simply broken-hearted over the demise of his first serious romantic relationship, he blames himself for A.J.'s plight.
This begs the question: Why should TONY remaining in therapy have anything to do with AJ's potential for suicide unless Tony feels that his own personal behavior/change will influence his son's state of mind and future?
The conversation he and Melfi had was not much different in content from the one they had in Army of One. Then as now, Tony blamed his "rotten putrid genes" for wrecking A.J.'s life, wreckage that manifested then in things like stealing exams and vandalizing school property as much as in panic attacks. Back then, Melfi tried to push for the next step: "When you blame your genes, you're really blaming yourself, and that's what we should be talking about." But he changed the subject, once again. When he said, "You don't understand," she gently tried to push back, "Make me understand." But he didn't.
I think she wanted him to say that AJ was following the path to a life like Tony's and that Tony's life "choices" and behavior, not his genes, were responsible for putting him on that path. Yet Tony expressly eschewed any such responsibility in an earlier session from the same episode when Melfi pointed out that Tony followed his own father's life example: "I didn't have a choice. I try to give my kids every opportunity."
We know that since season one, Tony has adhered to the "you are what you are" philosophy. "You're born to this shit." Yet at the same time, his ideals, even his sense of awe are reserved for people who are completely self-reliant and self-responsible, who don't waste time being victims or whining about their shitty luck or the cards they were dealt in life but simply get about the task of playing their hand as best they can. This is why Gary Cooper is his ideal man. This is why he speaks reverently of his immigrant, illiterate grandfather. This is why he was infatuated with Svetlana. This is why he was so passionate in that speech at the end of Christopher. This is why out of one side of his mouth he can talk about having genetically poisoned his own son and with equal conviction chastise Chris for using bad heredity as an excuse for repeated failures in the quest for sobriety.
The paradoxes are interesting. If he feels true guilt for AJ's plight, and he certainly appears to, isn't he necessarily feeling that guilt for things over which he ostensibly has more control than the DNA he relayed in a 5 minute sex act 20 years ago when he was in no way mindful of things like genes for depression and panic attacks? Why did he express guilt for "infecting AJ's soul" unless he fears the true disease communicated is one of immorality and ungodliness rather than one of fainting under stress and feeling blue? Has Tony's unwillingness to judge Johnny Boy's way of life ultimately been Tony's defense to its necessary corollary . . . accepting personal responsibility for his own role in how AJ is turning out?
This dichotomy between fatalism and free will is at the core of the show. And Chase has said essentially that embracing the concept of free will is the ultimate key to success in therapy. He said the first phase of therapy is consumed with blaming your parents for everything, aided and abetted by the therapist him/herself telling you that nothing is your fault. But if you are ever to progress beyond that, you must be willing to say, "Fine. That happened. But now what are you going to do about it? Ultimately you are here on this earth, you are personally accountable, and there are no excuses for who you are." And, paradoxically, AJ will ultimately have no excuses for who he is even though Tony, from his own perspective, must be willing to accept that responsibility. As the monks told Tony, "We need someone who will take responsibility. We need heat."
The fact that Chase has kept alive this Gary Cooper ideal in Tony, as recently as last night, makes me think he is preserving the chance that Tony, of all people, will be the one to really, meaningfully change. If nothing of any further import is to come out of his visits to Melfi's office, I think it would have ended for good last night.