Tony's Therapy: Lost Cause or Imminent Breakthrough?

#1
Two great post fragments from dad1153 and chaseisgod in the general comments thread seemed perfect starters for a tangential discussion about the very powerful therapy scene in Walk Like a Man.

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. :icon_confused:


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.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Tony's Therapy: Lost Cause or Imminent Breakthrough?

#2
Good points as usual, FoMW.

It seemed to me that last night Tony was as close to a breakthrough/breakdown as he's ever been in Melfi's office. He looked on the verge of tears as he discussed his realization that he/his "genes" might be the cause of someone else's woes (AJ). Not Livia's genes/behavior, not someone else's, but his own "genes"/disease, which seems to be his euphemism for addressing his own behavior. In that sense, he may be on the verge of a breakthrough: taking ownership of his behaviors and their consequences.

His conversation with Chris about his addiction being a disease passed on from his father served two purposes: one, it debunked Dickie Moltisanti, another of Tony's romanticized, Gary Cooper-ian idols/father figures. Second, although Tony discounted the "disease' theory at the moment, he later acknowledged in Melfi's office that perhaps his depression and issues were somehow passed on to AJ. Of course, you can argue whether it's genetic or simply behavioral cues picked up by children from their parents/environment, but you can't discount Tony's taking his potential role in AJ's plight seriously, and that's about as introspective as Tony has ever been in therapy. He's running out of others to blame and false idols to champion.

We may be who we are, but perhaps Tony is finally seeing that a large part of that is defined by what we do/our own actions/choices. I don't know if we'll ever get a "true" breakthrough, nor am I sure, as a fan, that I really want one. Do I want to see Tony bawling like a little girl solely for the purpose of paying off the therapy arc? Not really.

I am inclined to think, given Tony's pronounced anti-authoritarian streak, that he may make the "leap" to understanding his own actions/choices are the key and then act out, defiantly, to show that he is aware of his responsibility/free will by exercising it, fully aware, one last time (for the show, anyway). How he does that (by flipping on his crew/NY, whacking everyone, getting whacked, whatever), I don't know, but I will definitely be watching...

Re: Tony's Therapy: Lost Cause or Imminent Breakthrough?

#3
There was one point that bothered me during Tony's session with Melfi on yesterday's show.

At one time, Tony says words to the effect that it is his genes that are contaminating AJ's soul. I think he came close to saying that it was his fault AJ is contemplating suicide or appears to be suicidal.

Melfi is a medical doctor as well as a psychiatrist (just as all psychiatrists must first become medical doctors). Doesn't she have a responsibility to tell Tony that it is either impossible or at least extremely unlikely that it could be Tony who is at fault. I mean, I understand that parents can pass certain traits along to children. But suicidal tendencies in the genes? Isn't it harmful to allow Tony to walk away and carry that opinion that it is his fault owing to his genes?

Re: Tony's Therapy: Lost Cause or Imminent Breakthrough?

#4
Christopher is in the verge of whacking everyone, the way he looked everyone when they were laughing at him when Paulie made that funny remark. That guy that he met at the AA meetings deserved that bullet to the head for lack of compansation and emotion. I feel for his Christopher he's had to sacriface his love in Adriana and deal with the Alchol and Drugs. When he trys to be sober everyone judges him and tells him that he's distant and when he's all drunk and high everyone is all cheers.

Re: Tony's Therapy: Lost Cause or Imminent Breakthrough?

#7
NY State Of Mind wrote:Christopher is in the verge of whacking everyone, the way he looked everyone when they were laughing at him when Paulie made that funny remark.



I don't think so. I think the look was the shock you first feel when your sober and realize a room full of people are laughing at you. I've experienced that feeling, and I can tell you it's one of the most dreadful things ever to happen to me. When you sober up, you start to feel emotions again, and sometimes they're not good, not good at all. This was Chris feeling emotions again. He won't go on a rampage. It's too much of a shock to get angry over.


I also think dad and chase is god are both right, as quoted in the original post by fly. I think both apply. Tony is coming to the realization that what he does will not only affect his children/family, something he never thought about before, but possibly he's also realizing that what he does will "echo in eternity".

Did anyone else catch the Floyd song Tony was singing while coming downstairs? Comfortably numb is about a mans emotions, feelings, and being numb to it. I did an internet search and found a couple of good descriptions:

----
See...how I always saw this song was as a sick or dying man that was in severe pain. The speaker at the beginning is a doctor or medic of some sort. Hense the "I need some information, first/Just the basic facts/Can you show me where it hurts."

The next stanza is, of course, the man in pain speaking. He is reliving a childhood experiance, perhaps the first time he was hurt or sick. At this point he is becoming so engroused in his feelings and the pain that it all just stops hurting. The only thing he can concentrait on is the childhood experiance that he has forgotten but is trying to grasp now. The first time he says comfortably numb means he has lost all sense of reality and is just in his mind, completely lost from the world and engrossed so much into this memory from his past.

Now, the next time the doctor speaks to him, he is giving him a shot, or fixing him in some way. In the line "That'll keep you going through the show" I believe that the "show" is either life, or going with the theme of The Wall album and movie, war.

The last stanza is of course, him recovering. But in a very different way. He still cannot hear the doctor at first, and is still in his memory. Slowly, though, the memory begins to fade and slip away from him. The second time he is "comfortably numb" is either because of the doctors drugs, the fact that he does not want to go on anymore, or a combination of the both.
----

the song is basically about the first childhood experience we have of the pain of being alive and how from then on life becomes more and more of a struggle. Eventually after years of all this we become numb to our emotions and feelings as one pain after another piles up on top of us. The only reaction is to become desensitised to the pain, which eventually causes us to lose touch with our feelings and become numb.
----

You can see how this applies to Tony, and even possibly Christopher. Also to note is how in the last 2 sessions with Melfie, Tony actually cried a little. He's getting into touch with his emotions, and has been numb all these years, comfortably.

Yes, this session was a huge breaking point IMO.

Re: Tony's Therapy: Lost Cause or Imminent Breakthrough?

#8
NY State Of Mind wrote:That guy that he met at the AA meetings deserved that bullet to the head for lack of compansation and emotion. I feel for his Christopher he's had to sacriface his love in Adriana and deal with the Alchol and Drugs.


JT deserved to be shot because he feared what it would mean for his own safety to listen to the alcohol-induced rantings of a Mafia captain bent on airing the secrets of his fellow mob members as revenge for personal hurts, a thug that had repeatedly beaten him up and used extortion to get him to write a movie script? I know these characters can inspire unexpected compassion, but can any compassion ever be that one-sided?

djui5 wrote:Did anyone else catch the Floyd song Tony was singing while coming downstairs? Comfortably numb is about a mans emotions, feelings, and being numb to it. I did an internet search and found a couple of good descriptions:


I caught the song immediately because it is my favorite Pink Floyd song. I am hardly a devotee of their work and tend more toward musical than lyrical analysis, but I always assumed the song was about a heroin addict who plays in a rock band. The guy has to escape the pain of bad relationships and a meaningless existence via the oblivion of smack. He compares the feeling of being high to a childhood memory of having a fever with hands swollen tight like balloons. The references to feeling a "prick", "Can you stand up?, "I do believe it's working good" and to "getting going for the show" seem like a rocker backstage getting high so he can perform (in his mind) to his best.

"Comfortably Numb" seems an appropriate descriptor of Tony and Carm prior to this episode where their son is concerned, comfortably oblivious to or reluctant to face the seriously destructive forces they've exerted on his destiny. It also seems an appropriate description of what AJ himself endures in the episode, starting off in unmitigated pain and eventually seeing a shrink who is all too happy to whip out his Rx pad and prescribe some lexipro to keep AJ, what else, comfortably numb, to the pain of his failed romance and to even deeper sources of failure in his life.

Given Chris' relapse yet again to alcohol, I actually think Comfortably Numb might have been a better title for the ep.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Tony's Therapy: Lost Cause or Imminent Breakthrough?

#9
JT deserved to be shot because he feared what it would mean for his own safety to listen to the alcohol-induced rantings of a Mafia captain bent on airing the secrets of his fellow mob members as revenge for personal hurts, a thug that had repeatedly beaten him up and used extortion to get him to write a movie script? I know these characters can inspire unexpected compassion, but can any compassion ever be that one-sided?


You have a point there but I just got caught up in the moment of Christopher's humilation in front of his peers that I had a bias perspective on the situation.
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