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Re: Episode 6.19: The Second Coming - Grades and General Rev

songlife1 wrote:I think a better way to handle Frank's appearances would be to exclude him entirely, and have Tony talk to an empty chair where Phil would normally be sitting. A chair is wooden and stiff by design and would require far less money to be that way onscreen than Frank Vincent, who charges money for his acting services, but is as stiff and wooden as the chair. Tony would speak, they'd cut to the empty chair and silence, and Gandolfini would then have the opportunity to show his natural creativity and passionate emotions in his responses. This fits in perfectly with the occasional surreality of the show. Phil Leotardo would be credited as "The Chair".

I believe Chase is aware of Vincent's robotic acting, and he made us aware of his awareness in The Test Dream, in the scene where Tony points his finger at Phil as if it were a gun. This was Chase's way of saying, "Yes fans, I know I made a mistake by hiring a bad actor like Frank on a show filled with great actors. I'd like to kill him off, but now he's become too involved in the plot. So I'll kill him off in this dream episode, with a nonexistent gun, to illustrate that concept. It's symbolic of what I, the creator of the show, would like to do to Frank Vincent in reality. In an outtake, I actually pointed my finger at him as he lay on the street, under the guise of showing the actor how I wanted it done. Secretly, I was living out my fantasy. It was a therapeutic experience for me and allowed me to continue dealing with this robotic actor, even knowing that I should've hired a chair in his place."

In a later episode Phil was only heard through a window, which shows that Chase's patience with Vincent is running out. This is sort of a spoiler, but I heard that in the next show, Phil accidentally drinks an invisibility potion and is not seen or heard on screen at all. Tony will be talking to an empty chair and respond as if he'd heard Phil talking. I understand this is the episode that the chair is sending in for Emmy consideration. Vincent has not been officially fired, but was given a lovely new set of golf clubs and a free membership to his local course, as well as a brochure containing info on local acting schools. My sources tell me Vincent was not upset by this because he's been asleep since 1996. Cast members were heard to mutter, "That explains a lot." James Gandolfini was said to be in quite a celebratory mood, complete with party hat and tooter, exclaiming "I told 'em they shoulda got De Niro for that part, but I guess the chair is an improvement over Frank. And what was wrong with Curatola anyway, that they had to replace him with a robot?"
I've always liked Frank Vincent and I think that Phil's "old school" thinking just reflects his seemingly robotic demeanor. His management style resembles that of Carmine Sr., but simply because that actor was an older gentleman did we allow him to be more expressionless.

Re: Episode 6.19: The Second Coming - Grades and General Rev

Clementine, where have you been all my life? Seriously, I'm enjoying your posts and wondering what brought your insights here so late.
... according to Freud, one way to deal with the loss of a loved one (through death or abandoment) is to incorporate that person into your own psyche, to become them in sense. That way you don't have to deal with the reality of their loss because they're not "really" gone.
This is great. If anyone else brought this up (over the course of the years) forgive me for not remembering. (I seriously think I'll probably get Alzheimer's.)

Clementine, that story about your dog is remarkable. I'm not referring to the fact that she survived ("durable" hee), but that you shared your thoughts and feelings that occurred so quickly at that moment. I appreciate your honesty. When I had decided to put my own dog down because of his condition, I had similar mixed feelings (relief+grief) that made me feel guilty.

You said that's what separates us from Tony -- He acts on these feelings. It's also what makes him appealing to many -- He does what we want to do, even if it's just a small part within us that thinks horrible thoughts of revenge. Many of us (myself included) cheered when he beat up Coco. Would I do it even if I could? No. So why applaud the violence? In real life I don't. But this is vicarious, and it's safe.

Re: Episode 6.19: The Second Coming - Grades and General Rev

This season has been such a disappointment for me. AJ trying to kill himself? AJ is a little brat, he's been one since the first episode of season 1. He's far too narcissistic to commit suicide.

However, I did really like when Tony defended Meadow, it was good to see some of the old Tony come out again.

FOMW's comments about AJ and the duckling I think were right on, but IMO Chase and the other producers/writers have totally discarded these characters in order to push their own visions of symbolism and plot regardless of how untrue the characters actions are to themselves.

Re: Episode 6.19: The Second Coming - Grades and General Rev

Lawdog wrote:Miller's "Death of a Salesman" came up in this thread, too.

Obviously, I agree with the association Clementine also makes between the two. The only question I have is will anyone "stand up" at the end of The Sopranos and "defend" Tony with a "no one dast blame this man"-type speech (other than Tony himself). I kinda doubt it, given Chase's clear disdain for overly-tidy conclusions.
Wow, someone else saw the connections between the Sopranos and Death of Salesman...YES! I always thought that too, but mainly b/c Death of The Salesman is often heralded as the Great Amercian Tragedy play. And I think that the Sopranos is actually the Great Tragedy for the new America. Millions of Americans who are not from NJ, not italian, and not in the mob still identify with the trials and tribulations of Tony Soprano.

Re: Episode 6.19: The Second Coming - Grades and General Rev

As an eleventh-hour newbie, I really wish I had found this website earlier, but do have some thoughts that don't seem to have been discussed much yet, beginning with the question of why the title "The Second Coming" was chosen for this episode -- what meaning was it intended to convey? For Christians, it's the return of the Savior, Jesus Christ, "the resurrection of the dead", "the Last Judgment" when evil-doers are punished and the good are rewarded. It means "the end of the world" as we know it and the establishment of God's Kingdom on Earth, a world to be founded on justice.

Yeats used this term in a much darker context but also with the understanding that evil ultimately evokes consequences. He wrote his poem in 1919 just at the end of World War I, whose unprecedented horrors produced a generation completely disillusioned with the values of the Victorian societies that had sent them off with romanticized visions of "dying for their country". If not "the end of the world", this was certainly the end of an era, when people turned their backs on the old patriotic ideals and social codes and went on the extended Spring Break that became "The Roaring Twenties". Written at a time of reckless abandon and despairing reluctance to face what new horrors the future might bring (the root causes of the even more horrendous WWII were already in place), Yeats' poem puts a distinctly sinister spin on the expectation of a "second coming": "what rough beast, its hour come round again, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

The NJ and NY branches of LCN seem to be in a similar state of rebellion and disarray. Both Ralph and Phil returned from their stints in prison with a degree of resentment and sense of entitlement that made it impossible for them to simply pick up the lives they had lived before. The traditions which the families inherited by way of "rules of conduct" also seem to be crumbling more all the time because of outraged personal feelings. Johnny Sac took his fury over the cruel joke about his wife's mole almost to the point of murder. Tony had no traditional "right" to avenge the death of the young dancer Ralph killed, but his desire to see some degree of "justice" for the brutalizing of this "innocent" was more compelling to him than tradition. Phil still can't forgive the killing of his brother, even after Tony killed the shooter, favorite cousin Tony B, to even the score, and it seems clear that Phil remains viciously determined to take his revenge to another level.

Coco's insulting behavior towards Meadow is a clear infraction of "the code" and Tony's outrage over this assault on his daughter's innocence drove him to react with a degree of violence that dangerously escalated existing tensions. Tony tries to convince Phil that "there's a limit" to how much emotions can be allowed to interfere with "business", but neither one of them really seems willing or able to heed this warning. The "centre" of the family business code isn't holding and the whole profit structure is threatened by the "passionate intensity" of "the worst." In a world where the cold-bloodedly impersonal collusion of criminal multinational corporations and treasonous politicians has become a stunningly successful mainstream con, the "business" ventures of Tony's crew, as destructive as they are, seem almost quaint by comparison. The sense of the impending "end of an era" for "this thing of ours" is unmistakable.

In this episode we see AJ obsessing over what he has learned so far of the irrational suffering and injustices of the world and the dangers of trusting in love, and Yeats' dark poem only confirms his worst fears. What does life hold for him? He can't be his father -- even his father doesn't want that for him. And, as Lawguy pointed out, when Meadow reminds AJ that as the male child of an Italian family, he will always be more important than she is, though she clearly intended to reassure him, this would only have reinforced his awareness that the pressure is on him to perform in a way that he feels he's just not up to. He can't even really escape by partying since all his friends seem to be ingrained with the same capacity for violence that their fathers live by, a violence which AJ just can't accept. Is it any wonder that he can't imagine a future where he could possibly fit in?

Meadow seems to have taken her own advice to AJ to heart and learned to "tune out" anything that would otherwise surely depress her. Engaged to the son of another mob family and now determined to pursue a legal career, like AJ, she feels for the under-dog and is inspired by the idea of working for justice, but seems oddly oblivious to what the triumph of justice would mean to the members of her own family.

Tony is as ruthless and violent as ever, but seems to be trying to walk some kind of self-defined line between fulfilling the requirements of his family-and-Earth-destroying "business" and honoring his guilt-driven determination to be a "protector of innocents", particularly his own children.

And Carmella seems genuinely at the end of her rope, desperately trying to hold Tony solely responsible for AJ's depression and portraying Tony's own depression as a "card" which he quite deliberately plays as a way of shirking his responsibilities as husband and father -- as if nothing else about their lives could possibly stand in the way of his choosing to be the perfect spouse if he just wasn't so self-indulgent and lazy.

So how can "justice" be done for characters like these? Is there a role here for any kind of "savior" and who (if anyone) deserves to be saved? Does the outcome involve some form of "resurrection" of a dead character? Will the FBI as the official dispensers of "justice" step in? Or will the spirit of Yeats' "rough beast" exact its own dark version of "justice" through the vengeful actions of these increasingly out-of-control "family men" and if so, when the smoke clears, will anyone (even family) be left standing? If David Chase is really going to wrap this saga up as a legitimate morality tale, I think maybe the continuation of "business" as usual is the only option that really can't remain on the table.

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