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Re: Episode 3.09: The Telltale Moozadell - Grades & General

Certainly not a standout episode of the series, but Telltale Moozadell really sets a lot of pieces in place in an economic, thematically cohesive way. It's a "calm before the storm" episode that, on the surface, seems almost light hearted, but really has a dark subterranean layer that will emerge in the home stretch of Season 3, one of the most inexplicably bleak periods in the history of The Sopranos.

Things happen in this episode that seem comical now, but will leave a bitter taste in retrospect. Jackie Jr. engages in hilarious farce with Matush the Middle Eastern drug dealer, who just can't find a way to deal drugs in Adriana's new club, and Jackie handles the situation quite poorly while continuing to court Meadow. In the season finale, Jackie Jr.'s incompetence will cause his life to be snuffed out, which in turn will force Meadow to confront the nature of her father's lifestyle and destroy any trust she had in him. Two more seasons down the road, Matush will finally get into the Crazy Horse, and this will be the catalyst of Adriana's death - I almost have to wonder if they already planned this out while writing The Telltale Moozadell, in which Adriana's first scene has her being led by Chris, blindfolded, to an unknown location that turns out to be the club. She even mentions smelling fish, echoes of Big Pussy.

You have memorable little set piece scenes peppered throughout this episode as well - the titular scene full of one-off characters in which the police determine the identity of school vandals based on the custom moozadell pizza they ordered, a hilarious moment addressing the state of Chris and Paulie's relationship in which they get along pretty well when they can't hear each other speaking over the band at Crazy Horse, Jackie Jr. coaching AJ on football in an oddly endearing moment between two very similar kids, and a brief appearance from Ralph, who shows his more charismatic side by cooking some nice spaghetti and acting as a lenient but mysterious mentor to Jackie Jr.

The episode is framed throughout by interludes with Tony and Gloria Trillo. Everything seems to be pretty swell in Tony's world right now - he gets his wife a birthday present and she shows plenty of gratitude. He has a lot of fun trying kinky new sex with Gloria. But the problem is, as usual, that as much as Tony may be enjoying both sides of his life at any time, they can never meet. He can indulge his dark side all he wants with Gloria, in a couple scenes at the zoo and at her home that feel hypnotically dreamlike, but at the end of the day he has to come home to his wife with that black cloud of guilt hanging over him, as illustrated in the final, beautiful frame of Tony sitting across the table from her, with the barren winter through the glass doors between them, dark leaves falling down to the melancholic strains of "I Who Have Nothing". Because Tony really has nothing, if he continues to pollute the most positive relationship in his life this way. I really love that final scene, it really establishes the dark, existential atmosphere that will define the last four episodes of the season, particularly "Pine Barrens".

I give this episode an 8. It's solid , character developing episodes like this that really magnify the impact of more important and memorable ones.
Taps, lights out, 2200 hours. What's missing? Give up? Television.
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