SilvioMancini wrote:Would love to read a post from you FOMW about how the "Test Dream" episode relates to season six a and b story lines. Chase has said in interviews that season five was a set up and blueprint for season six. Interested in revisiting this??? I love your posts. Thanks for everything!
I don't recall Chase saying that, Silvio. That's interesting.
I haven't really tried to analyze the dream in light of season 6 specifically. It's still one the series' best episodes, IMO, but it was obviously about Tony's most repressed regrets and wishes and was never anywhere near as prophetic as I thought (hoped) it might be.
I suppose you could say that the ending phone conversation foreshadowed Tony's coma when a veil of darkness (the coma) came between him and the world of the living and Carmela was literally his communication link with that world. So instead of foreshadowing Carmela's death or near death, it was foreshadowing Tony's.
You could also say that whole moral dilemma that Tony confronts in the dream was a precursor to the similar moral dilemma/identity crisis that he confronts in his coma. And the "Christmas Carol" notion of spiritual rebirth, and of it never being too late to change, is echoed in the similar ringing of bells and the sudden transformation Tony feels as Janice and company are wheeling him out of the hospital and the wind overtakes him.
Off the top of my head, if I had to make one thematic link between Test Dream and the bulk of season 6 (both parts), I'd say it's about Tony acting out his Test Dream "mission" to kill his "father", represented in Test Dream by coach Molinaro and, ultimately, by Christopher in season 6b.
(His mission in the dream morphed from killing his inner gangster to, by dream's end, killing the coach who was a composite of all his father figures.)
While the real coach Molinaro was clearly a (solitary?) "good" father figure in Tony's life, the Molinaro of his dream has an ominous, disturbing duality (like Carmela and Tony himself), suggested by the demonic red jacket and hat and damp, dungeon-like locker room where Tony goes to find him. Almost every admonishment, observation, or piece of advice the coach gives is subject to diametrically opposite interpretations. He chastises Tony for being friends with a good guy like Artie yet also for not "cleaving himself away from the bums (gangsters)" he hung with. He sarcastically wagers that Tony blames his problems on "his father" but just as sarcastically laughs "even better" when Tony confides that he blames his mother more.
So is Molinaro genuinely relieved that Tony is not blaming the coach himself ("father") for what he became or is he sarcastically chastising Tony for blaming anyone other than himself for what he chose to do with his own life? Was the "field of sport" where the coach said Tony was meant to lead other men the sport of football or the sport of mob machinations? Was the mixed sports/mob metaphor why Tony was always so particularly sensitive to Junior's "never had the makings of a varsity athlete" insult, i.e., never had the makings of a guy that could really make it in a legit enterprise like coaching or never had the makings of a guy who could be a successful mob boss? This pattern goes on and on in the dream, with the result that you can never be sure which "father" Tony is there to kill and which voice he's there to silence: the voice telling him he should have been a football coach or the one bragging about his success as a mob boss.
If Chase spent significant parts of four seasons focusing on Tony's relationship with his mother and its long-term effects on who he became, part of season 6a and the great majority of season 6b was, IMO, about dealing with the unique influence that fathers and surrogate fathers have on the development of sons and with Tony's unacknowledged hatred and resentment for Johnnyboy and other male role models of his ilk. There was the Vito Jr. storyline of 6a, where Tony intervened enough to hopefully avert another Jackie Jr. situation from developing, ultimately financing Vito Jr.'s sequestration to a "tough love" camp not unlike the military academy he wanted for AJ years earlier.
Most important was his intervention in AJ's life trajectory in two pivotal episodes, Johnny Cakes
and Cold Stones
. Looking back and trying to discern what, if any, lasting victory Tony's good moral impulses scored, you'd have to say the pinnacle came when he slammed AJ up against an SUV and flat out told him that killing Uncle Junior was "wrong," that AJ did not have the capacity for that kind of evil or violence within him and that Tony was "very grateful" for that fact. There was a brief moment of a mixed message when Tony betrayed shame that AJ proved so inept at executing his revenge plan. But the overwhelming sentiment was that a gangster way of life was beneath
It stands in stark contrast to the message Tony's own father delivered to him after Tony saw Johnnyboy chop off Satriale's finger. Where Tony was relieved that AJ didn't have it in him to be a killer, Johhnyboy was proud of Tony's seeming stoicism in the face of horrendous violence. He equated masculine maturity with that stoicism ("most boys your age would have cried like a little girl") and took the opportunity to teach that it was all Satriale's fault for being a lowly gambler, that gambling was wrong, and that chopping off a finger to collect a gambling debt was a perfectly legitimate way to "put food on the table". So even though Tony's panic attack moments later betrayed that he might not have been the genetic gangster his father thought he was, this "intervention" by Johnnyboy was nevertheless a pivotal influence in Tony's life and undoubtedly a signal of an even greater conditioning that led Tony into a life of organized crime.
Throughout the series, Melfi kept trying to make Tony ascribe fault to his father for everything from failing to protect the children from their "borderline mother" to modeling violent behavior, a short temper, and habitual dishonesty toward and betrayal of a spouse. Until the end, Tony would never condemn his father out loud, even though In Camelot
unmistakably signaled the beginning of Tony subconsciously demythologizing Johnnyboy and even though Test Dream
pointedly shows Tony's wish for a father like Artie, symbolized when Artie takes over driving Johnnyboy's car, leading Tony on his flight from a literal "mob" and "coaching" him to eschew "whorze" (Tony's wish for the horse hooves heard outside to "go away") in favor of more rewarding sex with Carmela (represented by "wife" Charmaine and the perfected female symbol Pie'O'My, who Tony introduced to Carmela with the same "she loves it when you rub her muzzle" line that Artie tells Tony in relation to Charmaine.)
I'm mindful of several key points here, first Tony's obvious shame at Johnnyboy shooting a gun through Livia's hairdo and his sabotage of Bobby's relative "innocence" after the fight in Soprano Home Movies
, sabotage triggered by the embarrassment of losing the fight but motivated much more deeply out of fundamental jealousy that Bobby had a father who shielded him from the ugliest elements of mob life. I'm also mindful of Tony's hurt when he realized the kind of repressed hatred Chris had for him via Cleaver
as well as the reciprocal hatred it suggested Tony had for his own father, born out in the fact that the very symbol for that movie (a bloody meat cleaver) was the best symbol for Tony's loss of innocence at the hands of his father and for the start of his indoctrination into mob life.
Then there was all of the episode Remember When
, where Tony recalls his hesitation on his first hit, a job assigned by his own father (a fact that obviously bothers Tony when he leaves the table in the bar) and one where Paulie, who Tony admits viewing as a father figure at one time, urges him on. In that episode, Tony is annoyed at the most trivial things about Paulie and seeks to use the archaic revelation of the Jenny Sac joke as an excuse to murder him (with a cleaver-like implement). In a clear story parallel, the Asian kid that "adopted" Junior as a surrogate father and role model attacks him in the end with a murderous ferocity.
In the next episode, Tony seems to escalate his gambling to new, pathological levels, perhaps in subconscious rebellion against the father that taught him how wrong it was to gamble. He also goes out of his way to antagonize and humiliate another guy whose age and position made him a father figure of sorts, Hesh.
Also of great importance, I think, is Melfi's remark to Elliot in season 6a, that Tony would never discuss Junior shooting him and what must have been the terrible hurt of knowing that his father's brother -- and the man after Johnnyboy whom Tony most viewed as a father figure -- tried to kill him, not once but twice. She warned that she felt it was just a "matter of time before he totally decompensates". Recall further the Yeats poem first quoted by Melfi in Cold Cuts
when she again raised the issue of Johnnyboy chopping off Satriale's finger and referenced that "the center cannot hold" and that depression is "rage turned inward". The poem reappears very conspicuously in season 6b, near the time when Tony kills Chris, and we are again directed to its key message: a widening gyre (orbit) away from some tethering gravity or belief, a loosing of "mere anarchy" and pent-up rage, and a "rough beast" that "slouches toward Bethlehem to be born" (harking back to the analogy of therapy to "childbirth"). Message: when a gangster "gets in touch with his feelings" -- or does so in only a half-assed way, the rebirth may be hideously ugly.
In this case, Tony came to at least subconsciously acknowledge that he hated his father, and he acted out that hatred by killing a proxy: a drugged-out, murderous mobster who was a danger to his own child. His "decompensation" for Junior's shooting -- and for all the other wrongs done him as a "son" at the hands of bad fathers -- happened not in a fit of tears or one cataclysmic panic attack but in a fit of rage redirected from inward to outward. He couldn't feel remorse or contrition for an act of what felt like righteous vengeance that took him a lifetime to consummate.
The "he's dead" in the Kennedy and Heidi
casino scene referred not to Chris, IMO, but to the composite father that he tried to kill in Test Dream
, Johnnyboy being the "Kennedy" part (clear reference to In Camelot
) and Molinaro being the "Heidi" part (I exhaustively argued in the K & H
forum that I think the "Heidi" in that title referenced the famous Jets game where TV coverage was abruptly terminated right before the end in order to broadcast the movie "Heidi", an argument that gains a lot more traction in view of Jets coach Eric Mangini's later cameo in Blue Comet
and the end of Made in America
I suppose the unspoken epiphany that Tony has at the end of K & H
will always be a mystery, but the sudden flare of a rising sun (or "son") gives, I think, the biggest clue: Tony has a conscious realization (though drug-induced and not recalled afterward) that, in killing Chris, he was acting on lifelong rage against his own father and against men like Junior and Paulie and Dickie Moltisanti and that, by the same token, in feeling the brunt of Chris' own hatred towards him, he was experiencing the same phenomenon from the other side. It resonates with his "everything is everything" or "everything is one" lesson from quantum physics as well as his coma insight that he and Finnerty were really one and the same person. He is both wronged son and bad father, both (would-be) murdered nephew and murdering uncle.