8 - I stated my feelings ad naseum in the "favorite episode of season 1" thread, so I am just going to copy them from there. During the course of watching the episodes (yet) again, I didn't enjoy it as much as I remembered from past viewings. However, I would say that the reason I voted for this episode would be that it compiled the major storylines from the past season and addressed them all fairly organically. I especially liked Carm putting Father Phil in his place as well as Tony coming to the realization the extent that his mother went to (i.e. working with Jr. to have him clipped), Tony telling the guys about Melfi, and some just laugh-out-loud moments (such as Mikey Palmici yelling at his life, "Hey! Go take some Midol!!!" in a completely mysoginist manner) and then the way the camera focuses on Carm while she is watching the tv interview of Mikey's wife after his murder (shown to emphasize Carm's concern for Tony and ultimately being in the same situation at some point).
The ending of the episode is especially nice seeing the Soprano family together in Vesuvio's surrounded by Tony's "friends". In retrospect, this is a bit too cliche an ending, but I do enjoy it and it also was a good representation of pulling all parts of Tony's life together, which essentially is what this scene, episode and season focused on.
However, there are some parts that didn't bode well with me (after probably the 8th or 9th time viewing this episode). Because this was the season finale, it seemed abundently clear that Chase wanted to include some bang-up action. Some of which might have been better paced in other episodes or even saved until next season.
An even bigger problem however, at least in my mind is Chase's directing. While it isn't horrible, there are some small things that bothered me. During the Jimmy hit at the beginning, there is a slow-down technique that Chase uses, and it completely takes me out of the episode. There is also an odd zoom technique that is used during the Mikey P. hit. It again taks me out of the episode. One of The Sopranos strong points is it's realism. No other show depicts real life quite in the way The Sopranos does. That is what makes the action and violence so brutal and hard-hitting. So when these slight editing techniques are used during violent scenes, the impact is deadened, as suddenly I realize I am watching a television show. The writing seems a bit forced at times as well. One of Bracco's lines is actually, "People are going to be murdered, aren't they?" It seems to me that Melfi would not necessarily jump to that conclusion, over a style of life she knows so little about. Also as Tony is sitting on the bed with Carm, he has a great interaction about what kind of a person could he be when his own mother wants him dead. Just following that interaction he tells her how he will "take care of Jr. and Mikey P. and get some satisfaction." That line was just a bit over the top, especially when we look at how little Tony & Carm talk about his business in recenet seasons. I like the dialogue, just sounded like Tony should have been telling that to Paulie or Chris. Maybe that was the point, that Tony's different lives were merging together. Bracco also seems to be over-acting at times. I can't tell if this is from Bracco or from Chase's directing with Bracco.
There is an odd bit of sound editing after Tony kills one of Jr's men on the boat with "It's Bad You Know" (by R.L. Burnside) which comes to an abrupt stop with the next scene.
I am picking on some small parts, but when a show is this great, why shouldn't we look at what could be improved? I probably was extra hard on this episode, knowing I had already voted here for my favorite episode. I know many of you will probably give me a hard time for being so hard on my "favorite episode" from Season 1 (if I had to choose again, I would go with "Isabella", "Denial, Anger, Acceptance", or "Boca", but probably the former).
EDIT: Upon checking things, it was, in fact, the late John Patterson who directed this episode. Patterson directed all the season finales, except the sixth season's. Not sure why I thought Chase directed it. So I would imagine most of my complaints should be with Patterson's directing and not Chase. Although Chase is hands on, anything is possible