Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Sopranos: 'The Ride' (6x09)

This week's episode focuses on the boredom and ennui that our characters are feeling. Life just isn't that exciting and they're taking whatever they can as a way to change things.

The most notable example of this is the opening scene, where Christopher decides to get married. This is treated as something that's less about love than it is about a desire to change his life, and maybe find some purpose. It was jarring to see Christopher decide to marry someone we hadn't even seen on the show before, and that was clearly the intention. If this episode, and Christopher's behavior earlier in the season prove anything, it's that he's never gotten over Adrianna's death, and he's using this marriage as an attempt to fill the emptiness in his life. The scene isn't about Kelli, it's about Chris dealing the memory of Ade, he basically tells her that he's marrying her because she's pregnant and Adrianna couldn't have kids.

As the episode progresses, Christopher is positive about his domestic life, but we never really get a sense of who this woman he's marrying is. The whole point is that she's not someone with a strong personality, she's just there. So, presumably there was a scene where Christopher introduced her to his crew and to Carmela, but we never see it. Coming so soon after the Sacrimoni wedding, we're not going to do another episode focusing on a wedding. So, this episode becomes more about Christopher being torn between his old life and this potential new life.

That tension is never more apparent than in the brilliantly executed scene where Christopher is in the car with Corky, talking about his house and how he's going to raise his son, while in the background of the shot, we see Corky preparing to shoot up. Christopher tells him that he should get rehab, but we can tell that Christopher doesn't really believe what he's saying, or at least he doesn't have the conviction to follow it through. He may say that he wants to put his effort into raising his son, but as the scene progresses, he gives into the temptation to fix, and goes through heroin fueled hazy journey through the carnival. I really liked that sequence, it had such a melancholy about it, you really got the sense of where Christopher was, choosing to inject because it allowed him to detach from the world for a while.

Christopher's gradual path towards relapse was accelerated by Tony. The scene in the restaurant reminded me a lot of the episode in season five where Tony and Tony B. rag on Christopher for not drinking. Clearly, Christopher values his relationship with Tony and the fact that Tony is constantly pressuring him to drink is going to make it difficult to maintain sobriety. The scene outside was sweet, but the real notable thing there was the flashback.

I don't think the show had ever done a flashback like this, and it was a bit jarring. However, seeing that moment filled in something that had been blank since the end of season five. Seeing Christopher break down made it clear just how emotionally attached he was to Adrianna, and also how shrewd Tony is in running the business. He had strong feelings for Ade, but when it came down to it, he was more concerned with his own safety than protecting her. As he proved with Pussy back in season two, if someone betrays the family, they have to go.

In the present, Christopher is clearly on a path towards disaster. He gets married on an impulse, and doesn't love this girl. His initial attachment to "stately Wayne manor" will likely fade, and then he'll be left with someone who's a mere shadow of what he loved in Adrianna. I think he'll always be haunted by guilt over what he did, and considering he's using again, I seriously doubt that things will go well when his son is born.

The final scene between Christopher and Tony was brilliant in showing how hollow both their lives are. They're retelling the same story, but it's just going through the motions. I'm not sure why Christopher actually went over there, the initial awkwardness felt a lot like the pregnant silence in the Adrianna scene, so I'm guessing he was planning to tell Tony that he had started to use again, but ultimately decided not to.

The episode returns us to Bobby and Janice for the first time in a while, and Bobby is still being pushed around by her. At first, he recognizes that the problem with the ride was something out of their control, but Janice is not willing to let that stand. She intimidates him into action, and instigates the conflict with Paulie. Janice is a virtual replica of her mother, only her husband has very little actual power. So, she winds up frustrated by his lack of action. At this point, she's compeletely abandoned any aspirations to artsiness or spirituality, she's totally entrenched in the Jersey mob world.

This week, Tony finds himself drifting into malaise. He got some cheap thrills from the wine heist, but he's ultimately finding it difficult to keep his enthusiasm about life. The routine of day to day life wears him down, and he's still clearly attracted to the excitement that Julianna offers, regret lingering about his choice to not sleep with her last episode.

While he insensitively sends Christopher on the road to relapse, he does offer Paulie some good advice. I'm a little uncertain about why he would be such a negative influence on Christopher when he, more than anyone, is aware of the potential dangers that would arise if Christopher went into a full on relapse. So, it's almost a self destructive streak that drives him to treat Christopher that way, like he's asking for his business to be disrupted.

One of the strongest scenes in the episode was Carmela's meeting with Adrianna's mother. There's so much tension there. For the viewer, the primary issue is how much Carmela knows. We know that Adrianna was killed, and even though Carmela fiercely defends Christopher, she is clearly feeling uneasy about that. When she asks Tony later in the episode, he doesn't come up with an entirely convincing denial. I'm glad that they haven't just let Ade's death go, because it was one of the most emotionally wrenching moments in the series' run, and it demands exploration.

The other big thread here was Paulie's issues. He's one of the most selfish characters in the show, but I always end up feeling sorry for the guy after his spotlight episodes. Unlike most of the other characters, Paulie doesn't have much of a personal life. He's not married, and doesn't seem to have any long lasting relationships. His only personal connection is with his mother, and that fact is what made his treatment of her back in The Fleshy Part of the Thigh so tough to take.

The major theme of the season is the idea that the mob is becoming obsolete, that traditional practices just aren't acceptable anymore, and the first scene at the church makes that clear. It's a nice followup to the stuff with Starbucks last week. Nobody's really responsible for what happened with the tea cups, but Tony's speech to Paulie in the bathroom makes things clear. At this point, they can't afford to take risks, they are on the verge of extinction and one major error could bring about the end of their whole organization.

The ending deliberately leaves the question of Paulie's biopsy ambiguous, but what is clear is that Paulie recognizes how alone he is. His friends are turning on him, and business is going poorly so he retreats to the one woman who has always been there for him. I loved the fact that she was watching the Lawrence Welk show, and that closing move out onto the autumn leaves perfectly captures the feeling of death that hung over the episode.

This episode couldn't match last week's masterpiece, but it gave us a lot of insight into where Christopher is right now. However, with only minimal Tony and Meadow and no Vito, we didn't get much from the most interesting plot lines. It's tough to think that there's only three episodes left this season and eleven total.

Related Posts
The Sopranos: 'Johnny Cakes' (6x08) (5/2/2006)
The Sopranos: 'Luxury Lounge' (6x07) (4/25/2006)
The Sopranos: 'Live Free or Die' (6x06) (4/18/2006)


escort palma said...

This will not have effect in reality, that is what I believe.

Andrew said...

Paulies isolation and loneliness is highlighted again in the next episode when his mother dies. Few people attend the funeral and even those that do can't wait to leave.

With Paulie you always feel that he is alone because he is probably not that pleasant to be around. It was picked up a few weeks back when he went on the trip with Tony and they commented on how he was always talking to anyone because he was on his own.