Yes I know The Sopranos debuted in 1999, but I’d actually never watched a single episode… until last night. And let me say, this is one elegant pilot.
Sure some things are pretty dated (the clothes, the computers etc…), but this introductory hour holds up as a solid introduction into one man’s complicated psyche as he struggles to balance his family life and his “family business” (spoiler alert: he’s a mobster). While I’m not personally fond of mob tales, this pilot taps into universal feelings we can all relate to: isolation, hopelessness and yes… anxiety.
As the show’s antihero, James Gandolfini is an imposing presence straight out the gate. Sure a case could be made that having him start therapy is a terribly convenient way to dump a whole lot of exposition on the audience (and some moments are a bit too heavy-handed), but his sessions with Dr. Melfi (played by Lorraine Bracco) are definitely enlightening. I particularly enjoyed the insight into why Tony was so infatuated with the ducks that settled in his pool, and how their departure tied directly into his panic attacks. The pilot’s final shot painted an ominous picture of the consequences that Tony’s work would have on those he holds dear.
The women in the pilot are also impressive. First there’s Edie Falco who plays Tony’s wife Carmela. She’s amusing across the board with the show dropping hints that she’s having an affair (with her priest no less) as Tony engages in extramarital activities of his own. And then there’s Tony’s mother Livia who’s both paranoid (her late husband was involved in shady business after all), and brutally harsh with her son. The pilot takes an intriguing turn when Tony’s underhanded Uncle Junior takes Livia for a ride (and part of me was actually worried he might kill her), and starts to plant the seeds of animosity between himself and her son.
Finally there’s Tony’s nephew Christopher who is deeply entrenched in the mob business. He gets the pilot’s more gruesome moment when he shoots a rival in the back of the head, and a surprisingly poignant scene when we realize he simply craves Tony’s approval and encouragement. Can we say daddy issues?
A well-constructed and absorbing pilot that sets the stage for a complex narrative. I’m both eager and curious to see what comes next.