If the past is a foreign country, rewatching The Sopranos is like stepping into another universe entirely. The silken polo shirts and rattling gold bracelets, the flip-phones and leather-seated Sedans, the strippers and – above all – the sandwiches; David Chase’s late-90s epic on mobsters reckoning with their consciences is endlessly rewatchable. So much so that I am about to embark on my third viewing of the six-season, 86-episode odyssey of James Gandolfini’s masterful Tony Soprano and the enduring chaos of his New Jersey family of mafiosos. While I might dip in and out of Friends for a comfort-rewatch, or turn to Bob’s Burgers for an easy laugh, it is almost impossible to watch single episodes of The Sopranos; it is too granular and endlessly gripping. A tentative look back at a pivotal scene soon finds you four hours in, forgetting what happens next.
And there are myriad narratives to follow: the evolution of Anthony Junior from chubby-cheeked tween to emotionally devastated young adult; Meadow’s journey from daddy’s girl to fierce independence; Uncle Junior’s entire aesthetic; Livia’s decrepitude; and Carmella’s relationship rollercoaster, from loyalty to defiance to begrudging acceptance. Of course, holding it all together are the fantastic performances by Gandolfini – whose weight gain over the seasons starts to make his heavy breathing its own marker of dramatic foreboding – and Lorraine Bracco who plays his increasingly conflicted therapist Jennifer Melfi. Their therapy sessions are a masterclass in zippy dialogue and unspoken emotion, as close as we can get to riveting conversation in this time of social isolation.
Read the feature in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 26/03/20]