By cnw | REVERSEBLOG: the reverse shot blog April 3, 2006 at 6:32AM
The funny thing about The Sopranos: during the increasingly long breaks between seasons, it becomes all too easy to forget just how good it is (and it remains impossible, I suppose, to communicate the extent of its greatness to the uninitiated). Now that we're four episodes into the sixth and final season, it's fair to say that the show is as masterfully constructed and utterly unmissable as ever. The Sopranos has always been a richly detailed morality study, a meditation on the nature of good and evil, personal responsibility and collective guilt, that has easily transcended, while brilliantly sending up, its mobster genre trappings. This new season has used the unexpected near-death-experience of TS himself to clarify and deepen the issues at stake. Perched over Tony's hospital-room bedside is an index card containing an Ojibwe saying, "Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky." This sentiment encapsulates the central philosophical question that has so far dominated the season, namely: Who makes us who we are, and if we are made, in part, by our surroundings, are we responsible for the good and evil deeds that we commit? Carmela blames herself and her husband for making their children complicit in their evil at the same time that she accepts, for the first time, her own responsibility in leading the life she leads. Silvio steps into his role as boss, as his wife assures him, "The times make the man, not the other way around." A day later, he suffers a debilitating asthma attack, crippled by the pressure of his new power. Tony, meanwhile, imagines a life without his legacy of crime, a life in which he is literally forced to take responsibility for the negligence of a man he's never met. All the while, he wonders, "Who am I? Where am I going?" To say that these moral quandries, so subtly approached and so delicately unraveled, exceed the level of engagement we typically expect of American popular culture is an understatement. To say that the writing remains sharper, funnier, and more sophisticated than anything else on television is obvious. And to praise the acting (there are no words to describe the utter brilliance of Edie Falco and James Gandolfini) and the filmmaking (which in last night's episode, had me even comparing one cut to Mizoguchi in the way it moved through time and space) is easy. But someone needs to do it, because if you're missing this, you need someone to tell you immediately: catch up now, before it's too late.