The Sopranos has everything: Tindersticks on the soundtrack, sustained and imaginatively used bad words, a myriad of antiheroes and a fundamentally bleak outlook, personified by walking hate grenade Tony Soprano. For all the high-brow affection I have for The Sopranos, and passing over the numerous murders and executions, I’m happy to betray this for a quick list of my favourite assaults in the show.
Tony on Coco
Best scene ever man. Coco makes a provocatively disgusting pass at Meadow Soprano, Tony’s daughter - a move that’s always foolish. But Coco did it to a Soprano and psychopath. Coco did it to a Soprano and a psychopath he’s about to be at war with. Coco did it to Tony Soprano, a psychopath, who he’s about to be at war with, just at the time Tony’s cutting himself off from all humanity. While he’s got a right radge on.
Artie on the French prick:
Being Tony’s oldest friend, Artie gets a raw deal. He gets to see the advantages of being utterly divorced from morality. He detests and envies Tony for what he does, and truly hates him for the things he’s done to him. He is impotent to get revenge when Tony blows his restaurant up. Yet, more than anything, he hates himself for not being like Tony. Occasionally he tries and always he gets slapped down, this time literally. He’s so incompetent that he plays loan shark, underwritten by Tony Soprano, and ends up being beaten up by a Frenchman. Beaten up by a Frenchman.
Tony on Zellman
Sentimental and an utter bastard. That’s Tony. Earlier in the episode, Tony asserts to Zellman, an old almost-friend, that he’s over his ex, who Zellman’s now living with. Later Tony listens to a Motown era song about missing a girl - that’s all it takes. Emotionally stunted and dysfunctional, Tony finds it the perfect reason to return to Zellman’s house, and sink soft leather into his fat back. Even for the finest antihero in television, Irina’s confused lust towards Tony afterward only makes this assault more unpleasant. So unpleasant that it conjures up Luke Haines finest moment of realisation: ‘At this point I have become a fully fledged cunt.’
Chris on Little Paulie
Chris’ major malfunction is that he’s a junkie. And he’s too proud. And he was in part responsible for his fiancee’s death. And he’s an alcoholic. And he’s a sociopathic mobster. So when he’s slighted by Paulie Walnuts, who organised a theft from his father-in-law’s hardware store, he calmly sits down and recites the Serenity Prayer. Having counted to his Booze Ten he decides the answer is to launch Little Paulie, one of Walnut’s crew, out of a window twenty feet up. Step One - done. Step One at AA is merciless violence, right?
Tony on the Pilot Putz:
Pilots are always tricky. You have to introduce major plot points, the main characters, quickly and with humour. The Sopranos chose to do this by intercutting Tony recounting his meeting with a business associate to his new therapist Dr Melfi, alongside the real version of Tony and Chris chasing a tearfully scared man across a park, professionally ending the chase with a bone-through-skin car-induced leg break.
Paulie & Chris on The Interior Decorator:
Pine Barrens, directed by Steve Buscemi, is one of the most remarkable episodes in the whole collection of Sopranos episodes. It cements the constant needling between Paulie and Chris, idiot kids, and gives a proper context for their relationship - always ready to be offended, and always weirdly happy to pragmatically make nice, off to enjoy shallow pleasures of hookers and steak. What starts this is a simple mob errand of picking up money. Inevitably, with Paulie showing off and manchild Chris idly watching, the scene ends in attempted Russian murder. If these two were footballers, they’d be Gazza and John Terry.
Paulie & Chris on the Waiter:
And this is what happens when the relationship sours. It sums up why Tony just couldn’t be arsed with Chris anymore when the time came: he’s destined to fuck up. Rising to being bated by Paulie Walnuts is like getting angry at the Daily Mail. It might be right to get heat, but it’s not doing you any favours. A fallout over skanks and Cristal preposterously starts with a waiter taking a brick to the back of the head and ends more ludicrously with them arbitrarily putting him down. Next morning they’re friends again. Strunz!
Tony B on Kim:
Buscemi went onto play Tony’s cousin, Tony B. It’s the most pathetic story arc in the whole show. Tony B tries to go straight, for his kids and his new girlfriend. He studies relentlessly for a physiotherapy qualification to make something of himself, and finally finds that his boss believes in him. Tony then sabotages himself in the only way an ex-con can, he smashes the shit out of his boss, starting the whole episode off with a racist epithet. Now, everyone can forgive a rage, but racism? This is the 21st Century!
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