Television Revision: The Sopranos – Season 2

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By Andrew Williams
April 3, 2013

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now, this is a story all about how… There’s no rest for the wicked. Mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) may have consolidated his position of power, but he’s facing trouble elsewhere. His wife Carmela (Edie Falco) is growing ever frustrated with his lies, daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) is beginning to rebel, sister Janice (Aida Turturro) is back in town, and a possible challenger to his throne, Richie Aprile (David Proval), has just been released from prison…

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Happy days? All the things you loved from Season One remain in Season Two –larger-than-life personalities, simmering plots that explode in unexpected ways, people getting whacked – yet dotted throughout this familiar approach are moments that suggest The Sopranos is about to drastically widen its scope, both in terms of the subject matter it would tackle and the stylistic approach it would take.

If there’s a singular divide between the show’s fan base, it separates those who prefer the more straight-ahead crime elements, and those who enjoy the series’ more art-house aspirations that start to filter into Season Two. I’m in the former camp (philistine!) and I enjoyed these episodes less as a result. It doesn’t help that the second season takes a while to get going, and some of the plot’s sojourns – such as when the cast goes to Italy, or when Tony’s nephew Christopher (Michael Imperioli) heads to Hollywood – feel like diversions, rather than short stories playing into the overall narrative and lending thematic depth.

Such criticisms could only ever damn The Sopranos to being a lesser masterpiece, however, because it remains one of the best series in television history. Gandolfini’s lead performance remains a force of nature, the supporting cast is brilliant, and the direction and writing will constantly force you to sit back and admire the craft on display.

The final frontier: Slow out of the blocks and a tad unfocused, Season Two nonetheless finishes with a flourish.

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Top three episodes: 12) The Knight in White Satin Armour. Though it might be remembered for a shocking (and devilishly effective) twist, it’s the small moments in this penultimate episode that prove just as memorable. 6) The Happy Wanderer. Scenes between Tony and his psychiatrist Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) are generally my favourites, and this episode features some of the best. 8) Full Leather Jacket. In typical Sopranos style, a previously inconsequential character suddenly becomes very important in spectacular fashion.

Worst episode: 2) Do Not Resuscitate. A mostly dull episode dealing with the wash-up from events of the previous season left me with the distinct sense that creator David Chase was spinning his wheels.

Season MVP: It might be an unexpected choice, but I’m going with Robert Iler for his quiet, restrained turn as Tony’s son, Anthony Junior. It lives and dies on his reactions to those around him; he plays them beautifully.

4/5

Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:

Television Revision: The Sopranos – Season 1

The Sopranos is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix Play.

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