Fathers & Sons, Uncles & Nephews

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 1

Fathers & Sons, Uncles & Nephews

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 1

Fathers & Sons, Uncles & Nephews
Talking television.
Sept. 16 2002 7:42 AM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 1

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Dear Glen, Peggy, and Joel:

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Last night's show did not disappoint those among us looking for an ever-deepening psychological portrayal of America's favorite renegade family. Bearing in mind that The Sopranos' first episode typically foreshadows elements of the remainder of the season, it nevertheless also captured several universal themes. Just one, for example, is the multigenerational anguish of men struggling to provide for their families and the shadow this preoccupation casts upon the relationships between fathers and sons.

Uncle Junior burdens his nephew Tony with his preoccupation over trial expenses, with Jun, as always, stealing one of the show's best lines—"An entire forest in the Northwest must have given its life in Xerox paper, just for this one fucking trial!" Meanwhile, Tony hints to Dr. Melfi that the source of his own future security may be his ability to equivalently exploit his nephew Christopher. "I started the process of bonding him to me—inseparably," Tony says ominously.

Tony greases these wheels by shaming "slacker" Christopher in relation to Chris' dead father, who Tony praises as his own former "mentor." This is the legendary "real, stand-up-guy" father who Christopher only knows through family myths: According to one, he was whacked the day he brought home little Christopher's baby crib (Tony corrects him, "He had a bunch of TV trays; could have been a crib just as easily."). Christopher shares with Adriana his fears he will be "compared all negative" to the father he never knew and possibly even end up on "the endangered-species' list." She tries to reassure him of his importance to Tony. She is right for all the wrong reasons: The slavish link between Uncle Tony and the nephew who was "dumped on him" shortly after birth is signed, sealed, and delivered after Tony pressures Christopher to kill the retired, corrupt cop who long ago allegedly filled a contract "to 'pop' his Pop." Just before being shot, the cop cries, "You're being set up!" And we're inclined to believe him.

Yours,
Philip

Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and author of The Psychology of The Sopranos, inspired by this discussion. Philip A. Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D., is a senior faculty member at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. Joel Whitebook, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. Margaret Crastnopol, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the Northwest Center for Psychoanalysis. All are practicing therapists as well.