Seriously Wondering

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 11

Seriously Wondering

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 11

Seriously Wondering
Talking television.
Nov. 25 2002 8:30 AM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 11

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Jeez! I try to have a private conversation with the new guy, and he breaks the omertà on his first posting. And he goes on and on and on. What is he? A novelist? Jodi, I want you to talk with Johnny Sack about payin' him a visit tomorrow.

Advertisement

In any case, Dan raises some good questions. Why are we as bereft as Jennifer when Tony leaves? When he says, "I'm just a fat fuckin' crook from New Jersey," every fiber in our being wants to retort, "Say it ain't so!" Our continued involvement, like Dr. Melfi's, is partly based on our need to believe in the possibility of redemption for Tony. Throughout the first three seasons, he showed us a tantalizing glimmer of what might be if he just had the opportunity to change. He loves his kids. He had pangs of conscience when he had to whack Big Pussy. And he is a sucker for animals. We harbor the same wish that is represented in the dream—that somehow a slimy caterpillar will be transformed into a gorgeous butterfly. Jennifer doesn't want to accept defeat, and we don't want to give up, either. You've got her number, Tony. Call her back!

I studied clinicians' reactions to antisocial patients when I was working at the Menninger Clinic. One of the recurrent themes was the therapists' refusal to accept that the patient really didn't want to change and really didn't have the capacity to change. Until this episode tonight, I wasn't accepting that Tony was unable to change. Now I'm seriously wondering.

Is Paulie really gonna defect? Of course he is. No one visited his mother when he was in the can. Johnny Sack is basically offering him the chance to take over the New Jersey family. When he looks at the painting of Tony as Napoleon, he sees the malocchio, the evil eye, a projection of his own murderous intent into poor, innocent Tony. I am even more convinced now of my prediction last week that Paulie is next in line to be whacked.

Finally, Jennifer needs to go back to supervision. Bringing up to Tony what Freud said is a sure way to drive him off. Like Dan suggests, she was desperate and was grasping at straws to keep him engaged. Her call to Elliot suggests that she can't handle the loss, confirming what I've long thought—namely, that Tony fills a void in Jennifer's life that she deems irreplaceable. Maybe Christopher can see her for follow-up when he's released from rehab.

Glen

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. Daniel Menaker is the author of The Treatment, a novel about therapy, and is executive editor at HarperCollins. Judith Shulevitz writes the "Close Reader" column for the New York Times Book Review. Jodi Kantor is Slate's New York editor.