Which Impulses?

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 11

Which Impulses?

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 11

Which Impulses?
Talking television.
Nov. 25 2002 4:02 PM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 11

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Any of you notice how Tony almost told Jennifer last night that he'd whacked Ralphie? First he accuses her of failing to help him check his impulses, which led to him "making mistakes in my professional work," and then, as if realizing what he's just said, he launches into a vague, self-pitying, beside-the-point diatribe about analysis. I couldn't believe she let the first remark slip by and chose instead to defend the work they had done. Wouldn't any therapist worth her salt ask him which impulses he had failed to control—i.e., what exactly he was talking about?

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Of course, she can't ask him that, and she knows she can't ask him that, because he won't answer, and he shouldn't answer, and the existence of all those forbidden zones are the main reason his therapy is doomed to failure.

In any event, I thought he terminated because he was scared he might tell her—and he was probably right to terminate, because he can't tell her. The slip above makes it clear that he longs to confess. Both dreams revealed that he's tormented by guilt (I love the ominousness of Ralphie turning his head), and he's smart enough to realize that a good analyst will lead him so far down the associational chain he can't help but hint at the murder. I wonder what her professional obligation would be if he did.

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.