Not Sure What I'm Watching Anymore

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 13

Not Sure What I'm Watching Anymore

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 13

Not Sure What I'm Watching Anymore
Talking television.
Dec. 9 2002 5:37 AM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 13

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Dear Gang,

Advertisement

Edward Albee must have ghost written at least a part of last night's episode. With the possible exception of Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage, Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has remained relatively unchallenged in its portrayal of the dissolution of a marriage—that is,  until last night's episode of The Sopranos. We might ponder what made the disclosure of Tony's whoring so much more of a narcissistic injury to Carmela than all the transgressions she readily accepted before (and even suggested she might continue to indulge should Tony "show a better attitude around the house"). Of course we all know that Carmela's choking down her own denial has been nothing short of a Herculean task requiring the amputation of a considerable portion of her soul, making Svetlana's missing leg pale by comparison.

Edie Falco's incomparable acting aside, what the hell did last night's show have to do with The Sopranos (and here I agree with Ron's "declinist" proclivities)? This show is unraveling its video tape all over the Jersey shore line. I must confess that as a heretofore avid fan I am not sure what I am watching anymore. Sure, episodes remain relatively unpredictable, but given who the characters are, as the French say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." These days, the show seems to be spinning in endless melodramatic circles, which brings me to Ron's question about therapeutic progress.

I will begin my reply with the physician's oath, "First, do no harm." Dr. Melfi has done no harm. But has she done any good? Well, it's equivocal, but I would say ultimately yes. There is a kind of ferocious authenticity in Tony's final decision to separate from Carmela and a willingness to finally accept her fury. Sure, he patronizes the kids with the possibility of a reunion, and who knows; maybe the fifth season will bring one. On the other hand, maybe Tony and Carmela are finally free of their mutual suffocation and dissatisfaction. In a sense, each is bearing their loss in the least symptomatic way we have yet witnessed—no running to drugs or alcohol, or alternative partners, or even stuffing their faces with food. Is finding out their fate enough of a story line for a fifth season? I doubt it, but I will probably watch anyway.

Phil

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. Ron Rosenbaum is the author of Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil and the recent nonfiction collection The Secret Parts of Fortune.