Family Meltdown

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 2

Family Meltdown

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 2

Family Meltdown
Talking television.
Sept. 23 2002 7:23 AM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 2

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Dear Peggy, Phil, and Joel,

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Meadow enrolls in a Columbia course with the title, "Morality, Self and Society." Could this be a subtitle for this season? The so-called moral code in Tony's little society is unraveling. Christopher gets appointed "acting capo" and is already predicting that Carmela will not be first lady forever. Silvio, wounded in response to being passed over, is undermining Tony's authority. Paulie wants to defect to Johnny Sack in New York. Every man is out for himself despite the solemn oath each of them uttered when he became a made man. To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, morality is a luxury of those with full stomachs. Times is hard, and Tony and his boys are getting desperate.

Tony's other family is unraveling as well. In one of the most powerfully emotional scenes of the entire series, Meadow, the light of Tony's life, breaks down in tears and flees from home when Tony can't appreciate her need to try her wings. Dr. Melfi needs to revise her referral list. First, she sent Carmela to Dr. Krakower, a graduate of the Don Imus School of Tactless Confrontation. Now she refers Meadow to Dr. Wendy Kobler, an "adolescent psychologist and educational consultant." In her New York Times review of the first few episodes, Caryn James suggested that the writers may be spoofing psychotherapy by introducing this unconventional advice-giver. In my view, she's not funny enough to be a spoof. She just sucks. She operates from the assumption that incest is at the root of most problems encountered by 19-year-olds. If only it were that simple! At least she knows a sure way to form a therapeutic alliance with an adolescent—collude with her against her parents and encourage her to do whatever she wants. Works every time!

But do not despair! Just when the darkest shadow falls over the Sopranos family, Ralphie and Janice have found true love. Nothing touches me more than the affection that develops spontaneously between two psychopaths.

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 and the William Alanson White Institute in New York. All are practicing therapists as well.