When Every Waking Moment Seems Unsettling

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 9

When Every Waking Moment Seems Unsettling

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 9

When Every Waking Moment Seems Unsettling
Talking television.
Nov. 11 2002 9:57 AM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 9

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

I must confess that last night's episode was the weirdest and perhaps most discomfiting that I can remember of the entire series. The sheer number of contradictory emotional experiences that we audience members witnessed left us pushed and pulled in so many directions that it almost felt violating.

Advertisement

The sad and cynical portrayal is that when we are genuinely touched by the tragedy of personal loss, as in Justin's accident with the arrow and Ralphie's true grief over it, we are then bludgeoned with the "whatever it takes for me to survive and thrive" narcissism that dominates the series. Just as we might think Ralphie has turned an important corner from his personal loss, he toasts the race horse. Just when we think that Tony can be truly touched by Ralphie's loss, even identify with it in imagining the horror of something happening to A.J., we watch him beat the economically expedient Ralphie to death.

There was a disquieting rhythm in last night's episode, where the passions of the characters ran from love and grief over loss on the one hand to hatred and homicide on the other. But equally strange were the moments between these primitive emotional outbursts. There were bizarre lulls, such as the drawn-out moments at hospital bedside, or the methodical dismemberment and elimination of Ralphie's body parts, first going in the quarry and the remainder underground.

The episode evoked a creepy sensation in me. The kind one can get watching dramas about concentration camps where dreary, mundane routines of life are punctuated with live horror stories. When these contrasts are closely paced, they can make every waking moment seem unsettling. Last night was a good night for a little post-episode Xanax.

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.