The Return of the Bear

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 12

The Return of the Bear

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 12

The Return of the Bear
Talking television.
May 24 2004 3:23 PM

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 12

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Respect? You want to talk to me about respect? I got your respect right here, buddy-boy.

Oh, forget it. I do a reasonable impersonation of Staten Island wiseguys in person, but over the Web, it's just impossible.

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I have to tell you, I'm really affected by Adriana's demise, and I'm more than a little upset with the FBI for so grossly mishandling her case. Yes, I realize it's a TV show, but still. ...

Vince Curatola, who plays Johnny Sack, is moving up in the ranks of great on-screen mob bosses. His performance reminds me a little of Robert DeNiro's Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas. (I watched the last half of Goodfellas last night, after TheSopranos; and I wonder why I have trouble falling asleep.) Curatola is volcanic and malevolent; his contents are perpetually under pressure. Johnny Sack's bitterness is a bottomless pool; so is his ego, which will be his downfall.

My guess is that this last episode was the big plot-mover of the season. I don't imagine the war between Tony and Johnny resolving itself in the final episode. Though I do see the bear coming back, for one final appearance. I talked to Slate's Emily Yoffe about this. (She's speaking again.) Emily is my bear guru; she's explained it all to me. It has something to do with Faulkner, she said, though she can't remember what exactly. The bear symbolizes Tony's unchanging nature, she said, and I agree with her, except last night I felt that Tony was really evolving as a person—or at least as a sociopath. He has found a new way, thanks to therapy, or drug intervention, to handle lunatic black-haired girlfriends who threaten suicide ("Lunatic Black-Haired Girlfriends Who Threaten Suicide and the Mobsters Who Love Them, next on the Jerry Capeci Show"). He shut down Valentina completely. The last time, the breakup involved flying steaks and choking. And he pushed back hard against Johnny Sack, standing up for his cousin and associate. No more Jersey mob inferiority complex for Tony.

Anyway, the bear is coming back; I feel it. Though maybe the ducks will come back, too. And the Russian. The Russian's coming back, too. One possible plot improvement last night: The Russian—who, you will remember, was almost Christopher's victim—should have emerged from the woods and tackled Silvio just as he was getting ready to shoot Adriana. Then they could have moved together to Minsk, which would mean that Drea de Matteo wouldn't have to join the cast of Joey.

OK, so maybe it's not a great plot improvement. But I miss Adriana. Not so much that I'm going to watch Joey, but I miss her all the same.

Mournfully,

Jeff

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.