”The Sopranos”: Vito decides where he belongs
Is anyone really surprised that Vito — er, Vincent — literally crashed back into the reality of his old life, wreaking emotional as well as bullet-induced damage as The Sopranos proceeds with crazy sorrow toward its season finale? By now it is a truth universally acknowledged in the David Chase cosmos that a man who makes a point of listening to Frank Sinatra sing ”My Way” is a man who can’t do it his way. And even dem guys who persevere without benefit of a soundtrack — soft toughie Johnny Sack in his desolate prison twilight, broken and taking a guilty plea (along with 15 years and the forfeit of almost all riches except some ”scraps” for his beloved behemoth wife, Ginny), dangerously foolish Paulie with the prostate that betrays him, ox-ish Bobby Bacala with his limited brain power and limitlessly unhappy second spouse — well, dese guys, too, can’t do things any way except the dinosaur way.
And Tony least of all. Not to get all New Yorker-y on a show so New Jersey-ish, but as the shrink-savvy writer Janet Malcolm once observed, ”the crowning paradox of psychoanalysis is the near-uselessness of its insights.” And Lord (or Freud) knows there’s only so much Dr. Melfi can do for ”Patient Soprano,” except cross her svelte lady legs and gently steer him toward making connections he doesn’t want to make between his mother, his older sister, and the effect both women had on the son who ”got the scars.”
But there’s something even bigger being communicated, I think, through Tony’s boredom (not even his ”recreational life outside of the home” fills the gaps), Carmela’s increasing avarice (at this point, she gazes at Angie the businesswoman with envy bordering on crazy eyes), and gaunt Meadow’s insecurity about her skittish fiancé, Finn. Indeed, every non-follow-through of a story line we’ve seen this season has its reasons: There is no satisfaction to be had for all the waste-management contracts in North Caldwell, N.J. There’s just a toy choo-choo train that goes round and round the tracks. And men who transact their brutal business deals, the puniness of which was giggled at, in Matthew Weiner’s sly script, when Ginny Sack’s brother, playing jailhouse courier, can’t even get the secret lingo right: ”coffee with the chicory,” ”the stuff behind the pool” — hah! The ladies meet to share birthday cakes and display weekly hairstyle changes, speaking their own wifely code of collusion. Now there’s snow on the ground.
Why would Vito want to return to such a life, especially when, in the fulfillment of a fairy-tale dream, he has the love of a good man who desires every round pound of him? Because — thinking back to the spurious Bible lesson taught by the skeevy pastor at Tony’s hospital bed — there is no evolution. Let us pause, then, to marvel that the tenderest integration of love and sex between two characters in the history of the series took place between a mobster on the lam and his Johnnycakes. Pretty amazing, no?
And let us acknowledge that of course it couldn’t last. So while Vito leaks tears and pulls on a bottle during his drive back to unspecified doom (with echoes of the famous ”Pine Barrens” episode in the landscape), Janice sobs from a different sort of pain. The woman who knows she ”annoys people,” the mother who, in Tony’s words, has given birth to a ”little twin” (and is becoming more and more Livia-like every day), is the same woman who blubbers, ”No one’s ever done something so…so…,” unable to finish a sentence involving gratitude when her brother yanks away Johnny Sack’s house so his sister can get a deal. Earlier Janice told Tony, ”There’s nothing holding us together but DNA.”
You said it, sister.
PS: There are two episodes left this season. And Sopranos tradition suggests that the next-to-last might contain a plot doozy, along the lines of Janice plugging Richie. So here’s your cue: What’s gotta give?