And there's no logic in criticizing the show for its violence, says Bruce Fretts

By Bruce Fretts
Updated April 18, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Jamie Lynn Sigler: Barry Wetcher
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Tony romances a fellow patient on ”The Sopranos”

Of all the ludicrous criticisms leveled against ”The Sopranos” this season, the most absurd may be that the HBO drama (Sundays, 9 p.m.) has become too ”dark.” If it’s lightness you want, go watch ”Dharma & Greg.” Me, I’ll take Tony and his crew in all their blood soaked, black souled glory.

Besides, the latest episode was practically a feelgood romp — at least compared to recent installments. Think about it: Two new romances bloomed; a hard working guy won a long desired promotion; and there were no violent deaths. Granted, we are talking about ”The Sopranos” here, so there were a few twisted twists:

AUTO EROTICA Sleek Mercedes Benz saleswoman Gloria Trillo (Annabella Sciorra) got Tony’s motor running when they met in Dr. Melfi’s waiting room. He told her he was seeing the shrink to quit smoking, while she claimed to be a serial killer (”I’ve murdered seven relationships,” she cracked). Still, that didn’t stop Tony from tracking her down at the lot where she works. She promptly took him for a test drive (in more ways than one). The question is: Was their initial encounter really an accident, or does Gloria have an ulterior motive? After all, everybody knows you can’t trust a car dealer.

ROMANTIC ECSTASY Still smarting from her breakup with Noah, Meadow (Jamie Lynn Sigler) rebounded into the octopus like arms of budding wiseguy Jackie Aprile Jr. (Jason Cerbone). However, the road to romance has been a bit bumpy: The Rutgers fratboy / dope pusher gave her a free hit of X at a rave, but she passed out before he could close the deal. He took her out on Thanksgiving night, but he drove off in a huff after she said she needed time to get over Noah. Finally, Meadow swiped Jackie’s keys and ran his car off the road, and this near death experience was apparently enough to convince her to go home with him. That’ll be a lovely story to tell their kids some day.

CAPTAIN BLOOD ”He’s a despicable f— who I bitch slapped in a moment of justifiable anger,” Tony said of Ralphie (Joe Pantoliano). Yet by episode’s end, the don had buried the hatchet with his disgruntled underling — and not in his skull. Ralphie apologized for three offenses: disrespecting Tony (by refusing to have a drink with him), ”the Bing” (for committing a murder on the strip club’s sacred premises), and his pregnant mistress (whom he beat to death). And Tony — well, he didn’t have Ralphie whacked, as the increasingly testy Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) suggested. In fact, he made Ralphie a captain.

HEIR TO THE THRONE Of course, Tony only gave Ralphie his bump up after his capo, Gigi Cestone (John Fiore), died. But the killer wasn’t a button man — it was a butterball. Severely constipated from his Turkey Day dinner (”It’s like spackle in my colon”), Gigi kicked the bucket while sitting on the can.

Come to think of it, that is a pretty dark way to go. What do you think? Has ”The Sopranos” been too brutal this season — or should people who condemn the show’s violence just turn it off?

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The Sopranos

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