Are the feisty women finally taking over? Meadow, Adriana, and Janice all grow in importance on the season's second episode, says Bruce Fretts
Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos
Credit: The Sopranos: Barry Wetcher
James Gandolfini

Are the feisty women finally taking over?

During the last season of ”The Sopranos,” there was a lot of talk about whether the drama was misogynistic because it depicted violence against women (especially the fatal beating of a stripper and the rape of Lorraine Bracco’s Dr. Melfi). Lost in the debate was the point that the show didn’t glamorize this sexist brutality, but rather depicted it as an ugly fact of these criminals? lives.

The fact of the matter is, the female characters are just as strong and complex as the males, even though the series ostensibly deals with the super-high-testosterone world of goodfellas. Take this season?s second episode, “No-Show.” It was the women who drove the major plotlines — and no, it wasn?t Melfi or Edie Falco?s Carmela.

Meadow Soprano (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) It seems that the don?s daughter has inherited his depressive tendencies. Still mourning the murder of ex-boyfriend Jackie Jr., the premed student spent her post-freshman summer sleeping in and blowing off jobs (an ironic parallel to the payroll-padding construction-site scam that provided the episode?s title). After she announced that she was taking a year off to tour Europe, her parents sent her to a faux-hip shrink (the hilarious Linda Lavin), who unexpectedly recommended she disobey her folks? orders forbidding her to go. Meadow eventually caved, enrolling late in classes at Columbia, but not before blowing dear old dad?s cover by venomously addressing him as “Mr. Mob Boss.” Will her choice of a philosophy class called “Morality, Self, and Society” lead her to question her parents? ethics even more deeply? Stay tuned.

Adriana La Cerva (Drea De Matteo) and Deborah Ciccerone (Lola Glaudini) The undercover-agent subplot came to a head much faster than I expected, but that?s the great thing about “The Sopranos” — it doesn?t play by conventional TV rules. Fed Deborah (a.k.a. “Danielle”) lost Adriana?s confidence after her acting-capo fiance Christopher (Michael Imperioli) clumsily tried to instigate a three-way with them. So the FBI decided to scrap the operation and immediately put the squeeze on Ade, who was told if she doesn?t become a stoolie, she could face a 25-year prison term on drug charges. Adriana?s response: She vomited all over the government?s table, not to mention the new Harry Winston bracelet Chrissy had given her, boasting classily, “it?s got more carrots than Bugs Bunny.”

Janice Soprano (Aida Turturro) Somebody needs to give Tony?s big sister a copy of ”Smart Women, Foolish Choices.” Her affair with Ralphie Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano), who incidentally was the guy who beat that stripper to death, can only lead to trouble. You can see the attraction: Ralphie cited Janice?s “earthy quality” (or, as a fellow wiseguy translated it, “big tits”), while she lauded his “sense of style” (the guy does sport a wicked ascot). But as Tony reminded Janice, “I had to haul your last boyfriend out of your kitchen in a Hefty bag.” That would be Richie Aprile (David Proval), whose sister-in-law Rosalie (Sharon Angela) is Ralphie?s above-board girlfriend. Ah, what a tangled romantic web these Mob molls weave!

How well do you think “The Sopranos” treats its women?

James Gandolfini
The Sopranos
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