I have never watched anything like this season of TV in my life. It's quite honestly that simple. Breaking countless rules of TV and refusing to be bound by the conventions and traditions of story-telling, the Sopranos has always been adamant in it's declaration that it is more then a simple mob story. Yet, the way it wove perhaps, the most stunning and breathtaking look into a relationship and its self-destruction was a sight to behold.
Indeed, in many ways the Mafia storylines this season were few and far between. Yet, when they did strike they struck like a thunderclap. Ultimately though, this season was all about the personal relationships and lives of these various characters you've come to know and love after years together.
Whether its the slow and devastating self-destruction of Tony and Carmela's marriage, or the overwhelming sorrow and grief felt by Bobby after his wife's death, this season illuminated and showed seemingly a dozen different layers of each character's life.
Indeed special mention has to be drawn to Bobby, who over many years has slowly evolved from a punching bag and stumbling clown to a richly drawn and wonderfully realized moral, heart-felt, and wise man. Standing alone among all of the other members of the Soprano crime family, as the true family man and devoted husband, Bobby has now become arguably the best part of any single scene he is in and even more crucially, draws out and shows the contrasts between himself and the other mobsters he's supposed to be like.
This season is one of impending doom and slow decline. Things are just now beginning to fry at the edges. Whether its Junior's looming trial, the emerging divide between New York and New Jersey, or the relationships between the characters, things are fading for Tony and company. Particular praise must be heaped on Christopher's descent into crippling addiction and losing all sense of himself. Christopher has always struggled with his role in the family yet here, where Tony is trying to offer him everything, offering him the future, Christopher is totally and completely unable to stop his drug habit, the only thing Tony asks of him.
The two have always shared a special father/son relationship, Tony himself references this multiple times during the season as he continues to try to push Chris away from drugs. All culminating in the devastating examination of Christopher and Adrinnia's relationship in "The Strong and Silent Type". This is the character crashing into rock bottom and the intervention staged for him near the episode's conclusion is particularly cutting due to the various characters referencing events dating back years ago, that we have seen over the course of the show. All laid out in deliberate and overwhelming manner we are shown just how far Christopher has fallen from when we first met him and from his early promise.
But really to have gone this far without truly diving into arguably the main crux of the entire season is well, near criminal. Tony and Carmela's relationship is the secret star of the show in season 4. Building on everything that has come before, all the slats, broken promises, and insults we've seen over the previous three seasons, the show slowly but powerfully shows just how lost and empty this marriage and relationship has become. As each episode comes and goes, Carmela is depicated as increasingly desperate, lonely, and severely depressed at the situation she's found herself in.
Then Furio offers her the glimpse at a better life, a life she really wants. Their romance, if you can ever truly call it that, is sublime. One of furtive glances, smiles, and lots and lots of pining after one another, it catapults Furio into a staring role. There are many standout moments but none is stronger then the stellar episode "The Strong and Silent Type" that I mentioned above regarding Christopher. Beautifully depicting the juxtaposition between Tony and Furio at the episode's end, it clearly shows just who the real strong and silent one truly is, despite what Tony has been saying for years and despite his much discussed love of the Gary Cooper type. Each are fighting over Carmela, without Tony's knowledge, and in this telling glimpse at the two, by themselves making dinner, we see a great deal about their individual character.
We are shown that Tony and Furio need Carmela in their lives for far different reasons. Furio pangs for her deeply within himself. All he can do is live and breath Carm, she is always in his thoughts and on his mind. Yet, he is self-sufficient, indeed he is a man of culture and many talents. Tony needs Carmela to cook him food, to take care of his bills, to watch the house. Tony needs Carmela to function, but in a very different manner then Furio.
The finale, and its three devastating conversations between Tony and Carmela as their marriage finally implodes is a savage, real, devastating, and breathtaking deconstruction and examination of their lives and all of the many lies and the truths that bound them together for so long. Never has a relationship's demise been as truthfully conveyed and never before has TV so stunningly shown the twisted, scarred insides of a couple before. You will hold your breath, sit on the edge of your seat in terror, and be spellbound as four seasons of conflict and passive aggressive tensions come crashing out of these two titans of characters. It is simply exceptional and raw.
Season four of the Soprano's is apparently not a popular one to enjoy. Yet, I adore it. The journey and transformation that has occurred from the pilot episode to the conclusion of season 4 is astounding and shows just how well written and believable this show is. I could never have imagined where certain characters have ended up, and where the many directions and plot lines have been steered too. People have come and gone, feuds have been started and crushed, terrifying acts have occurred, as has the occasional and far rarer note of optimism and hope, yet through it all Tony Soprano has stood, center mast as a staggering, deeply and knowingly flawed, human. And his story and subsequent journey in the midst of a swirling, up in the air early 2000's America, is like nothing else you've ever seen. Season four was the Sopranos at its brutally real, devastatingly human best. Quite simply, Tony Soprano isn't an unthinking monster, he's so much better and worse then that.