Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why James Dean died and Paulie lives on

If there's something the first three episodes of this final (half) season have in common, it's the theme of father-son relationships, and the need to have a successor. First it was Bobby, who disappointed Tony by stepping into a Soprano argument. Then it was Christopher, who used his movie Cleaver to skewer Tony. This last one ("Remember When," S6E15,) has a reversal for Tony in that he takes on the role of son. He's still disappointed though, embarrassed that he ever looked up to Paulie as a father-figure.

When Paulie first appears, he's bringing up the paper, which we all know now to be a metaphor for being the 'boss.' When Tony announced he wasn't going to bring up the paper anymore last week ("it's too dangerous,") it gave me goosebumps. First, it serves as a metaphor for more thoughts of stepping down, but it also means we get to see more characters bring up the paper, and metaphorically try on the 'boss' hat. When Tony sees Paulie bringing up the paper, he realizes the tragedy of Paulie. Here's someone that Tony idolized coming up in the mob, and now some twenty odd years later, he's still no closer to being the boss. This, and the road trip they take together, pushes Tony to brink of wacking him. In Tony's mind, though, it would be more euthanasia then murder. David Essex's "Rock On" plays in the car as they drive together, and the references to James Dean are important here. Paulie is a sad anachronysm of style with his white shoes and slicked back hair. James Dean had to die to preserve that image of cool that exists. Paulie lives on, seemingly forever stuck in that moment in time, and can't stop talking about the past (Tony to Paulie - "Remember when is the lowest form of conversation.")

The title of the episode ("Remember When,") says a lot about the music selection. Like "Rock On," all the songs (aside from the Cuban ones, which are more for setting then meaning,) deal with nostalgia. Diana Ross' "Touch Me In the Morning" looks back on a love that's ending, and at the time I was thinking of the series ending, but now it might have also been a subtle foreshadow on Tony's relationship with Paulie. Meanwhile, Gino Vanelli's "I Just Wanna Stop" tries to stop time back to when things were better, and that needs no further explanation. Then there's the theme to Terms of Endearment, which plays while Tony and Paulie talk about the old days with Tony's dad. While the film is ostensibly about the mother-daughter relationship, it's still a dysfunctional parent-to-child reference, so we'll roll with it.

The other father-son metaphor playing through the episode was of Uncle Junior and his prison (therapy center) friend Carter Chong. Junior's getting a taste of some of his old action, by setting up poker games and selling smuggled candy bars and sodas to the other patient/inmates. Chong is helping him, and looking to Junior as a proxy father figure. Little does Junior know, though, that Chong killed his father and when Junior starts to not live up to Chong's expectations of the gangster persona he idolized in him earlier (sound familiar?) then he goes nuts and tries to kill him. Chong broke where Tony was able to hold strong, which begs the question - does Dr Melfi have an opening in her schedule?

Playlist: The Sopranos - Ep 615
1. "Rock On" - David Essex - Tony and Paulie drive into Virginia
2. "Touch Me In The Morning" - Diana Ross - T and P check into a hotel
3. "I Just Wanna Stop" - Gino Vannelli - T and P go to a pub
4. "Terms Of Endearment (Main Theme)" - T and P recall when P and Tony's dad made trips south
5. "El Botellon" - Don Diego y su Orquesta Tropical - T and P meet with Beansie in Miami
6. "Mimi" - Cubanismo! - T and P and Beansie back at the hotel restaurant with lady friends
7. "Sing! Sing! Sing!" - Gene Krupa - Uncle Junior rocks in his chair, dissapointed... through credits

More: Anyone else notice the white shoes running away from the hit on 'Doc', the NY crime boss? Fashion kills. Elsewhere, Tony walking through his tomatoes in his bathrobe delivered more Godfather chills. That's three-for-three on these final episodes with references to the mother of all crime dramas.

Previously: Leave it to Cleaver (Episode 614)

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