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I'm a recent convert to the Sopranos, having missed all of the episodes when they were on TV. However, over the past year, I've slowly been watching the show from the beginning and have just finished watching the last two seasons, so I thought I'd review season 5. I don't really want to outline any of the characters in this review, as if you haven't seen the first 4 seasons, then you should go start at season 1 - this isn't a show you can dip in and out of. However, the show is basically about Tony Soprano, the boss of the New Jersey Mafia family. He's a complex man with many sides including his family life with wife and children, his business dealings with other wise guys, and health problems including panic attacks and depression, for which he is receiving therapy. Tony is also a cold blooded killer and is not adverse to a spot of violence.
---Synopsis (POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT)---
Season 5 starts where season 4 left off - Tony and his wife Carmela are separated and he is no longer living in the family home. Throughout the season Tony and Carmela struggle with their relationship and problems continue with their son AJ. At the beginning of the season a number of new characters are introduced when gangsters who were imprisoned 20 years before are all released at the same time. These include Tony's cousin Tony Blundetto (played by Steve Buscemi) and Phil Leotardo who is part of the New York crime family. After a few incidents with Dr Melfi, Tony once again continues his therapy to help with his panic attacks and depression. Most of the old characters are developed further including Pauli, Sylvio, Chrissie and Adriana. Watch out for dramatic storylines involving Tony, Christopher and Adriana particularly as the season develops.
In my opinion, The Sopranos is definitely one of the best TV programmes ever made, in terms of its production, writing and acting. You get the feeling that the script writers knew where they were going with the story right from the beginning of the series and as the season develops, the tension mounts as seemingly insignificant actions from earlier seasons take on a greater importance.
The actors are all of a high quality (many of them had previously starred in Goodfellas). The long-standing characters are all well-developed into their roles by this seasons which gives the storylines a chance to develop them further. All the characters are believable (if you accept that people are capable of this level of violence)!
Where the show succeeds is making you emphasise and care for Tony, his family and members of The Family, despite their terrible deeds. Tony is basically a stressed out businessman with a demanding job and family and feels the pressure. Despite his violent streak, he is a compassionate man and struggles with his cousin Tony B's increasingly erratic behaviour, putting his family loyalty above the problems that will arise if he fails to take care of business. However, in the end, The Family, especially those who have been loyal do come first and Tony will do what he has to, to keep himself as Boss and the business afloat.
The Sopranos doesn't patronise its viewers. Much like The Wire, not everything is explained; characters come and go and you are sometimes not sure who they are, where their allegiances lie and what their agenda is. In this respect, it relies on the intelligence of viewers (sometimes with the help of Wikipedia) to place connections between the characters and their actions. Writing like this also puts you in the place of Tony. The viewer is not sure what agenda some of the characters have and neither is he. Quite frequently, a character who Tony trusts is outed as an informant to the Feds, at least to the viewer, if not Tony.
One thing that is slightly lacking from this season is Carmela's lack of outrageous Versace. The season is set in the mid-noughties and her clothing style seems to have calmed down when compared with previous seasons. Her house is still decked out in over-the-top ornate furniture, but her outfits are far too tame!
One of the best episodes of the season (if not the whole series) is Long Term Parking. To describe this episode is impossible without spoilers, so SPOILER ALERT! The episode's plot is about Adriana's dealings with the Feds, which finally comes to a head and she confesses all to Christopher, suggesting that they escape a new life somewhere else. This tests Christopher's loyalty almost to breaking point - is he loyal to The Family or to his fiancé? Ultimately, it is Adriana who pays the price for her own disloyalty, and she is swiftly executed by Sylvio. This episode really brings home the lengths that members of Caso Nostro will go to in terms of violence. It is presented in an utterly believable way and it's only when Adriana realises what is about to happen that the viewer realises it as well. It's a suspenseful episode and a chilling reminder of how cold-blooded the characters can be when they want to be. This episode also makes effective use of dream sequences, something that is a bit hit-or-miss in the series as a whole, but works well here.
The overall story arc of the seasons is that there are cracks beginning to show in The Family and with their usually cooperative dealings with the New York Family. Loyalties are tested and loose cannons are dispatched. Season 5 is definitely a return to form for a show which I thought was slightly losing its way in season 4 and it is a must for all Sopranos fans! All in all, this is one of the best seasons of one of the top 5 dramas ever made.
Warning SPOILERS within!
Following on from the other 4 series this is another top notch production. I wouldnt advise watching this unless you have watched at least series 1 but would be best understood if you have watched all 4 previous series too.
Tony (James Gandolfini) has progressed from the problems he used to suffer earlier in the run of series but his family life has collapsed around him. His cheating has caught up with him and he is booted out of the family home.
Tonys family life features heavily in this series, Meadow (his daughter) is noteably absent due to being at College. AJ (his son) is causing problems by being a typical teenage son!
As much as I have found the pervious series difficult to 'read' in that i couldnt guess what was going to happed. I have found that Series 5 had become predictable. As much at the Sopranos as a whole is a great programme series 5 is not my favrite.
Facing an indeterminate sentence of weeks/months/years until new episodes, Sopranos fans are advised to take the fifth; season, that is. At this point, superlatives don't do The Sopranos justice, but justice was at last served to this benchmark series. For the first time, The Sopranos rubbed out The West Wing to take home its first Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series. Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo also earned Best Supporting Actor and Actress honors for some of their finest hours as Christopher and Adriana. From the moment a wayward bear lumbers into the Sopranos' yard in the season opener, it is clear that The Sopranos is in anything but a "stagmire." The series benefits from an infusion of new blood, the so-called "Class of 2004," imprisoned "family" members freshly released from jail. Most notable among these is Tony's cousin, Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi, who directed the pivotal season 3 episode "Pine Barrens"), who initially wants to go straight, but proves himself to be something of a "free agent," setting up a climactic stand-off between Tony and New York boss Johnny Sack. These 13 mostly riveting episodes unfold with a page-turning intensity with many rich subplots. Estranged couple Tony and Carmela (the incomparable James Gandolfini and Edie Falco) work toward a reconciliation (greased by Tony's purchase of a $600,000 piece of property for Carmela to develop). The Feds lean harder on an increasingly stressed-out and distraught Adriana to "snitch" with inevitable results. This season's hot-button episode is "The Test Dream," in which Tony is visited by some of the series' dear, and not-so-dearly, departed in a harrowing nightmare. With this set, fans can enjoy marathon viewings of an especially satisfying season, but considering the long wait ahead for season 6, best to take Tony's advice to his son, who, at one point, gulps down a champagne toast. "Slow down," Tony says. "You're supposed to savor it." --Donald Liebenson, Amazon.com