This is not only Holy Week. It is also Sopranos Week.
The TV phenomenon returns Easter night for its final mini-season. I bring it up because back in February, the liberal, lay Catholic weekly Commonweal ran a long cover story about the show and its characters ongoing pursuit of redemption.
I reread it a few days ago. The article was written by Cathleen Kaveny, who teaches law and theology at Notre Dame.
She sets things up this way:
“In contrast with the Corleones, then, the lives of the Sopranos are shockingly ordinary. True, members of TonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s work family inflict brutal physical violence on their associates, but the show and its creator, David Chase, place even greater dramatic emphasis on the emotional violence inflicted by members of TonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s home family on one another. Over and over again, the series drives home one lesson: The everyday brutality of Ã¢â‚¬Å“civilianÃ¢â‚¬? American family life bears an uncomfortable resemblance to life in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“familyÃ¢â‚¬? of organized crime. So the question of whether the Sopranos and their circle can be redeemed, in my view, is inextricably related to the question of whether we ourselves can be redeemed.”
She explores how Tony seeks “therapeutic redemption” with Dr. Melfi, how Christopher seeks “twelve step redemption” in AA, and how Carmela seeks religious redemption.
Kaveny concluded, in part:
“No less than Tony or Christopher, Carmela has inextricably entwined her identity with the murderous double family. To redeem these characters is to erase them. And to the credit of the showÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s creator, David Chase, we ourselves are forced to admit that as viewers of a drama, we would rather take these characters as they are, unredeemed.”
It’s certainly true that the characters on the Sopranos spend a lot of time trying to deny their violent ways and pretending that their regular lives are unsoiled by their crimes.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the show. It is seriously compelling TV, for sure, largely because of the potential for violence at any time. But I’ve always felt that critics overstate the show’s complexity, not to mention the nuanced relationships among characters.
Several characters Ã¢â‚¬â€ Christopher, Paulie and Silvio come to mind Ã¢â‚¬â€ are as dumb as trees. They’re overgrown children with guns.
Carmela feels some discomfort over her husband’s lifestyle (a steady theme since the show started), but is easily distracted by a new necklace or her “spec house.” She is lovable in certain ways but hard to admire.
Then there’s Tony. Sure, he goes for therapy. He talks about his complicated relationship with his mother. He loves his kids. But when push comes to shove, he is always more interested in eating, cheating on his wife and doing whatever it takes to maintain power.
How complicated is that?
But, yes, I’ll be watching to see how it ends. To read what Kaveny thinks about the final season, read her whole article “here.”:http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1842