Directed by Alan Taylor | Written by Frank Renzulli | 49 min
“Why don’t we walk down there and fuck them all?”
By Colin Hart
8.7 / 10
We ended “College” with Tony in the doghouse, Carmela confronting him about Dr. Melfi’s gender. It is in the doghouse where Tony remains in “Pax Soprano,” an episode that doesn’t feature the explosiveness of “College” but is a necessary chapter in getting the plot wheels turning.
Tony is having problems getting it up. Y’know, his penis. His libido is diminished and Melfi thinks it’s the Prozac, but Tony traces the cause to another root—Jennifer Melfi herself. Melfi finds her way into Tony’s dreams twice in the episode—sucking him off to The Jive Five’s “What Time Is It?” and reappearing later as a sultry, sudsy, shower-head seductress. It isn’t long before Tony starts trying to get Carmela and Irina to dress like his therapist, more businesslike and “professional.” It goes over about as well as you’d expect (i.e. not very).
Yet part of the blame should (undeservedly) go on Melfi, too. There is some definite flirtation going on during their therapy sessions—joking around, Tony bringing Melfi coffee, Melfi opening up about her personal life—and this is what fuels his nighttime desires. Tony even calls her out on it, and it is the beginning of Melfi’s main arc throughout the series—is she just taking on Tony as a patient for the thrill of it?
Melfi is the moral center of The Sopranos universe and I should not be questioning her judgment. But therein lies the mystery…
Every other doctor would have bailed on the prospect of treating a mob boss, says Tony, yet Melfi didn’t flinch. And while the show hasn’t explored her personal life (we’ve only seen her outside the office once: her encounter with eternal-schmuck Vin Makazian), there is the distinct likelihood that Melfi enjoys the challenges and risks involved with treating Mr. Soprano. She might even be attracted to him.
But probably not. Tony professes his love for her near episode’s end—he likes how she is gentle, “like a mandolin” —and even kisses her. Melfi, however flattered, rejects his advances, telling him these are just qualities he desires in the other women in his life. Melfi has to act supportive because that is what the job entails. A teary-eyed Tony leaves the session like a grammar-school boy getting rejected by his crush.
“Yeah. See you Tuesday.”
While one half of the episode focuses on Tony’s strifes with the many women in his life—fights with Irina, angry binge-buying from Carmela, distasteful narcissism from his mother, unrequited love from his therapist—the other half focuses on the happenings of the mob world.
Uncle Junior continues his reign of underworld supremacy, taxing Tony’s Jewish friend Hesh at Livia’s request (Livia wants to get back at Tony for putting her in the nursing home any way she can). Meanwhile, resident douchebag Mikey Palmice spends his time pillaging and raiding the Soprano crew. This isn’t what the young campos had envisioned when Tony ceded leadership to Junior, and now they count on Tony to once again mend the situation.
“Pax Soprana” isn’t a great episode, but it is certainly a very good episode, the best scene coming near the end. Tony and Uncle Junior meet at a little league baseball game and Tony tries to give his uncle some helpful analogies. He talks about pax romana, the longest period of peace in the Roman Empire, and how Octavian enjoyed a long and fruitful reign because he never ate alone and always shared his wealth. That one doesn’t work? Okay, Tony has another one. It’s something Uncle Junior himself once told him—two bulls overlook a field of cows, one says to the other, “Why don’t we run down there and fuck one?” The other bull says, “No, why don’t we walk down there and fuck them all?”
This is the winning analogy that persuades Junior to change his ways. Nothing like a good metaphor, especially if it involves horny amorphous bovines.
We close the episode in a D.C. office, which is not a satisfying place to leave off. Because the FBI never truly poses a significant threat in The Sopranos universe, the ending to “Pax Soprana” is a little lackluster. Neither humorous nor profound, it instead resorts to pulp. It could have been done a whole lot better.
Nevertheless, “Pax Soprana” shows an assured control by David Chase and the creative staff, with the characters simply living out their lives, reacting naturally to the circumstances that surround them, an arid, floating quality of time standing still pervading throughout.
-We open with a quick scene between Tony and Vin Makazian. Always good to see the fragile, corrupt cop.
-Carmela talks with Father Phil about Tony’s infidelities, saying that Melfi is different than his previous whores. However, Tony’s not actually fucking Melfi, just trying to fuck her (he is fucking her in his dreams though).
-Further ire from Carmela comes up when Tony spends most of their anniversary dinner talking with Johnny Sac over at the bar. By episode’s end, though, Tony does profess his love for Carm and things seem well again, though we must question how much he actually means it.
-The first appearance of Johnny Sac, who will be an important figure down the line. He is second-in-command to Carmine Lupertazzi, head of the New York crime family. They look at the Jersey crime syndicate as their G-League affiliate.
-If you’re wondering whether Uncle Junior is supposed to be a villain, he’s not. He plays the role of Tony’s foil this season, but he is getting more sympathetic as the season has gone on—largely due to the acting of Dominic Chienese and the humor he brings.
-Irina definitely has the line of the episode…
“If you were a dildo, we wouldn’t be fighting.”
“I don’t even let anyone wag their finger in my face!”
“Bring the cookies!”
“You’re making me out to be some fucking mama’s boy. I’m a man. And you’re a woman. End of story.”