“O.G. Original Gangster”
By Colin Hart
8.3 / 10
A Hit is a Hit” is often cited as one of The Sopranos‘ worst episodes, and rightfully so. Then again, The Sopranos is quite possibly the greatest TV show of all time, and so the phrase “worst episode” must be taken with a grain of salt. The Sopranos at its worst is still better than average, and that ain’t half-bad.
“A Hit is a Hit” is better than The Walking Dead. It’s better than Burn Notice. Nevertheless, it’s still an inferior episode when compared to the greatness that we’re used to. Whenever The Sopranos branches out into unfamiliar territory, it often comes up a bit short. That’s certainly the case when it comes to Massive Genius, a gangsta rapper who comes into contact with Chris and Adriana.
If there’s one thing that The Sopranos is truly bad at, it’s portraying minorities. The main characters are all racists and homophobes (Chris in crowded urban fast-food joint: “Who’s fuckin’ welfare check do you gotta cash to get a burger around here?”), but that doesn’t mean every black character should be portrayed as thinly as Tony and his crew view them. In this regard, The Sopranos certainly wasn’t The Wire.
The episode begins with a quick burst of ultraviolence, in which the guys kill a Mexican drug dealer and steal a ton of money. The large haul enables them to take a little break. All mob activities get the week off.
For Chris, this means spending quality time with Adriana. Up until now, she’s been a character on the fringes, but actress Drea de Matteo proves that Adriana is far more than just eye candy. She’ll eventually develop into one of the show’s most compelling characters, but that won’t be until season five. For now, her ambitions to become a record producer are somewhat disconnected and pointless.
Meanwhile, Massive Genius wants Chris to arrange a sit-down with Tony’s Jewish friend, Hesh Rabkin. Massive believes that Hesh owes a fortune in unpaid royalties for stealing R&B songwriting credits back in the early ’60s. In return, Massive will help Adriana get her music aspirations off the ground.
Another flaw with “A Hit is a Hit” is the fact that we’re forced to listen to some truly terrible music. Adriana’s recording sessions with her friend’s emo-rock band, Visiting Day, are funny (Chris ends up smashing a guitar over the lead singer’s head), but their actual songs are total trash. “A hit is a hit, my friend, and that’s not a hit,” says Hesh.
Massive Genius, thankfully, never shows up again. He threatens to sue Hesh and Tony, but we never hear how it all turns out. It’s another way in which this episode can feel unimportant. In the end, the story merely serves as a metaphor of the changing times — gangsters to gangstas, old school to new school, leg-breaking to litigation.
Tony, meanwhile, spends the episode awkwardly befriending his neighbor, Dr. Bruce Cusamano. He was the one who recommended Tony to Dr. Melfi, before the series started, and so Tony repays the favor by buying him a box of Cuban cigars.
Cusamano and his buddies are complete dorks — they seem like a good time, but they’re whiter than Wonderbread (Tony refers to them as amediggan). Infatuated by the presence of a known mobster, they badger him with Mafia pop-culture questions during a round of golf. Tony later admits to Dr. Melfi that he felt like a dancing bear, merely there for their amusement.
The story shows a nice contrast between two rich neighbors with vastly different means of income. In this manner, it makes a little more sense than the Massive Genius storyline. However, it still feels completely out of place.
The ending of the episode thankfully makes up for some of the missteps. We close on a humorous note, as Tony gets back at the Cusamanos by giving them a box filled with sand, and telling them to hang onto the mysterious package for a little bit.
“A Hit is a Hit” tells two unimportant, somewhat boring storylines that have no bearing on anything whatsoever. You can look at it as a necessary calm before the storm, or you can look at it as one of David Chase’s worst experiments.
Either way, this is an episode of The Sopranos we’re talking about here. A bad Sopranos episode is like a bad song by Ice-T — sure, it’s gaudy and vulgar and dissonant, but it’s still got the charm. “A Hit is a Hit” would still be an average episode for most TV shows.
The problem, however, is that it’s completely forgettable when it comes to this TV show. In the context of The Sopranos, this is as bad as it gets.
- Cusamano and his buddies won’t give Tony any insider trading tips, which begs the question: who are the real crooks? The Italian mobsters in track suits, or the upper-class businessmen in white collars? In this episode, Tony and his crew are portrayed as the most respectable bunch.
- The episode also delves into Italian pride once again, with Chris and Adriana listing great Italian singers throughout history, and a dinner scene between Melfi and the Cusamanos where the topic of gangsters is brought up. Unfortunately, these scenes are quickly becoming redundant.
- “A Hit is a Hit” was written by Joe Bosso and Frank Renzulli, and directed by Matthew Penn.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “You people are alright. Godfather, I’ve seen that movie 200 times. Godfather II was definitely the shit. The third one, a lot of people didn’t like it, but I think it was just misunderstood.”
- “That guy’s a gangster? I’m a gangster. I’m an O.G. original gangster, not him. Fuckin’ lawn jockey.”
- “Music is not something you can hold in your hands, you know, like football betting cards or coke.”
- “I think you need to mentally prepare yourself for the possibility that Visiting Day sucks.”