“Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office…”
Directed by Alan Coulter | Written by Jason Cahill | 49 min
“When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…”
By Colin Hart
9.0 / 10
I ask myself, am I glad to be back in this world, spending time with these characters again? Or rather, how effectively am I drawn back into it, if at all? That’s how to judge a season premiere.
The downtime between seasons is what makes TV such a unique art form. A season premiere is made to remedy that passage of time, show you that the wait was worth it. This doesn’t mean it needs to blow you out of the water necessarily, but the premiere should still come off as confident and assured. Perhaps above all—especially for an early season like this—it should come off as welcoming.
“Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office” is all those things—assured, confident and welcoming. And it opens with perhaps the greatest “checking-back-in-with-the-characters” montage in TV history—a poetic passage of time set to Frank Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year.”
The rest of the episode goes on to establish the future developments that season two will take. Tony tries and fails to get back in Melfi’s good graces, deciding that Carmela is right and he needs to start therapy again. Meanwhile, Big Pussy returns and successfully gets back in Tony’s good graces, explaining he had a very good reason for his sudden disappearance.
There is also some mob violence, just enough to titillate the senses—former Junior soldier, Gigi Cestone, kills Philly “Spoons” Parisi, who was spreading rumors about Tony’s mother. Furthermore, two douchebags, Matt Bevilacqua and Sean Gismonte (stockbrokers at Chris’ new firm), beat the shit out of a fellow employee with coffee.
Mainly, “Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office” gets us back in the swing of things on the domestic front, the character relationships being key. Tony’s sister Janice is introduced and at first it seems like this could be a mistake on the show’s part: “What if Tony’s annoying hippie sister from Seattle showed up?” It will all pay off by season’s end, but right now her tolerability depends on her comic relief, of which there will soon be plenty.
The Sopranos knows that it doesn’t need to impress us in its long-awaited return; we’re already impressed. It does so anyways—the opening sequence and the fabulous low-key ending—but the storyline for now remains subtle. Possible plots are being laid down, but emotions are being laid on thicker.
This second season opener has a keen quality about it. The Sopranos‘ creative staff are aware that their debut season was an amazing achievement. In turn, “Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office” is supremely confident without being brash. The narrative momentum has slowed down for now, but the show’s high efficiency has not.
Alan Coulter directs, and I think this is the most visually stunning episode so far in the show’s run. Much of this premiere’s confidence comes from its mise-en-scène, and we know we are in sure hands whenever Couture is behind the camera. Shots tend to linger and resonate more.
Above all, it’s good to be back. The second season welcomes us back into The Sopranos universe with open arms. Even though much of the episode is standard season-premiere fare, it still touches greatness because of its welcoming nature. The characters—Tony, Carm, Chris, Paulie, Silvio, Livia, et al—it’s good to see you again, mes amis.
It’s rare that a show reaches viewer-comfortability like this in only its second season, but The Sopranos isn’t most shows. The second season may not reach the exciting highs of season one—there’s no game-changer like “College”—but the writing is tighter, while also being freer and looser at the same time, if that makes sense. It’s deeper and more intricate, but it isn’t as linear and coherent.
It is the second season in which The Sopranos reveals its true self—a more experimental series that we will become familiar with for the show’s duration.
- Now that Mikey Palmice is dead, who gains the Douchebag Crown? Well, for now it’s going to have to be Matt Bevilacqua—one of Chris’ stockbroker dregs (the black-haired one) who hopes to be initiated into the Tony Soprano crew. Both Matt and his buddy Sean have an equal claim to the Crown, but for now the honor is solely in Matt’s hands.
- Tony’s panic attack while driving is caused by CD-skipping anxiety. “Smoke on the Water” starts skipping right when Deep Purple lead singer Ian Gillan gets to the part about Frank Zappa and the Mothers (“Zap-zap-zap-zap-zap-etc.”). I’m always on the lookout for subtle Frank Zappa references.
- Melfi’s main arc for the beginning portion of this season will be confronting her desire to treat Tony Soprano. As we briefly see, her other patients are very mundane compared to the thrills that Tony offers.
- Right after the opening montage, we get the iconic shot of Tony walking down the driveway in his bathrobe to pick up a copy of the Star Ledger. This will be a requirement for every Sopranos season premiere.
- “My sister’s here from Seattle.”
- “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
- “Guys, any more Porsches disappear, make it two towns over and I want a taste.”
- “I’ve got a family and, believe it or not, they’re better off with me than without me.”