“Mother and Child Reunion”
By Colin Hart
8.8 / 10
The main villain of The Sopranos season two isn’t even introduced until next episode. This means that the opening installments — “Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office …” and “Do Not Resuscitate” — get to provide a little breathing room before the tension sets in.
Not that we’re completely free of tension anyways. Tony Soprano spends the episode in a very agitated state, mostly due to his sister, Janice, being back in town. As a result, Tony lashes out at anyone who comes near, with some particularly harsh (and hilarious) put-downs directed at Uncle Junior’s obese assistant, Bobby Baccalieri. In turn, “Do Not Resuscitate” is a very funny episode — it had me laughing my ass off.
It’s also very much a “nothing happens” episode. The Sopranos is a series that has absolutely mastered this unique approach, a rare skill which only Mad Men can compare. Both shows have an uncanny ability to craft elegant and richly-textured episodes that, on the surface, appear to be completely plotless. Don Draper goes to an awards ceremony. Chris Moltisanti takes an acting class. An impossibly simple story turned into pure gold.
In “Do Not Resuscitate,” Tony must bust up a labor dispute at a construction site involving black, anti-union picketers. It’s a quick fix: he sends some thugs to brutally beat them. Even though it nearly results in a race riot, the organizer of the protest, Rev. James, is actually colluding with Tony in order to profit from the whole ordeal. It’s another cynical lesson from series creator David Chase — everybody’s a piece of shit.
Meanwhile, in true “nothing happens” fashion, Janice tries to bond with her mother by visiting her at the hospital. Nevertheless, Janice’s compassion is mostly just a front so she can move into Livia’s house. In the end, she’s just as selfish as the rest of the Sopranos, including Livia herself — everyone’s a sociopath.
A lot of the episode takes place in the Soprano household. Meadow passes her driving test. AJ spends quality time with grandma. Even though it doesn’t sound like much, the scenes are still very strong in character development.
In fact, a storyline that should come as a major shock — Big Pussy has been working as an FBI informant — is revealed so matter-of-factly that you completely forget about it once it’s mentioned.
Elsewhere, Uncle Junior is given his most sympathetic portrayal since “Boca.” Released from prison, he is placed under house arrest. Simultaneously, he’s forced to cede all his power and assets over to Tony. In the end, he’s just another old man falling in the shower.
Despite stripping his uncle of his dignity, and continuously proclaiming that his mother is dead to him, Tony shows an evident respect for his elders. When Rev. James’ 83-year-old father passes away by episode’s end, Tony begins to feel the inevitability of growing old. He’d just been talking to the WWII veteran a few days earlier. After all, one of the major themes of The Sopranos is the fear of the idealized “golden age” slipping away.
Another one of The Sopranos‘ major themes is family. Combined with his sense of regretfulness over the death of the Reverend’s father, Tony decides to let bygones be bygones. Even though Uncle Junior wanted him dead back in season one, there still remains an inseparable bond between the two.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about his mother.
Tony’s relationship with Junior is one of the most complex on the series. True, his uncle ordered his own nephew’s assassination, but this is still the same guy who played catch with him as a youngster. This sense of nostalgia is what leads to the episode’s terrific ending.
Tony rushes to Junior’s house after he hears that the old man broke his hip. Finding him unable to walk, Tony is forced to carry his uncle out the door, an unofficial making-up between the two. The scene is hilarious and touching, but even more important, it’s one of The Sopranos‘ most heartwarming endings.
But a perfect send-off needs perfect music, and Ella Fitzgerald’s 1937 hit with Benny Goodman, “Goodnight My Love,” is a perfect choice. Fitting that an episode focused on aging ends with a masterful relic from another time. As Fitzgerald’s pure voice rings out into the night, Tony holds Junior in his arms like a child.
- Tony spends the entire episode in an agitated state, and you can definitely tell based on his attitude. But even his trivial tasks, like struggling to untangle the garden hose, or having issues with the TV remote, show that he’s stressed to the max. As much as he hates to admit it, he needs therapy.
- This is one of the rare instances where the black characters on The Sopranos aren’t just stereotypical caricatures. Both Rev. James and his father add a nice touch in their supporting roles.
- AJ overhears Tony and Janice arguing about getting a DNR for Livia, and then AJ absentmindedly tells her when he goes to visit her at the hospital. AJ was also the one who told Livia that Tony was seeing a therapist.
- AJ hasn’t made a total ass of himself yet in season two (he made it till episode four in season one), but I’m glad we didn’t get to hear the punchline of his “What did one prick say to the other prick?” joke.
- Along with Ella Fitzgerald, the episode also features Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion.” Janice sings along to the song while driving back from the hospital, having just bonded with Livia for the first time in years.
- Livia, who ended up becoming the main villain in season one, has been somewhat sympathetic so far, even if she’s still full of self-pity and negativity. Pretty much everything she says is funny.
- When Big Pussy meets with his FBI handler, Skip Lipari, it’s suggested that he’s been working as an informant since before the show’s timeline even started.
- A “nothing happens” episode often completely depends on its ending. If the ending is poignant, it makes all that lack of plot worth it. The final image of Tony carrying Junior lasts in your memory long after the episode is over.
- “Do Not Resuscitate” was written by Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess and Frank Renzulli, and directed by Martin Bruestle.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “Why don’t you get the fuck outta here before I shove your quotations book up your fat fucking ass!”
- “You could never stand it here. You could never stand yourself. And that’s why you ran away.”
- “Never underestimate a man’s determination to be free.”
- “My father told me never get old. I should’ve listened to him.”
- “Get off my car before you flip it over, you fat fuck.”
- “Fat fuck? Why don’t you look in the mirror sometime, you insensitive cocksucker?”