“The Ending Justifies the Means”
By Colin Hart
8.3 / 10
Just as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” was the spiritual successor to “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti,” “D-Girl” is the spiritual successor to “A Hit is a Hit.” Now, some of you may remember “A Hit is a Hit” as one of The Sopranos’ worst episodes. And many of you will consider “D-Girl” to be in that same category. However, I have no shame in admitting that “D-Girl” isn’t quite as bad as people say.
Like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “D-Girl” is another standalone installment focused on Chris Moltisanti’s Hollywood aspirations. Unfortunately, “D-Girl” doesn’t go quite as deep into Chris’ character as its predecessor (aside from one scene at the end, which I’ll get to in a bit). Instead of the introspective Chris, we get the macho-douchebag Chris, which unfortunately results in some of The Sopranos’ most superficial moments.
Even worse, it features one of the most inessential characters in the series’ entire run.
The comparisons with “A Hit is a Hit” begin with the main plot branching out into unfamiliar, non-mobster territory. Chris visits a movie set, and later pitches a story idea to Jon Favreau. He also meets actresses Jeneane Garofalo and Sandra Bernhard, both playing fictionalized versions of themselves. However, they all feel completely out-of-place in the world of The Sopranos, not dissimilar to gangsta rapper Massive Genius.
For the most part, these scenes rely on Chris’ comedic timing, and as a Moltisanti stan, I’ll readily admit that this isn’t one of his better storylines. However, he does a fine job carrying the episode himself, bringing more than a few good laughs to the table. Yet his behavior toward his girlfriend, Adriana, remains unforgiving.
In the episode’s worst plot thread, Chris becomes romantically involved with his cousin’s fiancée, Amy, an industry executive who works for Favreau. Their brief tryst offers nothing more than rapturous sex scenes and a shallow commentary on the business of moviemaking. Consequently, Amy’s sole purpose is to be horny at all times. Her character traits include come-hither eyes, biting her lower lip and prancing around half-naked in a bathrobe.
She’s nothing more than a facile storytelling device, even worse than Brendan Filone or Noah Tannenbaum. Still, Chris ending the affair by calling her a “d-girl” (short for “development girl,” a derogatory insult in the business) somehow feels much more hurtful than calling someone a bukyak (apparently meaning “cunt” in Brooklyn-Italian dialect) .
Surprisingly, the ending of “D-Girl” is fantastic — by far the best scene of the episode — which makes you wonder how to consider this episode’s merit. The A-story is below average at best, the B-material is decent and the ending is an absolute home run. Do the ends justify the means?
Shows like The Sopranos and, especially, Mad Men make great use of the make-or-break ending. That is, the episode’s conclusion goes a long way in determining whether the installment is good or bad (or, rather, “good” or “great”). To put it into context, on first viewing of Mad Men’s “A Day’s Work,” I thought I was watching another inconsequential, “nothing happens” episode. But the final moments before the end credits were so brilliant that it made me retroactively appreciate all the “nothingness” that came before.
Take “Pax Soprana,” for instance, a solid episode that is slightly brought down by its lackluster conclusion. Even though the majority of the hour features strong material, the semi-cliffhanger ending (a toast to Uncle Junior, the new boss, set to an Xzibit song) feels incongruous within the larger scope of the series.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are “Meadowlands” and “Do Not Resuscitate,” both run-of-the-mill episodes which happen to feature two of my personal favorite Sopranos conclusions. Even though the main storylines are somewhat unmemorable, the poignant endings make the overall effect unforgettable.
Unfortunately, when it comes to “D-Girl,” the great ending is only enough to make the episode “not terrible,” bumping the grade from a surefire C-plus to an approximate B-minus.
“D-Girl” is largely remembered for Chris’ encounters with Amy and Favreau, but it also features one of the best Big Pussy storylines of the season. It’s the first time we truly feel sympathy for his character, and we now fully understand the unwinnable circumstances that he’s trapped in.
By the end of the episode, Chris finds himself no closer to Hollywood than Pussy finds himself to being rid of the feds. At AJ’s confirmation party, Pussy is forced to wear a wire, while Chris is given Tony’s ultimatum: swear his eternal loyalty to the Mafia, or fulfill his movie dreams and leave forever. Tony gives him ten minutes to decide.
The final scene brings out the tragedy of both characters — Chris, smoking a cigarette alone on the porch, finally heaves a sigh and returns to the party, while Big Pussy cries in a bathroom upstairs as the feds listen in.
This brilliant ending makes up for most of the episode’s negative aspects (key word: “most”), graciously returning us to the high level of quality that we’ve become accustomed to.
- “D-Girl” also contains AJ’s strongest storyline of the season. He discovers Nietzsche and existentialism, and proclaims that God is dead just days before his confirmation. He also shares a fantastic scene with Livia at the hospital, who espouses upon him some of her most nihilistic philosophies. He’s later caught smoking marijuana at the confirmation after-party. The depressed AJ Soprano featured here is far more interesting than his school of hard knocks from “Meadowlands.”
- Big Pussy’s son, Matt, tries to expand AJ’s narrow worldview by imparting upon him the philosophies Kierkegaard.
- While at the movie set, Chris recognizes Sandra Bernhard from her role in The King of Comedy, once again referencing how much Martin Scorsese has influenced his life.
- Guest star Jon Favreau, fresh off his success in Swingers, was just starting to get involved with writing and directing. The best film he ever made was Elf, but his best creation is probably The Mandalorian.
- “D-Girl” was written by Todd A. Kessler, and directed by Alan Couture.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “Death just shows the ultimate absurdity of life.”
- “Even if God is dead, you’re still gonna kiss his ass.”
- “That’s the one beef I had with Swingers. You guys patterned yourselves after Frank and Dean, but there was like, uh, a pussy-ass-ness to it.”
- “It’s all a big nothing. What makes you think you’re so special?”
- “Hey, that was another thing that blew about Swingers …”