Directed by Alan Coulter | Written by Todd A. Kessler | 56 min
The ends justify the means
By Colin Hart
8.7 / 10
Just as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” is the spiritual counterpart to “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti,” “D-Girl” has the same relationship with “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 also consider “D-Girl” to be in that same category. I have no shame in saying that “D-Girl” isn’t as bad as people say. It’s actually pretty good.
Like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “D-Girl” is another Chris-centric installment. The memory of his great showcase in that episode is still fresh in our minds. Yet “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). “D-Girl” is more superficial, I guess, and instead of the introspective Chris, we get the macho-douchebag Chris.
The comparisons to “A Hit is a Hit” begin with the main plot branching out into unfamiliar, non-mobster territory. “D-Girl” further explores Chris’ infatuation with Hollywood—his trip to a movie set and meeting with Jon Favreau brings him deeper into movies than ever before.
However, there is still an out-of-place quality to this episode not dissimilar to what Massive Genius and his gangsta rap troupe brought to “A Hit is a Hit.” Chris becomes involved with his cousin’s fiancée, a scriptwriter named Amy. In between their rapturous sex scenes, the two meet with Favreau and discuss Chris’ potential story ideas.
For the most part, these scenes rely on Chris’ comedic timing. As a Chris fan, I’ll readily admit that this isn’t one of his better storylines, but he does a good job of carrying the scenes he is in by bringing more than a few good laughs to the table.
The ending of “D-Girl” is fantastic—by far the best scene of the episode—and it makes you wonder how to consider this episode’s merit. The A-story is average at best, the B material is very strong and the ending is an absolute home run. So how do I grade an episode like “D-Girl”?
Shows like The Sopranos and, especially, Mad Men make great use of the Make-or-Break Episode-Ender. To put it into context, on first viewing of Mad Men’s “A Day’s Work” (season 7 Episode 2), I thought I was watching another inconsequential, “nothing happens” episode. But the final 10 seconds before the end credits are so brilliant as to vault it into “instant classic” status, making all the “nothingness” that came before incredibly worthwhile.
By my count, ten out of the thirteen Sopranos season one episodes have truly great and poignant endings. No surprise there, since season one is among the greatest television runs of all time. Of the three episodes without great endings, two of them are below the coveted 9.0 range (the “great episode” threshold, as judged by yours truly).
They are “Pax Soprana” (a toast to new boss Junior Soprano) and “A Hit is a Hit” (Tony leaves a mysterious package for the Cusamanos). “Pax Soprana” is a very solid episode—sandwiched between two classics—and it could have been great had the ending been better. “A Hit is a Hit,” on the other hand, ends with a nice moment of humor, but the entire episode is unmemorable and rightfully considered one of The Sopranos’ worst.
The only “great” episode from season one that didn’t have a knockout ending is “Nobody Knows Anything,” but that one was so tightly written and fueled by tension that it ultimately didn’t matter.
Comparably, “Meadowlands” was largely lackluster, but it greatly benefitted from a superb final scene. I’d say the ending—AJ seeing his father in a new light at Jackie Aprile’s funeral—bumped the episode from about an 8.3 to its current 8.7.
Season two has only given us two unmemorable endings so far. They occurred in “Toodle-Fucking-Oo” (another “could have been great had the ending been great” episode) and “Commendatori.” The rest, including “D-Girl”, have all been superb.
“D-Girl” is remembered for Chris’ encounters with Amy and Favreau, but it also has the best Big Pussy storyline of the season. It is the first time that we recognize him as a truly tragic character and fully understand the un-winnable circumstances he has now found himself 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 loyalty, or fulfill his movie dreams and leave forever. He gives him ten minutes to decide.
The end brings out the tragedy of both characters. Chris smokes a cigarette alone on the porch before finally heaving a sigh and returning to the party, while Pussy cries in a bathroom upstairs as the feds listen in.
The greatness of the ending makes “D-Girl” most comparable to “Meadowlands”—an episode that strays outside The Sopranos comfort zone, but has several fine moments of nuance sprinkled in, and an ending that more than makes up for all the negative aspects.
- “D-Girl” also contains AJ’s strongest storyline of the season too. He discovers Nietzsche and existentialism, proclaiming 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 is later caught smoking marijuana at his own after-party. The AJ here is far more interesting than his school of hard knocks back in “Meadowlands.”
- Big Pussy’s son, Matt, tries to expand AJ’s narrow worldview by imparting to him some Kierkegaard.
- The Legendary Season of Chris continues, but he showcased some questionable behavior. His visit to the movie shoot was perhaps his highlight of the episode (aside from the end).
- Actresses Janeane Garfalo and Sandra Bernhard play guest roles as themselves. While at the shoot, Chris recognizes Bernhard from her role in The King of Comedy, bringing the number of Scorsese films mentioned to seven.
- Guest star Jon Favreau, fresh off his success in Swingers at the time of filming, was just starting to get involved with writing and directing. The best film he ever made was Elf.
- “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…”