Directed by Henry J. Bronchtein | Written by Todd A. Kessler | 58 min
“I ain’t no fortunate son“
By Colin Hart
8.8 / 10
Some people are born with a silver spoon in hand. Those people don’t seem to exist in The Sopranos, however. This is an episode not about sons, per se, but about fathers and mothers and step-fathers and daughters. Sons, too, of course — biological, metaphorical, surrogate. Sadly, all unfortunate. Not a fortunate son or daughter (or parent) in the bunch. Just a collection of cross-tie walkers.
The clearest example of a not-so-fortunate son is Christopher Moltisanti. He begins the episode in bright spirits — finally becoming a made man! However, it is not usually a good omen to see an ominous raven perched outside the window when you’re taking the oath of Omerta. It has all the makings of a bad moon rising.
The Omerta scene is far and away the episode’s most memorable, and not just because of that ambiguous bad-luck bird. The whole vibe is indebted to classic gangster films, dating all the way back to The Public Enemy. The scene perfectly conveys the ritualism of a secret rite of passage — I almost felt intrusive just by watching.
Chris spends his first few weeks as an “untouchable” getting burned as a bookie. Responsibilities — and the latest college football gambling lines — come at you fast. On top of this, he’s now receiving a classic case of “new guy” treatment. Paulie, as seen in past Chris-centric masterpieces like “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisani,” is somewhat of a father figure to Chris. Or rather, Paulie somewhat views Chris as a son. Either way, it’s time for a lesson in tough street love — kick ten points my way, and the goddamn money better be on time!
The money isn’t on time, of course; this is Chris we’re talking about. He has always been a foolhardy failure since day one, struggling to live up to the expectations of the father figures around him. ‘It was that fucking raven, Adriana,’ he says. He is getting hammered by the books (meaningless field goals making a mockery of his machismo) and is already in debt to Paulie. Desperate like a junkie, he gets tipped off about a small-time gig robbing a benefit concert at Rutgers.A stick-up should be beneath a newly-christened soldato like Christopher. But the one who helps him out is another unfortunate son by the name of Jackie Aprile, Jr.
You may remember Jackie Jr. from season two, trying to tag along with Uncle Richie (R.I.P.). Yet the move to main cast hasn’t made him any more sympathetic — he is in sole ownership of the Douchebag Crown.
Last episode, Tony struggled coming to terms with his mother’s death because maybe he “hadn’t been a good son.” In Tony’s defense, he tried the best he could. His mother just happened to be supremely unloving and unappreciative. Jackie Jr., on the other hand, is definitely not a good son. He is dropping out of med school (against his dead father’s wishes) and repeatedly acts arrogant (“Fuck it!”) toward his still-grieving mother, Rosalie. Not to mention the fact that he one day hopes to take the oath of Omerta himself.
At this point in time, the focus isn’t so much on Jackie Jr.’s plight, but rather the parental figures around him. Ro can’t bear to see her son act this way, and it’s heartbreaking, really. Her boyfriend, top-earner Ralphie Cifaretto, isn’t showing much concern. (Ralphie is a Douchebag Crown contender himself). And Tony — who may look at Jackie Jr. the same way Paulie looks at Christopher — is trying, unsuccessfully, to get Jackie Jr. on the right path.
What’s that, Mr. David Chase? People never change?Tony is caught in the crosshairs — he is alienating his daughter due to his intolerance, while coming to terms with root causes in his sessions with Dr. Melfi.
“Fortunate Son” is a much richer episode than I remembered. Much of that has to do with the flashbacks to Tony’s childhood. The mise-en-scène is 100% Godfather, but that doesn’t take away from its elegance.
Melfi deduces that Tony’s panic attack last episode was brought on by his eating of the gabagool, not by the logo for Uncle Ben’s rice. She recalls that Tony’s initial attack back in the pilot occurred while he was cooking meats on the grill. This newfound revelation has a Proustian effect on Tony, who recounts a suppressed memory of his father slicing off the butcher’s fingers. It isn’t the violent memory, however, that is the root cause. It is the fact that his mother was turned on by the free meat, which caused young Tony to pass out and crack his head on the table.
The flashback scenes are tremendous, especially in an episode rich in psychotherapy. But they are also richly nostalgic, bringing the same quality that made similar scenes in “Down Neck” such classics.The most unfortunate son of all is AJ. He’s fortunate — as they all are, really — in that he needs not worry about money or material goods, but he is constantly neglected. How many times throughout this episode is AJ asked to leave the room so others can talk in private? He’s an annoying moody teen, sure, but that shouldn’t be enough to make him pass out during football practice, as he does at the end of the episode.
Like father, like son. Chris, too, ends the episode ignoring the incessant ring of his phone, instead curling back into his bed. It’s not a good episode, mentally speaking, for The Sopranos.
But it is a good episode, critically speaking. And as a critic speaking, I’ll have you know that “Fortunate Son” is very solid.
-Is Tony cheering from the bleachers in deep-voice slo-mo because AJ has a concussion? The Sopranos, as you can see, was always ahead of its time, even when it came to CTE.
-Tony talks with Carmine Lupertazzi, who is the head of the New York family (even Johnny Sac kisses his ass). Carmine is supportive of Tony’s therapy, which is such a contrast when you consider that the entirety of season one was based upon Tony being ashamed of his therapy. Another anticlimax in a series full of ‘em.
-Good use of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” at the pizzeria.
-A very funny plotline that I forgot to mention: Janice steals Svetlana’s prosthetic leg in an attempt to get Livia’s old vinyl records back.
-Perhaps the “staircase ghost” in “Proshai, Livushka” is Tony’s father. After seeing Johnny Boy here, that mysterious shadowy figure could pass for a much older version of him.
“Find me a shirt and tie to go with this. Not the chameleon, though—Paulie’s got one just like it.”
“You look good. Shoot your cuffs.”
“You’re only as smart as this week’s spreads!”