“He Is Risen”
Directed by Allen Coulter | Written by Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess & Todd A. Kessler | 54 min
By Colin Hart
8.6 / 10
You thought Livia Soprano was gone? In fact, she’s alive and well, and now comes in the form of a Mercedes-Benz saleswoman by the name of Gloria Trillo. She’s a stunning and seductive brunette (much like young Livia), svelte and sultry, clad in black. She also happens to be a patient of Dr. Melfi’s, which should be cause for warning signs. Tony meets her in a scheduling mix-up, and the fatal attraction is evident, to us the audience and especially to Melfi. But patient-client privilege means that their toxic affair is given free rein to blossom, and even those ducks from the pilot can’t save Tony now.
Of course, this is just the beginning of the relationship between Tony and Gloria. Tony doesn’t yet realize that he is drawn to her through his own Oedipal desires. The pair are in the honeymoon phase right now — fucking on the Stugots without a care in the world. The marina is an isolated home away from home; a break from reality. That the episode ends with ducks quacking along the pier, with the black Mercedes SL500 in the foreground, suggests that Tony may be going off the deep end — right now, he doesn’t give a shit about family.
I wouldn’t call “He is Risen” another inconsequential “nuthin happens” episode. For example, one capo dies so that another may be christened. But the entire episode as a whole is somewhat anticlimactic, which seems almost unfair to say about a midseason installment.
The tensions between Tony and Ralph are at an all-time high, with Johnny Sac acting as mediator. In true Sopranos fashion, however, the conflict is resolved when Gigi Cestone, head of the Aprile crew, dies from a post-Thanksgiving heart attack on the toilet. Tony has no choice but to promote Ralph, momentarily putting their disagreements behind them.
But the bad blood is what makes this episode worth watching. Season three has seen cracks in the seams of Tony’s “good times” — the lite-fare of season two is fewer and farther between. Hanging over every episode now is the dread remembrance of Livia’s passing, Melfi’s rape and Tracee’s brutal death. These events haunt every scene, whether or not they are alluded to directly.
If you’ll remember back to “University,” the story of Tracee was parlayed with Meadow’s subplot at Columbia. Through expert editing, our emotional signals were crossed and we began to associate one story with the other. Due to this trick, Meadow and Tracee are two characters that are forever linked, for us the audience and especially for Tony.
“He is Risen” finds Meadow beginning a new romance with Jackie Jr., which makes Tony happy but also gives him pause. Even though he is finally back in his daughter’s good graces, Tony certainly sees the parallels between Jackie and Ralphie. And he literally (nice use of flashback) sees the parallels between Meadow and Tracee.
To Johnny Sac and the other mobsters, the squabble between Tony and Ralph appears petty — they deny each other drinks at the bar and cancel Thanksgiving dinner plans. Even the main conflict between the two, when viewed through the prism of Mafioso code, should be a non-issue — “all this over some whore.” Much ado about nothing.
When the conflict actually seems to be reaching a boiling point, divine intervention steps in. Gigi Cestone dying on the toilet is a hilarious deus ex machina — he might as well have been struck by lightning, but that’s not half as humiliating. In the end, Ralphie apologizes, Tony makes him captain and everybody’s happy.
I don’t mind the cynical anticlimax of the episode’s main story arc; in fact, it is to be expected. What bothers me, as it often does, is the subplot involving the kids. In this case, Meadow and Jackie’s blossoming relationship is just annoying. Jackie is a douchebag, and both end up in a drunken fender bender.
Meadow’s personal life and relationship with her father is a spotlight of season three. And while stories like this are not always the most entertaining, they are essential for providing depth. The same can be said of Tony’s affair with Gloria, although that one comes with some pretty high entertainment value.
I love the irony of a Thanksgiving episode concluding with the quacks of a duck.
Anyways, would you consider this a Thanksgiving episode? What is the greatest Thanksgiving TV episode of all time? These are the questions I should have been asking all along. Not whether or not Tony Soprano is a good man. (He’s not)
– Tony offers to walk Melfi to her car, considering that it is after hours. Melfi declines, but later admits to Dr. Kupferberg that she almost broke down in tears at the mere suggestion. Rape trauma isn’t something that easily goes away, and nowhere is this more evident than when Melfi admits it – “I was raped, Elliot.”
– In the age of the #MeToo movement, Jackie Jr.’s a dead man.
– I’d categorize this as a Thanksgiving episode if only for the greatness of that dinner scene. The banter around the table (and earlier during the football games) between all the family members is hilarious. Gives everyone an opportunity to shine — Tony, Carm, AJ, Meadow, Chris, Adriana, Carm’s parents, Janice and even her narcoleptic Christian boyfriend, Aaron.
– Anyone else catch the way Vito kneels over Gigi’s body to check his pulse? Season 6A foreshadowing.
“Fuck him and his turkey. I oughta shove a drumstick up his ass.”
“Have you heard the good news? He is risen.”