“Amour Fou” Review
Personally, I can’t stand Jackie Aprile Jr. He’s one of the dumbest characters on the series. But that doesn’t make his plight any less tragic (or comical). In “Amour Fou,” the penultimate episode of season three, Jackie Jr. and his buddies pull a similar stunt to what Matt Bevilacqua and Sean Gismonte did in season two, and we all know how that turned out. If you think Jackie Jr. makes it out of next week’s finale alive, you’re probably dumber than he is.
Jackie has wandered through season three looking for a purpose and sense of direction. He wanted to be a gangster like his father, but his gangster father wanted him to be a doctor. While dating Meadow Soprano, he seemed to be caught somewhere in the middle (“I want to design men’s fashion, I think I could be good at it”). Now that she’s broken up with him, he’s completely bottomed out.
Tony had originally thought the kid bottomed out weeks ago, but there are always new levels of low that Jackie Jr. can stoop. In “Amour Fou,” he attempts to rob a card game run by Ralph Cifaretto. Things quickly go south.
Of course, it’s easier to be sympathetic to Jackie Jr. when he is compared with Gloria Trillo. Sure, her role has added an extra dimension, a fill-in for the untimely absence of Nancy Marchand, but she’s been a thorn in the side of anyone who comes near.
I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of her character either, but her inclusion has been a great storytelling device. “Amour Fou” finds her and Tony in the throes of their crazy love — slashing tires, stalking the Soprano household and sex, sex, sex.
As bad as it is to say, we’re on Tony’s side when the two get into a violent argument. I’m not saying he was right to almost choke her to death, but Gloria’s day of reckoning has been a long time coming. Remember, Tony tried to do the same thing to his mother back in season one. But unlike Livia, Gloria has no family or friends (or viewers) to sympathize with her. She continually and habitually pushes people away until she is left all alone. And she has no one to blame but herself.
Tony (via Patsy Parisi) puts a real fear of death into her at episode’s end, threatening to kill her if she ever contacts him again. The relationship is over, and Tony (via Dr. Melfi) has finally come to realize his poor judgment. But if he’s learned anything at all or changed in the slightest, well, that’s a question for another season.
The only one who truly deserves our sympathy is Carmela. Her Catholic guilt of being married to Tony has been building since “College,” but she reached a breaking point when she visited a psychiatrist in “Second Opinion.” Luckily (or unluckily), her visit to a priest this episode gives her the answer she’s been looking for: it would be against God’s wishes to get a divorce, so she might as well stick it out.
But in David Chase’s world of bitter realism, a divorce would be the morally right thing to do. Instead, Carmela takes the easy way out. She puts up with Tony’s thoughtless, selfish and emotionally destructive behavior because that’s what she agreed to when they got married. Nevertheless, she finally takes off the sapphire-studded guilt ring, a small step toward moving forward.
The Sopranos is a show about the mafia, but it’s just as much a show about family. Even more so, it’s a show about marriage. As Dr. Melfi so elegantly tells Tony: “She might leave you, but you’ll never leave her. Despite your mothering, you made one good decision in your life vis-à-vis women.”
“Amour Fou” opens with the same Vivaldi aria (“Sposa son disprezzata”; English translation: “I am a scorned wife”) that closed “Pine Barrens.” It applies doubly in this installment, but we reach a change of tone by episode’s end: a Bob Dylan cover of Dean Martin’s “Return to Me.”
The song is a perfect note of reconciliation for the episode to close on, even if the tender ballad is used sardonically. Perhaps “Not Dark Yet” would have been more fitting. Ralph comforts a sobbing Rosalie, even though he gets to make the final decision on her son’s fate. Meanwhile, Patsy drives home with a bag of groceries to his loving wife after having just threatened Gloria at gunpoint.
Despite everything, Tony and Carmela’s marriage seems to be on sturdy ground, at least for now. Even though Jackie Jr.’s impending death dominates the storyline, the overall mood seems to be one of resolution. “Amour Fou” might not be an action-packed spectacle, but it fits right in with the ambivalent atmosphere that the latter half of season three has luxuriated in.
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.
- The episode opens with Carmela standing alone in an art gallery. Mesmerizing camera work courtesy of Tim Van Patten, her isolation magnified as we zoom in on the expensive ring that Tony gifted her, the director snaking through the art gallery like Brian De Palma in Dressed to Kill. The ring, of course, was the result of Tony’s guilt at beginning a new affair. By the end of the hour, Tony and Gloria are finished, and the ring finally comes off. Great symbolism.
- More great symbolism: Carmela breaking down into tears while taking in Jusepe de Ribera’s The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine (1648). She notes to Meadow that “we all [marry a baby].” She still feels guilty and conflicted over her marriage to Tony, stemming from Dr. Krakower’s wake-up call in “Second Opinion.” Meanwhile, Tony acts like a baby in that he is the “boss” whom everyone bends over backwards for to give him what he wants.
- Tony mispronounces “amour fou” (a term Melfi uses to describe his and Gloria’s relationship) to create the malaprop “our mofo.” No coincidence that the “motherfucker” connotation is there, especially considering the parallels between Gloria and Livia.
- I’m positive that David Chase missed out on a perfect opportunity to use Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” especially after he used “Gloria” by Them in the last episode.
- The Bob Dylan cover of “Return to Me” was recorded specifically for the show. Just like how the beautiful “Black Books” closed “Second Opinion,” the sweet and tender “Return to Me” disguises the fact that the viewers should be disgusted at the characters. This is another dark episode, filled with heinous acts and impending bloodshed, yet the music makes it seem like moral progress is being made.
- “Affection” by Steven Van Zandt’s band The Lost Boys plays over the end credits. Van Zandt, of course, plays Silvio Dante.
- Jackie Jr. and his cohorts have no cohesive plan when they rob the card game. They want to make a splash like Tony and Jackie Sr. did many years ago (Ralph tells the story of how Tony’s young crew grew in stature), but their hearts just aren’t in it. They stick up the card game, shoot Furio in the thigh, the getaway driver Matush (whom Jackie had disrespected several times in previous episodes) doesn’t hold up his end of the deal, and Jackie is the only one who escapes alive.
- Some political commentary on Hillary Clinton (circa 2001): “She took all that negative shit he gave her and spun it into gold. You gotta give her credit.” The mob wives (who stick by their unfaithful husbands) note that she’s a role model.
- “Amour Fou” was written by Frank Renzulli and series creator David Chase and directed by Tim Van Patten.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “You sure talk the talk, Ms. Art History.”
- “I caught the clap from some hippie broad I was fucking. My dick was dripping like a busted pipe!”
- “Fuck him and his rinse-your-dishes bullshit!”
- “I didn’t just meet you. I’ve known you my whole fucking life.”
- “Just another Irina with a college degree.”
- “I don’t wanna fuck my mother. I don’t care what you say, you’re never gonna convince me.”