Directed by Tim Van Patten | Story by David Chase | Teleplay by Frank Renzulli | 60 min
By Colin Hart
9.3 / 10
How much do you like Jackie Jr.? I hate the motherfucker, more or less, but that doesn’t make his plight any less tragic (or comical). The episode isn’t about him anyways, but his dumb decisions do add some extra emotional heft. He and his buddies pull a similar stunt to Matt Bevilacqua’s and Sean Gismonte’s season two assassination attempt — a card game robbery gone wrong that essentially seals his fate. If you think Jackie makes it out of next week’s finale alive, you’re probably dumber than he is.
Douchebag Jack has wandered through season three looking for a purpose, a 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, 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 has completely bottomed out.
Tony originally thought the kid bottomed out weeks ago, but there are always new levels of low that Jackie Jr. can stoop to.
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 — as toxic as Tony and as frequent to mood swings as Mother Livia.
I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of her character either, but she has been utilized as a great storytelling device. “Amour Fou” finds her and Tony in the throes of their crazy love — slashing tires, stalking the Sopranos and sex, sex, sex.
As bad as it is to say, we are on Tony’s side (though I don’t speak for anyone but myself) when the two get into a violent argument. I’m not saying he was right to hit/choke her, 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. Though if he has learned anything 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 has since reached a turning point with her trip to the 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. Here, Carmela takes the easy way out.
Nevertheless, she takes off the diamond-studded guilt ring, a sign of moving forward. The Sopranos is a show about the mafia, but it is just as much a show about family. Even more so, it’s a show about marriage. As Dr. Melfi so elegantly puts it: “She might leave you, but you’ll never leave her. Despite your mothering, you made one good decision in your life vis a 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 here more than it did there, 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 to close on, even if the shot of Ralphie consoling a sobbing Rosalie Aprile would be more befitting of “Not Dark Yet.” And the final image of an inconsequential Patsy Parisi driving home to his wife with a bag of groceries (after having just threatened Gloria at gunpoint) is a summation of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
But Tony and Carmela’s marriage seems to be on sturdy ground, at least for now. It’s survived the hazards of Gloria Trillo, the hardships of Jackie Jr. and the hallmarks of psychiatry. Sadly, the reason they’ve made it through is because Carmela has been oblivious through it all.
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 to her. 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 through and the ring is 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). True to its postmodernism, The Sopranos takes influence from all of the arts: music, film, literature and painting. It is the latter in which it sets itself apart from its contemporaries — not many TV shows use Spanish baroque as a touchstone.
It also gives us this great bit of dialogue — MEADOW: “She’s marrying a baby?” CARMELA: “We all do.”
-Tony mispronounces “amour fou” (a term Melfi uses to describe his and Gloria’s relationship) as “our mofo.” No coincidence that the “motherfucker” connotation is there, especially considering what role Gloria plays.
-I’m positive that David Chase missed out on a perfect opportunity to use Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.”
-The Bob Dylan song was recorded specifically for the show. Not bad! Also, Steven Van Zandt (who plays Silvio Dante) plays over the end credits. Not bad!
-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.”
“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.”