“No Show” Review
“Everything in Its Right Place”
Despite being full of gritty violence and gratuitous profanity, The Sopranos has always carried a convivial and good-humored atmosphere. However, two episodes into season four, the mood has clearly soured. In “No Show,” all the characters seem to hate each other, which causes us to hate all the characters in turn.
Of course, this is all intentional on the part of series creator David Chase. From the very beginning, he’s chastised us for loving these characters, and now he’s finally showing us how immoral they truly are. For example, Chris Moltisanti has sunk deeper into heroin addiction and depression and becomes a volatile capo as a result. Meanwhile, Tony Soprano’s mob leadership becomes more erratic when he starts to play the allegiances of his crew members against one another.
By the end of “No Show,” the only person we feel any sympathy for is Adriana La Cerva, who is trapped in several toxic relationships simultaneously.
As was the case in the season premiere, the economic downturn causes animosity between almost everyone. Chris feels unappreciated by Tony, which causes him to lash out against Adriana and sink further into addiction; Patsy Parisi confronts Chris after being passed over for promotion; Silvio openly defies Tony’s orders when he suspects Chris is taking his place; and Paulie hates the entire organization for not taking care of him while he’s in jail.
The feuds go on and on, and the animosity spills over from work to home. Much of the episode deals with Meadow’s arguments with Carmela over her desire to take a year off from college and travel to Europe. Meadow continues to use the “Jackie Jr. is dead” excuse at every available opportunity, confirming that she learned absolutely nothing from the season three finale, and that she’s actually the biggest hypocrite on the entire show.
Elsewhere, Adriana’s burgeoning friendship with Danielle Ciccolella (a.k.a. Deborah Ciccerone, an undercover FBI agent) comes to an end when Chris tries to coerce the two of them into a threesome. It results in the FBI expediting their operation much quicker than initially expected — Adriana is brought into custody, told she must now become an informant, and then literally vomits all over everyone.
The puke scene, by the way, is the only victorious moment in the entire episode, which says a lot about season four’s extremely cynical aesthetic.
As a whole, “No Show” is a difficult watch, but that’s the point. The episode sets out what it intends to do — highlight the overwhelming negative traits of every single character, which cause us to become just as hateful in turn. Our respect for Tony, Chris and Meadow has never been lower. Even (or rather, especially) the secondary characters incense our anger. The adolescent psychologist that Meadow visits (Dr. Melfi recommends her after hearing of Meadow’s “depression” over Jackie Jr.) is just as full of shit as her patient, while the FBI agents are just as cold and ruthless as the criminals they are trying to apprehend.
By the end of the hour, nothing has been solved. The feuds between characters are only growing, and the distance between Tony and his family is endlessly expanding. Just look at the final scene, in which director John Patterson’s camera reveals that a casual conversation between Tony and Carmela is actually taking place at opposite ends of a vast bathroom.
The gulf will continue to widen as the season goes on, and for viewers wondering if we’ll ever return to the carefree “good times” of seasons one and two, that ship sailed long ago. Radiohead’s “Kid A” plays over the end credits — a perfect song to signify The Sopranos’ uncertain future.
- The FBI’s plan to infiltrate the mafia via Adriana was introduced in the season three finale, and it only took two episodes to let Adriana in on the secret. Typical of The Sopranos, however, this storyline will now take on the role of a slow burn. Throughout the next two seasons, Adriana will improbably become one of the series’ best characters.
- I love how David Chase doesn’t portray the FBI as the “good guys” that they believe themselves to be. Agent Deborah Ciccerone is a stone-cold bitch, while the Bureau’s treatment of Adriana — an innocent bystander in the mafia world — is particularly cruel. They have no problem ruining her life in order to further their operation, and they deserve to be covered in all that puke.
- Chris gives orders to Patsy Parisi and Little Paulie in the pizza parlor wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket, not too dissimilar to aspiring mobster Jackie Jr. last season. The matching outfits signify how both Chris and Jackie Jr. are in no way mature enough to be giving out orders.
- Meadow has gone from fan favorite (circa “College”) to one of The Sopranos‘ most annoying characters. At least she manages to get her act together by the end of the episode, finally choosing to abandon her gap year in Europe and enroll in fall classes at Columbia, although she’s probably the last person you’d want to see in “Morality, Self and Society.”
- Dr. Melfi recommends Meadow go see a therapist to discuss her depression about Jackie Jr. The therapist ends up pushing Meadow to follow through on her plans to run off to Europe. Once again, David Chase doesn’t believe psychiatry — or psychiatrists — are particularly helpful.
- Meadow’s change of heart is similar to the ending of “Toodle-Fucking-Oo,” in which she takes it upon herself to clean Livia’s house after trashing the place.
- Notice the subtle flirting between Carmela and Furio Giunta: she quickly brushes her hair every time he comes to pick up Tony.
- I’d forgotten that Will Arnett plays a bit part (he’s Agent Deborah’s husband), meaning that GOB Bluth and Omar Little both tangentially exist in the world of The Sopranos. However, the cut scenes to their home life are a somewhat strange focus. It shows how they too are normal people with their own self-contained lives to live (similar to the FBI spotlight in “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood”), but the effect is quite jarring — even though it fits right in with season four’s minimalist aesthetic.
- The scene in which Ralph Cifaretto and Vito Spatafore play a game of pickup basketball is one of the most random moments of the series. Later on in the episode, Tony and Artie Bucco are out for a round of golf. An unusually sporting episode of The Sopranos.
- An interesting observation that I picked up from Reddit: Ralph Cifaretto symbolizes the Devil himself. Even though he’s been somewhat “normal” and sympathetic so far in season four, we can’t forget that he beat a pregnant teenager to death last year. In “No Show,” Ralph wears red and is described by Janice as well-dressed. Later on, he shows Janice (who is also seen reading a book titled “The Origin of Satan”) the infamous snuff film Faces of Death. And when Tony shows up at Janice’s house, Ralph prances upstairs to hide, a portrait of Jesus visible below the staircase. I’m not saying that Ralph is actually Lucifer incarnate, but there are several “evil” motifs and entendres throughout the series when it comes to Mr. Cifaretto.
- “No Show” was written by Terence Winter and series creator David Chase and directed by John Patterson.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “I hear Ginny Sack’s getting a 95-pound mole taken off her ass!”
- “You’re a bartender. You’re supposed to be listening to my problems.”
- “You’re a miserable fuck, you know that?”