“My Rifle, My Pony and Me”
By Colin Hart
8.8 / 10
The Sopranos redefined TV in many ways, but perhaps its greatest contribution was in its ability to end an episode with poignancy rather than prolongation. Instead of a cliffhanger, each installment ends with a scene of contemplation, thus emphasizing the series’ self-contained nature. And when it comes to thoughtful conclusions, “Pie-O-My” ranks near the top.
Tony Soprano ends the hour in a stable, puffing on a cigar, comforting Ralph Cifaretto’s sick racehorse amidst the pouring rain. There’s nowhere else he’d rather be. This is Tony at his most vulnerable and unguarded — the real Tony, with absolutely nothing to hide. A small goat joins him in the stable, and the imagery is almost Christ-like. In an episode that amplifies Tony’s own messianic delusions, it’s humbling to see him perfectly at peace in nature, with no pretense.
Contrast this with Adriana La Cerva, who also ends the episode alone, free of all façades. However, instead of inner harmony, she sits on her bed shooting heroin. It’s the only salvation she can find from the extreme hardships in her life, one that includes being an unwilling federal informant and having an abusive, unloving fiancé who doesn’t realize how much danger he’s in.
Season four has felt more subdued — less connected, even — when compared to previous years. Each character has become more isolated than ever before. Tony is becoming a gluttonous tyrant, Uncle Junior faces his RICO trial alone and even Janice Soprano has no one to hinge on, although her newfound independence seems to have her character on an upward trajectory.
Yet no character is more despondent than Adriana. The feds pester her for information at every turn — Agent Deborah Ciccerone remains the most heartless bitch on the series — causing her to sink further into inescapable depression. On an emotional level, Adriana’s barely recognizable from the lovable bimbo she was back in season one.
Her unwilling entanglement with the FBI forces her to avoid coming into contact with anyone mob-related, including her own boyfriend, Christopher Moltisanti. But perhaps that’s for the best — now a hopeless junkie, Chris has also fallen far from the ambitious underdog he was back in season two.
As with the previous episodes, the bulk of “Pie-O-My” is slow-moving and somewhat jumbled, plodding along like its namesake. But similar to Ralph’s racehorse, the episode finishes strong, picking up speed during its artful conclusion.
The aforementioned final sequence features some of the most beautiful imagery in Sopranos history, turning another run-of-the-mill installment into something far more meaningful. During pensive moments like these, we are still rooting for Tony to succeed, in spite of all the terrible things he’s done.
In this instant, for perhaps the first time all series, Tony is alone with us, the audience. We see him for what he can be, and it almost makes all his past atrocities forgivable. It doesn’t matter that he’ll again commit murder and adultery in just a few episodes.
- The final scene also has a perfect soundtrack to match the imagery: Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson’s “My Rifle, My Pony and Me,” from the 1959 film Rio Bravo. Tony was seen watching the movie in the season premiere.
- Another great contrast in the final scenes: Tony with the horse, countered with Adriana and her dog.
- Uncle Junior, who seems to be losing his mental capacity, is more concerned with his unflattering courtroom sketch (it’s just as bad as Tom Brady’s infamous DeflateGate drawing) rather than the actual trial. He stares down the sketch artist the next time he’s in court.
- All the mob wives are reaching out to Bobby Baccalieri in his hour of need, but Janice will stop at nothing to make sure she’s the one who snags him. She helps take care of his kids, cooks them food (although she might just be stealing leftovers from Carmela) and even coaxes Bobby into finally eating his deceased wife’s last batch of baked ziti. Because Bobby is such a nice guy, has Janice finally turned a corner in her character development?
- The mobsters have turned Adriana’s night club, the Crazy Horse, into their secondary business headquarters, much to Adriana’s dismay. She starts to become paranoid, especially after witnessing Chris and Furio assault a drug dealer in the back room.
- The scene where Vito Spatafore sits in Adriana’s office chair, thus causing it to immediately collapse under his weight, is hilarious. And I thought we were done with weight jokes?
- Unfortunately, the scene where Adriana sits in the already-broken chair and collapses, much to Chris’ amusement, is just sad.
- Tony is something of a horse whisperer. He advises the jockey how to win each race, and Ralph is elated when Pie-O-My succeeds. Unfortunately for Ralph, Tony now expects a large chunk of the winnings after every race. This is why Ralph tells the vet to call Tony at the end of the episode, since he is now the de facto “owner” of the horse.
- When Tony is with Pie-O-My, it is perhaps the most content we’ve seen him since the family of ducks nested in his swimming pool back in the pilot episode.
- “Pie-O-My” was written by Mitchell Green & Robin Burgess, and directed by Henry J. Bronchtein.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “Damn it, I bet to show!”
- “The horse is sick!”