“Automatic for the People”
By Colin Hart
8.8 / 10
Last episode ended with an image of an idealized Tony Soprano — peaceful, calm and caring. More than anything, this is how Tony wants to view himself. The only problem is that he’s a ruthless, sociopathic mob boss directly responsible for countless murders. In “Everybody Hurts,” he finds out that he’s indirectly responsible for suicides as well.
Every time Tony tries to turn a corner, he goes about it the wrong way. For example, after he survives a coma in season six and vows to live life to the fullest, he confesses: “Every day is a gift. It’s just … does it have to be a pair of socks?”
When Tony learns that his former flame, Gloria Trillo, recently committed suicide, he feels immense guilt. However, his attempts to prove that he isn’t a toxic person — lending money to Artie Bucco, giving his cousin an expensive suit, taking Janice out to dinner — are all self-contradictory and selfish at heart.
It’s what series creator David Chase has been trying to say since the very beginning: people never change.
“Everybody Hurts” continues season four’s slow-burn approach, yet the episode itself has the look and feel of The Sopranos season three. For one, we receive closure on a character that we never expected to revisit. Meanwhile, the shadowy mise-en-scène hearkens back to the dark color palette utilized throughout the previous year.
In fact, the entire episode feels indebted to the series’ past. Although the overall subject matter is despairing, the dialogue is injected with some much-needed humor. For instance, a sub-plot about Artie Bucco getting scammed on a loan provides tremendous comedic value, even if it ends with him attempting suicide.
Tony’s situation with Artie mirrors the bust-out with Davey Scatino — sure, it’s in Tony’s nature to help out a high school friend, but it’s also in his nature as a mob boss and a businessman to prey on the weak. After Artie’s business venture inevitably fails, he chastises Tony for being able to see this result coming from a mile away.
“It’s like an instinct,” Artie sobs. “Like a hawk sees a little mouse moving around a cornfield, from a mile up.”
The episode also features a memorable dream sequence in which the specter of Gloria Trillo returns to haunt Tony one last time, teasing him with a long scarf wrapped tightly around her neck. Full of Freudian symbolism and ghostly imagery, it’s the first time since “Funhouse” that The Sopranos has luxuriated in outright surrealism.
Dreams have always played a crucial role in the series, yet one element that has been noticeably absent from season four has been Tony and Dr. Melfi’s therapy sessions. Gloria’s suicide finally gives them something meaningful to discuss, even if Tony angrily blames Melfi for what transpired. In the end, however, Tony only blames himself.
That’s why he spends the rest of the episode fishing for compliments. He needs validation that he isn’t a toxic person, and even though there’s been countless evidence to the contrary, Tony ends the hour in total denial of his actions.
“Everybody Hurts” brings us back to the classic Sopranos formula, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The series had been straying from the standard ever since the season three finale, which is why this episode can partly be viewed as a return to form, despite the fact that it fits right in with season four’s leisurely approach.
If it wasn’t for the relatively weak subplot (AJ Soprano finds out that his girlfriend’s family is richer than his), “Everybody Hurts” would be an underrated classic.
- “Everybody Hurts” opens with Chris Moltisanti in a heroin stupor. He receives a call from Tony, and later meets up with him. Tony informs his obviously-high protégé that, in the coming months and years, he’ll be giving his orders exclusively through Chris. “You’re going to take this family into the 21st century,” Tony tells him. “We’re already in the 21st century,” Chris responds.
- AJ’s new girlfriend, Devin, is insanely rich. So rich, in fact, that it puts AJ to shame. Her mansion casually has Picasso’s hanging on the wall. The storyline, however, feels somewhat detached from the rest of the episode. It’s meant to highlight AJ’s realization that underprivileged people do exist (in which he also comes to the ironically selfish conclusion that his family is underprivileged), yet the whole thing seems too one-note. Also, the discussions about The Godfather movies have become cliché for the series.
- On the other hand, the subplot involving Artie Bucco is very amusing. After practicing a Travis Bickle routine in front of the mirror, he tries to get his money back from the Frenchman who scammed him, but ends up getting his ass beat in the process. It drives Artie to near-suicide, which nearly drives Tony to beat his ass as well.
- Carmela shows jealousy when Furio Giunta and his blind date immediately hit it off. Tony, meanwhile, is oblivious to his wife’s emotions. He’s instead preoccupied with paying for the expensive dinner in yet another effort to prove he’s not a toxic person.
- The ding of Carmela’s oven going off has an unsettling effect on Tony, who heard the same sound in his dream about Gloria.
- The episode was written by Michael Imperioli, and directed by Steve Buscemi.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “How’s Gloria Trillo? She still hanging around?”
- “Why are you so quick to blame yourself?”
- “I don’t even want to say how much it costs … $3,000.”