The Sopranos Season 4 Review
By Colin Hart
Isolation. Disconnection. Uncertainty. These are the main themes of The Sopranos season 4, a transitional chapter that is intentionally aimless, emotionless and even plotless. It is simultaneously The Sopranos’ most frustrating and rewarding season — frustrating because of the minimalist aesthetic; rewarding due to the intricacies that are revealed upon repeated viewing.
But that’s all part of series creator David Chase’s master plan: stripping away all pretense from the storyline to reveal the deep-rooted cynicism that has always been at the series’ heart. As a result, we begin to hate the characters we once loved. The definition of “antihero” is pushed to the brink.
It’s no secret that season four is often pointed to as The Sopranos’ “worst.” Then again, it is only considered inferior by impossibly high Sopranos standards. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
However, certain parts are worth far less than others. “Christopher,” for example, is easily the worst episode in Sopranos history — and “worst” isn’t a relative term here. It’s truly shocking just how bad it is. Likewise, the ending of “Watching Too Much Television” is particularly reprehensible.
Despite some minor missteps, The Sopranos season 4 is filled with memorable moments that showcase the series’ trademark combination of drama, comedy and tragedy. It’s the same iconic show we’ve been in love with since day one.
Then again, season four is far different than any previous chapter. Aside from the overall sense of minimalism, the structure makes for a unique journey from start to finish. A slow start leads to an unexpected midseason climax, yet Ralph’s shocking murder is just a misdirect to distract us from the actual narrative: Tony and Carmela’s crumbling marriage.
All the apathy that had been building throughout the season finally explodes in “Whitecaps,” a cathartic finale that drastically alters the future of the series without any death or bloodshed. It’s one of the reasons why season four is such a wonderfully strange outlier in The Sopranos canon.
Most television shows can be divided neatly into two halves. Even though season four serves as both a coda to the past and a prelude to the future, it also represents a distinct point of no return — nothing will ever be the same.
Although there are a few rocky moments throughout the course of the year, the season works perfectly as a passage from one era of The Sopranos to the next. Season five begins the endgame, and it will be a slow funeral march to the finish from then on.
As mentioned, many fans and critics will dub season four as a low point for the series. Nevertheless, it remains a masterful work of art that is both essential and remarkably enigmatic. It’s The Sopranos’ most underrated chapter.