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'The Sopranos': Tony's lament: 'Why me?'

May 21, 2007 | 11:04 am

Sopranos A.J. Soprano’s suicide attempt was very A.J.: He tied a plastic bag over his head and attached a concrete block to his foot before dropping himself into the family pool.

Depression has long been A.J.’s curse, but ineffectualness is a close second; the plastic bag wasn’t tied properly and he appeared to over-estimate the length of rope for the block. A cry for help that was, finally, sweet, like the time A.J. brought a sword into the psychiatric hospital to get revenge on Uncle Junior for shooting his father.

“On some level he may have known that the rope was too long to keep him submerged,” Dr. Melfi tells Tony. “Or he could just be...[an idiot],” says the father. “Historically that’s been the case.”

A.J. had his imagery right — the mob’s “cement shoes,” not to mention that pool. The pool is where it all began on “The Sopranos” — Tony with his ducks and his depression. In the throes of his child’s desperate act, it was not difficult to discern whom Tony thought was affected the most.
“Why me, huh?” he says to Melfi. “Doesn’t every parent make mistakes? … I’m a good guy. Basically.”

There isn’t much on the horizon now but bloodshed, sadness and death. The intimations came in the guise of A.J. reading Yeats’ classic “The Second Coming”:

…somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

Didn’t we spot a creature, “a shape with lion body and the head of a man,” in the desert just last week? Maybe it was his slow thighs. “The best lack all conviction,” Yeats wrote, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Speaking of Phil Leotardo, it seems the final mob war is on — various business-related stalemates having gone nowhere and Tony having savaged one of Phil’s goons, after the goon got fresh with Meadow. In the previews for coming attractions, Carmela was again seen in a state of desperate emotional pique. It’s one of the few disappointments of this last go-around that Edie Falco hasn’t gotten to do more.

Oh well, “The Sopranos” is about Tony, and everything that emanates from his deceptions. The writers, in a flash of meta-analysis, included a grimly comedic scene where Melfi’s psychiatrist, Dr. Elliot Kupferberg (Peter Bogdonavich, annoyingly sipping from his special water bottle), cited a psychological study of sociopaths and criminals that found, in the main, that “talk therapy, while not only being useless with sociopaths, actually serves to validate them.”

In the very next scene Tony goes to the restaurant to beat the goon senseless, and one of the guy’s cracked teeth ends up wedged in the cuff of his slacks. Tony notices it while sitting in family therapy with Carmela and his morose son, over whom the father is equally omniscient and powerless. Deep down, they’re both Yeats-ians. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

(Photo courtesy HBO)