In episode two, we see some of the growing pains of the show. It’s the first episode that’s truly a TV episode, David Chase having originally envisioned The Sopranos as a movie, and we see the show finding its voice. This episode is a bit broad. They telegraph the jokes and ham it up more than they would in future episodes. Television was still a broad, hammy medium in 1999, and episode two has some writing that feels much more sitcommy than it The Sopranos would eventually come to — creating the sort of “prestige TV” format that’s now so ingrained.
Despite its slight shtickiness, it’s also an important episode in establishing that these mobsters are operating in a world where their conception of what it is to be a mafia guy (and just a man in general) has been influenced by depictions of mafia guys in pop culture. Mafia figures became movie characters, movie characters influenced later mafia figures (like John Gotty, referenced in the opening scene of this episode), and then Tony and his crew come along at a moment when the movie mafia guy has already sort of eaten the real mafia guy and spat him back out again, to the point that they’re sort of indistinguishable. Plenty of references to the Godfather and Scorsese movies ensue, including a cameo by “Marty” himself.
We also talk about Tony’s mom, toxic masculinity, how hard it is to find good help in the mafia, and whether the racism of the characters actually turns into racism of the show itself a little bit in this episode. We revisit our segments, Malapropism Corner and Gabbavafongool, and introduce a brand new one (complete with bumper music), “It’s The 90s.”
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