Sopranos: The Complete Second Season
- (2001) - Brad Grey Television/HBO (HBO)
by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
Approx. 696 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1:77:1), 16x9
enhanced, 4 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch - 4
episodes on Disc One, 3 on the rest with additional material on Disc
Four), custom "library-box" packaging, audio commentaries
on 4 episodes (Commendatori,
From Where To Eternity,
The Knight in White Satin Armor
and Funhouse), 2 featurettes,
filmographies, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene
access (7-8 chapter stops per episode), languages: English (DD 5.1
and 2.0), French and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed
always said you'd be the chosen one
Not having HBO, my introduction to The
Sopranos was only through news stories and award shows. I
didn't actually see an episode until I broke down and rented the
first volume of the first season a few months ago. The first four
episodes of the series brought an amused, but worried, curiosity.
The show's characters seduced me by how real and identifiable they
were. I especially love Edie Falco's Carmela. But when I got too
comfortable, the series jarred me with gratuitous violence. You get
to know any given guest-spot actor... and he gets killed before the
end of the episode.
Thus, I both love and hate The Sopranos
at the same time. Violence and language are perfectly fine in their
place, but I found its inclusion in this show to basically reason, "Hey!
We're on HBO! Let's do something we can't do on a network!"
Badda-Bing! A girl takes off her top, gets shot in the breast, and
says "F%@k!" on the way down.
When given the chance to review the entire second season of
The Sopranos, it came with
both interest and reluctance. Are these characters or situations I
really want to revisit? It only took five minutes to be convinced:
YES! Season Two picks up where
the first year left off, and is accessible to new viewers at any
rate, though with the first three seasons now available on DVD, I
would think you'd start with season one.
But, and I'm sure you already know this, The
Sopranos is an adult show. Some of the story lines could
easily be "cleaned up" for network television, but they
would lose a lot of the character. Even though I really enjoy
ASPECTS of the series, I myself am not so quick to recommend it. But
if you are reading this, I'm sure you don't need any convincing. I
judge this box set not on my personal feelings of what I feel is the
extraneous way of telling the story, but rather on the storylines
themselves and the quality of the performances. I'm sure I'm not the
only person offended by some of the content, but I know that if
you're reading this review, it's a non-issue to you already.
Guy Walks Into a Psychiatrist's Office
(Episode 14) - Tony's hippie-dippy sister, Janice, comes to Jersey
to visit the hospitalized Livia, their mother. Tony's a bit worried,
because Janice is not the flighty person she seems, and he fears
that she's vying for not only her mother's favor, but also for a way
to take control of Tony's territory. At the same time, Tony's
psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi, has been hiding in a motel room, after an
attempt on her life in the previous season. Tony pleads for her to
treat him again, but she flatly refuses on personal grounds.
Do Not Resuscitate (Episode
15) - Big Pussy, already under Tony's suspicious eye, begins meeting
with a FBI agent, after he is worried that his wife not only
suspects him of his lifestyle but that's she considering divorce.
Meanwhile, Janice wheels and deals with Tony to keep Livia's house
in the family, despite Tony's frustration towards both his mother
and his sister. At the same time, Uncle Junior urges Tony to make
peace with Livia as she's dying, and accidentally has learned that
her kids have her on DNR.
Tootle-Fucking-Do (Episode 16)
- Richie Aprile is released from jail, and immediately rekindles
both his relationship with Janice and his old boss Tony. Dr. Melfi
has been seeking some psychiatric help of her own from Dr.
Kupferberg, her old mentor. She flipped out in front of Tony, when
he sought parenting advice after his daughter Meadow has thrown a
party at Livia's house.
Commendatori (Episode 17) -
Tony takes Paulie and Christopher to Italy on a business trip, where
he meets a female don and gains a new lieutenant, Furio. Back at
home, Carmela is counseling Pussy's wife, Angie, not to divorce him.
Big Girls Don't Cry (Episode
18) - Furio comes to America, and Tony gives him a job at childhood
friend Artie Bucco's restaurant. Janice continues to infuriate Tony
by trying to take out a loan on Livia's house, but to his relief,
Dr. Melfi accepts him back into her practice. And Christopher takes
an acting class, though he quickly beats up another classmate.
The Happy Wanderer (Episode
19) - The owner of a sporting goods store owes the mob big time
after losing in a poker game, and Tony accepts his son's SUV as
payment. But after Tony gives it to Meadow as a present, she
recognizes it as her friend's car, destroying their friendship.
D-Girl (Episode 20) -
Christopher meets Amy, a development exec who's currently working on
a movie with Jon Favreau. During an affair, she agrees to give Jon
the script, but Christopher discovers that they've been working some
of his "family" secrets into the film that they're
currently working on. At the same time, Anthony Jr. discovers
existentialism after he crashes the family car, and declares that
God is dead and the universe doesn't matter. Even grounding means
Full Leather Jacket (Episode
21) - Racked with guilty about his affair, Christopher asks Adriana
to marry him, and she accepts, but he's soon afterwards shot by two
thugs working for Richie. Meanwhile, Carmela doesn't want Meadow to
go to college to Berkeley, and uses some intimation tactics to get
her next-door neighbor's Georgetown-alumni twin to write a letter of
From Where to Eternity
(Episode 22) - Pussy becomes so paranoid that Tony thinks he's
tipping off the family secrets to the FBI, that he agrees to kill
the thugs who shot Christopher. Meanwhile in the hospital,
Christopher becomes quite scared when he finds his mortality. And
Carmela finds out about Tony's mistress, and begins to doubt her
commitment to Tony, and her advice to Angie.
Bust Out (Episode 23) - A
confused Carmela kisses her hunky wallpaper guy, but is stung when
he stands her up on a date. At the same time, the Feds tell Pussy
that they saw Tony whack one of the thugs, but can't ID the
accomplice, who just happens to be Pussy who, of course, denies it
House Arrest (Episode 24) -
Tony, worried that the Feds are watching him closely, visits his
sanitation business for the first time in years, and is shocked when
he finds that Richie and Junior are using the business to deal
cocaine. At the same time, Junior begins to date a policeman's widow
who doesn't know that he's under house arrest.
The Knight in White Satin Armor
(Episode 25) - Richie wants to kill Tony for cutting off his drug
dealing, and Junior warns Tony. So Tony tries to whack Richie, but
Janice gets to him first, shooting him during a heated argument
before their wedding night. Wanting to get closer to Carmela, Tony
tries to break it off with his Russian mistress, but she tries to
commit suicide and Carmela doesn't believe Tony was sincere.
Funhouse (Episode 26) - Tony
gets busted on fraud charges, after Livia gets stopped by the Feds
on her way to her other daughter's house in Arizona using a stolen
ticket. Tony gets suspicious of "certain" individuals in
his organization when the Feds start asking him some oddly personal
questions. Through a dream, Tony realizes that Pussy has been
leaking secrets to the Feds, and takes it upon himself to whack
This season works as a self-contained unit, with the underlying
thread being Pussy's betrayal of Tony. It's all very operatic, but
very believable at the same time. Every actor featured has a
complete arc and juicy things to do. Edie Falco's Carmela is torn
between her religious devotion to her marriage and the obvious signs
that Tony is not the faithful husband she wishes he'd be. Aida
Tuturro's Janice is a conniving opportunist who gets shocked back
into sincerity when she accidentally kills her fiancée.
Vincent Pastore's Pussy has been on the outside of the law, and
attempts to do the right thing, as hard as it is for him to hurt
Tony. And Lorraine Bracco's Dr. Melfi is forced to face her own
demons after she's been chased by the mob.
But the best performance of all of these is of James Gandolfini's
Tony. Gandolfini rightly won his Best Actor Emmy, as the mob boss
who has hate and fury surrounding him at all times. Though he wants
a good life for his wife and kids through the only means he knows
how, he is caught in a lifestyle that is now beginning to catch up
with him. As the Feds circle around, thanks in part to Pussy, Tony
begins to realize that his control, the one thing that over
everything else he's had, is spiraling out of hand. Even though this
season ends right as he's finally confronted by the Feds, the
audience, as well as Tony, knows that the party is about to come to
a crashing halt.
And despite the amazingly strong thread, my favorite episode is the
detour of D-Girl, a great
episode that features a heartbreaking storyline that culminates in
Christopher's dream as a writer being permanently dashed against the
rocks. Including the inspired casting of Alicia Witt as Amy,
Christopher's new love interest and Anthony Jr.'s hilarious
exploration of existentialism as the B-story, this episode is just
The second season is presented in 1:77.1 anamorphic widescreen, the
aspect ratio the show is currently showing in re-runs. Originally
shot in this aspect ratio, and not the full-frame original
broadcast, the episodes maintain a very cinematic quality in both
style and lighting. The transfer is good, but not great. Overall,
the episodes are a bit lacking in detail, and some of what appears
to be grain is present. However, there are no problems with edge
enhancement and the colors do not bleed. I was expecting a little
more out of the transfer, but I'm sure that it's the cinematography
style and not any defect in the disc or the format.
Episodes are presented with a 5.1 surround track, although there is
very little difference between this track and the 2.0. That's not to
say that it's a bad track, as the dialogue and other elements can be
heard clearly. But the surrounds are never in much use, except for
occasional music cues and some directional gunshots.
The set includes four commentary tracks that vary in both tone and
style, as do the episodes they represent. On Commendatori,
we see that director Tim Van Patten really loves these characters,
as his comments are mostly on the history of the characters and the
reasoning behind why they are doing what they do in the episode.
There are some long pauses, but most the information here is pretty
interesting. On From Where to Eternity,
director Henry J. Bronchetein and Line Producer Ilene Landress
discuss a lot of the little detail choices they made in the episode
and point out several things that I never noticed (for example,
Christopher's hospital room has two entrances, and both are used for
different reasons. If a character runs into the room, they run
through the door that is further from the bed, so they'll be running
for a longer period of time). On The
Knight with White Satin Armor, we hear from director Alan
Coulter, who is THE Sopranos
director. Coulter explains that a lot of the choices that he made
for the episode were made to fit with the continuity of the series,
and gives explanations behind several of them. Line Producer Ilene
Landress has to prod him every now and then, but overall, the most
informative track. Lastly, on Funhouse,
director John Patterson supplies a lot of really good information
behind the location shooting. The information is great, but the
delivery is very flat (think a less-energetic Ben Stein). It makes
the commentary a little boring for the casual listener, but there's
a lot of great information in here.
Included on Disc Four are a few additional extras.
The Real Deal featurette runs
about 4 and a half minutes, and with critics and "experts"
taling about the authenticity of the series and how great it is.
A Sit Down with the Sopranos
runs 13 and a half minutes, and is a collection of interviews with
the cast and creator David Chase.
As if that wasn't enough, also included are some bland
filmographies and a listing of all the awards this season won and
was nominated for. To be honest, the extras on this set were
INCREDIBLY self-serving. It's one thing to have a behind-the-scenes
featurette, but it's another to have two featurettes on how great
the show is. While the commentaries make up for the lack of in-depth
features, I would have loved to see a featurette showing the process
of how an episode is written, filmed and then edited. Or outtakes.
Or deleted scenes. Or ANYTHING. Still, fans of the show certainly
aren't complaining, and the commentaries wetted my appetite just
If you aren't of the faint of heart, you will thoroughly enjoy this
season of The Sopranos. I
don't agree that this is one of television's greatest series, but
it's certainly fine, heavy-handed entertainment.