Denial, Anger, Acceptance (Season 1, Episode 3, The Sopranos)

Meadow Soprano and Hunter contemplate college

Meadow Soprano and Hunter contemplate college

Directed by Nick Gomez

Written by Mark Saraceni

The third episode begins with Christopher and Brendan returning the stolen truck (minus a few suits) to Comley Trucking with Christopher shouting, “It’s a gift from Tony Soprano.”  Towards the end of the episode Dr. Melfi references another gift, “That’s the mystery, isn’t?  The mystery of God, or whatever you want to call it, and why we’re given the questionable gift of knowing that we’re going to die.”

Death looms all over this episode.  Jackie Aprile is in the hospital and is failing fast.  In seeing another example of how the crew makes its money, we see motel owner Ariel being beaten and threatened with death.  And, in the final scenes we see Brendan killed by Mikey on Junior’s order and Christopher having a gun held to his head in a mob version of scared straight.  It occurred to me in this episode how often we would see Christopher escape death throughout the rest of the series, until, of course, he doesn’t.

Jackie’s declining health (we meet Rosalie Aprile for the first time at the hospital), Meadow and Hunter looking to score crystal meth, Carmela hiring Artie and Charmaine to cater the fundraiser she’s hosting, and the pursuit of the Jewish law divorce document (get) are the main story lines in Denial, Anger, Acceptance.  And, of course Tony’s ongoing dialogue with Dr. Melfi.

In studying for the SATs, Meadow and Hunter need to pull some all-nighters and want some crystal meth to help them accomplish it.  When their friends fail to come through, Meadow and Hunter go to visit Christopher to see if he will help them out.  Adriana implores him to provide the drugs since it would be dangerous for them to go to Jefferson Avenue to try and buy some.  Christopher relents and has a very serious talk with Meadow, “I know you and me don’t always get along, but I don’t think you want to see me dead.”

At the end of the episode, Christopher is dragged away by two Russians who he believes Tony sent, rather than Junior (on Livia’s advice, more below).  He pleads for his life, as they put a gun to head.  When the gun clicks on the empty chamber, he messes his pants and the Russians laugh as they exit.

Poor You

The ‘Poor You’ examples are rather subtle in this episode.

The first unfolds while Artie is catering the fundraiser, he tells Tony how it reminds him of what he’s lost – cooking at the restaurant.  Tony, who we know is responsible for the fire, explodes and tells Artie, “OK enough already.  Why don’t you forget about the past? Look to the future. OK.  I am sick of hearing about your fucking restaurant.  Shut up about it you depressing fucking jerk!”

The second occurs while Livia and Junior are discussing Christopher and Brendan.  (One of the things I love about the show is how the characters are often depicted doing very mundane things.  The scene begins with Junior pounding a nail into the wall and placing A.J.’s school picture there.)  Livia icily suggests, “Maybe Christopher could use a little talking to…the other one…Filone?  I don’t know.”  Which pretty much seals Brendan’s fate.  Junior responds with a grateful “You gotta lot of sense for an old gal” to which Livia responds, “No, I’m a babbling idiot.  That’s why my son put me in a nursing home.”  Standing in the middle of her plush, corner suite, Junior has no reply, rather a kind of silent ‘poor you.’

Charmaine is happy with her choices.

Charmaine is happy with her choices.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The gesture.  Carmela decides that she will help Artie and Charmaine out by having them cater the fundraiser she is hosting for the pediatric hospital – a gesture of kindness.  Later, when Charmaine is at the Soprano house planning the event with Carmela, she witnesses Carmela dressing down Oona, the maid, and beckoning her with a hand gesture to come and take a look at the fingerprints on the breakfront glass. Later, we will see Carmela call for Charmaine at the fundraiser using the same hand gesture.

Katherine Narducci, the actress who plays Charmaine Bucco, does an amazing job of having her face register surprise, then disgust before putting on the ‘customer is always right’ smile and walking towards Carmela.

A day or so after the event is over, Carmela tells Charmaine how successful the evening was and it was all because of the great food.  Charmaine is silent as Carmela goes on and on, and finally Carmela asks if something is wrong.  Charmaine drops the bomb that when they were in high school, she slept with Tony, and it wasn’t her thing.  If that slap to the face wasn’t enough, Charmaine goes on to say that she’s made her choices and she’s happy with them.  Carmela doesn’t need to worry about her.  Carmela is stunned.  (After watching this, I find it hard to believe that Carmela would continue to patronize Vesuvio as she does for the next six seasons.)

Later, when Tony joins her at Meadow’s choir concert he goes to hold Carmela’s hand.  She slides her hand back, probably still smarting from Charmaine’s revelation.

Echoes

Silvio and Tony strategize in order to get into the motel business

Silvio and Tony strategize in order to get into the motel business

There were two scenes in this episode that reminded me of The Godfather.  When Christopher yells, “It’s a gift from Tony Soprano,” it reminded me of “Michael Corleone says hello.”  And, reminiscent of when Vito Corleone meets with Sollozo, when Shlomo and Hillel are meeting with Tony, Sil and Paulie, Hillel objects to Tony’s demand for 25 percent.  Shlomo responds in Hebrew with an admonition to always provide a united front.

Favorite Quotes

“Take it easy!  We’re not making a Western here.”  Junior Soprano

“..like that…what do you call it test…the Korshack.”  Tony Soprano

“You might be a candidate for clinical trials…these, uh, stump cell therapies…”  Paulie Walnuts

“I can’t wait until the whole North American land mass is between me and Tony and Carmela.”  Meadow Soprano

“Paulie, if we don’t kill this prick, we should put him to work.”  Silvio Dante

“Tony always loved Christopher like a son, and so do I Junior.  He put up my storm windows for me one year.”  Livia Soprano

“Pooh bear!” Russians

Hi, Jack.  Bye, Jack.”  Mikey Palmice

Further Reading:

The Sopranos (Season 1, Episode 1, The Sopranos)

46 Long (Season 1 Episode 2, The Sopranos)

AV Club – http://www.avclub.com/articles/46-longdenial-anger-acceptance,41997/

Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial,_Anger,_Acceptance

Watch along with me – you can purchase the DVD set at Amazon (affiliate link):
The Sopranos: The Complete First Season

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