Isabella (Season 1, Episode 12, The Sopranos)

1 IsabellaDirected by Allen Coulter

Written by Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess

“You’re sinking this whole family into your misery”

The world is blurring for Tony.  Enemies are still enemies, but many friends have become enemies too.  And, then there’s his family.

It’s not easy being the boss.  But to quote Junior from the first episode, “you can’t blame it all on the Justice Department.”   Though the feds have been busy.  Tony suspects that Jimmy and possibly Pussy have flipped; and between the last episode and this one, Pussy is now missing.  Add to that, the loss of a valuable source of intelligence in Vin Makazian (suicide) and long time friend and recent boss, Jackie Aprile (cancer), sprinkle in a new set of indictments pending (always indictments pending) and it’s no wonder we find Tony highly medicated, depressed and in bed. It’s enough to make anyone curl into the fetal position.

Remarkable, and evidence of why The Sopranos is such a great series, is that an episode focusing on Tony’s depression is so interesting.

“The meeting’s adjourned at the Green Grove”

This episode doubles down on the sadness and fatalism with Livia’s scheming – now fully manifest in Junior taking out a hit on Tony.  He’s delegated the details to Mikey Palmice and within 24 hours Tony will be assassinated.

Junior is conflicted by his decision to take Tony out.  When at the wake of Mariolina Capuano, Junior is distracted and agitated as Mikey tries to update him on the who, what, where and how of the hit.  He nervously talks about his past with the deceased and prayer cards, rather than focusing on what Mikey is sharing.

That Junior is upset by, what in his world, has to be done – makes him a far more sympathetic a character than Livia.  But his and Tony’s world is merciless.

“Napoleon – he was a moody fuck.”

Christopher is concerned about Tony.  He tells Silvio that Tony’s been sleeping all day and not taking care of himself.  Silvio brushes it off, but it continues to bother Christopher.  The next time he sees Tony, he’s so disturbed by what he sees, that he follows him.  Tony is using a circuitous route to his appointments: entering a donut shop, exiting out the back and entering the medical offices through the back door.

Unwittingly, when Christopher pulls up in his car, he comes between Tony and the two guys hired to take Tony out.  The two unidentified black males (which is a theme throughout the series) don’t know he’s part of the Sopranos crew, and failing to get him to move his car, lose Tony and their opportunity.

News of this misstep has Junior, Mikey, and Chucky waiting in a car in alley to meet with Donnie Paduana who was in charge of arranging the hit.  Prior to Donnie arriving, Junior vomits, evidence that this is more than a run of the mill hit.  When Donnie does arrive, Junior sinks down in the backseat so he is not seen, but overhears Donnie make a crack about Tony’s own mother wanting to take him out.  This infuriates Junior and Chuck and Mikey shoot Donnie.  This doesn’t change the plan, the hit is still scheduled to happen the next day.

That night, while LIvia joins Tony, Carmela and the kids for dinner, Junior is not there.  When Tony asks about him, Carmela says he’s not feeling well.

2 Isabella“Tony? Tony? Are you on medication?”

In the midst of all this, Tony has noticed a beautiful woman in the backyard of the Cusamanos.  She is an Italian who is studying oral surgery.  After meeting with Dr. Melfi, he runs into her coming out of the pharmacy and takes her to lunch.  During their lunch Tony thoughts float off seeing her back in Italy in a different time, nursing a baby.

Tony tells Dr. Melfi about the lunch and the fantasy, and she points out that the baby (who is named Antonio) is him.  When he leaves his appointment, he stops at the newsstand buying orange juice and a racing form.  As he goes to the door of his SUV, he sees the assailant approaching in the window.  He’s able to escape, with one gunman accidentally shooting the other and then unsuccessfully struggling with Tony, but then crashes into another car.  He goes to the hospital as one bullet has nicked his ear and an injury to his knee due to the car crash.

When the Cusamanos return and Tony discovers there was no Isabella (only after confirming with Carmela) he shares this with Dr. Melfi who tells him to discontinue taking the lithium.  She goes on to tell him, that even if it was the drugs, the fantasy has meaning.  It points to the issue of mother and son, the Madonna, and she asks “Why now?  Why the need for a fantasy about a loving mother now?”

The reason Tony was on medication in the first place, was give his system a jump- start.  While the lithium failed to do that, the attempt on his life more than jolts him out of his depression.  He’s back in the game and is ready to have his revenge.

After Tony is released from the hospital, Silvio, Paulie, and Christopher come by the house.  Shortly after, Junior and Livia arrive.  Livia calls Meadow by the wrong name and asks Carmela who that girl is.  Father Phil Intintola also comes by to visit, offering to talk with Tony or to pray together.  Tony responds with,  “Not right now.  Why don’t you grab a sandwich and we’ll talk later – I mean, you are sleeping over aren’t you?” It’s a dark, but funny moment that refers to Father Phil spending the night in the College episode.

Further reading:

Watch along with me: The Sopranos: The Complete First Season