The problem with writing about The Sopranos after all these years is that so much has been said (in writing, on YouTube, etc.). So I’m following in a lot of footsteps when I say that the snowy “Pine Barrens” (season 3, episode 11) is a great hour of television. I think I’m on fresher ground when I say that my favorite moments are Paulie complaining that he lost a shoe in the snow, apparently more horrified about fashion than about frostbite.
Joining “Pine Barrens” among my very favorite episodes, and heading my list of underrated episodes, is the season 3 opener: “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood”. The FBI plant a listening device in Tony’s basement. This takes some time, what with having to keep track of where each family member is while the agents are trying to make the plant. The agents refer to the young Sopranos as “Princess Bing” and “Baby Bing”.
Neither of these season 3 favorites is does much to advance the big story of the show. Each is sharply written and well acted, and tells us a lot about the world and the people in it.
They are joined among my firm favorites by “Whitecaps”, the last episode of season 4. Tony tries to make Carmela happy by buying a house on the shore, rather than by, for example, being faithful.
I binged season 4, and that worked very well. In this it contrasts with season 2, which I should not have binged. My problem with season 2 was that so many of the characters were so annoying. Some became less annoying, and some died; Tony’s mother had the decency to do both.
Season 5 is, on my first viewing, the “waste of the greats Steve Buscemi” season. His character, Tony Blundetto, gets out of prison determined to go straight. That’s an interesting premise, but it’s badly executed. At the end of the season, Blundetto is executed.
Am I being too harsh on season 5?