Directed by Alan Taylor | Written by Frank Renzulli | 49 min
“Why don’t we walk down there and fuck them all?”
By Colin Hart
8.7 / 10
We ended “College” with Tony in the doghouse, Carmela confronting him about Dr. Melfi being a woman. It is in the doghouse where Tony still resides in “Pax Soprano”, an episode that doesn’t feature the explosiveness of “College” but is a necessary chapter in getting the plot wheels turning.
Tony is having problems getting it up. Y’know, his penis. His libido is diminished and Melfi thinks it’s the Prozac, but Tony traces the cause to another root: Melfi herself. Melfi finds her way into Tony’s dreams twice in the episode—sucking him off to The Jive Five’s “What Time Is It?” and reappearing later as a sultry and sudsy shower-head seductress. It isn’t long before Tony is trying to get Carmela and Irina to dress like Melfi, more businesslike and “professional”, only a couple notches away from going “full Scottie.” It goes over about as well as you’d expect (i.e. not very).
Yet part of the blame should (undeservedly) go on Melfi, too. There is some definite flirtation going on during their therapy sessions—laughing at jokes, Melfi opening up about her personal life a little more, Tony bringing Melfi coffee, etc.—and this is what fuels his nighttime desires. Tony even calls her out on it and it is the beginning of Melfi’s main arc throughout the series: is she just taking on Tony as a patient for the thrill of it?
Melfi is the most morally sound character in The Sopranos universe and I should not be questioning her judgement. But therein lies the mystery…
Every other doctor would have run at the prospect of treating a mob boss, says Tony, but Melfi didn’t flinch. And while the show hasn’t delved too far into her personal life yet (we’ve only seen her outside the office once: her encounter with eternal-schmuck Vin Makazian), there is the distinct likelihood—at least to viewers at this point—that Melfi enjoys the challenges and risks involved with treating Mr. Soprano. She might even be attracted to him.
But most likely not. Tony professes his love for her near episode’s end—he likes how she listens and how she is gentle, like a mandolin—and even kisses her. Melfi, however flattered, rejects his advances, telling him that these are just qualities that he longs for in the other women in his life. She has to be this way because that is what the job entails. A teary-eyed Tony leaves the session like a grammar-school boy after getting rejected by his crush.
“Yeah. See you Tuesday.”
While one half of the episode focuses on Tony’s strife with women—fights with Irina, angry binge-buying from Carmela, a cold and unloving mother (“Bring the cookies!”), unrequited therapist love—the other half focuses on what’s going on in the mob world.
Uncle Junior continues his reign of underworld supremacy—taxing Hesh at Livia’s request (Livia wants to get back at Tony for putting her in the old folks’ home in any way she can) and having resident douchebag Mikey Palmice enforce some hits—and the younger capos aren’t much enjoying it. This isn’t what they envisioned when they named Junior boss and now they count on Tony to mend the situation.
“Pax Soprana” isn’t a great episode, but it is certainly a good episode, the best scene coming near the end. Tony and Uncle Junior meet at a little league baseball game (we definitely know AJ’s not the sporting type, so why would they meet there of all places?) and Tony tries to give his uncle some helpful analogies. He talks about pax romana, the longest period of peace in the Roman Empire, and how Octavian enjoyed a long, fruitful reign because he never ate alone and always shared his wealth. That one doesn’t work? Oh well, Tony has another one. He tells Uncle Junior an analogy that Junior had once told him long ago: two bulls overlook a field of cows, one says to the other “why don’t we run down there and fuck one?”, the other bull says, “no, why don’t we walk down there and fuck them all?”
This is the winning analogy that persuades Junior to change his ways. Nothing like a good metaphor, especially if it involves horny amorphous bovines.
The final sequence has all the capos toasting to the new boss, Corrado “Junior” Soprano. The FBI, disguised as waiters, are at the dinner party also and the episode closes in a DC office, with Junior’s photo replacing Jackie’s as family BOSS. It’s not the poignant ending that all previous episodes have featured and the feds never really pose any significant threat in the world of The Sopranos, so it is a bit of a lackluster finish.
Nonetheless, “Pax Soprana” gets us back in the swing of things after the monumental standalone “College”, updating us to the goings-on in Tony’s two families. The lowercase ‘f’ family wins out this week, with Tony’s erectile dysfunction proving to be more interesting than Junior’s Caligula-to-Octavian transformation.
While there are important plot mechanics here, this is still somewhat a “nothing happens” episode, which is something The Sopranos excels at better than almost any other show, save for Mad Men. “Pax Soprana” shows an assured control by David Chase and the creative staff, with the characters simply living out their lives and reacting naturally to the circumstances that surround them, an arid floating quality of time standing still pervading throughout.
- We open with a quick scene between Tony and Vin Makazian. Always good to see the subtly psychologically-tortured corrupt cop.
- Carmela talks with Father Phil about Tony’s infidelities, saying that Melfi is different than his previous whores. However, Tony’s not actually banging Melfi, just trying to bang her (he is banging her in his dreams though).
- Further ire from Carmela comes up when Tony spends most of their anniversary dinner talking with Johnny Sac over at the bar. By episode’s end, though, Tony does profess his love for Carm and things seem well again, though we have to question how much he actually means it.
- The first appearance of Johnny Sac, who will be an important figure down the line. He is second-in-command to Carmine Lupertazzi, head of the New York crime family that looks at the Jersey crime syndicate as their D-League affiliate.
- If you’re wondering if Uncle Junior is supposed to be a villain, he’s not. He does play the role of Tony’s foil this season, but he is getting more sympathetic as the season has gone on—largely due to the acting of Dominic Chianese and the humor that he brings.
- Irina definitely has the line of the episode…
- “If you were a dildo, we wouldn’t be fighting.“
- “I don’t even let anyone wag their finger in my face!“
- “You’re making me out to be some fucking mama’s boy. I’m a man. And you’re a woman. End of story.”