“A Hit is a Hit”
Directed by Matthew Penn | Written by Joe Bosso & Frank Renzulli | 53 min
Conduit for Sale!
By Colin Hart
8.3 / 10
“A Hit is a Hit” is often touted as one of the lesser Sopranos episodes, and rightfully so. But, if one of your “worst” episodes garners an 8.3 rating (from yours truly), then you’re not doing half bad, Mr. David Chase.
The Sopranos is quite possibly the greatest show of all time and so the phrase “one of The Sopranos’ worst” must be taken with a grain of salt. Would I rather watch “A Hit is a Hit” or a random Walking Dead episode? Would I rather watch “A Hit is a Hit” or Burn Notice? You see what I mean. Nevertheless, “A Hit is a Hit” is still an inferior episode when put up with the greatness that we’re used to from this show.
Whenever The Sopranos tries to branch out into unfamiliar territory, it often comes up a bit short. The main plot of “A Hit is a Hit” concerns Chris and Adriana, the music business and a gangsta rapper named Massive Genius. Not much for mob action here. In fact, the episode begins with a burst of ultraviolence that ultimately serves as an excuse for the mob action to take the week off—the guys kill and rob a Mexican drug dealer, score a lot of dough and can now take a little break.
For Chris, that means spending quality time with Adriana. She’s been a character on the fringes up till now, her biggest scenes coming in the Chris-centric “Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti”. She is given a bigger spotlight here and actress Drea de Matteo proves she is far more than just eye candy. But that is all she is in the eyes of Massive Genius.
If there is one thing that The Sopranos is truly bad at, it is portraying minorities. The main characters of this show are all clear racists and homophobes (Chris in crowded urban fast-food joint: “Who’s fuckin’ welfare check do you gotta cash to get a burger around here?”) but that doesn’t mean that all the black characters on this show should be portrayed as thinly as Tony and all the rest view them. Let’s just say The Sopranos is no Wire in this regards…
Massive Genius wants Chris to arrange a sit-down with Tony’s Jewish friend Hesh Rabkin. Hesh, Massive believes, owes his family a fortune in unpaid royalties for stealing songwriting credits from some R&B star back in the early ‘60s. Chris organizes the sit-down and in return Massive helps back Adriana’s burgeoning interest as a record producer.
Another flaw with “A Hit is a Hit” is the fact that we’re forced to listen to some truly terrible music. Adriana’s recording sessions with Visiting Day are funny—Chris beats up the lead singer with his own guitar—but the band blows. Visiting Day, formerly a heavy metal group called Defiler, is a moody alt-rock band with a lead singer who specializes in emo over-emoting. Their featured songs in the episode are awful and so is their demo tape. “A hit is a hit, and that’s not a hit,” says Hesh.
If anything, this plot serves to give Adriana some character development. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this late-season block of standalone episodes has taken ample time to develop several characters, like Chris, Melfi, Junior and Artie Bucco. “A Hit is a Hit” spends some time with both Adriana and Hesh, but our time with them is somewhat boring and unimportant.
Massive Genius only wants a piece of Adriana’s ass and Chris knows this. When he tries to tell her the truth, she storms out. Far down the road—like season five—Adriana will become one of the best characters on the show. Here in season one, she is already a good character, but her plotline in this episode can’t help but feel a bit disconnected and pointless. Hesh, meanwhile, is someone who just naturally comes across as boring.
Massive Genius, thankfully, doesn’t show up ever again. He talks with Hesh and Tony over the phone, threatens to sue and we never hear how it all turns out. It’s another way in which this episode can feel a bit pointless. In the end, the story merely served as a metaphor to show how the times have changed—old school to new school, gangsters to gangstas, leg-breaking to litigation.
Tony, meanwhile, spends the episode awkwardly sorta-befriending his neighbor, Dr. Bruce Cusamano. Cooze, as Tony calls him, is the family physician who recommended Dr. Melfi.
Cusamano and his buddies are dorks—genuine good guys who seem like a fun time, but definite upper-middle class white dorks. They don’t have a scratch on their bodies, so naturally they are infatuated with the presence of Tony, a known mobster. They badger him with mafia pop culture questions while playing golf and Tony later admits to Melfi that he felt like a dancing bear among them, merely there for amusement.
This story is a little better than our time with Massive Genius and it does show a nice contrast between two rich neighbors who have vastly different personalities and ways of obtaining money. Yet it is still out of its element, Donny.
While a little better written than Massive Genius and his entourage, Cooze and his buddies and their wives are still your stereotypical rich white suburban homeowners. A scene where Carmela sits among the housewives and one of them says “We don’t play the stock market, we win”, followed by laughter, doesn’t even feel like The Sopranos.
The ending of the episode mostly makes up for it—not everything, of course, but some of it. A humorous note, in which Tony plays a mischievous prank on the next-door neighbors—Tony wrapping up a box filled with sand and telling the Cusamanos to hang onto the mysterious package for a little bit.
“A Hit is a Hit” receives the grade it does because it tells two rather unimportant stories that will have no bearing on anything whatsoever and those stories happen to be a little dry. You can look at it as a necessary calm before the storm, with the final three episodes of the season all being highlights. Or you can look at it as the show trying to expand its world and largely failing.
Still, this is an episode of The Sopranos we’re talking about here. A bad Sopranos episode is like a bad Pavement song—yeah it’s meandering and noisy and dissonant, but it’s still got the charm. This would be an average episode for many shows and a good one for most shows.
Would I rather watch “A Hit is a Hit” or This is Us? Sopranos all the way, baby. But would I rather watch “A Hit is a Hit” or basically any other Sopranos episode? You see what I mean.
- David Chase and The Sopranos also has an anti-capitalist agenda at times (the series finale is called “Made in America”, after all). It’s on display here as we see Cooze and his buds talking about insider trading tips, which is illegal of course. Hypocritically, they don’t let Tony in on the action.
- The episode also delves into Italian pride conversations once again, with Chris and Adriana listing off great Italian singers and a dinner scene between Melfi and the Cusamanos where the topic of gangsters is brought up.
- Usually for most episodes of The Sopranos, there is a subtle underlying of how truly terrible these guys are. Last week in “Boca”, for example, the episode sees Tony do the morally right thing but ends with him gleefully saying “I didn’t kill anyone!” However, David Chase and the writers have to take their characters’ side once in a while, right? In this episode, Tony’s crew are the more respectable bunch in comparison to the white-collar shortcut takers and the faux-gangster gangstas.
- “You people are alright. Godfather, I’ve seen that movie 200 times. Godfather II was definitely the shit. The third one, a lot of people didn’t like it but I think it was just misunderstood.”
- “That guy’s a gangster? I’m a gangster. I’m an OG original gangster, not him. Fuckin’ lawn jockey.”
- “Music is not something you can hold in your hands, you know, like football betting cards or coke.”