The Sopranos S2E3: “Toodle-Fucking-Oo”

“Toodle-Fucking-Oo”

Directed by Lee Tamahori   |   Written by Frank Renzulli   |   50 min    

Richie Aprile, the junkyard dog

By Colin Hart

8.8 / 10

The Sopranos season two starts off slow in terms of plot development, but it is tightly structured and exhilarating in terms of character relationships.  Now, I know that “character relationships” sounds less than exhilarating.  In fact, it sounds downright boring.  “That’s what The Affair is for, asshole!”

Now, now, hear me out.  Usually, character relationships entail the writer/reviewer at hand to delve deep into exploration of themes and societal/political readings of the show: “what The Sopranos is really trying to say…” and so on.  Fuck that.

I talk about the character relationships being key in this “slow” start to season two because they are compelling to watch.  It’s funny and it’s real.  I already love most of these characters, so no doubt I’ll love just watching them talk to each other.  It’s simple.  The conversations between the crew, the family squabbles—all very interesting because the characters deliver top-notch dialogue with top-rate acting performances, with nuance to boot.

Most of all, the humor shines through.  When The Sopranos isn’t busy running over a guy’s legs or smashing coffee pots over people’s heads, it can honestly be looked at as a comedy.  A line like “I don’t know.  I yelled.  What the fuck else do you want me to do?” strikes the right chord and is funny because it is such a realistic and exasperated reaction from James Gandolfini.  An agitated Tony is the funniest Tony and there’s plenty of darkly comic dialogue throughout this early portion of season two.  Then again, even when The Sopranos is running people over or smashing coffee pots on their heads, the blackest of comedy is still there.

nurse-richie.jpg

And for those of you who favor plot development, you’re in luck!  This episode introduces Richie Aprile, brother of deceased former-boss Jackie, fresh out of a 10-year stint in prison.  Played by David Proval in a performance of Pacino-like intensity, Richie means business right from the get go.  One of the first things we hear him say is a singular, sinister utterance of “motherfucker.”

Richie’s ruthless and, naturally, he is the one responsible for the aforementioned driving-over-legs and coffee-pot-to-the-head antics—one of which occurs just minutes after we meet him, both of which occur to the same victim.  Poor Beansy.

Richie feels the world owes him something, even though he isn’t entitled to shit.  Another misplaced relic who grew up on the old ways, he finds it hard to adjust to the new doctrines, such as having to meet in secret to discuss business with Tony.  You can already tell that Richie means trouble for all involved.

And to blur the lines of family and Family once again, Richie tries to strike it up with Janice, an old flame from yesteryear.  They meet at a yoga class.  Richie, trying to convince her that he’s changed: “Did you ever think you’d see Richie Aprile doing downward facing dog?

Toodle_Fucking-Oo_Sopranos.jpg

The main antagonist of season two is introduced (much later than in a typical TV show) but it is not a “big” moment.  “Oh, that’s the episode where ­­­­____ is introduced” or “Bro, that’s the fucking episode when ____ did ____ to ____” are not things typically said of Sopranos episodes.  “Toodle-Fucking-Oo” gives us our introduction to Richie, but it once again has the pace of a “nothing happens” episode, as matter-of-fact a moment as when Big Pussy was revealed to be an informant.

What happens outside the mob skullduggery of Richie Aprile is true “nothing happens” fare, even more nothing-ier than last week’s installment.  This time in the Soprano household Meadow gets in trouble for throwing a party at Livia’s old house, giving opportunity for Meadow to face a little discipline (or lack of) as Tony and Carmela show off their terrible parenting skills.  Also gives Janice the opportunity to get worked up about something (or nothing).

And while it’s not much, it works because of—whispering now—character relationships.  Carmela vs. Janice, Meadow vs. bad parenting, Tony vs. the weight of the world, etc.  And while the ending is more of a formal shrug—welp, whatever, life goes on—than a poignant heart-plucker, “Toodle-Fucking-Oo” is an episode that is as solid as its title.

STRAY ROUNDS

  • An interesting sub-plot occurs when Melfi runs into Tony at a restaurant.  She tries to make small talk, but later expresses her guilt during her own therapy session.  Her therapist, Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, suggests she was trying to hide herself from Tony by adopting a persona.
  • Melfi later has a dream where Tony has a panic attack while driving, crashing his car and being thrown through the windshield.  Melfi drives by while a song from The Wizard of Oz plays (“You’re out of the woods/you’re out of the woods”).  It could possibly express Melfi’s inner guilt at dropping Tony as a patient (likely) or it could be her secret inner-desire to be free of him (whaa???).
  • Either way, it’s pretty clear that this is a dream sequence from the start even though it comes out of nowhere and we get the standard startled-wake-up at the end (Melfi promptly writes it down in a notepad).  I don’t think the writers were trying to trick us with Tony’s crash.  Not one of The Sopranos’ best dream sequences, pedestrian actually, but it gets the job done.  I had honestly forgotten that Melfi got a dream sequence, but I guess it gives her more to talk about with Kupferberg.
  • Meadow’s a huge brat in this one.  Her likeability takes a hit.  Part of the reason is that her annoying friend, Hunter Skankarelli, is back.
  • One of the funniest aspects of this episode is how it subtly implies that Richie might be homosexual, or at least bi.  He was in prison for ten years, after all.  A post-yoga exchange between him and Janice: “Out of jail? One week.  That’s why I picked up this yoga shit.”  “It’s working for you.  You seem very supple.”  “I do a lot of stretching…
  • Another one, when Richie goes to visit Uncle Junior: “Put a shirt on.  You’re giving me a chubby.
  • He also doesn’t seem to enjoy his double-blowjob from the Bing girls at his welcome-back party.
  • Janice was listening to free jazz musician Pharoah Sanders while pulling her car into the driveway.  I’m a fan of the Pharoah—Karma is a great album—but its usage here was hilarious, catching Sanders in a particularly freaky out-of-context moment.
  • Anthony Jr. get your little ass up those stairs!
  • I could have taken ecstasy but I didn’t!
  • What’s mine is not yours to give me.
  • Fucking bum hip.  What else does the man upstairs have in store for me?
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s