When the television went black on Sunday, June 10, I hauled my 9-month pregnant body off the couch, waving my arms in protest.
“I can’t believe they’re ending it like that!” I yelled and then covered my mouth, realizing the last thing I wanted was a groggy three-year-oldtoddling out from her bedroom to see what all the fuss was about.
I didn’t want to admit it, but I wanted Tony Soprano dead.
As the week wore on, however, I came to see the brilliance of the final episode of perhaps the most talked about series ever to hit the small screen.
Closure is a psychological red herring. It doesn’t exist and yet we all keep searching for it.
For eight years (two of them just waiting for the series to return) I dropped everything to watch HBO’s organized crime drama about a mob boss who suffered from panic attacks, momentary conflicts of conscience and the angst of having two families; both of which seemed time bombs readyto explode on any given Sunday. I scheduled my life around being home on
Sunday nights at 9 p.m.
The first year was the most magical because it was all new. And because so few people subscribed to HBO another phenomena seemed to be happening. It was the most watched and least talked about series of theyear. I’d video tape the week’s offerings and before it got through the entire office, the next episode had come and gone. We all kept mum on
Soon the series began to define its viewers as much as it revealed its characters.
Those of us having no experience with organized crime were entertained by the hard-core nastiness of the main and sub characters. And yet we read with interest all the pundits who claimed to have the inside scoop, and that the show was right on the money about everything from Analysis to Omerta.
Those of us who had lived in the neighborhoods depicted were less inclinded to find redeeming value in the artistic reflection.
I suppose it’s interesting to know which little tidbits are based on reality and which are complete flights of fancy, but in the end the whole show has to be seen as fiction rather than fact.
So I must say I’m laughing my fool head off as I read about the New York State Psychological Association’s rant against the episode in which Tony’s long-term psychiatrist gives him the boot.
“A recent episode of ‘The Sopranos’ has caused concern among many in the mental health community. Dr. Melfi’s dismissal of Tony Soprano as a reaction of unchecked counter-transference was just one aspect of poor and unethical treatment. Her angry abandonment of Tony was preceded by another scene that has Melfi and her supervisor (sic, therapist) at a
party with other doctors. The supervisor violates confidentiality by revealing Tony’s identity.”
The issue the community has with the portrayal is that, they say, for the most part Melfi’s depiction in the series was viewed as one of the better portrayals of psychotherapy in television. Chase pulled the rug out from underneath them.
But this isn’t a documentary. It’s entertainment. We love to see people do things they shouldn’t do.
To be frank, it’s likely that some therapists are unethical. That some professionals sitting around a table, sipping Pinot, will likely talk shop. They may even name names even though they shouldn’t.
I know as I was watching Kupferberg (the therapist’s therapist) say “we’re all professionals here” after he revealed Tony’s identity, I couldn’t help but reply “Not you. Not anymore.”
The thing is all these ethical dilemmas were why the show did so well in the first place: A mob boss who loves ducks and babies, but kills his own nephew; a family man, who, while taking his daughter on college campus tours finds himself taking out an informant in witness protection. We waited for Tony to finally break from the conflicts of the two worlds. We watched and we waited. He never did.
True or false, right or wrong, ethical or not – “The Sopranos” was fun while it lasted, and it’s left us with lots of food for thought. And it left Tony looking over his shoulder. Forever.