The Sopranos Season 6, Part I

The Sopranos Season 6, Part I
Like a prolonged and monologue-heavy death at the end of an epic, generation-spanning tale of American life, The Sopranos is playing its death scene to the top of the balcony. Dividing its final 20 episodes over a two-part sixth season, it would be unfair to characterise it as limping across the finish line - the quality of work, from the writing and acting on down, is far too strong for that - but it’s slowed down as much as Tony’s will to deal with yet another betrayal from any of his loyal compadres. That Tony faces pressures both familial and from La Familia is the bedrock of this series, but as consequences have played out, the Soprano clan is dwindling. It’s difficult to watch its sixth season at times without wondering where the hell everyone is? (Not to mention how much some of the aging members need to take better care; James Gandolfini in particular looks pale and huge.) So many key members have come and gone, and knowing the end is in sight, the writers seem reluctant to take the radical but realistic approach of a show like The Wire, where old (dead) power is replaced by the vigour of youth. (Christopher Moltisanti, played by sometimes writer Michael Imperioli, should eventually rise to power simply because he’ll be the last man standing.) The family Christmas scene that ends this first season six instalment drives the point home: this is not the same family that gathered in the Sopranos home in 1999 when the series debuted. In terms of these big ticket items, as DVDs go, The Sopranos is one of the skimpiest on offer, in terms of extras; once again, the first season’s hour-long sit-down with creator David Chase is still the best they’ve done to date, and the four commentaries here (by a selection of writers and cast) don’t make up for it. Even the arrival of a treasure trove of extras - don’t count on it - would hardly make up for skimping on six sets now. Still, even in its death throes, it’s hard to match The Sopranos for quality acting and writing, not just on television now but in television history. (HBO / Warner)