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A lookback at the Pilot for the Sopranos: (Recognition and Differences)

The Sopranos is my favourite and possibly the most important television series of all time. It was the first HBO produced show to truly crack the mainstream and trailblazed for future HBO properties like Game of Thrones and The Wire and altered the television audience’s perception of antiheroes and trailblazed for characters like Walter White. It’s the Neon Genesis Evangelion of western television, it forever altered everything that followed it, there’s the pre-Sopranos and post-Sopranos eras of television. As Evangelion built upon the ubiquitous mech routes of the anime industry and in Japanese Culture, The Sopranos built upon the glorified mobster genre of American Culture. These shows have several dualistic similarities like abstract and frequent use of symbolism and exploration of psychological philosophy, but I would like to focus on the humble beginnings of David Chase’s vision of the Sopranos in this article. My recent re-watch of the Sopranos pilot yielded some interesting observations about the first outing of the to-be franchise.

 

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The pilot has retconning issues, more than I expected. Initially the most compelling and fundamentally shaking contradiction is that Tony is out-rightly stated to already be the boss of the family. Characters remark throughout that Junior is unhappy that he’s taking orders from Tony and how he wants to be the boss of the family. Junior out-rightly stated that Tony may control all of North Jersey, but he doesn’t control his uncle Junior, this all implies that in the pilot Tony is already the boss of the family. Obviously at this point of the show, canonically Jackie Aprille is still acting boss of the family, but he is strikingly absent from this entire episode. Besides this major inconsistency the characterisation of nearly all the characters are unlike their eventuality in the rest of the series. Tony’s accent is different to how it would develop to become later in the series, Silvio is seemingly not a part of the main crew but only used as a strip club owner and isn’t included in sit-downs, always leaving before the real shit is discussed. Other smaller elements are altered like Adrianna only being a waitress at Artie’s restaurant, while Christopher is shown in bed with another woman, however I did think it was neat that Adrianna was present at all. Also, Tony’s Russian side-chick is re-casted in all futured episodes, because she is blonde here but will have black hair for the remainder of her run. Ultimately, the show is more driven by comedy and is a lot more outlandish, like when Tony runs over a dude that owes him money in broad daylight with countless witnesses, whereas the show become more serious nearly immediately.

 

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Additionally, many future plot events are foreshadowed in the opening episode. Christopher’s overwhelming ambition to become, and interest in film making is established in one of the final scenes of the episode. He even drops that his cousin is dating a development girl in Hollywood (D-Girl), which become the entire subplot of an episode in a later season. Tony drops the line about Junior making fun of him for not having the makings of a varsity athlete, which will famously become a reoccurring, hilarious running gag in the future. Most importantly and the foreshadow with the most thematic relevance is Tony’s fascination will the ‘strong and silent type,’ Gary Cooper character. This is a persona that Tony idolises and attempts to be, and is a massive aspect of his characterisation, but I hope to delve into this element much more in future projects, it’s just important to point out its early establishment here. These little details about Christopher, and Tony’s mention of the varsity athlete comment were rewarding to hear on my re-watch and added some depth to those future elements, proving that the team behind the Sopranos was clearly paying attention to their product.

 

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All-in-all the lookback on the Sopranos pilot was an interesting endeavour and I learnt quite a bit about the early strategy with the Sopranos. Comparing this initial episode to any episode from Season 6 interestingly highlights major differences in tone and quality. This episode is entertaining but in comparison to later outings by the show this simply doesn’t compare and stands out as an outlier.

 

 

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Game of Thrones Completely Fell Apart

Game of Thrones Seasons 1,2 and 3 are fantastic television, maybe some of the best to ever be created. The acting, the writing, the world all combine into a refreshing show full of sex, death and subversion, and you could never fully tell what was coming. Season 4 was a noticeable dip in quality, things started getting noticeably dumber, but it was still fun. The best actors (namely Charles Dance) were still around but by the end of the season a variety of the best, most interesting characters were dead. Tragically, Seasons 5,6 and 7 were dumped on our television screens all across the world and we were left to reevaluate our standing in life and ask ourselves why Game of Thrones completely fell apart?

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The most egregious example of the show falling apart is it its contradictions of itself. David and Dan (Game of Thrones Show Runners) seem to have misinterpreted what A Song of Ice and Fire truly is. These books are not about the White Walkers invading Westeros or Jon Snow and Dany coming together in one big allegory to stop climate change, it’s about so much more. In the books the true plot is derived from subtextually altercations and inferred battles between Bittersteel and Bloodravern and who they manipulate everything from the shadows, and hive minds and that things aren’t always as they seem, and linage means nothing or your beliefs about it are completely misguided. An interesting example from the novels that would completely undermine the entire structure of the show is that the Starks supernatural powers seemingly aren’t derived from the Stark bloodline but another assumingly less important Northern house’s bloodline. Preston Jacobs explained this all in one of his latest videos and his videos just highlight the depth and complexity in these books. George slaves over family trees so that generics line up for fictional powers like Dragon riding and Green Seeing. But if you watched the show them you’d be lead to believe that Jon Snow is a God because his mom and dad were prevalent in a widely popular internet fan theory and he’s going to save the world and fix everything.

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Another infuriating reason for the shows demise in quality is that it has become masturbatory fan service garbage. Constantly the show is using the crutch of giving fans what want through what they’ve theorised about on message boards and in YouTube videos when the entire original intrigue of the show, the very element that differentiated this show was its unpredictability and ability to subvert fan expectations in satisfying ways. Now the entire focus of a finale is to portray that Jon Snow is great and important because of his linage; because he’s a Targaryen and a Stark he’s the literal Song of Ice and Fire, and the prince that was promised and so on and so on. When this is antithetical to the entire message of the series! Joffrey and the Mad King are what happen because of linage. The whole point is that the entire medieval societal structure is terrible, and you are affirming it by supporting this by freaking out when your favourite internet theory is proven true. Basically, you’re being a dumb fuck whose missed the entire point, just like the show runners seemingly have.

Ultimately, it’s not entirely David and Dan’s fault that Game of Thrones completely fell apart, George seems to have gone radio silent on them upon realising that he couldn’t keep up with the show content wise. The show at its current pace was going to end before his series ever could and he’s become more tight-lipped about key events. This is only scratching the surface of the issues I have with this show and my love for the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and their impeccable and seemingly impossible complexity. Hopefully you’ll re-join me in the future when I have the opportunity to voice more of my love for the books and hatred for the second half of the show in greater detail.