Tuesday, 20 September 2016
The Sopranos, Season 6 (2006)
If you've noticed the 'Not Recommended' tag on this review you may be wondering if it has anything to do with the infamously controversial ending. To which my answer is: only partly. I personally was pretty thoroughly spoiled on the climactic scene some time ago, so I knew what was coming. On the other hand, my girlfriend - who has been watching the whole show with me - was going in blind, and her response to the ending is not repeatable in this family-friendly environment.
So the ending is definitely a divisive thing. And even spoiled ahead of time, I don't see that it's any better a conclusion than say that of season five. And in my opinion, if a season of TV isn't going to give you a better ending than you already had before, then it needs to deliver a pretty darn good journey to justify the viewing time. Dexter season 8 is an example of a show that catastrophically fails on both accounts. And while the final season of The Sopranos is not Dexter-bad, it does in my opinion fall short.
It's not the performances, which remain good. It's not even the minute-to-minute writing, which (with a couple of as-far-as-I-can-tell unintentionally farcical murder scenes aside) is also good. Where this season fails is in its structure. I suspect that being given 21 episodes instead of the usual 13 is the problem. All that extra time available seems to have lured show creator David Chase into seriously over-indulging his sub-plots in the first half of the season. We get a good hour of Tony's fantasy life while he's in a coma, for instance, where he thinks he's a defence contractor at a conference. And there's a long subplot about one of his top subordinates being outed as homosexual. I'm all for representation (though it would be nice to have it from someone who's not such a horrible person), but this subplot and its consequences get significant attention in something like a dozen episodes, while Meadow Soprano's break-up with her fiancee is handled in a single line of dialogue, or an all-out gangland war starts and ends in an episode and a half. Time management in the season is very poor.
Ultimately, I think you can stop watching The Sopranos at the end of season 5 and be just as satisfied with the show as if you followed it to the end. And on that basis, I can't recommend devoting ~20 hours of your time to it.