Monday, May 7, 2007

Tony Soprano Becomes King Lear?

The center of the The Sopranos universe is Tony Soprano, enforcing whatever laws of gravity there were in this skewed Americana that kept the players and their agendas in something resembling order. Sheer force of personality, brutality, dry-bone ruthlessness were what it took to maintain this crime empire and to maintain a social hierarchy in which everyone--Christopher, Paulie, Silvio, Carmella-- has an agenda they would pursue to disaster had the wrath of Tony not been their shared constraint. Uneasy , wobbly and self-doubting is the head of this fiefdom ,as all the self knowledge and revelation Tony has learned through therapy hasdecentered his mojo. Where he'd been able to compartmentalize his criminal career, the infidelities, the murders, and family life in square and sealed boxes whose contents and consequences never met, the barriers have collapsed, the actions and the pathologies behind have become irretrievably twined and knotted together, a perfect tangle. Tony is witnessing the world he's been the center of break apart, and he can no longer hold it together.I suspect his rhetorical question to Dr. Melfi regarding what therapeutic results, "IS THIS ALL THERE IS?",will be enlarged in the final four episodes. Tony Soprano, demanding love and loyality while he exerted his will, is soon to have his King Lear scene, alone in the rain, stripping himself of the literal and symbolic vestments depicting an idea of omnipotence he never had.

There are substantial differences between Tony and Shakespeare's delusional Majesty, the key one being that Lear relinquishes his power once he foolishly assumes that he has secured his version of reality , with all avowed loyalties and relations in tact, and that he may indulge his whims to be free of responsibility and merely be revered and adored.Betrayal and calumny are his results, and the cause of disasters, his vanity and failure to realize he's been grossly flattered in the efforts of a daugher and uscrupulous supplicants to rest power from him. The truth is what drives him past the brink and into the rain. Tony does not relinquish power to anyone in contrast, but he wearies of the weight of what he must to do maintain his position, and his refusal to change his behavior in order to change himself is costing him dearly. An old axiom comes to mind, that one cannot think their way into good living, but one can live there way into good thinking.Tony's problem is that he thought he could make his anxieties vanish on the basis of self-knowledge alone.The gathered revelations have gotten thick for him.

All the lies told to him and the lies he told himself are laid bare, and all that awaits is the last brick to fall from the last wall from this shoddily bolstered construction of self delusion. What producer David Chase and his writers come up with by the series is one of the few things to look forward to in this season of dim news and dimmer celebrity hi jinks.