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The Best Sopranos Obit

Ms. Nussbaum's on a roll these days: Over the course of the show, Tony’s sessions with Melfi have taken on many metaphors. They are like sessions with a hooker: She takes his money and plays a seductive role. (In one … Read More

By / June 18, 2007

Ms. Nussbaum's on a roll these days:

Over the course of the show, Tony’s sessions with Melfi have taken on many metaphors. They are like sessions with a hooker: She takes his money and plays a seductive role. (In one sequence, he dreams her office is a bordello.) They are like sessions with a priest: She hears confessions and guides him toward meaning. They are like sessions with the FBI: By talking to her, he’s betraying his family, putting his livelihood at risk, and violating omertà.

But most unsettlingly, they became a metaphor for our relationship, as viewers, with the show. Like Melfi, we began openhearted, proud of our empathy, and thrilled to have a character so rich to explore. Then came the counter-transference, the audience crushes, the endless articles on James Gandolfini, sex symbol. And slowly, as years passed, one could feel an insistent chill, even as Melfi herself receded into the background and message boards flooded with fans aping mobspeak. The violence was growing more intense: the assassination of Big Pussy, then Adriana, that brutal scene where Ralphie killed a pregnant stripper (a brilliantly sick sequence that caused a wave of viewer protest), the curbing of Coco. Dread, not excitement, began to feel like the show’s signature emotion.

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