After killing Christopher and pushing the stakes higher between the New Jersey and New York Families in the last episode, it stands to reason that this week’s offering would try to duplicate that intensity and build momentum heading into the final two episodes.
So of course they decided to piss away all that energy and instead feature another episode about A.J. and his depression.
Like his grandmother and father before him (proving once again that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, or rather that the cannoli doesn’t drop far from the mobster’s hand after a brutal slaying), A.J. has been battling depression for nearly his entire two-episode arc. It seemed that the combination of Lexapro and torturing a fellow classmate in the woods had stabilized his condition, but this was not the case. We find him again whining to his therapist (who seems to think that great acting is nothing more than a head tilt and a faint look of concern). A.J.’s cliched lines of depression include "I’m only one person, what can I do?" and "I can’t catch a break" (because if history has taught us anything, it’s that breaks just don’t come to those people who are both white and rich). In a rare moment of insight, A.J. does point out his problems with his families’ excessive lifestyle, realizing Blanca and others don’t look at this family with respect or envy, but rather contempt. This revelation only serves to widen the already pretty freaking wide gap between A.J. and the rest of the Soprano clan. Unable to face life any more and with the weight of the world on his shoulders, A.J. decides to end it all. Perched on the edge of his pool (the same pool where Tony discovered those ducks back when the show was good and more or less represents the idea of family) with a bag over his head and weights tied to his body he contemplates his fate. Finally, A.J. plunges into the water and sinks like a stone. Except that he doesn’t. He quickly rises back to the surface (the cord attaching him to the cement weight was too long), and struggles to free himself, proving once again that kids today just don’t follow through with anything. Tony comes home shortly thereafter to discover the botched attempt and leaps into the pool, pulling A.J. to safety. The son is sent to the hospital for observation and it seems that he might be there for some time. Is this the end of A.J.’s (much like Uncle Junior’s) story? One can only hope.
While it might have seemed like it to those of us rolling our eyes and checking our watches, the episode didn’t entirely revolve around A.J. We also had more fuel to the fire between Tony and Phil, which was much more interesting. The pair fail to come to an any agreement on certain issues, (Tony wants Phil to separate personal feelings from business, Phil wants Tony to build a time machine so he can go back and kill Steve Buscemi himself) hurting both financially. To add insult to injury, one of Phil’s goons, Coco, insults Meadow while she’s at dinner with her new flame. This, of course, does not go over well with Tony who does his best "American History X" impression with the man after pistol whipping him unconscious. When the feud starts to interfere with Little Carmine’s interests, he pays a visit to Tony, encouraging him to make the peace with Phil. Tony, although reluctant (an understatement), goes to Phil with a peace offering. Phil turns him away, not even bothering to come out of his house to do so, instead choosing to disrespect Tony by shouting down at him from the hidden confines of his home. Tony, even more disgusted, leaves and more bad blood brews between the two. The episode ends with Tony going to the hospital and attempting to reconnect with A.J. For Tony, this is the second time in as many weeks that he’s lost (or nearly lost) someone he was a father to. First, Chris’s murder, now A.J.’s botched suicide attempt. When he asks himself, "When did I lose this kid?" he could just as easily been talking about Chris instead of A.J. The people that once made up the most important supports in his family (both families actually) are leaving him. Despite his epiphany in the desert last week, Tony seems just as lost as ever.
Another episode down, two to go. Here’s my problem with last night’s offering. After spending the bulk of six seasons portraying A.J. as nothing more than a major fuck-up, why is it that we’re devoting so much time to him now? Does anyone, ANYONE, actually like this character? Would anyone have been upset if he had succeeded in his suicide attempt last night? And yes, the scene at the pool with Tony cradling A.J., was powerful, possibly the most powerful scene of the season, but in the long run, who cares? To me, the killing of Adriana (probably the only real innocent character on the show) a season ago and even Christopher last week had more impact. Investing so much time what is basically an unredeemable character seems like a waste of time, especially since we have so little time with the show left. So again we have a couple strong scenes in an otherwise unremarkable episode. It seems like this season has been one let-down after another.
The show goes on hiatus for Memorial Day weekend and will be back in two weeks. The next two episodes better be mind-blowing. Unfortunately, judging by the fact that the preview for the next episode was nothing more than a collection of character reaction shots, chances are we’re in for another disappointing episode. Let's all hope for the best.