23 May 2007

Hurtling Toward the Series Finale

This Sunday's episode of The Sopranos was up to the high standards the HBO series has set for itself over the years.

Two more such Sundays remain, and fans, such as yours truly, have to wonder how the creative people behind Tony, his associates, and his family will choose to bring the curtain down.

I remember years ago, in perhaps one of the very first episodes, when we saw and heard Tony and Carmela Soprano's two children -- Meadow and AJ, discussing a poem.

Meadow hadn't gone off the college yet. She and her little brother still lived under the same roof, and were portrayed as closer than later they seemed. The poem we heard them discuss was "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. Meadow attempted to explain to her bro that the narrator was contemplating his mortality, and that the white of snow can signify death. He didn't get it.

This Sunday's episode also shows AJ obsessing over a poem. This time Meadow can't help him. And this time it's a greater poem, by a greater poet. It's Yeat's "The Second Coming" -- and that famous devastating ending help push AJ over the edge into a suicide attempt.

Yeats conflated the Christian hope of a Second Coming of our Lord with the idea of an Antichrist or "Beast," and asks "what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

What beast indeed? Meanwhile, Tony has a meeting with two FBI agents who want his help looking for a mysterious chap of middle eastern origins whom they suspect of terrorist connections. They're willing to forgive homegrown organized crime families to the extent those families can assist them in the War on Terror. In a nice touch, one of the agents still suffers from a stomach virus he picked up on a trip to Afghanistan a couple of years ago, apparently in the line of duty.

With only two episodes left to go, I think it's pretty obvious that these two plot lines will connect for a devastating finale.

I have to say one other thing. In that heart to heart talk between Meadow and AJ this week (shortly before his botched suicide effort) ... she looked at his hastily-closed-up laptop computer and suggested that he had just been looking at internet porn. He denied this, and opened the laptop for her. "Al Jazeera?" she said.

We've got all the pieces here. AJ, struggling for something that might make life worth living -- or, in the alternative, something that might make for a death worth dying, is looking at Al Jazeera. Perhaps another Al, al Qaeda really does have an operative in the neighborhood, who will solicit AJ for a suicide bombing mission. AJ will recognize the "rough beast" and his own destiny, and will agree.

He doesn't really get Yeats, but I think he finally gets stopping by the woods on a snowy evening.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.