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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
HBO // Unrated // November 7, 2006
List Price: $99.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted October 25, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
E X T R A S
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Highly Recommended
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David Chase has put The Sopranos through an awful lot in the last five seasons. Perhaps if the creator of the smash hit from HBO had only focused on mob dealings, things may have fallen into a much different place for the Italian family we all know and love today. What makes The Sopranos so intriguing is the fact that it doesn't just follow 'the business', it follows the characters personal lives as well.

We're not treated just to mob hits or the swelling issues that build to each seasons big finale, we get layer upon layer of characterization due to the numerous players involved in HBO's crime drama. Almost everyone has some significance, even in a role that may appear to be small. Everyone that has some sort of effect over Tony Soprano's life be it the family or 'the family', they all feel like they're somehow related to all of us as well. Some of the biggest events that have occurred in the show have played off of our emotions from things that have been building up for years between beloved characters. Even one of the most dramatic finales had been more about Tony's household family, as opposed to his mobster one. The most shocking moments we've seen so far would have meant nothing if it weren't for our deep connections with everyone involved.

This year there's one thing you need to know about what you're watching before you sit down in front of your television. This is not your typical season of The Sopranos, as you can tell by the title alone that indicates this is only part one of two. I've seen a lot of complaining from fans of the series everywhere about the pricing of Season 6: Part 1. The gist is 'why am I going to pay full price for half of a season'. If you look at the numbers you're still getting twelve episodes. The series hasn't been dropped to being a half an hour drama either, so you're not losing anything in that aspect. Sex And The City has done something similar and when it was released on DVD, you were paying a lot for less episodes due to a split season. Fortunately, we're still getting the same amount of episodes for the same price here.

The one very large difference we have this season isn't in its run time. This 'half' of a season is a box of dominos, and the viewers are setting them up as they continue to watch events unfold in these first twelve episodes. Season five left us hanging with questions about the future of everything. There had been a meeting of the minds between both Tony and Johnny Sacramoni. Minutes into a private chat, the FBI had arrested Johnny 'Sack', boss of the New York crew that had brought a lot of heat onto the New Jersey crew that year. Tony was there and had escaped by fleeing through the wilderness. The questions running through most viewers minds, were about Tony's possible future of being in jail, and if Johnny would continue to try and unleash hell upon New Jersey via his crew that were still free on the streets. Phil Leotardo had been seeking vengeance on Tony's crew after the death of his brother. Phil knew somebody within that family had been involved and the only thing keeping Phil somewhat on a chain had been Johnny himself.

We pick up some time after the events that occurred in the previous season to see what's changed and how everyone is coping. Things are not as bad as we would have imagined them to be. Everyone is doing quite well in fact! Phil Leotardo has taken control of the New York crew in Johnny Sack's place. You may think that Phil would have gone completely insane and started a war with the New Jersey crew immediately, but they're doing business together and on the surface, everybody is just peachy. Phil has kept his cool thus far, and is the acting street boss while Johnny is serving time.

Carmella and Tony are at peace and going out a lot having a good time together. Anthony Jr. is taking college classes. Meadow is still with her fiancé Finn. Vito has lost a lot of weight and has somewhat of an ego about himself now. Uncle Junior has just about lost all of his marbles. Janice and Bobby have a child together. Chris is doing his own thing and doing it clean.

Of course there are little things here and there that are dropped as clues to show us that perhaps not everything is as it seems. The top of the water is quiet and calm, but it would only take one tiny pebble to disrupt the balance of it all. With that picture in mind, just imagine a kid on the side of the pond with a large boulder hoisted on his shoulder, waiting to toss it in. This is much of the feeling we get throughout the entirety of The Sopranos - Season 6: Part 1.

One single event in the beginning of the season starts a whirlwind that throws everything toward a downward spiral. Alliances are questioned and trust is up in the air. Tensions mount and loyalty is challenged.

After Tony's life hangs in the balance, the true colors of his 'family' members come out. Greed overcomes even the most trusted members, and others begin to wonder if it's time for new leadership. The questioning of loyalty continues even after Tony comes back to lead his crew. He's struggling on the inside as a new man that's at a crossroad in his life. After his terrifying near death experience, he wonders if his new lease on life should reflect the way he runs things. Are the ways of the mafia from the past ancient and outdated? Or should the strict code of 'family' be changed to suit the modern world? Tony seems to be heading down the right path to become a better person. Will he stay on course or will he be forced by the old school to sway back to his old ways again?

We've always seen Tony as the big tough guy who may have questioned his actions because of all the problems that seem to come from them at times. The main reason character development is so deep this season, is due to Tony not questioning just his actions anymore, but his own character. Not only are his decisions something that will affect his life, they're going to affect everyone else. Since this show is so good at following each of its characters pretty closely, it really pulls us into another dimension of the show that we haven't seen as of yet. It isn't just Tony who's at this crossroad because of his close call with death. It's everyone who finds themselves at the peak of their character arc that's going to change them for the better or the worst. We're brought to the peak of the rollercoaster everyone is riding on, and left at the edge before the final plunge by the end of the season, as we're obviously not going to see the results just yet. Some of the tracks already seem to be a little shaky. Who's going to come out on top again, and who's going to end up getting tossed off of the ride? Season 6: Part 2, should answer these questions for us.

Video

This set is presented in a nice looking 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. Season 6: Part 1 was presented with a lot of darks as well as a lot of light and vivid colors at the same time. The contrast on this DVD set needed to make sure it held up well in order to add to the overall dark atmosphere that was being created in order to set the tone of the season. HBO has managed to retain the mood setting blacks with no artifacts to be seen in the dark areas or anywhere else for that matter, and everything else outside of the dark areas and shadows retain vivid color. Deadwood: Season 2 comes to mind with many dark areas yet vivid colors as an accomplishment from HBO programming on DVD, and you can expect that same great quality here.

Audio

Audio for this show has been very nice in the past and this DVD set is no different. The Sopranos has never been a surround heavy show. Most of everything you hear is dialogue, but at all of the right times there are appropriate sounds from the appropriate channels. When the surround is working to add to a scene, it does a heck of a job. There are no audio errors to speak of that distract you from the show, which is nice because for a season that's so dramatic and intense for our characters on a personal level, we can't be taken out of our experience! There's also a pretty nice Spanish 2.0 track that's available. For the hard of hearing or for those of you who like to watch the show after hours when you need to be quiet, there's English, French, and Spanish subtitles to select from.

Extras

If there's one area where this series has failed to really bring anything to table with, it's the extras. We get some season recaps, a series index, and four commentaries. It's pretty basic stuff. Amazon has listed a 'making of' feature on the video game that's coming out, but it didn't seem to make it on this set.

The commentaries aren't bad but they're not spectacular either. The first one on the set includes Edie Falco, Rober Iler, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Their commentary together is pretty entertaining as they're having a good time and telling jokes and reliving some memories, but it seems more like a reunion than something that's chock full of information like we might like.

The second commentary up is with writer Matthew Weiner. He's not dry but he's not quite energetic. He attempts to give some insight into what we're watching, yet all he's really doing is stating the obvious that we can see ourselves from watching the episodes on this set.

Commentary number three with writer Terence Winter and actors Michael Imperioli and Tony Sirico is more along the lines of what we might want to hear. Winter gives a bit more background for what went into coming up with the episode he's commentating for, while Michael and Tony give some good character points on their own roles. They also add a bit of fun to the commentary with their own jokes.

The fourth is with the executive producer of it all, David Chase. He's pretty dry and pretty much comments only on aspects of what he feels is important throughout the episode. It's more of an 'answering a question with a question' routine than being truly informative. We certainly learn more from what he says to make us think, than we do from the other commentaries. He also defends this season to a certain extent with comments, where he refers to this season as the 'famous show where nothing happens'. Throughout the episode he'll keep pointing out other examples of where 'nothing' happened, and it's kind of funny because it really is true. There's clearly a lot in this season to be appreciated but many fans kept saying nothing happened. Are the truly big things supposed to happen in the first part of the season? I don't think so!

Overall, this DVD set disappoints with the extras as they've been doing for some time now. I may be able to understand the first season or two, as the first season was amongst the first shows to hit DVD. We're at the sixth season though now guys, might we want to add some content eventually?

Final Thoughts

These twelve episodes from Season 6: Part 1 have a pretty interesting situation to look at right now until the conclusion of the series. Depending on how the next and final eight episodes pan out, the first part of the season we have here on DVD can either be stellar or a disappointment. The last eight episodes need to give us that plunge the roller coaster had been leading up to all season. If the next eight episodes don't show much more for themselves than a continuation of the journeys of our characters, the sixth season of The Sopranos overall could be pretty disappointing for a supposed finale. There certainly needs to be this aspect of the show continuing, but we need to get down to the dirty between the families that are both personal and business oriented. The way things are set up now, things are sure to get very nasty.

That's just the interesting things to think about for now. In reality though, this part of the season has to stand as an entity on its own for now and I would have to say this set is highly recommended by yours truly. I've never been the kind of person that thought special effects and flash for a big movie could bring a lot of entertainment value if there's no character development to go with it. Every single person is changing drastically and at this point, you can't predict the future. You can't predict which way anybody is going to go. The season leaves you off at a point that looks like it's a happy ending as many of the viewers have interpreted it, but with how different things have intentionally been made to be, I don't see how that's possible. If anything, we're left off at the perfect note that's almost a bit chilling once we think about how much has changed over time. The Sopranos - Season 6: Part 1 has accomplished its task for setting us up for Part 2 incredibly well, with it's subtle way of making you feel uncomfortable for things yet to come.

What's Next?

The second half of this season was to air in January. Due to an accident actor James Gandolfini had on a scooter, it pushed back shooting a couple of weeks. This would push the show to air most of its second half of season six throughout the super bowl, as well as through all of the sweeps programming in February. The Sopranos – Season 6: Part 2 should start to air in March.

Update: The second part of season 6 has been revealed to be slated now for early April 2007 from Lorraine Braco herself in an interview. This will push the release for Season 6 Part 2 back to almost a year from when Part 1 had aired.
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