When David Chase first envisioned The Sopranos, he conceived
it as a four season story. The show was a hit both critically and
with the viewing public, and by the time the fourth season rolled around
HBO didn't want to loose the jewel of their original programming crown.
They threw a bunch of money at Chase, and he decided that maybe there were
six seasons worth of stories to tell. So now we come to season
six, with is actually more like season six and seven. HBO aired the
first 12 episodes of the season in 2006 (each season is usually only 13
episodes long) and then will be showing the second half in 2007.
This elongated and chopped up season has caused some fans of the show to
proclaim that this group of episodes is padded and that not a lot happens.
While it is true that the series stumbled slightly at the beginning, taken
as a whole this set is just as strong as the earlier shows.
The Sopranos is the story a Tony Soprano, a man, like many of us, has
trouble balancing his home and professional life. The difference
is that he's in the mob, the head of his own family in New Jersey, and
his work involves illegal gambling, prostitution, and other activities
that have him targeted by the feds. As the tag line for the first
season goes, if one family doesn't kill him, the other one will.
This season starts off with a bang as Tony gets seriously wounded in
a plausible yet unexpected way that sends the series spinning off in new
directions. As Tony lays near death, his officers all plot and try
to position themselves so that they'll be ready to make their move when
the boss man dies.
Meanwhile Tony is going through a more than people realize. Laying
in a coma he dreams that he's a regular business man on a trip who's accidentally
changed wallets with another traveler. As he tries to get home, things
start to get a bit strange and unreal.
Another major plot line involves Tony's captain Vito. When a friend-of-a-friend
sees the made man dressed in leather dancing in a gay bar in New York,
word gets around and he flees. This only confirms the rumors, and
Tony finds himself in the middle of things again. Vito's wife is
the sister of a made man in the New York mob, and he wants the man killed
for dishonoring his sister. Many in Tony's crew think that he should
be killed too, but Tony has a new outlook on life after his brush with
death. His live-and-let-live philosophy doesn't go over well with
the people in New York who demand that either Tony kills his captain or
This season also reveals some things about Paulie's history that are
better left unrevealed, shows how growing up Soprano has affected AJ, and
Christopher finds himself in LA pitching a script idea to none other than
So, how does this season stack up against the previous ones? Pretty
well over all. The season does have some weak parts however.
Tony's coma-dream takes over two episodes and though that event sets up
the rest of the season, it really went on for too long. The same
can be said of Vito's exile in New Hampshire. While it was interesting
seeing him in another environment and how he acted there this story line
didn't progress as fast as it should and was ultimately not that meaningful.
Those were the low points. The rest of the series is just as strong
and interesting as ever. The plot involving Paulie and his mother
was heart-wrenching in parts and showed a lot about the mobster's character.
Likewise AJ's attempt to "take care of business" was interesting and showed
how immature and clueless the boy is. There was also a good
amount of humor in this season. When Bobby talks a rapper into getting
shot in order to get publicity, you know things aren't going to turn out
like they've planned. The scene where Laren Bacall is leaving the
awards ceremony was also hilarious.
The twelve episodes that make up the first half of the sixth season
of The Sopranos come on four Blu-ray discs that are housed in a fold out
case, just like the earlier seasons. The case is housed in a nifty
slipcase with a magnetic door.
The Sopranos was originally broadcast in HD, so it's no surprise that
this set looks great. The level of detail and sharpness of these
discs rivals that of the cable broadcast if only slightly. The colors
are not splashy and vivid, but natural looking which is good. On
the digital side of things the image holds up well too. Grain isn't
a problem and neither is posterization. This is a very nice looking
set of discs.
This season set comes with an uncompressed 5.1 PCM track as well as
a Spanish stereo mix. It's mildly disappointing that they didn't
include a Dolby Digital Plus or even a DD 5.1 track. The uncompressed
track did sound excellent however. The low tones of the opening song
sounded much better than they did over cable, it was like I was hearing
the song for the first time. Good use was made of the soundstage,
especially during the action sequences. When the action was over
however, the audio still delivered with nice ambient sounds filling the
room. A top-notch sounding set. There are optional subtitles
in English, French, and Spanish.
The bonus items are pretty anemic especially for a set that costs so
much. The only things included are four audio commentaries.
On the second episode Edie Falco (Carmella), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow),
and Robert Iler (AJ) give their thoughts, which aren't that enlightening.
They mainly joke around and reminisce a bit. There isn't that much
solid information about the show unfortunately.
Writer Matthew Weiner provides the commentary for the seventh show,
Luxury Lounge. He talked a bit more in detail about the show
and the characters, but it wasn't an incredibly dynamic track. My
favorite commentary track was for the ninth episode in this season, The
Ride, which was made by writer Terence Winter, Michael Imperioli (Christopher),
and Tony Sirico (Paulie.) This track has a good mixture of information
about the show and the characters with a few light moments sprinkled in.
The final commentary has David Chase himself talking about the show over
the last episode in this set, Kaisha. This was pretty disappointing.
He was dry and didn't really say anything of value.
Though some fans proclaimed that nothing happens in this first half
of the season, that is not true. People get whacked, there are pressures
on Tony from all sides, and all of the character development that drives
the series is still present. This Blu-ray set looks and sounds superb.
Here's hoping that the first five seasons make their way to BR soon.