With the sixth and final season of The Sopranos having been postponed
until 2006, fans of the show will have to be satisfied with
watching the fifth season again on DVD. This award winning show is
one of the best programs ever to grace the small screen. Each season
of The Sopranos contains multiple plots and story lines that are
woven together to show the professional and domestic pressures that affect
Tony Soprano, the boss of the New Jersey mob. The various stories
intertwine to create a realistic feeling portrait of the life of a Mafia
I assume that the vast majority of people reading this have at least a passing knowledge of the show. If not, you may want to begin by reading the reviews of the previous seasons.
As this season begins, Tony has separated from his wife Carmilla. He's managed to climb to the top of the heap professionally, but his married life still is giving him problems. While he doesn't really want to get a divorce, his new found freedom has its advantages too.
A couple of people who have been in jail for a number of years are released, and they bring Tony both joy and grief. Principle among them is his cousin Tony Blundetto, a childhood friend. Tony B. was arrested while pulling a job that Tony Soprano was supposed to be involved in. Tony S. never showed up though, having been jumped by a couple of guys and knocked out, or so he claims. Tony feels a lot of guilt that Blundetto served jail time when he didn't, and the fact that he lied about why he wasn't there makes him feel even worse. Soprano wants to help his cousin out and get him set up in the business again, but Tony B. has decided that he wants to go straight, a decision that creates more mixed feelings in Tony.
Tony isn't the only one with mixed feelings though. Adriana, Christopher's fiancé, has been turned by the FBI. They are using her as an informant on the movements and dealings of the head members of the crime family. Adriana would really like to take Christopher away from the life they are living, but she's not sure that he'd want to go. If he's forced to, things might be different though. She also feels horrible that she's betraying a trust, not just Christopher's, but everyone's. A lot of her friends are wives and girlfriends of family members, and the fact that her information may put their spouses in jail is eating her up.
Things aren't so good in New York either. The head of the New York family, Carmine Lupertazzi dies leaving a power vacuum. His second in command, Johnny Sack had assumed that he'd take over, but when Carmine Jr, the late boss' son arrives from Florida and announces his intention of taking over things get a little messy. Of course both sides want Tony's blessing.
This was another excellent season, even better than the previous year. One of the great strengths that this show has is its ability to show both sides of a story and the grey areas in between. The plot involving Adriana is a good example. The FBI use her just the way Tony uses people to get ahead. They tell her that they are the good guys, and they are, but they lie to her more than anyone in the mob ever has. They willingly put her life in danger without a thought for anything besides what they can get from her.
My favorite part of this season though was the relationship between Tony and his ex-con cousin. When he went to jail, the two men were equals, but when he gets out years later, Tony S. is the boss who seemingly has everything. The two Tony's are very similar in a lot of ways; both of them acting on impulse and not knowing when to keep their mouths shut. The trouble that they get into and the steps that they have to take to get out of it are some of the best moments in this classic series.
One of the things that is so great about having this set on DVD is that you can watch it over again. I paid so much attention to the plot the first time around that I missed some of the details. This sow is scripted fairly tight, and some small details may be just that, small inconsequential parts that the writers threw in. Others can later take on more significance in later episodes however. Because of that this series has a lot of replay value. It is great to be able to sit and watch it at your own pace, not having to wait a week between shows.
This show has a nice story arc going through each season, and running over the entire series. It is fairly amazing to me that the show has managed to maintain the high standard of quality throughout it's entire run. By the fifth season of most shows, the writers have run out of ideas and start recycling stories or padding the show out. That hasn't happened with this program. The fifth season is just as edgy and exciting as when the show first premiered. A excellent instalment to a great series.
The thirteen episodes that make up the fifth season of The Sopranos come on four single sided DVDs. Matching the other seasons, the discs come in a fold out case, which is housed in a front loading slipcase with a lid and ribbon to help you remove the discs.
These shows are presented with stereo soundtracks in English, French, and Spanish, as well as a 5.1 English mix. I viewed the shows with the 5.1 soundtrack and I it sounded excellent. Of course there wasn't any distortion or background noise, but you'd expect that from a recent show like this. Though this is a dialog driven show, the subtle background noises are crisp and clear and they add a lot to the atmosphere. You can hear people setting their glasses down on a bar and the crunch of gravel under foot. The soundstage is used sparingly but effectively. Overall a very nice sounding set.
The widescreen (1.78:1) anamorphic video looks stellar. The colors are bright, the image is sharp, and the blacks are solid. The cinematography in this show is excellent, much better than just about all the other shows on TV, and these discs showcase the strong images. On the transfer side of things, HBO did a good job, with digital defects being non-existent. An all around good looking set.
The only extras on this set are five commentaries by various people involved with the show. Director Rodrigo Garcia contributes a commentary to the episode All the Happy Families... Sentimental Education has a commentary track by director Peter Bogdanovich, and In Camelot also has a director commentary by Steve Busemi (Tony Blundetto). Mike Figgis talks about an episode he directed, Cold Cuts. Finally actress Drea De Matteo (Adrinana) comments on Long Term Parking.
The fifth season of The Sopranos doesn't let viewers down. It is just as good as it has always been, and a bit better than the fourth season, which I thought was just a bit weak. This series of episodes builds on what has come before with some significant developments in the life of Tony Soprano. Aside from the excellent show, this set presents it the way it should be seen; with a stellar widescreen transfer and a solid 5.1 soundtrack. If you enjoyed the previous seasons of this show, you won't be disappointed. Despite the high retail price, this engrossing and all too addictive show deserves to be in many people's collections. DVD Talk Collector's Series.