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The Sopranos: Season 3 (2001)

DVD Cover (HBO Studios)
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The Sopranos
> The Sopranos: Season 1 (1999)
> The Sopranos: Season 2 (2000)
> The Sopranos: Season 3 (2001)

9.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Crime Drama, Family Drama, Gangster Show, Prime-Time Drama, Psychological Drama
The story of New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano and the difficulties he faces as he tries to balance the conflicting requirements of his home life and the criminal organization he heads. Those difficulties are often highlighted through his ongoing professional relationship with psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. The show features Tony's family members and Mafia associates in prominent roles and story arcs, most notably his wife Carmela and his cousin and protégé Christopher Moltisanti. --TMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: September 25, 2010
When I sat down and watched the first season of The Sopranos, I could not wait to get into the second season. In fact, observant readers may have noticed that my review for the second season was posted just five days later, and it's not because I had the reviews queued up - that's just how fast I was tearing through the episodes. Those same observant readers will notice that it's now almost two months later and I'm just now getting around to covering the third season. Why? Well, this is the season where I started to lose interest in the show, and it actually started to become a bit of a chore to make it through the episodes.

You know the general idea by now: Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is a big man in the New Jersey branch of the mafia who also has problems with panic attacks, and when he's not dealing with organized crime, he's tending to his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and his two kids Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and A.J. (Robert Iler). Tony has a rough time juggling his home life with his "business" life, and he is working with psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) to deal with his issues... and in this season, Carmela joins in on these sessions from time to time. The backbone of the show hasn't changed much, so if you've seen the first two seasons (and really, why would you start with the third?), you know what you're in for.

Interesting twists this season include Tony's new girlfriend Gloria (Annabella Sciorra), a psychotic yet extremely attractive woman he met at a counseling session, the death of someone close to Tony, a new made man in the short-tempered Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano), and the downward spiral of one Jackie Aprile Jr. (Jason Cerbone). Beyond that, it's basically just more of the same drama that we've come to know and love.

The lack of twists is one of the big things that hurt this season for me. Aside from a death that occurs early in the season (which only occurred in the script because the actress died in the real world), most of this season is fairly disposable. Sure, one other character does die... but prior to this season, he wasn't a major character anyway, and he seemed to be built up only to be killed off later. It just seemed like the vast majority of the season was devoted to mundane stuff: Tony and the boys go out to eat, they squabble over money, he'll get into an argument with his wife, that sort of thing. The show has never been non-stop action and it was never one to feature a shocking revelation in every episode, but it was never quite this monotonous either.

Another thing that bugged me this season was the way that the writing seemed to lack long-term planning in a number of instances. Perhaps some of these things pay off in the next season, but here, it was just downright unsatisfying. Take, for example, the (admittedly brilliant) episode in which two gangsters take a Russian mobster out into the woods to dispose of him, only to have him turn the tables and escape. Is he going to get revenge on the men who were literally making him dig his own grave? Is he going to tell his best friend, a man who is also the leader of the Russian mafia, about all of this and cause a major war? No, he's simply going to vanish from the plot, never to be heard from or spoken of again.

In another instance, an entire episode is devoted to the FBI wiretapping Tony's house, and this is a plot point for several episodes more. How does this pay off - is Tony finally arrested, or do the feds get some incriminating evidence on him? No, Meadow takes the bugged lamp to college with her and this entire piece of the plot is dropped entirely.

One of the worst examples comes when... alright, I'm going to spoil something here, so skip this paragraph if you're like me and new to the series. Tony's mom dies, and as mentioned, this piece of the storyline was written due to actress Nancy Marchand dying. I fully understand that a major character like this needs some closure in the show - you can't just say "well, Nancy died, so her character never existed." So, how do the writers handle this? Do they use a little class and have her die off-screen, maybe a quick funeral and then close that chapter? Nope, the editors pieced together an extremely awkward scene between "her" and Tony using archive footage while writing Tony's dialogue around the sound bites that they had available to them. Seriously, look it up, it's downright brutal to watch. Why was this even inserted, especially when it brings absolutely nothing to the table and is frankly an embarrassment to watch?

With my complaints out of the way, I will say that this season wasn't downright terrible - again, it was just too lacking in the writing department to be a hit. The characters themselves are still fun to watch and their interactions are still as good as they were in the previous seasons, but they just needed a little more direction. Hell, even the season finale came and went with nothing major happening aside from one character dying, and as mentioned, said character was built up only to die in this season (and even then, he wasn't really built up as a major character). Unless something from this season becomes a pivotal plot point in the next season, virgin viewers could go from season two to season four with only this in mind: "Tony's mom is dead, Meadow is in college, and there's this new guy Ralphie." That's how much significance this season has in the grand scheme of things.

Overall, this season was a little hard to get through, and at this pace, I may never finish watching the series. The characters make the episodes easy enough to watch, but the lack of strong writing makes it hard to find the motivation to move from one to the next. Guys, think of it like softcore porn: any objections to watching an attractive young lady strip for your viewing pleasure? No? How about watching her strip for thirteen hours? After the first hour or so, you're really going to need something thrown in to spice it up, and that's the problem I had with this season. 6/10.
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