Season One, Episode Four — “Meadowlands”

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

By Brandy Dykhuizen. “Meadowlands” opens with a dream sequence, and the tone sticks throughout the episode, as several characters are forced to take a step back and observe surreal encounters that, whether they realize it yet or not, serve to highlight their emerging place in Tony’s kingdom. Fraught with more symbolism than action, “Meadowlands” dips and trips through characters’ self-concepts to show not only how far Tony’s reach extends, but how incorrectly we can interpret our own realities.

Dr. Melfi is an intelligent woman, and surely it’s crossed her mind that her interactions with Tony could put her in a potentially precarious position. Yet there she sits, confiding in the man indirectly responsible for beating up her date, trying to piece together a slice of her world that’s been forcibly jangled. Similarly, Anthony Junior gets jolted out of innocence as Meadow lands the punch with the revelation that daddy isn’t actually just a trashman. And dear old Uncle Junior has been effectively hoodwinked into believing that he can take his tenure high on the throne at face value.

Even the big guy isn’t immune — we see Jolly Tony greeting an acquaintance at the garden center, as his “friend” can barely keep from pissing himself in fear. Tony sees himself as a good guy, bearing macaroons as peace offerings everywhere he goes, while all the public sees is the scary man with the axe. Trying to navigate your own reality, especially when a family like the Sopranos is involved, is about as easy as taking a stroll through the swampy Meadowlands themselves. Tony is assessing his situation with renewed clarity and realizes he needs to start building his world from the muck up, rather than continue to freak out about not being able to escape. And what better image to associate that with than the north Jersey marshland to which his ducks likely flew?

WHAT WORKED: Chrissy’s neck brace. Chris Moltisanti is afflicted with what my father refers to as “an alligator mouth attached to a hummingbird ass,” and the post-beating neck brace really amps up the buffoonery. Not to mention it drives home the metaphor of Chris as an aggravated pup, whose family has to stick a cone on his head to prevent him from licking his wounds too ardently. Every time he pops up, bouncing up and down like a bombastic, rage-stricken whack-a-mole, he’s met with people reminding him he crapped his pants in the Meadowlands. Kid’s got a lot of growing up to do still.

WHAT DIDN’T: It’s a little too early to give AJ a subplot to shoulder. While Robert Iler’s acting skills will improve as the seasons wear on (however marginally), having him carry a few scenes in the 4th episode wasn’t the safest choice. Much less build up was required for a plot device in which AJ learns his dad is in the mob.

We saw frightfully little of the three stooges in this episode, as the only real silliness Silvio, Paulie and Pussy offered was a sidelined conversation into the significance of The Moe Greene Special, at Jackie Aprile’s deathbed, no less.


You’re always with the babies out the windows.” – Tony, commenting on his mother’s interpretation of city folk.

Tony: “You want the macaroons?” Livia: “I don’t care. Leave some out for the lunatics.”

Did you hear about the Chinese godfather? He made them an offer they couldn’t understand.” – Junior, characteristically sensitive towards matters of race.

BEST MOMENT: There were several moments of comic gold in this episode, all situational and all at the Bada Bing. First, we see Tony and other possible contenders for Jackie Aprile’s replacement tucking into giant lobsters, complete with lobster-printed napkins/bibs, which would all seem pretty normal until the camera pans out and you realize they are eating in the VIP zone of a strip club (and not a particularly classy one at that). In a brief second Bing scene, Tony reads up on Elder Care (at the encouragement of Melfi) at the bar, tatas bouncing behind him. And the final and most laugh-out-loud moment: As news of Jackie Aprile’s death pours out of the television, the club’s action screeches to a halt. The music is turned off, everyone is glued to the tube, and one of the strippers wrings her hands and says, “I’ll never forget where I was on this day.” From characters built around narcissism to small fleeting moments, Chase has a lot to say about self-perception vs. self-worth.

EPISODE’S MVP: Dr. Melfi really shined in “Meadowlands”. Only once before were we offered a glimpse of her life outside of her office, in a restaurant on a date. Lorraine Bracco reveals the personal side of Melfi, who in turns lets her guard down and divulges a little too much of her home life to Tony. This moment of role reversal, in which Melfi confides her anxieties to her patient, is worth more than a week’s worth of trailing and staking out from Tony’s cop friend. While Tony’s emotional intelligence regarding himself is middling at best, he’s built a career on reading people and keeping those little nuggets of vulnerabilities stored up in his brain for later.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.


– The opening stroll through Tony’s subconscious in his anxiety-laden dream sequence culminates in a direct homage to Hitchcock, with Melfi turning around in her chair to reveal she’s actually Ma, wearing the psychiatrist’s clothes and a wig. It must be good fun being a director.

– In case you’re wondering what the Russian chick is mumbling at Tony in the wee hours of the morning: “God, what time is it? I’m so tired of you!” Lucky girl gets to have an opinion, but only because Tony can’t understand it.

– Let’s ignore the fact that Tony will even bully his own kid to win at a video game, and take a moment to wish we were all just sitting on the floor playing Mario Kart.

– As unnecessary as it was to draw out AJ’s hallway scuffles, I’m awfully glad we got to hear the word “fartknocker” bandied around. I’m afraid I still have no idea what it means, though I’m sure I used it plenty in middle school.

– It was hard not to enjoy Tony stapling Mikey’s suit to his chest.

– Anyone who grew up with an older sister has seen that smug “I told you so! Look how much I’m teaching you because you never would have figured it out on your own!” look that Meadow casts in AJ’s direction at the funeral.

– Jukebox Hero: “Floor-Essence (Dayglo Mix)” by Man With No Name, “Prisoner Of Love” by Perry Como.

8 out of 10

Next: “College”, soon.

Before: “Denial, Anger, Acceptance”, here.