''Sopranos''

Dream On

Tony prepares for war in his sleep. With his favorite cousin run amok, the mob kingpin doesn't need his subconscious to tell him dark days await, says Liane Bonin

James Gandolfini | FIGHTING SLEEP Tony's subconscious knows what he's gotta do
Image credit: The Sopranos: Anthony Neste
FIGHTING SLEEP Tony's subconscious knows what he's gotta do

Tony prepares for war in his sleep

All this time we've been thinking Tony Soprano spends his days ogling strippers and developing rage-induced ulcers, when in reality the big film geek's been down at his local Blockbuster checking out the classics.

In just one dream he managed to squeeze in remembered moments from ''A Christmas Carol,'' ''The Honeymooners,'' ''The Godfather,'' ''High Noon,'' ''Frankenstein,'' and let's not forget ''Bugsy.'' Leonard Maltin should be so lucky. Speaking of ''Bugsy,'' I was almost as tickled to see Annette Bening sitting at the dinner table as Tony was. Really, she should be working more.

But I digress. As much fun as it was to see a cavalcade of whacked guest stars get scooped up from the dregs of Tony's subconscious (Look, there's Big Pussy! And Gloria! And isn't that Richie Aprile?), this ''test dream'' episode felt a little bit like a doctor distracting us with finger puppets right before delivering some viciously bad news.

While there was only a smattering of Mob business in this episode, the events were so cataclysmic (Angelo's unfortunate return trip from Costco, Tony Blundetto's hunt for Billy and Phil Leotardo) that plunging into Tony's head for almost half the episode felt like a way for the writers to pump up our sense of foreboding so we won't collectively swoon watching the (could it be?) unholy bloodbaths of the upcoming final two episodes of the season. Or at least that's what I'm hoping, because I didn't get a whole lot out of seeing Tony ride a woman like a horse while Artie Bucco urged him to pet her ''muzzle.''

As for Artie, I'm a little worried about his seemingly constant presence in Tony's dream, as well as the mobster's spark of interest in the chef's sexy ex, Charmaine. Even Tony seemed unnerved that his high school buddy popped up in a car full of dead men, and I can only hope this indicates that he just sees the guy as a comforting guardian angel who makes a mean spinach gnocchi and not that Tony's seeing into a future where Artie's sleeping with the fishes.

Whether or not Artie is a marked man, Tony's dream was rich in metaphor and meaning despite those random brain droppings that clutter up all dreams, even scripted ones. Considering Valentina's sad story (Given her drug-addled hospital demeanor, I think losing half of her glorious locks to the Eggbeaters fire is going to be the least of her problems), it seemed only appropriate for that other tragic, dark-haired beauty Gloria to stop in for a visit in Dr. Melfi's chair.

As much as Tony tried to laugh off his casual dating cruelty, the moment when Gloria calmly informed him that she died too young to experience childbirth suggested that somewhere down deep Tony, despite being a narcissistic sociopath, can experience empathy. Which, given the current state of his ''family'' business, is actually not a good thing.

Sometimes losing your teeth in a dream suggests something really stinkin' bad is going to happen, and by all rights Tony should have been spitting out molars like Chiclets. He knows that, despite making every effort to help out his jailbird cousin, Tony B. could easily level the mighty Sopranos empire, if he hasn't made that an unfortunate inevitability already. Even the make-believe African-American ''thugs'' the whole Soprano family has been pinning their problems on this season helpfully tried to point this out to the guy, which was really pretty nice of them, considering.

So thank goodness Tony's primitive brain called in Coach Molinaro for a funky, reverse-psychology pep talk. Tony may not have become the noble athletic supporter he could have been, but he's right to say that he did become the leader his coach hoped he would be (in an illegal, immoral kind of way, but still).

From the looks of next week's episode -- which suggests that Adriana will spill even more info to the Feds and Johnny Sack is going to be dishing up a much bigger payback than stealing some Vespas -- Tony's ability to survive the ugliness to come will require every cheesy sports metaphor he's got. He'll need to stay focused, he'll need to bring his A game, and he's going to have to be willing to step up to the plate and make the ultimate play -- offing Tony B.

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Originally posted May 17, 2004