On a day separating historic basketball games played by the Spurs and Heat, tragedy struck the arts. James Gandolfini — Tony Soprano — died of an apparent heart attack while traveling in Italy. There are film and television critics that can eulogize “Tony” far better than I, but this event is worth acknowledging here. All sorts of indeterminable debates have played out between The Sopranos, The Wire, and a growing list of premium tv series’ that have pushed the entire genre ahead of film in the two thousand teens.
There is no doubt when the transition began. It began with Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, the most lovable degenerate that any of us has ever [not] known. [QUASI-SPOILER ALERT] — If you watched The Sopranos, then you know what I mean when I say that the power in Tony’s character was that — by series end — you absolutely cared about his fate even though you had come to completely despise him. The genius of Tony was in the passionate ambivalence of the viewer. Tony wasn’t for reductionists and he wasn’t for the self righteous. He was complex. So was his family. Anytime Carmela felt sorry for her sad state of marital affairs — and it happened a lot, and Tony was always to blame — the context would develop in the form of heated argument. The only thing we became sure of was that life is never simple. Tony delivered that message with his temper, his foul mouth, his shitty grin, his infidelity, his points of loyalty, and his forever unpredictability. I don’t know if The Sopranos is the greatest television series in history, but I know that there has not been another like it, and I know that there has not been another character like Tony. There never will be.
Rest in peace.