‘The Sopranos’: Melfi Whacks Tony

Photo: Courtesy of HBO

"Big girls don't cry. Only babies cry."

This was the Sopranos episode for viewers who want action: strategic backrooms and a series of cinematic death sprawls piling up like model trains. And then there was the sheer sadism of watching just about everything go horribly, horribly wrong — from the sight of that poor Ukrainian daughter tumbling down the stairs to Sil scrambling over his car seat, desperate to grab a gun, to Tony's earned ass-whupping of A.J. Overall, we got a full five hits: a rat's garroting, a double execution of innocents, a hypercinematic slo-mo murder in a toy store, a parking lot shootout, and the extreme termination of seven years of therapy.

These hyperviolent episodes are not our favorites, if only because they make the show's cognitive dissonance so painful to take — are we supposed to root for these guys? Grieve their deaths or relish them? (This one's for Adrianna, Sil!) Or just enjoy the mathematical ticking down of the show's final hours, as characters bleep out of existence, like a really bloody version of the Peanuts spelling bee?

Our favorite element was that grim hideout at the end, with Tony left to cuddle in bed with his own gun, a detail Melfi might have relished if she hadn't been too busy scurrying away from the scene of her own crime. After seven years, she's concluded that she is a dupe and an enabler. So motivated by — what? Pique? Fear? Shame? — she takes it out on her patient, delivering the cold Freudian version of a targeted whacking. In the end, though, she gives Tony his own shot: a well-earned therapeutic punch line. "As a doctor," he tells her as he goes out the door, "I think what you're doing is immoral."

Worst collateral damage: three Bacala children doomed to be raised by Janice Soprano. —Emily Nussbaum