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HBO presents
The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season (2000)

Dr. Melfi: "Anthony Jr. may have stumbled onto existentialism."
Tony Soprano: "F***kin' Internet."

- Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) and Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: November 21, 2001

Stars: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Nancy Marchand, Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Aida Turturro, David Proval
Other Stars: Stevie Van Zandt, Robert Patrick, Tony Sirico, Jamie Lynn Sigler
Director: Martin Bruestle, Allen Coulter, Nick Gomez, John Patterson, Lee Tamahori, Tim Van Patten and Henry J. Bronchtein

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nudity, sexual situations, violence, mature themes and language
Run Time: 11h:35m:54s
Release Date: November 06, 2001
UPC: 026359924729
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+A-B+ B+

DVD Review

Like an approaching hurricane the anticipation for the second season of the critically acclaimed HBO drama The Sopranos swept across the country with enormous speed. In January of 2000 the show was everywhere from billboards to magazines, to late night talk shows. Fellow HBO hit Dennis Miller Live dedicated an entire episode to the series. Although it is nothing new for returning television shows to be promoted at great lengths, there was something deserving about the praise being bestowed upon The Sopranos. Never before had a cable TV show achieved the stature of success that the David Chase created show had. Thankfully, the second season lived up to its massive hype receiving fourteen Emmy ® nominations and the best ratings in the show's history.

The Sopranos is a terrifically skewed look at the strains, both emotional and physical, that family life can bring. For Tony Soprano (Gandolfini) the term "family" has a double meaning; not only is he dealing with his two teenagers (Sigler and Iler) and, caused mostly by his extramarital affairs, the growing frustration of his hot-tempered wife, Carmela (Falco), but he is also the new Capo of his "other" family, a tight-knit and more tightly wound group of Italian gangsters.

Note: Spoilers follow for those who have not seen Season One.

Tony is the new acting boss following the events of Season One. After the arrest of former Capo Uncle Junior (Chianese), who has been indicted on twelve RICO predicates, Tony must resort to running things "bunker style" in order to keep the FBI at bay.

What makes The Sopranos better than most television show is its ability to blend humanity and evil together by way of a loving close knit family. Many episodes ride the fine line between each element as Tony sees his problems and complications blend in between his two worlds, and often the line Tony must walk carefully is razor thin. The appearance of Tony's sister Janice (Turturro) provides a foil for Tony, helping fuel his animosity towards his mother flamed by Janice's greed and her ability to play both sides against the middle. This may not be the way that all families work, but for the most part the brother-sister relationship has moments that eerily echo real life.

The largest fault of many television shows is the fact that over the course of a season storylines get lost and tend to be underdeveloped. In the case of The Sopranos, creator and writer David Chase meticulously crafts scripts as indiviual movies, but so that the episode flow together. Chase would later become a victim to this fault in season three as several plot points were dropped, never mentioned further.

As he has proven with work outside of The Sopranos, James Gandolfini is easily the most underrated actor working today. Gandolfini quickly moves between anger and tenderness, impressively handling the change. His performance as Tony may certainly be touted someday as the best ever. As the ying to Tony's yang, Edie Falco's performance as a frustrated housewife and woman is equally as brilliant. Lorraine Bracco isn't as integral as she was in season one, and perhaps because of her knowledge of Tony's doings in this season the nervous energy she carried in the first season is mysteriously absent.

A summary of Season Two's episodes follows (and contains spoilers):

Episode 14: Guy Walks Into a Psychiatrist's Office
With the dust settled on Junior indictment and the assasination attempt by his own mother, Tony is now running things. Life is not perfect though, as the episode opens Tony is surprised to see the disappeared Big Pussy waiting for him in a parked car outside of his driveway as Tony gets the morning paper. Believing that Pussy was an informant Tony is skeptical of his sudden return, but Big Pussy convinces Tony, and the story checks out. Meanwhile the latest scam for the business is a fake stock being sold to unsuspecting senior citizens after Christopher passes his SEC broker's exam. Soon a stock firm looks like the BadaBing as Christopher employs two wise guys named Matt Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte, whose ways of straightening out brokers who don't push a certain stock is to pour hot coffee on them among other things.

On the other family front, Tony's sister Janice arrives from the West Coast with the supposed good intention of helping Livia after her stroke in the first season finale. Tony is suspicious of his sister, and for good reason, as we soon discover that Janice is a pure blooded Soprano. With complications like these Tony should be running to Dr. Melfi, but can't since she has fled and is now helping patients out of a roadside motel. This episode does what the show does best, blending home life and Mafia life, rating a solid 4.5 pistols out of five.

Episode 15: Do Not Resuscitate
Alliances are quickly shifted as we learn that Pussy is working for the FBI after he busted in possession of heroin. The charges will disappear if he helps build a case against Tony. As for Junior, he is out of jail and under house arrest, allowing him to start earning again, though not before expressing his anger at Tony for not making up with his mother. On the family side Tony and Janice are acting like brother and sister and the center of the argument is a "do not resuscitate" order for Livia, who discovers the DNR discussion through Anthony Jr., and thinks the two are conspiring to do away with her. Not the best episode of the season as too many subplots having nothing to do with the storyline hinder it. This episode rates 3.5 out of 5 pistols.

Episode 16: Toodle F*#@ing oo
Things start heating up for Tony with the arrival from jail of Richie Aprile, the brother of the late captain Jackie Aprile. Richie feels that he should be earning the minute he returns. Tony doesn't see it that way and tells Richie he needs to be patient. A frustrated Richie is soon meeting with Junior about working for him, meaning Tony is again at odds with Junior. As angry as Richie is at Tony for not giving him his right to earn, Richie is even angrier at Beansie Gaeta, the owner of a chain of pizza shops who Richie feel owes him for past favors. As Beansie disagrees to pay up, he is beaten bloody and run over by Richie again and again. Richie is getting out of control quickly, making Toodle F*#@ oo a great episode that rates 4.5 out of 5 pistols.

Episode 17: Commendatori
This episode finds Tony, Christopher, and Paulie on their way to Naples to meet with the head of the Neapolitan family, Zi Vittorio. Though Christopher and Paulie have visions of good times in the old country, Tony is all business. Zi Vittorio is no longer in charge, as a beautiful woman named Annalisa (Zi Vittorio's daughter) now runs the family. Christopher spends his days doing heroin in his hotel room, much to the dismay of Tony who is falling for the country, and Annalisa. Back home things aren't going well, as Pussy's wife wants a divorce leaving Carmela to wonder about her marriage with Tony. Tony eventually reaches a deal with Annalisa that in return for cutting the cost of the cars in the export business she will send her best man Furio to help Tony in America. Beautiful cinematography and acting make Commendatori a five-pistol episode.

Episode 18: Big Girls Don't Cry
With Furio on Tony's team changes are abundant. Paulie and Silvio get bumped up to reporting directly to Tony while Christopher and Pussy report to Paulie and Silvio. Feeling as though he has been passed up Christopher starts to slack off forcing Tony to favor Furio over his nephew. This gives Christopher time to take acting classes, causing Tony great frustration. As for Pussy? He is starting to buckle under the pressure of being a rat and is starting to side more with the FBI than with Tony due to the fast rise of Furio. Tony is about to explode, and a welcome call from Dr. Melfi comes just in time. Big Girls Don't Cry receives 4 out of 5 pistols.

Episode 19: The Happy Wanderers
Tony is thrilled to be in charge of The Executive Game, a card game organized by the Capo for higher-ups in the organization. The entry to the game is extreme, but soon Tony's friend Davey Scatino wants in. Although Tony tries to talk him out of it because of their friendship, he relents and advances Davey the entry fee. Davey loses more money than he can comprehend, is quickly sinking from Tony's good graces, and is running from Richie whom he owes $8,000. Thinking that the money used for the executive game could be used towards his debt, Richie is greatly angered, and causes a scene before Tony forces him to leave. Soon Tony is taking everything that is Davey's, including his car which he gives to Meadow as a gift for getting her license. Janice turns Richie even more against Tony while she and Richie grow closer. Terrific performances make this a terrific episode, earning 4.5 out of 5 pistols.

Episode 20: D-Girl
Tony's family causes problems for him when Anthony Jr. wrecks Carmela's car, and starts to proclaim that "god is dead" and "life is meaningless." Christopher's dreams are realized when he visits a movie set, making him think he can make it in Hollywood. Upon hearing this Tony gives Christopher a choice between Hollywood and the family. Pussy is dealing with the question of whether or not to wear a wire for the FBI to Anthony JR's conformation party. The episode closes with an amazingly well done scene of Pussy sobbing in the upstairs bathroom at the choices he has made. A bit uneven with the Hollywood sub plot, D-Girl is a good effort, making it a 3 out of 5 pistol episode.

Episode 21: Full Leather Jacket
After Tony gives Richie's prized leather jacket to his housekeeper's husband, Richie becomes enraged at the disrespect Tony has shown to his gift. Meanwhile Tony is equally angry with Richie for refusing to build a ramp for Beanise's wheelchair so that the man who Richie paralyzed can have access to his house. At the same time Carmela is showing the rare Soprano side of her personality when she uses her husband's reputation to persuade a Georgetown alumn to write a glowing letter of recommendation to the university for Meadow. While these may seem like small problems a big conflict is looming on the horizon. Angry after being shunned by Christopher, Matt Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte decide to get on Richie's good side by taking Christopher out. Richie realizes Tony's reaction and is not pleased with Bevilaqua. One of the best episodes of the season, earning 5 out of 5 pistols.

Episode 22: From Where To Eternity
After being clinically dead for over a minute Christopher recovers, but is convinced he'd been in hell. This worries Paulie, remembering those he has whacked and wonders if they are waiting for him in the afterlife. Though these hallucinations are no doubt related to Christopher's constant Morphine, Paulie starts to visit the survivors of those he has killed. As for Tony, he is bent on finding Bevilaqua and finishing him off. Carmela gives Tony an ultimatum to get rid of his mistress, and Janice starts to convince Richie to make a move against Tony. A terrific ending and some great moments from Paulie and Christopher make From Where To Eternity a 4 out of 5 pistol episode.

Episode 23: Bust Out
A man has witnessed Pussy and Tony committing a crime, and calls the cops. With the FBI on his tail for everything under the sun, Tony may be forced to run if he can't find out who the informant is and have him silenced. Tony settles old debts immediately, the first being Davey, who owes him thousands. As the only sort of payment available Davey agrees to give Tony and Richie his sporting goods store. Meanwhile Pussy is being forced to work quicker by the FBI, while Janice continues to force Richie to do away with Tony so he can become the boss. Add to this Carmela on the verge of having an affair and Tony's castle is quickly crumbling. A fast paced episode with several equally engaging storylines earns Bust Out 4.5 out of 5 pistols.

Episode 24: House Arrest
The FBI is hot on Tony's trail. This causes Tony to stay away from the strip club and other locations which the FBI may have tapped and take it easy at a waste management station. As Tony gets close to the secretary he is bored with other elements of the job and is starting to have anxiety attacks. Richie and Junior begin selling cocaine on their garbage routes, leading to a confrontation between Tony and Richie that can only end badly. House Arrest earns 4 out of 5 pistols thanks to a great performance by Gandolfini.

Episode 25: Knight In White Satin Armor
Richie turns to Junior for supporting having Tony killed. Already upset at the attempt he made on Tony, Junior wants nothing to do with it, forcing Richie to stand alone on the matter. Richie and Janice movie in together and appear a seemingly happy couple. Tony has his own plans for Richie, but things change quickly in this episode. Easily the best of the season Knight In White Satin Armor rates 5 out of 5 pistols.

Episode 26: Funhouse
The problems with Pussy have been building all season, and it rises to a cresendo here. A frantic Livia calls him when she is detained for possessing fake airline tickets he gave her as a gift. This leads to a search of the Soprano household, where the remaining tickets are found and Tony is taken to FBI headquarters. After being released Tony returns to a graduation party for Meadow where life seems normal again. Funhouse is a wonderful episode earning 5 out of 5 pistols.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio of its broadcast premiere, each of the thirteen episodes offered look terrific. With the great length of the season, there are numerous scenes of each and every variety. Scenes set in Italy look beautiful in their soft dreamlike state with vibrant colors and detail. And scenes set in the night in New Jersey have tremendous detail in the black levels. There are very few flaws throughout the set, making this one of the more film-like television transfers I have yet seen.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: While not amazingly active, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for The Sopranos is better than I expected it to be. As anyone who watches the show knows, music plays a large part in nearly every episode. This is certainly true for the first episode where It Was a Very Good Year comes beautifully through the speakers. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand and the volume is consistently at the right level. This isn't an overly showy mix, but it is wonderful in its subtleties.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
2 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Tim Van Patten (Commendatori), Henry Bronchtein and producer Ilene Landress (From Where To Eternity), Allen Coulter and producer Landress (I>Knight In White Satin Armor), and John Patterson (Funhouse)
Packaging: Four fold case
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD ROM content
  2. Episode Previews
Extras Review: Four audio commentaries comprise the bulk of extra features on HBO's four disc set of The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season. Tracks by directors Tim Van Patten (Commendatori), Henry Bronchtein and producer Ilene Landress (From Where To Eternity), Allen Coulter and producer Landress (I>Knight In White Satin Armor) and finally John Patterson (Funhouse). While an improvement in the number of commentary tracks over the Season One set, the commentaries leave something to be desired. Each director is well spoken, Patterson and Van Patten being the best of the group, but the inside information that Chase gave on Season One is missing. Directors talk mainly about their episode and not about the show in general which is fine, but I was left wanting. Of course, comparing them against series creator Chase is probably unfair.

The Real Deal is a 5-minute featurette that offers interviews with real life law enforcement officers and media reporters about the accuracy of the show. It is short and to the point but interesting nonetheless. A Sit Down With The Sopranos runs 15 minutes and features the thoughts of the lead actors about the series. This is largely promotional, and looks like something HBO may have aired at the start of season two.

Closings out the extra features are 13 episode promos, DVD-ROM content, an awards list, and a few easter eggs.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Easily the best season so far, The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season deserves a place in your collection. From the packaging to the quality of the video and audio to the overall quality of the show this is a must-buy set. Enthusiastically recommended.


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