The Complete Fourth Season
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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he clash between boss man Tony Soprano’s responsibilities to both his family and his business resumes in the fourth season of “The Sopranos.” Unfortunately, the series loses steam following the intense events of seasons two and three, with the story wading through seemingly pointless, melodramatic bickering that probably won’t make sense until season five rolls around.
Tony (James Gandolfini) and Carmela (Edie Falco) are, once again, having marital problems and with the Feds currently sniffing around the East Coast mob families, Carmela is worried about her financial future. While Tony hops from girl to girl on the side, Carmela and Furio (Federico Castelluccio) form a dangerous crush while the two Soprano kids, Meadow and A.J. (Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Robert Isler), retain brat status with their incessant whining and complaining.
In other corners of the show, the FBI’s tight-fisted court case against family boss Junior Soprano (Dominic Chianese) drags on while the Bureau, thanks to the work of a female agent, also recruits an unlikely informant in Adrianna (Drea de Matteo). Adrianna and Christopher (Michael Imperioli) are finally engaged, but Chris’ newfound responsibilities and growing heroin problem dominate his storyline. Ralphie (Joe Pantoliano) initially appears to be more of a team player, but we soon learn that he’s still the same rat who represented Tony’s biggest headache last season.
The real story here is the introduction of New York family boss Carmine Lupertazzi (Tony Lip) and his relationship with under boss Johnny Sack (Vince Curatola) as they battle with the Soprano family for business. Otherwise, there’s a puzzling lack of memorable moments on these season-four discs, the death of a major character being the most notable of the scrawny bunch, but the story still bumps along, setting up a line of potentially volatile situations for the final two seasons to explore.
This DVD set comes in its traditional cigar box case, presenting all 13 fourth-season episodes on four discs. The show is transferred with its broadcasted 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio and delivers a perfect picture along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.
Unlike the already mediocre extras that appeared on the first three DVD compilations, the fourth-season set offers absolutely no worthwhile special features beyond the four audio commentaries scattered throughout the collection. Every disc features a series index, award/nominations list, cast/crew biographies, previews and promos for episodes and, a new addition to this series, a recap of the first three seasons.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the quality of the audio commentaries that appear on discs two, three and four: episode four (disc two) with writer/producer Terence Winter; episode six (disc two) with writer/actor Michael Imperioli; episode nine (disc three) with writers/producers Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess; and episode 13 (disc four) with series creator/writer David Chase. The first two commentaries on disc two are loaded with terrific explanations of on-set procedures and script production, but I was extremely disappointed that Steve Buscemi (directing his second episode) did not join Michael Imperioli on the audio track for episode six. The remaining tracks, one by the insanely boring David Chase and the other by two producers that either don’t like to talk or have never been on the “Sopranos” set, record even more useless commentary that can be cleverly dubbed a “special feature.”
“The Sopranos: The Complete Fourth Season” slows down in quality, neglecting many of the show’s more appealing stories in favor of the brewing drama between Tony’s family and mobster lives. Unlike most of the past releases, season four has positioned itself to be the genesis of what potentially could be the best season yet. But that also means that this four-DVD set qualifies as a big disappointment.