The Sopranos: Season Six, Part One review, The Sopranos: Season 6, Part 1 DVD review

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Buy your copy from Amazon.com The Sopranos: Season Six, Part One (2006) starstarstarstarno star Starring: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Robert Isler
Director: Various
Category: Drama
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ALSO: Check out Premium Hollywood's Sopranos blog for a rundown of every episode from this season!

Tony Soprano may not be dead yet, but his TV show sure as hell is. At least that’s what it’s felt like for the past four years (including a few less-than-stellar seasons and a two-year hiatus), but while the end may be nigh for HBO’s mobster drama, David Chase and Co. aren’t ready to give up just yet. Most of my renewed faith in the critically acclaimed series comes courtesy of part one in the sixth and final season (the second half will air in March 2007), which looks to make one final splash before taking a bow and going to sleep with the fishes.

Taking place not too long after the events of the season-five finale (where Johnny Sack got nabbed by the Feds and Adrianna got a bullet to the head), the sixth season picks back up with the New Jersey family at the top of their game. Tony (James Gandolfini) has yet again managed to get away without a scratch and he’s even wooed Carmela (Edie Falco) back into his life by giving her full reign over a lakeside spec house project. Their home life still isn’t as great as it could be, though. AJ (Robert Isler) continues to be a major pain-in-the ass for his parents, dropping out of school to learn more about the club business (and ultimately discovering that life as the son of a famous mobster has its price), and Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) decides to move in with Finn.

On the other side of the bridge, the New York family is trying to deal with the upcoming arraignment of Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola), and though Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent) is a more-than-able replacement, his obsession with the whole Tony Blundetto affair constantly gets in the way of his dealings with Tony. Of course, even that is quickly forgotten when it’s discovered that New Jersey lieutenant Vito Spatafore (Joseph R.Gannascoli) is a homosexual, a revelation that forces him into hiding in a small Rhode Island town.

“The Sopranos” usually doesn’t feature many great standalone episodes, but there are three definitely worth noting in this season: “Join the Club” (where Tony lives out an alternate reality while in a coma), “Luxury Lounge” (where Christopher flies to Los Angeles to meet with Ben Kingsley about his horror film project), and “Johnny Cakes." Still, the four-episode arc at the beginning of the year (which includes the aforementioned “Join the Club”) features some of the best storytelling in the history of the series. This doesn’t mean that we don’t get our share of bad episodes (namely “The Ride,” where Paulie borders his most stubborn, and Christopher relapses on heroin), but they’re few and far between the quality ones.

The four-disc DVD release of the sixth season isn’t much better than past years, but fans of the series have no doubt made peace with the fact that they’ll never see a decent collection of special features. All 12 episodes appear in this new box set with the usual 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, four of which are supplemented with cast/crew commentary tracks. As usual, none of the commentaries (which appear on “Join the Club,” “Luxury Lounge,” “The Ride” and “Kaisha”) are particularly interesting, but it’s nice to see that some of the cast members are finally getting involved with the DVD process, including Edie Falco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Robert Isler, Michael Imperioli (Christopher) and Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts).

“The Sopranos” isn’t quite the same show it used to be, but the changes that have been made over the past seven years aren’t all necessarily for the worse. The new direction that David Chase has taken his series is one filled with burgeoning promise and excitement. He should also know, of course, that if he messes this up, he’ll have a lot more to answer to than just a handful of critics. I’d personally like to see the question of Adriana’s disappearance wrapped up once and for all (even if that means Silvio goes to jail for her murder) and have Christopher finally kick his habit, become a big time movie producer, or both. His character has been on the edge of something big for quite some time now, and I can only hope we’ll finally see the result when the show returns in 2007. Are you excited yet?

~Jason Zingale