Sopranos Blueprint

Four different pictures of Tony in Dr. Melfi's waiting room looking at the tree and the rotted out barn in the painting.

Our Sopranos Rorschach Test

Sopranos Blueprint

Robert Wegler talking to Carmela Soprano at a dinner date.
When Mr. Wegler describes Madame Bouvary to Carmela in S5, E4, "All Happy Families," it reminds me an awful lot of The Sopranos itself.

With an infinite (or “inFinnerty”) number of reasons to love The Sopranos, we all have our unique perspectives. But speaking more generally, I feel like watching The Sopranos is like taking a unique form of a Rorschach Test. I know, I know, you already understand Freud and therapy as a concept. Even so, read on as I explain this whole Sopranos Rorschach Test thing a bit more.

an inkblot from the rorschach test known as the mother inkblot.
A Rorschach inkblot (Source: Rorschach.org)

But first, when I say Sopranos Rorschach Test, I don’t mean it in a literal sense. In a standard Rorschach Test, you view a series of obscure inkblot images and describe what you see. Though the test itself isn’t without controversy, in theory, your answers are supposed to reveal your unconscious feelings, motivations, and thought processes.

While a standard Rorschach Test has 10 questions, a Sopranos Rorschach Test has no fixed timeline. I owe this to the random nature in which something may suddenly click for me as I watch an episode for the [X]th time. And it’s not necessarily “cinematic.” It may just be an offhand comment, a sound, or even a glance.

tony soprano is on the boardwalk staring out at the ocean waves.
S3, E10, "To Save Us All From Satan's Power"

And that’s what I’m referring to here: When you watch The Sopranos and everything starts swirling around in your head—the gut reactions, observations, and lingering emotions—it can get messy, but it’s also beautiful and uniquely your own.

"He let me eat the eggplant and he took the tomato. But there was a moment. A glance."
-Big Pussy Bonpensiero
S2, E9, "From Where to Eternity"
big pussy bonpensiero is talking to fbi agent skip lipari in the car.
S2, E9, "From Where to Eternity"

We All See Different Things on The Sopranos

When Tony Soprano first references the "Korschach Test," it's in the context of the "trick picture" above.

Of course, when Tony references the “Korshach Test,” he incorrectly applies it to a picture hanging in Dr. Melfi’s waiting room. But taking it at face value for a second, Tony saw a barn and a rotted out tree. On the other hand, Dr. Melfi saw a picture she bought in a little Provincetown art gallery. Carmela loved “those country scenes,” and as for me? I saw Uncle Pat’s farm in Kinderhook and maybe a horse stable.

Notably, all four of us are correct, and we can largely apply that to The Sopranos as a whole. By that, I mean the observations and themes we connect on the show aren’t meant to be categorized into right versus wrong. Maybe you did notice a pattern that the writers intentionally put into the story, but maybe it’s just a total coincidence. Or perhaps it’s a little bit of both. To me, It’s all enjoyable just the same.

a car pulls into the soprano driveway and drives over the newspaper.
In "Two Tonys" (S5, E1), Meadow pulls into the driveway and rolls over the newspaper.
Contrast this with prior seasons when Tony would classically walk down the driveway to pick up the paper.

Through the Characters' Eyes

Christopher Moltisanti

S5, E12, "Long Term Parking"

Of course, as with the standard Rorschach test, we don’t start with a blank slate. Part of a Sopranos Rorschach Test involves looking through the eyes of the characters. For example, let’s take Christopher Moltisanti at the gas station in “Long Term Parking(S5, E12).

Here, Christopher saw his future self and was terrified. Maybe you had a similar reaction to this scene. Or perhaps you thought, “Yeah, it doesn’t look picture perfect, but I’d prefer that any day over a life of organized crime.” As was the case with the “trick picture,” there’s no one right answer.

A.J.'s fiancee Blanca is sitting at the table with the Soprano family nervously.
S6, E16, "Chasing It" - Blanca's eating dinner with the Sopranos while Carmela announces she sold her spec house.
"Just the two? It's big, right?" -Blanca

Conversely, while Christopher couldn’t imagine a life without Tony Soprano, Blanca knew that was exactly what she DIDN’T (did-dent?) want. Though FBI Agent Lipari thought Puss was acting ridiculous with his Tony sandwich scenario, sometimes, a simple glance does speak volumes. I feel like Blanca’s glance (above) while hearing about Carm’s sale of her spec house was very telling. 

The fact is, Blanca did not want to be a Soprano, no matter how “beautiful” her future home could be. And speaking of home, did A.J. ever actually ask her if she WANTED to never work again? (He seemed to take it as a given when proposing). Just as we may or may not have seen what Christopher saw at the gas station, we may or may not identify with Blanca’s feelings here. Again, no answer is inherently right or wrong: It’s all about what YOU see. 

Moreover, my Sopranos Rorschach also consists of patterns I observe within the larger Sopranos story. One example is when I connect a scene from “College” (S1, E5) with Tony’s dream sequence in “Calling All Cars(S4, E11). We hear fireflies as Tony walks up to Febby Petrulio’s shop in Maine, just like the firefly sounds in Tony’s Calling All Cars dream sequence. And when Tony peers inside Febby’s shop, it reminds me of how he peers into the old house in Calling All Cars.

a black shadowy woman walking down the stairs in tony's calling all cars dream.
Who did Tony see here? Who do YOU see?
Photos of every Sopranos character appearing in the season six opening "Seven Souls" montage.
Season 6, Episode 1, "Members Only"

For another example, I’ll turn to “Seven Souls” by William S. Burroughs & Bill Laswell. This Seven Souls opening montage from the start of season six beautifully illustrates the complexity of The Sopranos. For instance, the photo itself shows you there are actually more than seven. 

So, what does it all mean? We have Ren (director); Sekem (energy, power, light); Khu (guardian angel); Ba (the heart); Ka (the double); Khaibit (the shadow/memory); and Sekhu (the remains). What is this, the f**kin’ UN now? In a nutshell, when I think about a Sopranos Roschach test, I can’t think of a more prime example. 

*Another note about the montage: Carmela is paired with Sekhu, the remains. And what movie did Carmela watch with Father Intintola all the way back in “College“? The Remains of the Day. (See it on YouTube).

carmela soprano is lying in bed with a worried look.
S6, E1, "Members Only"

On The Other Hand: Universal Human Themes of Identity & Connection

An identification card with the name kevin finnerty on it.
Season 6, Episode 2, "Join the Club"

However, though we each view the world—including The Sopranosthrough a unique lens, certain concepts, like identity and connection, are universal. Just like Tony asks “Where am I going?” in various dreams, I think we all have that inside us, as well. It’s what makes relating to The Sopranos characters so seamless despite our differences. But it’s not just about relating to the characters. It’s also about relating to one another.

a woman is denying tony soprano entrance to a convention because he doesn't have the right identification.
In Tony's coma dream, he was Kevin Finnerty.

Now here we are at my favorite component of my Sopranos Rorschach Test: connection. Essentially, The Sopranos has led me to connect with people I most likely would’ve otherwise never met. (By the way, I use the term “met” here in a virtual sense, as well). Actually, there’s a good chance you may be one of these people I’m referring to.

All in all, the best part about making these connections is that our different Sopranos perspectives (or “Sopranos Rorschach tests”) don’t have to divide us. In fact, they don’t just not divide us. They actually make the whole experience that much richer. These days, where nearly everything is polarizing, The Sopranos is like an oasis of good vibes, or “escapism,” if you will.

Finally, I ‘d be remiss if I didn’t address that other elephant (or duck?) in the Sopranos Rorschach Test: the D-word. No, not depression (though that often rears its head as a side effect). What I’m referring to here is death. As opposed to real life—where we don’t get to reflect on how “we don’t hear when it happens” to us—by watching The Sopranos over and over, it’s like I’m trying to become more prepared for death by living vicariously through the characters. 

tony soprano sitting in the backseat of his father's old car while having a big dream sequence.
Season 5, Episode 11, "The Test Dream"

In sum, as The Sopranos demonstrates all too well, much is in the eye (or the ego!) of the beholder. And sometimes, it’s not a necessarily a scam or a trick – just our own little Sopranos Rorschach Test. I know that was a lot to take in, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and about your Sopranos experience, as well.

P.S. Speaking of trick picture, here’s a picture I caught in two separate episodes being looked at by two different characters (A.J. and Carmela). In the words of Tony Soprano, “I knew that [photo] was a scam!”

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