The first three episodes of the sopranos season four
Bobby Bacala and Tony Soprano eating at the diner in For All Debts Public & Private
When Tony asks Bobby how his mother's been doing since his father's death the year before, he tells Tony things have gone downhill since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

The Sopranos season 4 marks a turning point. Not only is it the halfway mark of the series, but it’s also surrounded by the backdrop of a world with a new normal. The truth is, season 4 illustrates the sobering reality that each of us is always one tragedy away from our own new normal. With that said, here are some current thoughts on the beginning of season 4 on The Sopranos.

"Let me tell you something, or you can watch the news: Everything comes to an end."

S4, E1, "For All Debts Public & Private"
"We don't have those Enron-type connections."

First, “For All Debts Public & Private” shows Tony Soprano walking down the driveway to the tune of “World Destruction.” Premiering on September 15, 2002, it was only one year earlier that terrorists had killed nearly 3,000 people in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Flight 93. 

World destruction was also on Carmela’s mind, which led her to ask Tony about the family finances. How would she and the kids be protected if something were to happen to him? Adding fuel to the fire, Carmela runs into Angie Bonpensiero at the supermarket handing out free Polish sausage. It always comes back to the sausage (hot or sweet?

"You never know, I could be on the [Sopranos] endangered species list."

Christopher Moltisanti in the car with Tony looking at Barry Haydu, the retired policeman.
Tony in the car with Christopher, pointing out Barry Haydu, an officer allegedly responsible for Chrissy's father's death. (S.4, E.1, "For All Debts Public & Private")

Meanwhile, in season 4, it wasn’t just Carmela grappling with mortality, or as Christopher Moltisanti called it, the “endangered species list.” But what was it exactly that threatened their survival? Well, they may have just been of no use to anyone anymore. We’re talking about human lives here, but to some, it’s as easy as throwing something in the wastebasket.

"Well no, he wasn't carrying a crib. He had a bunch of T.V. trays...could've been a crib just as easily."
-Tony Soprano
S.4, E.1, "For All Debts Public & Private"
Tony Soprano sitting and watching tv while eating icecream.
Tony watching Rio Bravo while eating an icecream sundae (S.04, E.01, "For All Debts Public & Private)
adriana just threw up and there is vomit on her arm and her jewelry.
Adriana throws up on herself & the others at the table when she's questioned by the FBI. (S.04, E.02, "No Show")

Speaking of wastebasket, Adriana vomits after FBI Agent Ciccerone nonchalantly predicts Ade and Christopher will “just disappear.” The truth is, ever since the FBI got this “in” with Ade, she was damaged goods, and it was only a matter of time before her “expiration date.” While the season 4 premiere was very heavy for Christopher, the same could be said for Adriana in “No Show.” (She reveals to “Danielle” that she had a past abortion).   

Death & Grief in The Sopranos Early Season 4

Tony and Meadow Soprano having a face-to-face confrontation.
Season 4, Episode 2, "No Show"

To be sure, on The Sopranos, death was never too far away. But it isn’t until Jackie Jr. dies that Meadow has to personally confront it.

Of course, grief makes us all do different things. Sometimes it’s self-medicating, which may include a trip to Europe. It could also be reading the canon out by the pool. Though Carmela is surprised to learn Mary Higgins Clark is featured so prominently.

"Over the course of a child's life, there's a constant moving away and coming back. Security vs. freedom."
Gabby Dante & Adriana at Karen Baccalieri's funeral.
Season 4, Episode 3, "Christopher"

In addition, it’s in season 4, episode 3 (“Christopher”) that poor Bobby Baccalieri loses his wife, Karen, in a tragic car crash. While we only see Karen a few times, Bobby’s grief was so palpable that you couldn’t help but feel it, too. Contrast Bobby’s grief with the normalization of making the rounds with food among the wives. It’s almost as if this is just a normal thing for them nowadays…(it kind of is). While I’ll be writing an additional piece later with even more focus on “Christopher,” I’d be remiss if I wrote something about early season 4 grief and didn’t include Karen & Bobby.

Don't Always Trust The Professionals

Tony meets Assemblyman Zellman to discuss the Newark Development District (S.4, E.1, "For All Debts Public & Private")

Furthermore, as we know oh-so-well from The Sopranos, sometimes, “we’re all hypocrites.” When Assemblyman Zellman and Tony meet for lunch, Zellman tells Tony that the New Jersey Legislature has voted to refund the special Newark development district. What does this mean for Tony, exactly?

Sure enough, this whole “patriotic entrepreneurism” really comes down to the question of “Can you get me the best bang for my buck where I don’t actually have to work hard for anything?” In that case, does that patriotic entrepreneurism package come with the American flag lapel pin, or is that sold separately?

Dr. Wendy Kobler talking to Meadow Soprano at her therapy appointment in Dr. Kobler's office.
Meadow tells Dr. Wendy Kobler about the funeral for Jackie (though Dr. Kobler kept calling him "Jack") in S.04, E.02, "No Show"

While “Sopranos therapist” evokes images of Dr. Melfi, there were a few therapists who examined the Soprano family psyche. That brings me to Dr. Wendy Kobler. Therapy’s often a very subjective experience, but I think there are some general NO-NO’s. In a nutshell, Dr. Kobler not only suggests that Tony molested Meadow, but she also encourages Meadow to apply to the University of Barcelona. After all, Dr. Kobler is on a consultancy there. Conflict of interest much?

The Sopranos Season 4 and 2021

FBI Agent Ciccerone (aka Danielle)'s baby (S.04, E.01, "For All Debts Public & Private"

Nevertheless, I want to end this Sopranos season 4 post by mentioning that in spite of it all, it’s still worth looking on the bright side, and maybe even more so during times of uncertainty. While we continue to deal with a global pandemic, it’s important to remember new life and opportunity might also be just around the corner.

Conclusion & Other Episode Favorites

The course sheet for Morality, Self, & Society at Columbia University.
Meadow ends up forgoing the Europe trip & registering for classes at Columbia.

Finally, here are a few of my favorite miscellaneous lines from For All Debts Public & Private, No Show, and Christopher:

  • “A don doesn’t wear shorts.” -Carmine Lupertazzi, Sr.

  • “It died on the vine.” -Albert Barese

  • “Did you remember to put the spores in there?” -Patsy Parisi

  • “Janootski!” -Ralph Cifaretto

  • What businesses have been recession-proof since time immemorial?” -Tony

How Much Do You Know About Season 4?

Take the Sopranos season 4 encore quiz today!
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