The Telltale Moozadell & How The Sopranos is Like The Matrix
The Blue Pill v. The Red Pill
One of my favorite things about The Sopranos is its masterful demonstration of human nature—the good, the bad, and everything in between. While the devil is often in the details (hey, Ralph), you don’t need to be a “fat f*ckin’ crook from New Jersey” to identify with the agita of navigating the wild journey of life. As we make our way through both The Sopranos universe and our own, “sometimes it’s smooth and sometimes you hit the rocks.” And in order to prevent yourself from capsizing, sometimes, ignorance is bliss. But what’s the price of bliss? Well, that depends on who you ask. (I can hear Tony saying “Here we go, here comes the Prozac.“)
So, what the f*ck’s that got to do with c̶o̶l̶d̶ ̶m̶e̶d̶i̶c̶i̶n̶e̶ The Matrix? As a refresher, The Matrix takes place in a dystopian future where humans exist in a simulated reality. This simulation exists to keep humans blind to the world as it actually exists while they continue to produce energy for the survival of the machines. But here’s where it gets tricky: Humans have two choices: Take the blue pill and remain in a state of blissful ignorance, or take the red pill and see the world for what it is. In many ways, The Sopranos is a quintessential red vs. blue pill example, with the blue pill most often emerging as the victor. (“To the victor, belongs the spoils,” right?) Let’s start with a very direct example and then get into some other characters and scenes from “The Telltale Moozadell.”
Carmela Soprano = Blue Pill, with a hint of red every so often.
First up, we have Carmela Soprano, wife to Tony and mother to Meadow and Anthony Jr. (A.J.). The opening to “The Telltale Moozadell” contains a bold illustration of the blue pill via the sapphire diamond ring Tony gifts Carmela for her birthday. And this year, it comes in a package deal with A.J.’s gift of The Matrix! Though Carmela briefly tiptoes toward the red pill on certain occasions (like when she saw Dr. Krakower earlier in season three), she ultimately decides to stay in safe territory with the blue pill. And the shiny diamond’s right there for you as a reminder in case of any confusion.
But the blue pill for Carmela is much more than just a rock on her finger. Essentially, it’s the universe that keeps her largely boxed in to the confines of 633 Stag Trail Road. For what it’s worth, 633 Stag Trail Road is a VERY nice box, provided you don’t ask too many questions. Or, as Gloria liked to describe it, Carmela must keep a “VERY nice home.” Speaking of Gloria, let’s go to the zoo!
The Zoo = Blue Pill
Another example of the blue pill at work is Tony and Gloria, along with their trip to the zoo. It’s here where Tony actually tells Gloria “I never met anybody like you.” Ahh, but he spoke too soon. All it takes is an “Oh, poor you” from Gloria to give Tony that deja vu feeling and jog his memory. (There’s The Matrix again!)
In addition to the literal physical scenery change, in some ways, the zoo is the ultimate escape for Tony. For most of us, the zoo can help us “stop and smell the gorilla sh*t,” but with Tony it’s almost like a little oasis. Whereas, in the “real world,” he has to always watch his back for the next betrayal or attack, he can actually let his guard down here for a few moments.
Besides the specific zoo example, I believe Tony’s extramarital affairs as a whole are part of his blue pill formula. Rather than confront the difficulties of marriage, it’s easier and more fun to find a new Amour Fou rollercoaster to ride until he’s bored and ready for the next one. The problem here is that these “rollercoasters” are also humans, with their own set of emotions. And though Gloria confidently asserts a red pill truth that “life is suffering,” that doesn’t necessarily make the suffering part any easier. Especially when she sees a literal manifestation of the blue pill beaming from Carmela’s finger, though that comes a few episodes later.
Adriana La Cerva's Blue Pill
Eventually, Adriana does realize that the club is becoming a frequent meeting spot for the DiMeo crew. Though perhaps that was implied all along, especially considering that Christopher and Furio’s part ownership of the club was a debt repayment after a bad football bet. But look how easy it is at first to live in blissful ignorance, at least until reality comes rearing its ugly head. And reality here is the FBI sitting Ade down and threatening her with jail time. What a coincidence that she happens to be wearing red on this occasion, which matches perfectly with the red pill.
Jackie Aprile, Jr. - Lies, Lies, & More Lies
Speaking of Adriana (and pills), let me turn next to Jackie Aprile, Jr. Jackie isn’t a frequent guest of The Crazy Horse, but his friend Matush sure is (or was). In his desire to seem like he’s a well-connected “associate” of Christopher Moltisanti, Jackie assures Matush he can continue to sell drugs there. Ironically enough, it’s when Matush is showing his customer some white pills that he gets punished for Jackie Jr’s ignorance. If you’re curious about my overall opinion of Jackie, I think if he had a choice between the red or blue bill, he’d probably say something like “How the heck should I know? I’m no art major.”
Meadow - "Sometimes, we're all [blue pill] hypocrites."
Of course, when we talk about season three Jackie, that brings us to Miss Meadow Soprano and her blue pill/red pill situation. Meadow is a unique example given her particular development over the course of The Sopranos. Whereas in the beginning, Meadow was hardly buying Tony’s “oppressed Italian Americans” narrative, by the end, she’s apparently accepted the blue pill, at least on the outside. We hear that loud and clear in the series finale, where she tells Tony she’s decided to go into law after seeing the government trample over the rights of innocent Italian-Americans like Tony. Even Tony’s not convinced.
A.J. Soprano - Both The Blue & The Red
Last but not least for “The Telltale Moozadell” is A.J. In contrast to Meadow, it’s the red pill that makes its appearance near the end of the series for A.J., though you’d hardly know it from watching this episode. What we see instead is a demonstration of just how insulated A.J. is from the real world or any of its consequences. When he and his pals decide to break into their school at night to take a swim, they figure “Why not just break into the teacher’s offices and throw some supplies into the pool, too!”
As it turns out, A.J. doesn’t receive any punishment at school because the principal is scared to get on Tony Soprano’s bad side. In this case, ironically, neither Tony nor Carmela try to persuade the school officials to be lenient. That’s right: A.J. gets out of trouble because of his last name. Perhaps that’s the point—just being who they are is enough persuasion by itself.
However, as I alluded to, when that red pill does show up for A.J., it’s no picnic. All of those things A.J. mentions at the tail end of season 6B—war, pollution, disease, humans having their heads so far up their asses—that’s pretty on point. The problem is figuring out what to do with that, especially when you learn that there isn’t much you CAN do.
Dr. Richard Vogel: You sound depressed again.
A.J: I mean, how can anybody not be? You'd have to be f***ing nuts not to be. I mean, you'd have to have your head wedged so far up your ass that all you could see is your own stupid face!
In sum, “The Telltale Moozadell” (S3, E9) packs a bunch of recurring Sopranos and life themes in one interesting episode. The truth is, there are so many more characters to dive into and analyze from the red pill-blue pill perspective, but this is a start with characters in “The Telltale Moozadell.” And my next question is for you: Which pill would YOU choose? Red, blue, or something else? And to take it up a notch, do we even have a choice in the first place? Can people really change? Or is it more like how Tony describes it (quoting Popeye), “I am what I am”? I know, I know, all very casual topics.
Anyway, let’s connect! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. The Telltale Moozadell Additional Miscellaneous Quotes
- Hugh DeAngelis: Who invented these things? You people are all out of your minds.
- Furio Giunta: Bet with your head. Not over it.
- Gloria Trillo: Usually they just engage in what’s called threat behavior.
- Paulie Walnuts: Amazing thing about snakes is that they reproduce spontaneously…
- When Carmela tells Tony that Jackie took Meadow into the city to see “Aida,” Tony replies with “I eat her”?