THE LOSS DREAM
“I’m afraid I’m gonna lose my family like I lost the ducks.”
We discussed how there’s a constant, albeit repressed, fear of loss within Tony. An instinctive sensation symbolized and intensified through the inevitability of death – an abrupt one no less – and the concept of afterlife, contrasted by the very notion of liveliness. But where does this inherent phobia of losing it all come from? Could it entirely be blamed on Livia’s cynical, slightly nihilistic outlook, along with her ‘formidable maternal presence’, the effects of Johnny Boy Soprano’s values and his line of work, or a combination of both? Does Tony’s upbringing and his childhood insecurities play a part in preventing him from not opening up so often to Dr. Melfi about his core issues and his depression? There are direct connections between Tony’s double lifestyle and his panic attacks, the huge stress he goes under everyday, whether with his responsibilities as an acting mob boss or as a family man, causing him to black out; from another viewpoint we could even say that these little trips into unconsciousness are mini-deaths, each hinting at the sources of Tony’s underlying weakness and then culminating into a life-changing revelation or simply, desolation.
Tony’s first panic attack in the pilot is indirectly caused by the departure of the ducks, or in other words the same fear of losing his family. The next occurs in the retirement community as Livia’s reluctance finally blows over Tony. And then of course there’s Uncle Junior whose plans in this episode put Tony in a difficult situation: “My uncle adds to my general stress level.” The symptoms and causes of these attacks and the future ones are analyzed through his therapy sessions by Dr. Melfi. Tony’s deep-rooted sources of anxiety and his real life symptoms seem to intertwine in his dreams. There’s a thin boundary between his symbolic dreamworld elements and their inconspicuously normal counterparts in real life, as if one forebodes the other. Let’s examine some of them:
- Starting with Tony’s deep affection for the family of ducks that encompass the pilot: their departure triggers Tony’s first major/on-screen panic attack and the final shot shows the lifeless pool of which haunts Tony on a subconscious level throughout the series, just as the whole family’s there to re-celebrate AJ’s birthday. In the Season 5 premiere we see the barren pool again when Tony and Carmela are separated, further highlighting the desolation the family is going through. Finally after AJ’s failed suicide attempt in Season 6 (ironically contrasting his birthday in the pilot) , we see Tony emptying the pool in the penultimate episode, when all hope is apparently lost. This sets the tone for the ultimate loss, first appearing in the form of reconciliation with Janice and Corrado but then taking a twist at Holsten’s. Tony did manage to win the war of 2007 at least for a while, but did he also manage to keep his family from falling apart with him at the helm?
Next: The Loss Dream (cont)…