The Blue Comet
Cathleen Kaveny June 4, 2007 - 12:47pm
A luxurious passenger train streaking over the Pine Barrens between 1929 and 1941, the Blue Comet was a marvel of speed, luxury, and glamor. It was also, and essentially, New Jerseys marvelit carried its well-heeled passengers back and forth between Jersey City and Atlantic City. It symbolized New Jerseys determination to flourish without becoming a mere satellite of New York; Manhattan passengers had to make their way to Jersey City before they could settle themselves in the Blue Comet for the short trip to the shore.
In this episode, the Blue Comet symbolizes the determination of the New Jersey mob family to survive without being swept into the orbit of Phil Leotardos New York-based family. Phil decides to go to war to take out the New Jersey family; he calls them pygmies, disparages their morals (they harbored a homosexual made manuntil Phil killed him, that is), and castigates their liturgical laxity (anyone can be made in New Jersey; furthermore, their induction ceremony was far too relaxed for Phils taste). All this, in Phils view, deserves the death penalty. So he decides to take out the three top people Tony, Bobby, and Silvioand absorb the remnants into his New York family. At last, mere anarchy is loosed upon the worldwe have our mob war.
Tony hears about the proposed hit from the FBI man (Agent Harris) who eats at Satriales the tip is, in some sense, payback for Tonys information about the Muslims suspected of terrorism. So Tony realizes that he has to take out Phil in order to survive. He gives the job to Bobby, who eventually decides to bring in the Italian hit men who worked for them successfully on a prior occasion. But on this occasion, things go badlythe hit takes place at the home of Phils mistress, but Phil isnt there at the time instead, her father, who looks like Phil, is visiting. The Italians kill the father and the mistress instead.By the time the mistake is discovered, precious time has been lost. The hits on the Soprano leadership are proceeding apace. Bobby is in a model train store, buying a model Blue Comet train, chatting amiably with the owner about how people were better and kinder during the real Blue Comets heyday, when he is shot down, brutally, by two of Phils hitmen. A model train comes crashing to the ground. Two other hit men block off Silvio and Patsy Parisis car at the Bada Bing, opening fire on them. Silvio is hit badly, but not killed; we later learn that he lies comatose in a hospital bed, unlikely ever to awake.
What about Tony? It hasnt been a good week for him or for the reputation of psychiatrists. AJs bills for the psychiatric hospital are $2200 a day and its not clear they actually did anything more than warehouse the boy. When speaking with someone from the hospital, Tonys told that kids in crisis dont need talk therapythey need a safe, unstressed place. And Tony is told, by his own therapist Dr. Melfi, that talk therapy isnt helping him. After her own psychiatrist at a dinner party where he unprofessionally talks about the case -- convinces her that sociopaths are actually made worse by talk therapy (they use it to practice manipulation) and she finally internalizes the fact that Tonys a sociopath (the article about how sociopaths do have sympathy --for babies and animals finally rings a bell), she unceremoniously and ungraciously dumps him as a patient. The proximate cause is the fact that he ripped a barbeque recipe out of her office magazineaptly titled "Departures". With displaced anger, she asks him why he didnt think about the desires of her other patients to read the magazine too. Yesthats his biggest problem. Sure it is.
Tony goes home, and hustles the family together to go into hiding without him. He smacks AJ around a bitimpatient with his whiningand reassures Carmela that they wont go after the family. But you can see that she loves himits not only herself and the children that shes worried about. Carmela, in my view, is clearly morally superior to Dr. Melfi in this episode--Dr. Melfi discharges Tony as a patient when he becomes an inconvient embarassment to her, due to the (improper) public discussion of her patient at a dinner party of psychiatrists. The manner in which she discharges him is also all about her--not about his welfare, or even the welfare of his son.
Tony, Paulie, and a few loyal members of his crew hide out in a safe house. Tony lies on the bed grasping the automatic gun that Bobby gave him for his birthday presentremembering their conversation about whether you hear the shot that kills you.
One more week. I now think theres a chance that Tony wont die. "The Second Coming"the "rough beast, its hour come round at last," may be a newly empowered and feral Tony who amalgamates the New York family to his own by killing Phil. If he survives, he will be strongfree from the need to follow conventional morality, free from the need to nurse his own psychic wounds in therapy, he will be a rough beast indeed.
About the Author
Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.