Throughout the month of December, TV Editor Kate Kulzick and Film Editor Ricky D will review classic Christmas adaptions, posting a total of 13 each, one a day, until the 25th of December.
The catch: They will swap roles as Rick will take on reviews of classic television Christmas specials and Kate will take on classic Christmas movies. Today is day 9.
The Sopranos, “To Save Us All from Satan’s Power” (2001)
Season 3, Episode 10
Directed by Jack Bender
Teleplay by David Chase and Robin Green
Note: It’s difficult to really encapsulate the events that take place in this episode without spoiling it, since so much of it’s impact relies on the events that take place during the three seasons prior. I won’t be going into any specifics about the episode as to avoid spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t watched it. With that said, if you haven’t seen an episode of The Sopranos, I highly recommend you start since it is one of the greatest TV series of all time. Apart from that, I hope my review will simply serve as a reminder for fans of the show.
What’s it about?
The annual pork-store holiday party is fast approaching, but Tony Soprano isn’t feeling the Christmas spirit. A visit with the ghosts of Christmas past lands Tony back on his psychiatrist’s couch. Meanwhile the gang needs to find someone to replace Pussy and don the Santa suit. While the memories of Tony’s friend continues to haunt him, he tries to find time to balance his work with his family life.
The Sopranos has been acknowledged by critics as one of the greatest and most groundbreaking television series of all time. Over the course of its six (or seven) seasons, the series forever changed the way TV was not only produced and created but how audiences consumed the medium. The show was known for it’s mature and artistic content, cinematography, technical merit, soundtrack selection and the difficult and controversial subjects it tackled, week after week.
Every year around Christmas, there are two stories guaranteed to pop up on television: A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. Both have inspired countless adaptations, spoofs, homages and so on – but who would have ever guessed Frank Capra’s classic would have somehow inspired an episode of The Sopranos?
The Christmas episode, nicely titled “To Save Us All From Satan’s Power,” sees Tony Soprano dealing with the death of a good friend. As always, Tony is our focus. Tony may be a mobster but he’s just as human as any of us, and the holidays have him looking back at the important events that unfolded in his life that year. Much of season three sees his friend’s death snake around the edges of the stories. This episode, is all about Tony dealing with his guilt, betrayal, paranoia – and his doubt concerning a decision he recently made. The challenge for Tony is to overcome these obstacles so that he can hopefully look ahead and start his new year fresh.
Unlike George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life), who overcomes his depression by remembering all the people who love him and all the ways that he’s helped others, Tony instead realizes just how much he has lost. Using very clever flash-forwards and flashbacks, the nonlinear structure of the episode presents his deceased friend as both a literal and figurative ghost. Nearly every scene of “Satan’s Power,” is haunted by this ghost in one way or another, even if he’s not physically (or spiritually) present.
For an episode this late in a Sopranos season, there’s not a lot happening, plot-wise. “Satan’s Power” is a fairly insignificant episode in advancing the season-spanning story arc, but while the mob business is barely present (outside of a few flashbacks), what’s really important is the emotions and the memories Tony’s dead friend brings. Combine the characters, the story, the message, and the acting, and it’s easy to see why this is a holiday favourite of mine to revisit from time to time.
Big-Mouth Billy Bass closes off the episode. Tony’s torn expression dissolves into the rolling waves as gospel music gradually kicks in, drowning out Billy’s voice. Tony’s friend may be gone, but his memory will forever live on. “Satan’s Power” carries a powerful emotional punch and is a necessary pause in a season-long storyline.
How Christmassy is it?
Unless you’re a mobster or a family member of one, you won’t be able to relate to the chracter’s inner turmoil, but it still has one hell of a Christmas feel. It may not be very cheerful, but it does revolve entirely around the holiday and features a scene from A Wonderful Life. It also features a ton of Christmas classics, including “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “The First Noel,” “Little Drummer Boy”, The Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” and “Santa Baby,” among others.
Who’s it for?
Since it doesn’t really work as a stand alone episode, I’d recommend it to fans of the series who may have forgotten about the episode.
The best line comes from Paulie Walnuts: “In the end, fuck Santa Claus.”
I’ve embedded the video below for anyone who misses Pussy, and the show.
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