A Right Turn? The Sopranos Redux

The Sopranos is getting better and better. If Episode 32 highlighted the series' aggressive core, Episode 33 goes further in featuring a character with a full-blown conscience.

By the time Carmela Soprano sees a psychiatrist in Episode 33, her husband Tony has committed battery, assault, and taken a baseball bat to someone's car – standard thuggery for the series' antihero. Dr. Krakower is no placative shrink, however, and lays the smack down (to borrow The Rock's phrase) on the mobster's old lady:

CARMELA: He's a good man, he's a good father.

DR. KRAKOWER: You tell me he's a depressed criminal, prone to anger, serially unfaithful. Is that your definition of a good man?

CARMELA: I thought psychiatrists weren't supposed to be judgmental.

DR. KRAWKOWER: Many patients want to be excused for their current predicament because of events that occurred in their childhood. That's what psychiatry has become in America. Visit any shopping mall or ethnic pride parade to witness the results.

And for another incisive exchange:

CARMELA: He betrays me every week with these whores!

DR. KRAKOWER: Probably the least of his misdeeds.

Dr. Krakower argues that if Tony turns himself in, reads Crime and Punishment, and "reflect[s] on his crimes every day for seven years in his cell, then he might be redeemed." In the meantime, Carmela should secede from the marriage. (Krakower won't even accept payment for the session because "I won't take blood money." What a guy!)

Krakower doesn't romanticize Tony's disposition or coddle Carmela with "You're doing your best, that's all you can do" inanity. The good doctor assesses Tony to be the irascible adulterer and criminal he is. This is one of the few times you'll find a Mafia-oriented drama overtly identify its subject's deviancy. (Donnie Brasco comes close with its bleak portrayal of the supposedly glamorous Mafia lifestyle.)

With Dr. Krakower's moral commentary, The Sopranos seems to be taking a right turn insofar as it includes an admirable conservative character. (Note Krakower's derision of contemporary America's mindless mall culture and neurotic tribalism.) If you haven't seen Episode 33, let me assure you that Krakower is depicted as a first-class mensch.

I speculate The Sopranos' bigwigs are closet Rothbardians. Krakower is a short, elderly, magisterial yet folksy Jewish man. Have the powers that be been listening to the Ludwig von Mises Institute's audio excerpts of Rothbard's lectures?

I'm being facetious, of course, but the old-school sagacity's still there. In fact, if we extend Krakower's critique of Tony to government, we find a pretty accurate description of our most recent ex-president's phallocentric foreign policy and periodic philandering that were criminal through and through. (Ok, so Bomber Bill's a lot brighter than Troglodyte Tony. That's actually worse given the persuasive powers of intelligent criminals – Clinton case in point.)

Philosopher Joshua Halberstam observes that "When you refuse to judge someone, you refuse to take that person seriously." Dr. Krakower doesn't hesitate to call a spade a spade, and his candor shows more respect for Carmela Soprano than the leftist quacks that would appease her warped worldview.

April 13, 2001

Myles Kantor lives in Boynton Beach, Florida.

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