After reading advance reviews of the first couple of episodes of the season, I was prepared for a premiere that doesn’t exactly propel things forward. "Soprano Home Movies" is a pretty unconventional episode, keeping the focus almost exclusively on the events at Bobby’s country house. At this point in the series’ run, the characters are so well developed that they basically write themselves, and I’d imagine once they came up with the idea of putting Janice, Tony, Bobby and Carmela in a confined space, everything that happened pretty much flowed from there. I thought this was a masterfully executed episode, and a return to a more focused, probing style after the drift of last year’s final run.
The thing that frustrated me about the end of last season wasn’t so much that nothing of significance happened with the plot, it was that not much changed for the characters. Even though the New York/New Jersey conflict has been in a perpetual loop, it never felt so teasing as at the end of last year. But, that wouldn’t even matter if the characters were vital. The major events that did happen seemed to occur in passing, we weren’t placed in the characters’ heads, but here, we’re totally immersed in where these people are at the moment, and allowed to feel everything they feel.
For me, everything in this episode took place in the shadow of the scene at the end of season five’s "Cold Cuts," in which Janice talks about her success with anger management. Tony, jealous of her progress, taunts her until she snaps, then he walks out of the house, satisfied with himself. It’s one of the many low ebbs for the character, a moment in which his pettiness comes to the fore.
As the weekend begins, Janice notes the way that the relationship between her and Tony has improved. However, when she discusses the way he’s changed since being shot, he starts to get defensive. I would argue the reason he keeps pushing to insult her during the game of monopoly is precisely because he wants to show that he’s still the same. But, when we see him sitting in the chair, staring out at the water, or mentioning after how he’s on the downhill part of life, it’s clear that he’s still feeling the effects of the shooting. It’s particularly notable that Bobby is the one to instigate the attack, not understanding the dynamic Tony and Janice share. Clearly he’s still got some major rage issues, but I would argue that the insulting of Janice is more a nostalgic revisiting of their old dynamic than a genuine expression of malice.