After last week’s odd, substandard episode, the show roars back to full strength with the fantastic "Walk Like a Man." This episode continues the season’s focus on Tony’s two sons, AJ and surrogate Christopher, as each struggles to live with the legacy of Tony, in the same way that Tony struggles to live with the legacy of his predecessors.
This entire season has been obsessed with legacy, and fathers and sons, something that’s been present in the series since the first episode. The mob is on the decline, so many of the characters feel that it is impossible to live up to the people who came before them. With each generation in decline, where will things bottom out?
This episode, much like "Stage 5" was notable for the sheer number of events that unfolded. While I get what they were doing with last year’s season, I think the show is stronger in this more compressed mode. The writers have the uncanny ability to express complex ideas and developments in a very concise way. There’s more to analyze from single scenes of The Sopranos than from entire episodes of other shows. I think the show’s best season was the fifth, in which they focused primarily on standalone stories that all tied into the show’s mythology.
So, one week you follow Uncle Junior and have a story that sends the character through an entire arc, letting him recede into the background later in the season. But, none of these episodes are forgotten. For example, "Irregular Around the Margins," in which Tony and Adrianna nearly have sex, has cast a shadow over this entire season, laying the groundwork for the tension between Christopher and Tony. Things have never been the same since that episode, and it’s critical to understanding the way Christopher behaves here. He’s always looked up to Tony, and Tony has spent the entire series grooming Chris to be his successor. However, Christopher has never been certain about his role within the family, and that uncertainty crops up in this episode, where he feels nothing but disdain for the world around him.
Part of the reason people have trouble with the sixth season is the loss of Adrianna. She was the only character who wasn’t corrupted through her association with this world, and as a result, she offered hope that perhaps she and Christopher could leave this life behind and live a better way. After her death, the show returned with characters resigned to their world. Much of last year was focused on showing that these characters can never escape their imprisonment in this world, both because of outside forces and their own dependence.