The Sopranos, Season Three, Episode Ten, “To Save Us All From Satan’s Power”
Perhaps more than any other holiday, Christmas is the most memory-dependent and nostalgic-driven of all the holidays. Though we celebrate the latest present-addled holiday in the present, we often find ourselves drawing from the previous emotions of Christmases past. For some, it’s a wonderful feeling, others depressing. Everyone’s ghosts from the past are different.
Ghosts are everywhere in “To Save Us All From Satan’s Power,” the yuletide story from season 3 of The Sopranos. Specifically, the ghost of Pussy, one-time friend turned FBI informer, is what haunts Tony Soprano. He doesn’t regret killing his friend. Truth be told, he would do it again in a heartbeat. Regardless, Tony wants answers. Not just when Pussy did what he did, but why.
Unlike Mad Men, I have only seen each episode of The Sopranos once, so it was interesting to go back through the show and be reminded just how strong the show is. James Gandolfini is a goddamn national treasure, effortlessly creating a character that is simultaneously larger-than-life and compellingly rooted in reality. A revisit of The Sopranos provided a comforting reminder that this will forever remain one of the greatest shows of all time, and that a rewatch should be done sometime in the very near future.
The show’s greatness stems from its effortless and brilliant writing, with this episode in particular credited to series regulars Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess. The Sopranos juggles so many characters, and its dedication to showcasing all of them instead of exiling them to the background really shines through here. Characters like Silvio, Paulie, Janice and Junior have some truly great moments here as they always do, but it is the return of Vincent Pastore as Pussy via flashback that accounts for the highlight of the episode. in the great Sopranos way, the memory of Christmas gone by provides both drama (was Pussy behaving so strangely because he was wearing a wire?) and humor (“Fuck you, Santa”) without ever feeling forced or contrived.
“To Save Us All From Satan’s Power” is an episode about ghosts. Tony is haunted by his past at every corner, but he also fears the uncertainty of things to come. What is to be done about Jackie Aprile Jr? In the closing moments of the episode, Tony is gifted with a darkly ironic present that serves as another reminder of Pussy. How can the past offer any answers when even the present is slapping him in the face?
I wrote about Mad Men last week, and there are some interesting parallels here with ghosts and a search for peace. But where Don is trying to find solace in dry land, Tony is just trying to find a way to comfortably tread water. Holidays are always easy, especially when they drudge up feelings of loneliness or paranoia. For both these characters, the road ahead is only darker. While Don would only sink deeper into his dark side, Tony has yet to worry about his son’s sickness, dealing with his daughter’s boyfriend and issues with a mistress. While the ghosts of Christmas future still whispers from the future, one thing remains certain: somebody’s gonna be taking Santa lessons next year.