"Carmela to Tony: ""Everything comes to an end."" True enough, Mrs. Sope, but on The Sopranos, the end comes sooner for some than others (rest in pieces, Ralph). Though for some the widely debated fourth season contained too much yakking instead of whacking, and an emphasis on domestic family over business Family, what critic James Agee once said of the Marx Brothers applies to The Sopranos: ""The worst thing they might ever make would be better worth seeing than most other things I can think of."" And in most respects, The Sopranos remains television's gold standard. The fourth season garnered 13 Emmy nominations, including best actor and actress consideration for James Gandolfini and Edie Falco as Tony and Carmela, whose estrangement provides the season with its most powerful drama. The season finale, ""Whitecaps,"" was a long-time-coming episode, in which she at last stands up to ""toxic"" Tony. The season's--and one of the series'--most shocking episodes was ""Whoever Did This,"" which marked the grisly swan song of Emmy nominee Joe Pantoliano's psychopath Ralph.Other narrative threads include Christopher's (Emmy nominee Michael Imperioli) descent into heroin addiction, Uncle Junior's (Dominic Chianese) trial, an unrequited and potentially fatal attraction between Carmela and Tony's driver Furio, and a rude joke about Johnny Sack's wife that has potentially fatal implications. Other indelible moments include Christopher's girlfriend Adriana's projectile reaction to discovering that her new best friend is an undercover FBI agent in the episode ""No Show,"" Janice giving Ralph a shove out of their relationship in ""Christopher,"" and the classic ""Quasimodo/Nostradamus"" exchange in the season-opener, which garnered HBO's highest ratings to date. Freed from the understandably high expectations for the fourth season, heightened by the 16-month hiatus, these episodes can be better appreciated on their own considerable merits. They are pivotal chapters in television's most novel saga. --Donald Liebenson"
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