Carmela comes into an apartment with shopping bags -- from Kings! Great deli counter. The apartment is Meadow's, and we get exposition to that effect courtesy of Carm and Meadow's roommate Colin's mother, who's visiting from Akron. Then Mrs. McDermott raves about Meadow for a while and how "she's going places," praising her poise and maturity and saying that she cooks for the other two roomies and volunteers at the law center and it's "extraordinary" and on and on and on. While the college of cardinals considers Meadow's application for sainthood, Carmela smiles and nods and looks both proud and sort of bored at the same time. Meadow herself turns up shortly thereafter. We meet Alex, the other roommate, and then the tertiary characters scatter so that mother and daughter can have a sofa heart-to-heart about Meadow's boyfriend Finn, who recently arrived on the show from left field. Seriously -- the hell? Meadow's all depressed about Jackie Jr., there's a big blow-out, she goes back to school and grows a social conscience, then she basically disappears except for a couple of drive-bys mid-season, and now…she's back? With a boyfriend? And that's it? That's all we get?
The show keeps doing that to us -- giving characters big showcase episodes, then shuffling them to the bottom of the deck for weeks at a time -- and I don't think Season Four is nearly the bust a lot of critics do, but it's got a couple of problems, and if I had to point to the biggest one, I'd point to that. The Sopranos has too many characters taking up too much airtime, and a lot of them just don't merit the attention. My apologies to the Bacala fans in the audience, because Schirripa's a good actor, but Bobby is Exhibit A. The guy's a tertiary character, he should have stayed one, and if Chase couldn't find a good plot for Janice, he should have sent her back to Seattle or killed her off. AJ is another example; that subplot did nothing to advance the character or any other plot. Ditto Artie Bucco. If you don't know what to do with him, don't do anything. Send him into the shot with an armful of plates and then tell Ventimiglia to go home. One FBI agent will do, or two. Not four. No more Irina. No more Intintola. We remember them, but there's no need to prove that the show does, too -- put them away and leave them there. And the Furio "plot"…oy. It had potential, but it came out of nowhere, took too long, and wasted time that belonged to other characters, characters like Melfi and Junior who felt like afterthoughts for most of the season -- and that's on top of taking Paulie out of commission for awhile.