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Why The Sopranos was the most spiritual show on TV

Drawing on ideas and idioms from mysticism and transpersonal psychology, HBO’s The Sopranos was the most Soul’s Code show on television — until LOST took over

BY PAUL KAIHLA — “Read for the rapture” was a signature phrase in the penultimate episode of The Sopranos, which aired during the second week of June, 2007. We’ve come to love and learn those epiphanic flourishes of dialogue — and this one came from an FBI agent, of all characters.

Could we agree that the greatest series, ever, in television history is The Sopranos? Or could we at least agree that it ranks as the most spiritual show on TV? Here’s why:

1. You’ve heard homeless people ranting on the street. Step a bit outside of your own head, and realize that they’re simply voicing aloud the kind of thought-strings that race through most of our minds every minute. Since the homeless have little left to lose, they are less defended — and to put a generous spin on it, feel liberated to share their ‘inner voice’. The Reflections promo for the homestretch of The Sopranos channels that dynamic through Tony — overlapping, Altman-esque tracks of internal dialogue looping through the mob boss’s head. Ramana Maharshi himself couldn’t have showcased the mental noise of a neurotic mind more poignantly.

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Psychologist Robert Hare Immortalized on The Sopranos

Psychologist Robert Hare Immortalized on The Sopranos

Are some actors a bit too convincingly psychopathic? Maybe they’ve studied with Robert Hare

Congratulations to Soul’s Code friend Robert Hare, whose work on psychopathy was highlighted in the penultimate episode of The Sopranos. It aired on Sunday, June 3,  and won the love of reviewers because its tightly-wound narrative resembled Act III of a Godfather movie.

The high point for us was not the shootout in the parking lot of the Bada Bing, witnessed by topless strippers. It was a dinner table conversation where Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist, Jennifer Melfi (the character standing in the top right of the image above), discusses studies into psychopathy with other psychs. Hare’s work is debated, and it becomes a catalyst for Melfi firing Tony as a patient in a later scene. The dramatic turn helps the series wind down in two ways: it exits a major character, and enables the audience to decathect from Tony by explicitly framing him as a clinical sociopath/psychopath.

At the dinner table, one of the doctors exclaims to Melfi: “Robert Hare suggested that sociopaths actually quite glibly engage on key issues like ‘mother,’ ‘family’ . . . .”

Hare’s book, Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, delves into white-collar sociopaths as well as the criminal kind.

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