Family is a major theme in The Sopranos. It explores the relationship Tony Soprano had with each one of his family member, and how it impacted their personalities. One relationship that stands out is the one with his son, Anthony Junior. A.J. (played by Robert Iler) in The Sopranos began as a likable boy but slowly went downhill from there. By the end of the show, he behaved like a spoiled child, but with some serious mental health issues too. In this article, we’ll explore what went wrong with him?
A.J. – from a cute boy to a spoiled brat
A.J. during the first two seasons of the Sopranos was an adorable boy. He was good to his father as well as his mother. His performance in school was pretty bad, but everyone at home still loved him. However, that started to change as season 2 came along. As the seasons progressed, A.J. Just became lazier and lazier. He left more schools than we can count, and just refused to take any responsibility. Furthermore, A.J. was very concerned about the environment, and the war in the Middle East. But, but his own priorities were always misplaced.
By the final season of The Sopranos, A.J. was completely out of control. He had this weird relationship with a girl many years older than her, with a baby of her own. And it didn’t work out in the end because she needed someone mature. After a long mourning period, he started spending time with bullies and in some cases, took joy in others’ suffering. The worst came upon him when he tried to commit suicide in his family’s pool. So, the question is how did it get so bad for A.J.?
A.J. is a lot like his dad, Tony Soprano
This might sound weird, but it’s true if you think of it. A.J. is a lot like Tony himself but in a very different manner. Hear us out first!
As we all know, therapy is a major part of The Sopranos. Tony had been in therapy since the pilot, and he always admires the “Strong and silent type. Like Gary Cooper”. His father was a lot like that. Johny Boy Soprano grew up in a tough neighborhood and thus was a very serious man. He spent his life providing for his family, as Tony himself said that he himself was much more successful than his father.
You see, Johny boy, Tony, and A.J. represented three generations of the mafia. As the generations progressed, their lives became more comfortable and secluded. You are able to focus on the meaning of life, your purpose in it, and your emotions only if your basic needs are fulfilled. Johny boy spent his whole life trying to bring food on the table. This toughened him up, as well as Tony. Tony was quite tough in dealing with emotions and worked hard himself, but eventually needed therapy when he achieved everything. But A.J. had nothing to fight for. This post in The Sopranos subreddit dives deeper into this question.
A.J.’s self-entitlement – Just like Tony
Because A.J. was born in a cultured Italian family, he always valued more for being a boy. He thought he was entitled to everything. A.J. never put any work in his jobs and sulked in either his room or with friends. This was because he caught that sense of entitlement from his father. Tony Soprano suffered from the same issue. Especially with women, he couldn’t tolerate any rejection or even losing. His rage when his therapist, Dr. Melfi turned him down shows it clearly.
A.J’s life was surrounded by the material benefits in a secluded neighborhood. This made him socially incapable and thus emotionally unstable. This was the reason for his gradual descent into the madness we saw in season 6 of The Sopranos. Despite that, he was a very realistic character. Sonny Bunch describes that in this article brilliantly. And Robert Iler played A.J. brilliantly throughout this journey. Which brings us to the acting!
The cast of The Sopranos delivered!
The Sopranos cast acted out this emotional conflict brilliantly. James Gandolfini as Tony, Edie Falco as Carmela, and Robert Iler as A.J. gave powerful performances in their roles.
However, we have even higher expectations from another son of an infamous father. That is Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, who will be filling in Tony’s shoes in the new “The Many Saints of New York”. We hope he is able to do justice to the character as his father did. No pressure!