The Winning Side?: Agent Harris and the FBI on HBO’s The Sopranos
by Douglas Howard — Suffolk County Community College
June 27, 2007 – 03:01
While the “closure junkies,” as Paul Levinson recently called them on his Infinite Regress blog, continue to analyze the last episode like the Zapruder film in search of a more definite ending, The Sopranos has generally resisted the attempt to offer the comfort of resolution and the suggestion of a moral outcome. Inasmuch as more traditional “law and order” dramas work toward punishing “the bad guys” and allowing people to turn off their sets safe in the belief that crime does not pay, the series, in refocusing on the criminals themselves, has typically portrayed the search for justice as absurd and turned the feds into bumbling, ridiculous caricatures who, ultimately, may have gotten more people killed than the mobsters themselves.
This scene from the controversial final episode illustrates the height of this moral absurdity in the form of Tony’s longstanding FBI foil Agent Harris. Where Harris once futilely searched through Tony’s couch cushions for incriminating evidence and labored in vain to place a bug in his basement, since his reassignment to terrorism, he now only frequents Satriale’s for a taste of their veal parmesan hero. And as Harris and Tony exchange information, his similarities to the mob boss and his morally questionable agenda become all the more apparent. Not only is he shown fighting with his wife on the phone and having an affair with another officer, but, inasmuch as Tony and Harris have developed a rapport, he even passes on a tip about New York family head Phil Leotardo’s whereabouts. Ironically, after all the years of trying to arrest Tony, he perks up at the news of Phil’s death and comically reveals his allegiance to Tony and the New Jersey mob, a reaction that his fellow agent clearly questions. In the total scheme of things, is Tony, for all of his sociopathic tendencies and criminal activities, the lesser and more necessary evil, or has Harris, like so many viewers, essentially been seduced into believing that Tony is on the winning side?
And, given Harris’s behavior and the portrayal of the FBI on the show, would another bloody restaurant rub-out or Tony behind bars, in the end, really make us believe that crime did not pay and that justice, along with the onion rings, was served?
No one has reviewed this post… but you need to login to submit feedback
- Hung Out to Dry: HBO’s Cancellation Habit
- Voice of a Generation?: The Potential of Authenticity in HBO’s Girls
- The Other Side of Democracy in the Digital Age
- Do Agent-avatars Dream of Embodied Sheep? Subjectivity and Subjugation in the Virtual World of Prometeus – The Media Revolution
- “Money, Shame and Reparation: A Moment from The Sopranos”