9. Are We Dreaming? Again?
Episode Title: "The Test Dream" (Season 5, Episode 11)
There are two types of television viewers in this world: Those who love a good dream sequence and those who do not. David Chase is clearly in the former category, as he regularly employed extended dream sequences (sometimes lasting an entire episode) as a chosen method of exposition for Tony's character. But wasn't that the point of Dr. Melfi's character?
Worse yet was when one of Tony's dream sequences would conclude with Tony telling Dr. Melfi about it—attempting to further drive home its meaning but being more successful in driving those viewers who were already bored to consider this the perfect time for a bathroom break.
Chase's tendency toward other-worldliness revealed itself early in the series, most notably in the debut season's last two episodes "Isabella" and "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano." But it was the second season finale—"Funhouse"—where Chase really embraced his predilection for the subconscious. In the episode, which jumps back and forth between dreams and reality, Tony is suffering from food poisoning and, in a state of delirium, comes to realize the truth about his soldier-turned-informant Big Pussy Bonpensiero, who's been wearing a wire.
But "The Test Dream" in season five—in which Annette Bening makes a bizarre cameo playing herself, but as the mother of Meadow's boyfriend Finn—was a particularly despised use of the technique, mostly because of timing. With Tony and his crew getting ready to go to war with a powerful New York family, the episode's insertion into the end part of the season angered viewers who were ready to get on with the imminent bloodshed.
The show's creators were well aware of the audience's disdain for these storylines, but they didn't relent. "People complained to me about it," writer-producer Terence Winter told the New Jersey Star Ledger in 2006. "I said, 'The opening shot of this series is a guy in a psychiatrist's office. You think maybe the show is going to deal with dreams and psychology?' That's how you've met Tony Soprano, so the show deals with that stuff. So if you're interested in Tony Soprano, aren't you interested in what he thinks about, what he dreams about?' You would hope."