We go back three decades from the start of the TV series. In the late 60s, Newark, New Jersey, is burning. Literally. African-Americans, seething at prejudice and injustice, set fire to the police HQ.
Dickie Moltisanti (many saints, geddit?) also sets fire to the corpse of his mob boss father, Hollywood Dick, after killing him in the family garage in a row over the treatment of Dickie’s mother and Dick’s young new wife.
The stage is set for a battle for control of the city by rival gangsters and for the conflict that will rage inside Dickie.
Stylishly portrayed with equal measures of charm and brutishness by Alessandro Nivola, he wants to be a better man yet can’t escape being a monster.
The Newark of the 60s is lovingly recreated only to be destroyed by flames and bullets. How the set designers must have cried.
It adds to the fun to spot the young Tony Soprano and compare him to the compelling character made flesh by the late James Gandolfini.
Here, he is a fat kid on the fringes of the drama, but then the action shoots forward a decade and we see Tony (competently played by Gandolfini’s real son Michael) as a conflicted teenager, getting into scrapes but dreaming of going to college.
He wants to keep his hands clean yet idolises his Uncle Dickie.
Meanwhile, rivals are circling the family. Cue an escalation of wince-inducing violence. A torture scene in a car repair shop, featuring the unconventional use of a pneumatic wheel nut remover, was particularly hard to watch. A trip to KwikFit will never be the same.
In the end, I suspect both fans and first-timers will be satisfied.
OK, it’s not The Sopranos, but what is?