The Sopranos is more than just a suburban Godfather, it's a modern-day I, Claudius with all the consanguineous conflict of the Caesars translated to New Jersey. At the beginning of the third series--just as brilliant and compelling as the first two--the Soprano clan are under close surveillance from the FBI; but, as ever, that's the least of their problems. Anthony Jnr is getting into trouble at school, Meadow's romantic liaisons at college are a cause of friction, Carmela is having a crisis of conscience and Tony trades one dangerously neurotic mistress for another. Livia's death does nothing to help Tony's psychological problems, and his relationship with therapist Dr Melfi is increasingly strained, especially after she undergoes a shocking ordeal of her own.
There's tension in Tony's other "family", too, as Christopher finally gets made but then chafes at the extra responsibility, much to Paulie's disgust. In one magnificent episode (directed by Steve Buscemi) the two become stranded in the snow-filled woods overnight where all their mutual resentment boils over even as they both freeze. But Tony's real problems emerge from the Aprile family: Jackie Jnr is becoming a dangerous loose cannon, actively encouraged by his borderline psychotic stepfather Ralphie (a marvellous Joe Pantoliano), whose erratic behaviour threatens to ignite a deadly feud ("He disrespected the Bing", says Tony after punching him). When Jackie Jnr and Meadow become an item, both of Tony's dysfunctional families collide with devastating consequences.
On the DVD: The Sopranos, Series 3 arrives in a neat fold-out four-disc set, with four episodes on a double-sided first disc and three each on the remainder. The contents are an improvement on previous releases, with three separate episode commentaries, which are all informative and worthwhile: costar and sometime writer Michael Imperioli (Christopher) talks us through his own script for "The Telltale Moozadell"; Steve Buscemi appears on his directorial effort, "Pine Barrens"; and series creator David Chase chooses the penultimate episode, "Amour Fou". In addition there's a tiny three-minute backstage featurette. Picture and sound are up to par as ever.