So What’s with That ‘Sopranos’ Season 5 Wipe Transition?

The internet loves to dissect things, from how a major star ended up getting a DWI to how exactly Kim Cattrall came to record her scat singing video. But one thing that people still can’t confirm is how “The Sopranos” ended up turning to slo-mo and a wipe cut in a Season 5 episode.

It’s not for lack of trying.

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For years, Reddit users have obsessed over the Episode 10 (“Cold Cuts”) moment in which Carmela blurts out to an ex-lover that she’s returning to her estranged husband, Tony, fueled partly because of massive pandemic watches. The episode’s director, Mike Figgis, briefly mentioned the wipe transition in his commentary on the series’ DVD set (“That’s a really interesting transition, and it wasn’t the way I’d expected the scene to look at the end”). And the question came up again during the interview process for Alan Seppinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz’s definitive making-of book, “The Sopranos Sessions.”

But the question still tickled people’s fancies, so Seitz went back to the creators involved to dig up the truth.

Except it was impossible. At least, that’s the end result of Seitz’s recent lengthy Vulture article trying to uncover the truth.

Seitz went straight to the top and asked creator David Chase about the moment. Chase recalled signing off on the wipe transition but can’t recall the reason it was used. Figgis was next, and even after refreshing his memory with his shooting script and the storyboards he sketched for the episode, he was none the wiser. He did remember that the moment was in the first cut of the episode, edited by Sidney Wolinsky, and speculated the slo-mo might have been utilized in an effort to lengthen the moment we see Carmela’s face after realizing she’d go back to Tony.

But neither Wollinsky nor his assistant remembered how or why they came up with the slo-mo to freeze frame to wipe transition.

Slo-mo was hardly a new editing innovation in 2004 when the episode aired. Who can forget the “Sex and the City” moment in Season 3 (which aired in 2000) when Carrie Bradshaw walks away from her disastrous lunch with Natasha in her newspaper dress, the moment captured in slo-mo as she realizes that she might not get the forgiveness she craves and, more epically, that Big is now a single man in NYC again.

But the wipe transition is a trickier prospect. As IndieWire’s Jim Hemphill pointed out, “In most basic terms, a wipe conveys the passage of time. Which I realize is the same as a dissolve, but a wipe is just a more energetic (often funnier) way of doing it.”

“Wipes are almost always cheeky,” IndieWire’s Sarah Shachat added. And it might be that level of whimsy that the moment (unintentionally?) has that’s so jarring to viewers. But unlike, say, why “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” isn’t available on a streaming platform, this might be one pop culture mystery that even the internet can’t solve.

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