I don't know if I could disagree with the previous review more. As always, The Sopranos forces us as viewers to get away from our complacency in thinking the show is all violence and bravado. This is a show that's always, at heart, been about the full bewildering humanity of its characters. This season seems to be about the way Tony's mentality manifests itself in the people he influences, and in that, "Sentimental Education" is pivotal for the season, and arguably the most revealing episode ever about who Carmela really is. In her smoldering affair with AJ's principal, there's an unconscious need to manipulate him - she blames his perceptions, but really, she's very much to blame for seizing an opportunity before her and forcing the principal's hand in adjusting AJ's grades. In truth, that's the essence of what draws her to Tony - she can go round after round over her guilt on what Tony's done, but beneath her protesting, she understands and upholds his opportunistic logic. That goes double for Tony B., who barely needs the whiff of the good life to switch teams. His moment of violence against Kim is such a shock because it's completely irrational, a violent outburst of temper from an apple that clearly didn't fall too far from the Soprano family tree.
And just to be thorough here, Bogdanovich may be a "veteran director" in the sense that he's made his share of movies, but he has also only made one good one (The Last Picture Show). If you ask me, it's not that he makes the episode more engaging through his insight into the fight scenes, it's that this show allowed him to make the second best piece of work in his career - his sentimental lens finds its perfect subject in Edie Falco's quietly captivating performance.