– The Diner Scene in season 6?
– Lost in the Woods in “Pine Barrens”, season 3?
– The Ducks Fly Away in season 1?
Believe it or not, The Sopranos made its debut on HBO over 15 years ago, on January 10th, 1999. The Sopranos cemented HBO’s reputation as a haven for quality programming and top-notch storytelling. Without Tony Soprano, played by the late and truly great James Gandolfini, the television landscape might be a very different, and less interesting, place. Welcome Sopranos Fans!
From the very beginning of the series, Tony was never what anyone would describe as a model husband. He lied. He cheated on his wife. He committed countless crimes to provide his family with the luxuries they craved. But in his culture, that’s all to be expected. But for a wife to cheat on her husband? That’s unthinkable.
The simmering tensions between Tony and Carmela (Edie Falco) finally boiled over in the Season 4 finale after Tony’s former mistress Irina called the Soprano household. Carmela revealing her own emotional affair with Furio sent Tony over the edge, and he came as close as he ever would to physically striking his wife. Instead, he took his rage out on the wall. It was a scary glimpse into the monster within, and it cause a lasting rift between the two that only began to heal in the years that followed. As seen in: “Whitecaps” (Season 4).
In one of the best episodes of The Sopranos, Season’s 2 finale “Funhouse”, Tony is having fever dreams while suffering from bad food poisoning. All dreams have certain elements in common: danger, cancer and Pussy. It all leads up to this final dream… The dream in which Pussy – in fish shape – reveals to Tony that he is working for the government.
It is in moments like this that The Sopranos is at its most powerful. Using a dream as a method to really push the plot forward. In the first season, when his mother wanted him whacked, Tony was in denial and started fantasizing about a Madonna. But he didn’t acknowledge the truth until he heard his mother speak on the FBI tapes. Now, Tony has learned to listen to his subconscious. He has been having a strange feeling about Pussy for a long time and now he is open to the ultimate truth. When he wakes up he knows. This dream is the perfect crossover between the series’ essentials: the mob and psychiatry. As seen in: Season 2, episode 13.
In The Sopranos’ very own Baptism scene (tribute to The Godfather) beauty is mixed with ugliness. The beautiful part is Tony and Carmela attending Meadow’s school choir performing “All Through the Night”, while on speed, but they don’t know that. Simultaneously, the ugly part takes place in which Junior extracts his vengeance on Christopher and Brendan Filone for hijacking his trucks. Christopher gets a mock execution, while Brendan gets killed for real. Junior’s hitter Mikey Palmice puts one in his eye, because his eyes were bigger than his stomach (“Hi Jack, Bye Jack”).
There are few scenes in The Sopranos in which the contrast between the dark Jersey underworld and Tony’s ‘normal’ family life are shown more effectively. As seen in: Season 1, episode 3.
The now already famous question asked by Meadow – “Are you in the mafia?” – is answered with some sincerity by Tony. Off course he lies at first, but then he tells her that some of his money comes from illegal gambling. They have that kind of relationship, Meadow stresses.
One of the first and finest moments in which Tony’s Mafia and family life cross each other. As seen in: Season 1, episode 5.
If The Sopranos had a designated comic relief character, it was Paulie Walnuts (Vito Spatafiore). Paulie fancied himself a suave ladies man and all-around competent capo, but his cluelessness tended to get the better of him throughout the series. In this episode, Paulie took Tony’s advice and began reading (or listening to) Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Hoping to impress his friends, Paulie waxed on about the genius of “Sun Tizzou,” a man he praised as “The Chinese Prince Matchabelli,” until the more worldly Silvio Dante finally set him straight.
But the best moment in Paulie’s brief flirtation with culture came when he listened to Sun Tizzou in his car, knowingly absorbing the lesson “He will win, when he knows when to fight, and when not to fight” and nodding knowingly. No sooner did he absorb this bit of wisdom than Paulie launched out of his car, delivering a savage beating to a group of gardeners who owed him money. Lesson learned? As seen in: “Rat Pack”, Season 5.
Tony and his crew are back! The introduction sequence of the second season is a wonderful montage of all the major characters in their day to day activities. Tony is now boss and the money is flowing in. Livia is still in the hospital, while Junior is doing the perp walk in an orange jumpsuit. Christopher is watching gangster movies and snorting coke, Paulie is doing a Bada Bing girl and Silvio is out buying new shoes. Tony is also hiding his infidelity, while Carmela is baking one dish after the other. Dr. Melfi is practicing therapy from a bungalow home. A.J. is worrying about his hair and Meadow is taking her first driving lessons from her father. The audience is all up to date again.
The Frank Sinatra song “A Very Good Year” perfectly sets the moods for Season 2. This is how you tell a story without dialogue. As seen in: Season 2, episode 1.
Early in Season 2, Tony paid a visit to some Camorra mafia colleagues in Naples, hoping to pick up some new soldiers with more loyalty and skill than he could find among his own motley crew. Furio Giunta (Federico Castelluccio) immediately fit the bill, displaying a fierce loyalty for his superiors and a stern authority of his own. Plus, he was stylishly dressed and even a sensitive guy the ladies could flock to (even Carmela).
But viewers got a taste for just what sort of darkness lurked beneath Furio’s calm exterior when he set about punishing the men who owed Tony money. Furio’s early display of savagery set the tone for his character in the following seasons. He was a gentle soul capable of great violence and great passion. As seen in: “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (Season 2).
The mafioso culture seen in The Sopranos is all about machismo – proving to everyone else in the family that you’re tough, worthy of respect, and a red-blooded male of the highest order. It’s not a culture that welcomes homosexuality. So it was a bit of a shock when Meadow’s then-boyfriend Finn accidentally caught Vito Spatafore (Joseph R. Gannascoli) performing oral sex on a security guard at the construction site they both “worked” at.
It was a twist that initially resulted in a humorous subplot as Finn wasn’t sure whether Vito was looking to whack him for seeing too much or trying to seduce him. Finn’s solution was to get engaged with Meadow. But eventually Vito’s story took a dark turn when he was exposed to the rest of the crew and forced to go into hiding. His tragic, brutal death later in the series would cause a serious rift between the Soprano and Lupertazzi families. As seen in: “Unidentified Black Males” (Season 5).
For much of her early appearance, Tony’s sister Janice (Aida Turturro) made a grand show of distancing herself from the family business. She was a bohemian free spirit who traveled the world and dabbled in all sorts of crazy jobs before returning to Jersey to pester her brother. But that facade quickly faded away when she started dating her old high school boyfriend (and Tony’s rival) Richie Aprile (David Proval). Suddenly, Janice reverted to the stereotypical mafia housewife.
But Richie learned the hard way that Soprano blood runs deep in this episode. After calmly punching Janice in the face for having the audacity to support his son’s homosexuality, he returned to his meal, only to have a dumbstruck Janice come back in the room and shoot him dead. So after weeks of exacerbating the rivalry between Tony and Richie, Janice immediately put it to rest. Funny how things work out. As seen in: “The Knight in White Satin Armor” (Season 2).
If every junkie hits bottom eventually, then Christopher Molitsanti‘s (Michael Imperioli) came when he accidentally killed fiance Adriana’s (Drea de Matteo) dog while sitting on it in the midst of a heroin high. This finally forced the rest of the family to sit Christopher down in an intervention. And true to form for the Sopranos, that intervention resulted in Christopher getting beaten up and set to the hospital.
The key moment, however, came when Tony again confronted his nephew in the hospital room. Tony suddenly morphs from caring uncle to vengeful mob boss, telling Christopher in no uncertain terms that he’s only still alive because he’s family. In ore ways than one, this scene is haunting because of how we know their relationship eventually plays out. As seen in: “The Strong, Silent Type” (Season 4).
Season 2 of The Sopranos ends the way it started – with a beautiful montage. This concluding montage features happy images from Meadow’s graduation mixed with Soprano Family activities: garbage, porn, gambling, stock fraud, prostitution, etc. The very suitable “Thru and Thru” from The Stones plays during the sequence, which is the perfect choice as the lyrics fill in the lack of dialogue and it helps to create the perfect atmosphere.
The scene ends with a close-up of Tony smoking a cigar. He overcame all obstacles once again. Then we see the ocean where Pussy lies forever… This is a brilliant ending to an outstanding work of fiction. As seen in: Season 2, episode 13 “Funhouse”.
Once Richie Aprile was out of the picture, Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantolianio) took over as the obnoxious, overly ambitious, Janice-dating thorn in Tony’s side. But as it turns out, it was a different woman that brought the two men to blows – Pie-O-My the racehorse.
Tony, as is his way, was far more attached to the impressive steed than Ralphie, who only cared about the money she could bring in. And when a freak stable fire killed the horse, conveniently granting Ralphie the $200,000 life insurance payment he so desperately needed, Tony snapped. A few frantic moments later, Ralphie was strangled to death. As with Richie, we all knew Ralphie was going to meet his end sooner or later. It just didn’t happen in quite the manner expected. As seen in: “Whoever Did This” (Season 4).
A lot of shows take entirely too long to start living up to their full potential. But The Sopranos was firing on all cylinders by its fifth episode, which followed Tony and his daughter, Meadow (Jaime-Lynn Sigler), as they embarked on a college tour. “College” highlighted the tricky balancing act Tony was forced to maintain as a family man and a boss in one of the most powerful crime families in the Northeast. Is it hypocritical for a man who kills and extorts for a living to chastise his daughter for taking speed pills to cram for the SATs?
Never has the stark divide between Tony’s personal and professional lives been more apparent than when he dropped meadow off at a school and proceeded to hunt down and kill former mafioso-turned-FBI mole Fabian Petrulio. What would Meadow say if she knew her father was choking a man with a garrote as she was touring the campus? It was a complicated relationship, indeed. As seen in: “College” (Season 1).
The Sopranos often made sublime use of music. In “Isabella”, a morose Tony buys a cartoon of orange juice (a nod to the Godfather) and walks to his car to the melodramatic sound of “Tiny Tears” by Tindersticks. Seconds later an attempted hit on his life by two armed thugs begins, and the music abruptly stops.
In a brilliantly orchestrated scene, Tony snaps out of his malaise and fights them off, before laughing at his brush with death. As he says later to Dr Melfi: “Talk about a jolt to the system. Try gettin’ shot at … Well, i’ll tell you somethin’. I didn’t wanna die. Every fuckin’ particle of my bein’ was fightin’ to live.” An epiphany, Sopranos-style. As seen in: season 1, episode 12.
More often than not, it was those closest to Tony who posed the greatest threat to his life and livelihood. He finally became aware of the full scope of the conspiracy his Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) and mother Livia (Nancy Marchand) were planning against him after hearing taped recordings of their conversations. Never one to sit back and think things over before acting, Tony rushed to Livia’s nursing home with the intent of suffocating her with her own pillow.
But he was too late. Livia was already being wheeled away by the staff after suffering a stroke. Tony whispered into his mother’s ear, “I heard the tapes, Ma.” It was the show’s equivalent of “I know it was you, Fredo.” But instead of cowering, Livia responded with a faint, chilling smile. Of all the monsters on the show, she may have been the worst. As seen in: “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano” (Season 1).
Tony Soprano is not much of philosopher, but he has his moments. This scene in which he, Carmela, Meadow and Anthony Junior take refuge in Vesuvio’s after being caught in a storm at the end of the show’s first season is one of them. His words are echoed later, first by Meadow in the wake of Jackie Junior’s death and then by AJ, during the show’s finale. “I’d like to propose a toast. To my family. Some day soon, you’re going to have families of your own, and if you’re lucky, you’ll remember the little moments, like this… that were good.”
It’s also a good summation of the epiphany Tony has after coming out his coma in season 6. In other words, David Chase knew what he was doing all along and planted the seeds from the very start, the crafty so-and-so. As seen in: season 1.
Tony Soprano is not your typical mafia protagonist. He’s a very flawed man, but there’s also a sensitive side to him that’s been beaten down and repressed by a lifetime of living in a manocentric male-ocracy. The very first episode set the stage for Tony’s complicated personal problems by introducing the ducks. Animals, especially these ducks, would be a recurring motif throughout the series. Seeing the ducks leave their impromptu home in his pool and venture back out into the world caused a panic attack. To Tony, some key piece of his life was gone forever. And his struggle to understand just exactly what he was feeling would last throughout the series.
This panic attack was also preceded by one of the series’ most memorable one-liners – “What, no f***ing ziti?” As seen in: “The Sopranos” (Season 1).
One of the most controversial and hardest to watch scenes in the entire show came when Ralphie Cifaretto beat a young woman he’d been dating to death at the back of the Bing.
It is, however, a heartening and revealing moment when an appalled Tony breaks with mafia protocol and reacts by giving Ralphie a beating of his own. A crucial scene in calibrating Tony’s morality, it also marks the end of Tracee, a minor character viewers took into their hearts during her few episodes. As seen in: season 3.
One of the darker moments in a thoroughly dark show came when Tony’s psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), was raped in a parking garage in Season 3. But that’s not the moment we want to honor. More important is the pivotal choice that followed, as Dr. Melfi struggled to move forward and wrestled with the idea of turning to Tony for revenge. It would have damned her, but it was an enticing possibility all the same.
Ultimately, Melfi decided to let her attacker be. But as we saw in this episode, she relished the knowledge that she held the power over the man’s life. One quick phone call, and her rapist would suffer a fate worse than any mafioso gunned down over the course of the series. As seen in: “Employee of the Month” (Season 3).
In a bid to reassert his authority after being left weak from a near-fatal shooting, Tony provokes his new bodyguard – a body builder with a hot temper called Perry Annunziata – into a fist fight in front of the crew.
Tony comes out of top, breaking the younger man’s nose before retreating to the privacy of the bathroom, where he duly vomits blood. The smile on Tony’s face as he looks in the mirror is priceless: in a world where violence rules and appearance is everything, the old lion had proved he still has what it takes. As seen in: season 6, part 1.
Ask any Sopranos fan what the best episode of the series is, and “Pine Barrens” will most likely be the answer. This entire episode really qualifies as a top moment for the series. What began as a simple job for Christopher and Paulie – executing an enforcer from the Russian mob – went to pieces when said Russian escaped, shrugged off a bullet to the head, and vanished into the snow-covered South Jersey forest. Before Christopher and Paulie knew it, they were stranded, lost, and squabbling over their meager rations of crackers and ketchup packets.
The episode was frequently hilarious, but also tinged with the suspense of never knowing when and if the Russian might emerge and attack his would-be killers, or what impact their failure might have on the Soprano family. As it turned out, the show never addressed the Russian’s fate, and it remains one of the big sore points for many fans. As seen in: “Pine Barrens” (Season 3).
The first major death in The Sopranos came at the end of season 2, when Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero was ousted as a rat and murdered aboard Tony’s boat. It’s a queasy scene (and not just because of Tony’s food poisoning), as the guys come to terms with having to kill their best friend.
Pussy’s death reverberated throughout the rest of show, and made the important point that on Chase’s watch, no character is safe. As seen in: end of season 2.
If we’ve learned anything from mafia movies, it’s that rats usually meet a bad end. And so it was during the stretch that viewers waited with bated breath to see if Adriana would survive her forced status as a mole for the FBI. In this episode, she finally broke down and confessed her duplicity to Christopher, begging him to leave their life behind and enter the Witness Protection program. Given Chris’ own frustrations with the family and his desire to be the next Donnie Brasco, it very nearly seemed as though he would take the opportunity.
Instead, Adriana received a call that Chris had fallen back into his drug habits and was in the hospital. She rode with kindly Silvio, realizing only too late that she was being escorted to her death. That moment where it all clicked was somehow even worse than when the deed was done. It was a tragic end for a well-meaning character. Chris turning his fiance over to his uncle solidified once and for all his loyalty to the family, but it also sealed his own fate in a way. As seen in: “Long Term Parking” (Season 5).
The premiere of Cleaver is one hell of a great party. The movie is brilliant for one thing. Daniel Baldwin delivers a terrific Tony performance (“what, you’re gonna argue with me now?”). Then there is the basement, the robe, the cleaver which reminds of Chrissy’s first pork store kill… It’s all there…
Off screen hilarious things are happening as well: Paulie’s phone call, Carmine’s speech, the director’s lack of speech, Phil Leotardo’s comments (“hot and sticky, like my balls.”). This really is a post modern masterpiece. As seen in: Season 6, episode 14.
Anthony Jr. was probably never most viewers’ favorite character on the show. He was a whiny, entitled brat most of the time, lacking most of his older sister’s good qualities but never displaying the toughness needed to be a good soldier. But as Anthony wrestled more and more with his depression and guilt in later seasons, he became a more identifiable figure.
And that character development paid off tremendously in this episode. A despondent A.J. made a halfhearted suicide attempt, trying to drown himself in the pool but quickly realizing he didn’t want to die. Luckily, Tony arrived just in time to rescue his son from his huge mistake. Initially, Tony berated A.J. for being so weak and stupid. But as A.J. sobbed, that all broke down and Tony the loving father emerged. Seeing Tony stroke his son’s hair and tell him, “It’s okay, baby” is powerfully affecting. In fact, it’s the single most gut-wrenching moment of the entire series. This scene, as much as anything else in Galdofini’s career, is a showcase for his tremendous range and talent as an actor. As seen in: “The Second Coming” (Season 6.5).
At the end of the pitch black episode that is Kennedy and Heidi, Tony exclaims “I get it”, while tripping on peyote in the dessert.
What Tony exactly “gets” is up for debate, but it’s certainly a beautiful scene. Very atmospheric and featuring another brilliant performance by Gandolfini.
Tony and Carmela survey the land on which Carmela plans to build her spec house at the end of one of the most poignant episodes in the series. The ground coincidentally looks similar to the woods where Adriana was murdered by Silvio a little earlier, as if Carmela is about to build her spec house on blood.
Tony expresses sadness, most likely for his cousin. Things are really messed up now. There is the definite sense of impending doom as if the whole thing is about to collapse. This feels very much like the ending of The Godfather: Part II, when Michael Corleone is contemplating after having his brother killed. As seen in: Season 5, episode 12 “Long Term Parking”.
At one point, the final scene of the series also ranked as one of the most hated, despised, and reviled scenes in television history. And on some level, it’s not hard to understand why. By the end of the final season, Tony had defeated his enemies in the Lupertazzo family once and for all. A relative peace was restored, although many friends, allies, and loved ones had fallen along the way. Hanging over this victory was a sense of dread. Viewers knew at any moment that a rival mafia member might come seeking vengeance, or government agents storm in to take Tony away.
The final scene played out in a diner, reminiscent of the final scene of Season 1 finale in Nuovo Vesuvio. As Tony waited for each of his family members to arrive, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” played on the jukebox. He eyed other diner patrons who might have been innocent bystanders or soldiers waiting to gun him down. The final shot saw Tony look up at the door just as the song cried “Don’t stop…” The episode faded to black, and the credits rolled.
Reactions to this ending were mixed at best. But over time, this scene has become popular precisely because of its ambiguity. Did Tony die? Was this David Chase’s way of calling back to Tony’s conversation with his brother-in-law Bobby about the sudden, unexpected nature of death? Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Whatever Tony’s final fate, it was clear that his days were numbered. His luck cant last forever. As seen in: “Made in America” (Season 6.5).
You will love The Sopranos Wise Cracks Compilation. These are not goofs. All real scenes with a focus on the funnier moments. We want to finish this with sweet memories. I miss The Sopranos!
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