Every episode of ‘The Sopranos,’ ranked
2014 marks the 15th anniversary of the premiere of “The Sopranos.”
Earlier this month HBO finally released the complete series on Blu-ray. “The Sopranos” laid the groundwork for the new golden age of television we live in today. It told a story on the small screen that was greater than most films, and that achievement will be studied 100 years from today. Keep in mind that this is a TV show made by humans. It’s not perfect. But “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” and “Mad Men” are the greatest shows ever made and even their worst episodes are better than 99% of everything else that’s on television. So let’s take a look at the show that changed tv and the episodes that made it so transformational.
86) “Luxury Lounge” (S6/part 1, Episode 7)
Chrissy tries to cast Ben Kingsley in “Cleaver.” It’s a fun but ultimately empty episode. Artie again has a bad interaction with his OC friends. He also shoots an interloping rabbit in his backyard garden. It’s amazing. Lauren Bacall curses a lot in the episode so that’s a plus. David Chase cameos.
85) “D-Girl” (S2, Episode 7)
Christopher hangs out with development girl Alicia Witt and director Jon Favreau. He has to choose between the film business and the mob. AJ gets into philosophy. Like “Luxury Lounge,” Christopher’s obsession with Hollywood just isn’t the strongest plot device. Big Pussy crying into his FBI wire is an especially moving scene, but the glory goes to Livia in this episode.
84) “Employee Of The Month” (S3, Episode 4)
Dr. Melfi gets raped in a parking garage stairwell and her attacker gets away. Knowing Tony would kill the man, she chooses to stay silent rather than seek justice outside of the law. It’s a gruesome episode that I have refused to rewatch since its air-date. I understand the intended social impact of this episode, but from an entertainment perspective it’s an unforgivable error to show the brutal, realistic rape of a beloved character with no larger impact on the season’s story. I don’t care what the critics say about the episode overall; it was needless and disgusting.
83) “Johnny Cakes” (S6/part 1, Episode 8)
Vito was a third string-character whose life never needed to be fleshed out, let alone be given a mid-season adventure to the supposed gay utopia of New Hampshire where he hangs out in B&Bs and goes on motorcycle-riding picnics in the fall foliage. The corporate squeeze being put on wiseguys used to shaking down Mom and Pop shops in the b-story would have been much more interesting. There’s also a scene thrown in with Tony and AJ that was obviously filmed earlier in the season and meant to come sooner in the chronology. It was just shoddy editing.
82) “Moe & Joe” (S6/part 1, Episode 10)
Johnny Sack accepts a plea deal, further isolating himself from the rest of the mob and solidifying Phil’s role as the new defacto head of the Brooklyn family. Vito wrestles with his fake New Hampshire identity and gets a needless voice-over. Seriously? Vito Spatafore gets a voice-over? Really? And do we really need to know what book is on Johnny Cakes’ nightstand?
81) “The Telltale Moozadell” (S3, Episode 9)
Another unremarkable episode in the unremarkable season three. But a very young Lady Gaga was in it, so there’s that. Also, Paulie thinks that snakes have the ability to fuck themselves. The pizza parlor is a subject of controversy. “My pizza never hurt nobody.”
80) “…To Save Us All From Satan’s Power” (S3, Episode 10)
As Christmas approaches, Tony has flashbacks about mid-90s Big Pussy. For all Pussy’s failures as a friend and mobster, he did play a good neighborhood Santa when it was needed. It’s also cool to see more of Jackie Aprile Sr. while he was in power and healthy.
79) “In Camelot” (S5, Episode 7)
Steve Buscemi directs another solid episode, but it all still feels a little off and disturbing, and not in the normal/good way. Tony chases Phil Leotardo and forces him into a car accident while blasting “Rock The Casbah.” Tim Daly starts a great recurring role and Polly Bergen guest stars.
78) “Live Free Or Die” (S6/part 1, Episode 6)
Vito goes on the lam after the guys discover he’s secretly gay. The story of a gay gangster in modern times isn’t a bad idea. In fact, for the time it was pretty novel and needed culturally. Vito’s character just wasn’t that interesting to begin with and Joseph Gannascoli wasn’t a strong enough actor for it. It also didn’t need a multi-episode arch. Who wants to watch Vito go antiquing?
77) “Cold Stones” (S6/part 1, Episode 11)
Vito returns to Jersey and is promptly killed in a hate-crime by Phil. It’s a sad, fucked up end to a way too long b-story but, it at least moves the show into the final act of the season, in that it sparks a series of killings that almost ignite the Tony vs Phil war. Carmela goes to Paris with Rosalie and, for the first time, understands history and her meaningless place in it.
76) “A Hit Is A Hit” (S1, Episode 10)
The Soprano family argues with rappers over reparations in the music business. The show is at its worst when it tries to bridge racial divides. It always leaned on stereotypes and rarely treated its black characters well, and this episode is a perfect example of that. But then again, “The Sopranos” never treated anyone well. Chrissy squabbles with Adriana. It’s the only real misstep of the first season.
75) “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (S2, Episode 5)
Chrissy joins a writers workshop and gives up his dream of writing for the movies. Furio comes to America and becomes one of the baddest motherfuckers on the show.
74) “He Is Risen” (S3, Episode 8)
Thanksgiving arrives as Jackie Jr. continues his reign of douchebaggery. Ralph and Tony’s disagreement simmers. It’s a cheaper version of Richie in Season 2, but who doesn’t love hearing Joey Pants say “some dead hoo-ah?” Georgie has a fatal heart attack on the toilet and Ralphie gets bumped up to captain, squashing the beef. Annabella Sciorra begins her recurring role of Gloria Trillo.
73) “Another Toothpick” (S3, Episode 5)
The Sopranos deal with cancer and speeding tickets. This was another season three snoozer. But drunk Artie is the best and Bobby Bacala’s dad ain’t nothing to fuck with.
72) “Mr Ruggerio’s Neighborhood” (S3, Episode 1)
A very weak and low-key premiere for a weak season. It’s all about the Feds’ surveillance of the Soprano family. It’s all very voyeuristic and experimental for no reason.
71) “Fortunate Son” (S3, Episode 3)
Chrissy gets made and is immediately overwhelmed by the responsibility. Tony has a flashback based on ham. It’s not the strongest episode, but the ’60s scenes with Livia and Johnny Boy are gold. Christopher also utters this immortal line: “Don’t disrespect the pizza parlor.”
70) “Army of One” (S3, Episode 13)
AJ is almost sent to a military school with Jigsaw from the “Saw” movies working in the admissions office. After his botched card game holdup, Jackie Jr. crashes in a safehouse occupied by Omar from “The Wire.” Vito kills Jackie Jr. Uncle Junior beats cancer, sings love songs, and lulls a quiet season to sleep.
69) “Toodle-Fucking-Oo” (S2, Episode 3)
Richie Aprile gets out of prison and starts rocking ass. Paulie also tells a joke at dinner and immediately turns to the guy next to him and repeats the joke verbatim. Paulie is god’s gift to comedy. Peter Bogdanovich begins a long-running role as a recurring character.
68) “Denial, Anger, Acceptance” (S1, Episode 3)
Tony mourns the coming passing of his cancer-ridden friend Jackie Aprile and tries to interpret the art in Dr. Melfi’s office. She asks what a painting in her outer office represents to him. Tony replies, “It says ‘Hey asshole, we’re from Harvard and what do you think of this spooky, depressing barn and this rotted out tree we put here. ‘” Livia begins to run the family through Junior by ordering Brendan Filone’s death and sparing Chrissy.
67) “Watching Too Much Television” (S4, Episode 7)
Tony and Ralphie get in on a real estate scheme and enlist Assemblyman Zellman. Zellman tells Tony that he’s begun to date Tony’s old girlfriend, Irina. Tony hears “Oh Girl” by The Chi-Lites on the radio and bitchslaps Zellman with a belt in front of her. Carmela and Furio flirt. Paulie gives valuable information to Johnny Sack. Adriana tries to marry Chrissy so she won’t have to testify against him. Tony gets a different gang to move another gang out of some valuable property. Everyone is on the verge of betraying everyone else.
66) “46 Long” (S1, Episode 2)
This is the only episode to have a before-the-credits teaser. It’s a remnant of ’90s TV but it’s still effective here. Christopher and Brendan keep robbing Comely Trucking even after they’ve been told not to. If you look close, Bodie from “The Wire” makes a cameo in one of the robbery scenes. And Mike Epps plays a car theif. Tony tries to placate his black hole of a mother.
65) “The Fleshy Part Of The Thigh” (S6, Episode 4)
The Soprano family again interacts with rappers with similarly underwhelming and cliched results. Paulie finds out that his mother isn’t really his mother and that he never knew his father. Like “From Where To Eternity” this is another episode about Paulie, and how he defines himself and how he relates to the world. You simply would never see this kind of story told anywhere else. Paulie’s reaction to all this drama is to go HAM. Hal Holbrook guest stars.
64) “Boca” (S1, Episode 9)
Jokes about conalingas edge Tony and Junior closer to war and cost Junior his relationship with his girlfriend. Tony almost kills Meadow’s soccer coach for banging one of Meadow’s teammates, but in the end, does the right thing by turning the man into the police.
63) “Pie-O-My” (S4, Episode 5)
Tony refuses to take part in the necessary financial planning that Carmela has been begging for, but he still finds time to buy a horse with Ralphie. Like many of the animals in Tony’s life, he develops a deep love for Pie-O-My and takes care of her while she’s sick. The episode ends with Tony finding a little peace in a crazy and demanding life, while sitting next to his new best friend. Dean Martin’s “My Rifle, Pony, and Me” ends the show.
62) “Down Neck” (S1, Episode 7)
AJ’s misbehavior at school causes Tony to have flashbacks to the ’60s. The ’60s flashbacks are an underutilized part of the show. Johnny Boy Soprano, Junior and Livia are all so perfect that you definitely wish the show would have spent more time in the past.
61) “All Happy Families” (S5, Episode 4)
Johnny Sack has the problematic Lorraine whacked to Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” and the war for Brooklyn begins. Frankie Valli plays a Brooklyn gangster in the most awesome recurring role ever. Tony finally has to put the legendary Feech Lamanna (Robert Loggia) out to pasture. David Lee Roth and Lawrence Taylor cameo.
60) “Sentimental Education” (S5, Episode 6)
Carmela dates David Strathairn. It’s fun to watch the nouveau-rich Carmela try to keep up with the much more upper class teacher. Tony B. succumbs to the allure of the criminal life he was hoping to avoid.
59) “Bust Out” (S2, Episode 10)
David Scatino’s sporting good business is picked clean by the crew. Tony considers going on the lam after an eyewitness to the Bevilaqua murder comes forward. He wrestles with the time he needs to spend with AJ versus what needs to be done to stay out of jail.
58) “Full Leather Jacket” (S2, Episode 8)
The discarded gift of an out-dated leather jacket deepens the rift between Tony and Richie. Chrissy’s underlings shoot him down in the street in an effort to make a name for themselves.
57) “Pax Soprana” (S1, Episode 6)
Junior flexes nuts all over everbody in an effort to establish control of the family. Tony falls in love with Dr. Melfi (the first time of many) and sulks when she shuts him down.
56) “Mergers and Acquisitions” (S4, Episode 8)
Tony’s relationship with Carm and Paulie is further strained. Paulie strong-arms some old ladies into accepting his mother into their social group at Green Grove. Tony steals Ralphie’s girlfriend. Carmela steals 40 grand that Tony had stashed in the backyard.
55) “Eloise” (S4, Episode 12)
Furio, driven mad by his love for Carmela, almost throws Tony into the propellers of a helicopter. It’s the closest Tony comes to getting killed since the first season and it’s because of his wife. Epic. Paulie kills and robs an old lady and friend of his mother. Also epic.
54) “Christopher” (S4, Episode 3)
The crew debates the life and times of Christopher Columbus. This is the best episode to really challenge the overblown pride and questionable merit of cultural heritage. Also, Gabriella Dante destroys Father Phil in the best example of why she’s the smartest, most articulate, and classy of the mob wives.
53) “Unidentified Black Males” (S5, Episode 9)
Tony B. blames his foot injury on black guys, as mobster are want to do when trying to cover up their crimes. Tony’s already rocky relationship with Carmela hits a new low when she pursues a divorce attorney. The best moment in the episode comes when Silvio and Phil Leotardo have a short and awkward chat at Joe Peeps’ funeral. Tony reveals in therapy that his guilt toward Tony B. going to jail stems from a robbery he missed due to a panic attack. As a result of the panic attack, Tony hit his head and ended up in the hospital. He blamed the injury on black guys.
52) “Walk Like A Man” (S6/part 2, 17)
This episode marks the final battle between Chrissy and Paulie. It’s a hell of a fight, complete with Paulie doing donuts in Chrissy’s front yard. Tony gives information to the Feds about a couple middle eastern guys hanging around the Bing. Tony and AJ return home at the same time and sit down with Carmela and Meadow to one last meal at the dinner table together. Chris squashes the beef with Paulie for the last time, kills his old NA sponsor, and returns home to Los Lobos’ “The Valley.” It’s the last happy ending in the show’s run.
51) “Do Not Resuscitate” (S2, Episode 2)
Janice does mental combat with her deranged mother over a “Do not resuscitate” order and some money that Livia says is stashed somewhere in the house. Bobby Bacala’s character is introduced in all his bloated, numbskull glory.
50) “Meadowlands” (S1, Episode 4)
Jackie Aprile dies and AJ finds out what kind of business his father is in. The episode starts with one of the first serious dream sequences of the series. A lot of people complain about them, but the more out-there moments are some of the best in the show. Tony sets Junior up as the head of the family and focus of the FBI’s investigations.
49) “No Show” (S4, Episode 2)
On top of all the ominous stuff that happens in this episode, Silvio also rises up on Tony for the first time. Meadow has an epic throw-down with her parents over college courses and work ethic. Will Arnett has a small recurring role.
48) “Rat Pack” (S5, Episode 2)
Tony kills long-time acquaintance Jack Masserone for being a rat. The episode focuses on the Soprano family rats. Again, this is another theme that you might never see in a gangster story. Tony B. gets out of jail and tries to go straight. Steve Buscemi makes it official and stars as Tony B. He was already a friend of the show, having directed a few episodes and some of the show’s regular actors in his directorial indie debut “Trees Lounge.”
47) “Two Tonys” (S5, Episode 1)
Season five starts with Tony separated from Carmela and the most epic Chrissy vs. Paulie fight ever. A bear (and metaphor for Tony) terrorizes the family’s backyard. The episode ends with Tony standing watch with an AK-47, outside of the home he’s no longer welcome in.
46) “The Sopranos” (S1, Episode 1)
One of the greatest pilots ever. Its non-linear narrative is genius, and for a pilot it’s very strong. Most pilots aren’t on sure-footing yet, but this one was pretty solid. Ducks make a home in Tony’s backyard, and their departure sends him to therapy.
45) “Chasing It” (S6/part 2, Episode 16)
Tony descends into a sports betting frenzy and almost kills his close friend Hesh. In the aftermath of his father’s murder, Vito Jr. goes all goth and acts out in some disgusting ways. It’s one of the worst b-stories in the series, but the episode overall is dark and strong. Nancy Sinatra cameos. “Goin Down Slow” by Howlin’ Wolf defines the episode and the season in many respects.
44) “Kaisha” (S6/part 1, 12)
Chrissy hooks up with Tony’s ex-girlfriend (Julianna Margulies) at an AA meeting and relapses again. The season ends with the Soprano and Brooklyn families nearly at war. The only thing that stops it this time is that Phil Leotardo has a heart attack and he and Tony temporarily make peace. The Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” begins and ends the episode.
43) “Mr & Mrs. Sacrimoni Request…” (S6/part 1, Episode 5)
Johnny Sack’s oldest daughter gets married and Tony transitions back into normal life after getting out of the hospital. The Feds embarrass the Sack Family and Johnny cries in public. It marks the turning point for his time in power. Philly takes full control shortly thereafter. Tony has to demonstrate that he’s still the nastiest guy in the family and his leadership is not to be questioned. He does so by picking a fight with the biggest guy in his crew.
42) “Second Opinion” (S3, Episode 7)
Tony helps Junior get a second opinion about his cancer. Carmela goes to a therapist friend of Melfi who basically tells her that moral relativism is bullshit and that if she wants a normal life she needs to leave her murderer husband.
41) “Proshai, Livushka” (S3, Episode 2)
Livia dies of a massive stroke and is eulogized by the people who hated her most. Nancy Marchant died before filming began on season three. Major rewrites and some creative but flawed editing were required for her scenes in the episode.
40) “Where’s Johnny” (S5, Episode 3)
Junior, now in the grips of dementia, takes a stroll around downtown Newark in the hopes of finding his deceased brother. Tony visits him after a fight and asks, in one of the saddest moments in the series, if Junior loves him.
39) “University” (S3, Episode 6)
Ralphie is just running wild in this episode. He abuses his friends and ends the episode by beating his pregnant stripper girlfriend Tracee to death. The mob (and the third season) doesn’t treat the ladies very well, and this episode acts more as a social window into macho Italian male culture.
38) “The Second Coming” (S6/part2, Episode 19)
Anthony Jr. finally almost puts us all out of his misery and tries to kill himself, but being an idiot, he screws it up. Consumed with depression, he starts experimenting with the news and liberalism. It’s also the only time in the series where there is a reference to the alternate universes that might explain the last episode.
37) “Nobody Knows Anything” (S1, Episode 11)
This episode has so many loose strands that it almost seems like it came from a later season; one where nothing is solved and the sense of unending obstacles is the real arc to the show’s story.
36) “Marco Polo” (S5, Episode 8)
This episode is light on the crime stuff but heavy on the rich family nuances that the show was really about. Tony and Carmela get drunk at a backyard cookout for Hugh’s 75th birthday, and spend the night together in their first real reconciliation of the season. In an overly dark and violent season it was a much needed relief, even if the banality of low-level crime life drives Tony B. to freelance the killing of Joe Peeps in the final moment of the episode. Faces’ “Bad N Ruin” blares during the hit.
35) “Commendatori” (S2, Episode 4)
Tony, Paulie, and Chrissy travel to Italy to build a relationship with their Naples family for a international stolen car ring. Italy isn’t the romantic land they expected. Paulie is disappointed when he doesn’t connect with the country; Chrissy pumps heroin the whole time and barely leaves the hotel room. The Italy family is dysfunctional, and the overall vibe is not that different from America. Tony is confounded by the fact that his ancestral homeland turf is dominated by a woman-boss. The trip is disillusioning when they realize the traditions they revere aren’t really worth anything. They’re all let down by the experience, but come home and say what a life-changing time it all was. Big Pussy also kills an Elvis impersonator who he thinks might know a he’s a rat. David Chase cameos.
34) “The Blue Comet” (S6/part 2, Episode 20)
Phil makes his move and wastes the upper echelon of Tony’s family. Bobby is killed and Silvio is shot several times, never to regain consciousness. Dr. Melfi, admitting to herself that Tony is really nothing more than a sociopath, finally fires him as a client. Tony takes refuge in a safe house with only an AR-10 and the memory of Bobby saying “You probably don’t even hear it when it comes.”
33) “Isabella” (S2, Episode 12)
After Pussy’s disappearance, Tony let’s his depression get the better of him and spends most of the episode in bed. He has a vision of an Italian exchange student neighbor who doubles as a loving mother. When he does finally leave the bedroom, a couple guys sent by Junior and Livia try to kill Tony in a fake botched carjacking. Almost getting shot revives Tony’s will to live and he ends the episode ready for war with Junior.
32) “Amour Fou” (S3, Episode 12)
Tony acknowledges that his relationship with Gloria Trillo is a crazy love with no future or good end, and that his attraction to her may have a lot to do with his mother. The Jackie Jr. storyline finally produces some drama when he holds up a card game. Tony, Patsy, and Ralphie all return home to their ladies with varying degrees of success. A version of Dean Martin’s “Return To Me,” performed by Bob Dylan, ends the episode.
31) “Guy Walks Into A Psychiatrist’s Office” (S2, Episode 1)
This episode serves almost as a series reboot and reintroduction to the show for its new viewers, after the pop culture explosion that was the first season. Plus it starts with Sinatra’s “It Was A Very Good Year.”
30) “Mayham” (S6/part 1, Episode 3)
Paulie shoots and stabs a guy in a blood-spraying heist, and just generally rules the world. He complains to a comatose Tony, and in a way brings Tony back to the land of the living. Tony, in his weird otherworldly search for Kevin Finnerty, almost dies and wakes up to the Ojibwe quote inexplicably left in his hospital room that just so happens to encompass the whole show: “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky.”
29) “Join The Club” (S6/part 1 , Episode 2)
Tony trips out in between reality, the afterlife, and an alternate reality in which he’s living a normal life as a salesman. Gandolfini drops his Tony accent and plays it as a normal guy in some weird, crazy reality. The episode showcases his great talents as an actor and ends with the Moby song “When It’s Cold, I’d Like To Die.”
28) “The Strong Silent Type” (S4, Episode 10)
The week after Ralphie’s death, Christopher’s drug use had reached a tipping point. He accidentally kills Adriana’s dog by sitting on it. The hilarious family intervention ends in a brawl, of course. Christopher is given a choice: rehab and recovery or death.
27) “The Weight” (S4, Episode 4)
Johnny Sack goes off the deep end about a joke Ralphie told about Ginnie Sack. Carmine Sr. then asks Tony to kill Johnny because Ralph is worth too much. The climax of the episode comes when Ralphie is about to be killed by Johnny’s people and Johnny is about to be killed by Tony’s people. John eases off of Ralph and no one dies, but the suspicions and the detailed planning show just how tenuous all of their relationships really are.
26) “College” (S1, Episode 5)
Tony takes Meadow on a college tour and kills a guy in witness protection. It was one of the first times on a tv show that a protagonist brutally murders someone. It was a big step for the show at the time and David Chase pushed hard for it. It was the first time for the show to have a clear juxtaposition between Tony’s murderous side and the family man persona. And it all ends with a Hawthorne quote.
25) “Cold Cuts” (S5, Episode 10)
Chrissy and Tony B. take a trip to a relative’s farm to dig up some dead bodies and find them a more permanent resting place. Tony shows up and the three revert to their old childhood habits of making fun of Chrissy. Tony returns home and decides to test Janice’s new (less angry) outlook on life. He blows up a Sunday dinner and it ends with Janice crying, screaming, and going after Tony with a fork. Tony leaves the dinner and walks home to The Kink’s “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”
24) “The Knight In White Satin Armor” (S2, Episode 12)
Richie begins to make his move against Tony. Junior, after a season of being on the sidelines, betrays him and tells Tony of his plans. Tony orders Richie’s death but never gets to go through with it because Richie punches Janice and she blows him away at the dinner table. Tony disposes of the body and has his first interaction with his estranged mother since their confrontation over her attempt to murder him.
23) “House Arrest” (S2, Episode 11)
Tony tries to take a step back from the business to avoid FBI heat, but he is just as haunted by his inability to relax and relate to normal life. He develops a psychosomatic rash and bangs a secretary at his fake sanitation consultant job. His relationship with Richie is starting to come to a boiling point and he has a panic attack to Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.” The episode ends with Tony returning to the pork store, fully embracing the gangster life and all that comes with it, even bullshitting with the FBI agents who are working his case.
22) “Stage 5″ (S6/part 2, Episode 14)
Johnny Sack dies in prison from cancer. It’s very real and very sad. He’s overweight and bald and a shadow of the dapper, slick, badass he once was. Christopher finally releases his mob-themed, torture-porn horror movie “Cleaver.” It’s all a thinly veiled revenge fantasy that doesn’t treat Tony very well. Phil Leotardo, sick of living a life full of compromise, decides that he’s going to take a hard line from now on. The show is all about the legacies these men will leave behind. John Cooper Clark’s “Evidently Chickentown” connects the scene with Phil to Chrissy’s daughter’s baptism. Besides the obvious Godfather reference, the scene alludes to the fact that a final confrontation is brewing with Phil, and that Tony and Chrissy’s relationship is irreparably damaged and that it’s only a matter of time until one will make the move that dooms the other. The late Sidney Pollack guest stars.
21) “Remember When” (S6/part 2, Episode 15)
Tony goes on the lam with Paulie. It’s one of many episodes in late season six where Tony is considering killing another of his closest friends. It’s a Paulie-heavy episode (which is never a bad thing since he’s kind of the unofficial main character of the show), that examines how his only real life is what he is and gets out of the criminal life. Junior sinks deeper into his sad retirement in the nuthouse.
20) “Members Only” (S6/part 1, Episode 1)
Material featuring William S. Burroughs’ “Seven Souls” opens the first part of the season six premiere. It’s one of the best music montages of the show. Soprano family rats die in this episode, but not as a result of the family. Long-time rat Ray Curto has a heart attack and Eugene kills himself in his basement, trapped between both the mob and the FBI, who won’t let him leave the life after he receives a hefty inheritance. The episode ends with a dementia-suffering Junior shooting Tony and sending the series into its more reality-bending episodes.
19) “The Legend Of Tennessee Moltisanti” (S1, Episode 8)
Christopher is haunted by his first murder and the fact that the gangster life hasn’t been as fulfilling as he thought it would be. He struggles with his screenwriting, shoots a bakery employee in the foot saying “It happens” (a reference to Michael Imperioli’s role in “Goodfellas”). The guys, for the most part, blow off the funk he’s in, but Tony, because of his therapy, sympathizes with Christopher, and in their sick way jokes about how they’re both not depressed. Chrissy moves past his underling blues once he’s named in the paper as a crime family associate.
18) “All Due Respect” (S5, Episode 13)
Tony Blundetto’s story comes to an end as Tony blows his face off in order to prevent another war with Brooklyn. The Brooklyn crew is taken down by a rat and Tony flees Johnny Sack’s house through the woods. He returns home like the bear at the beginning of the season, through the backyard. Van Morrison’s “Glad Tidings” closes out the season.
17) “The Happy Wanderer” (S2, Episode 6)
Tony and the crew inherit “The Executive Game” from Junior. Tony’s childhood friend and degenerate gambler, David Scatino (Robert Patrick), weasels his way into the game, and gets in deep to Tony and Richie. Tony begins to sink his teeth into Scatino’s sporting goods business. The episode has two of the best lines ever uttered on the show: Tony’s “I’ve got the world by the balls and I can’t stop feeling like a fucking loser,” and Silvio’s “Leave the fucking cocksucking cheese where it is!” Frank Sinatra Junior cameos.
16) “Everybody Hurts” (S4, Episode 6)
Tony finds out that his ex-girlfriend, Gloria Trillo, has committed suicide. He spends the episode examining just how much of a toxic person he really is. He also accidentally rips off Artie, sending him into a wannabe-gangster self-destructive spiral. Plus, there’s a great scene with Chrissy tripping out in a bathroom to Armand Van Helden’s “Kentucky Fried Flow.” Paul Dano starts a small recurring role.
15) “Calling All Cars” (S4, Episode 11)
The brewing disagreement over Tony and Carmine sharing the fruits of the corrupt Zellman comes to a head, and the first real potential for war with Brooklyn looms. Tony quits therapy and also has the first of his really creepy dreams; one where he’s in car with a couple of dead former acquaintances, and another where he’s an immigrant laborer, who approaches a house that is occupied by a ghostly image of his mother.
14) “The Ride” (S6/part1, Episode 9)
This one is all about the lengths to which people will go to distract themselves from themselves. For some people it’s a carnival ride; for Tony it’s stealing a few cases of expensive wine from some lesser criminals. For Chrissy, it’s falling off the wagon, blasting some good heroin, and chilling in an alley with a stray dog while going on the most epic nod a junkie has ever gone on, all while Fred Neil’s “Dolphins” blares.
13) “The Test Dream” (S5, Episode 11)
This one is a souped-up version of “Funhouse,” except it’s Tony at the Plaza, dreaming of all the main characters whose deaths he has caused. It’s all about how he knows that Tony Blundetto is about to drag him into a war with the Brooklyn crew and that he needs to put him down. It’s crazy dark and is probably the only one that jumped the shark, complete with an Annette Bennning cameo and an old-timey chase with people in lederhosen. The episode ends on a light note, with Tony and Carmela talking on the phone, watching the sun rise together. It’s their first real gesture of reconciliation in the season.
12) “Funhouse” (S2, Episode 13)
Tony finishes another season triumphant over his enemies, and goes out to an Indian restaurant with Pussy. He gets food poisoning and spends the bulk of the episode in bed having crazy, trippy fever dreams. In one he talks to Big Pussy in the form of a fish. All of the dreams are about how Tony has been avoiding the fact that he knows his best friend has been snitching to the FBI. Tony pulls himself out of bed and assembles the guys to take Pussy out on a boat. They confront him and have a couple drinks before executing him and dumping his body in the ocean. The episode ends like it began, with a musical montage of the different scams throughout the season, with The Rolling Stones “Waiting On A Call” as the soundtrack. It’s fucking epic.
11) “Long Term Parking” (S5, Episode 12)
Adriana finally tells Christopher that she’s been giving information to the Feds. Silvio shows up to take her to the hospital where Chrissy is after an apparent suicide attempt. He then drives her out to the woods and kills her. It was a brutal end to a fragile and mostly innocent character. It’s also the beginning of the end of Tony and Chrissy’s relationship. They would never forgive each other for it. In the final scene, Tony and Carmela go out to the woods to look at property for Carmela’s new spec house and Tony almost has a panic attack. Shawn Smith’s “Wrapped In My Memory” serves as Ade’s sendoff.
10) “Whoever Did This” (S4, Episode 9)
Pie-O-My, Tony’s new racehorse/favorite animal, dies in a suspicious stable fire, and when Tony questions Ralph about it, things devolve into an epic brawl that ends with Tony beating Ralph to death on his kitchen floor in much the same way Ralph killed Tracy in the previous season. He kills Ralph (a captain) with his bare hands because of an an animal. The rest of the episode follows Tony and Chrissy as they dismember Ralph and dump his remains. It’s a dirty, sick, contained little story that comes before the final act of the season and focuses more on Tony’s personal savagery than any other episode. It also marks the beginning of Uncle Junior’s descent into Alzheimer’s.
9) “Irregular Around The Margins” (S5, Episode 5)
Tony and Adriana almost hook up and all hell breaks loose. He and Ade leave her club to get some coke and Tony crashes his truck while avoiding a raccoon in the road. Everyone jumps to conclusions and Christopher goes on a bender and attacks Tony at the Bing. He’s taken out to the Meadowlands and put on his knees. Tony is about to blow him away when Tony Blundetto steps in and saves Chrissy’s life. In order to keep up appearances, Tony, Carmela, Chrissy, and Ade all have a very public dinner letting everyone know that they’ve buried the hatchet. Tony Siragusa begins a recurring role.
8) “Pine Barrens” (S3, Episode 11)
Chrissy and Paulie lost in the woods of South Jersey. Directed by Steve Buscemi. What more do you need to know? It’s a gorgeous fish-out-of-water episode and the highlight of the weakest season. Plus, it spawned all the Russian theories that would haunt the rest of the series.
7) “From Where To Eternity” (S2, Episode 9)
This episode starts with Chrissy in the hospital and Otis Redding’s “Lover’s Prayer.” You definitely get the impression that he’s going to die in the first twenty minutes and that they’re sending him out in a really heartbreaking way. But when he wakes up with a story about visiting Hell, it sends Paulie on a supernatural journey that you simply would never see in any other mob story. Where else would you see a gangster considering the murders he’s committed and their effects on his afterlife prospects? He visits a psychic and ends his session by throwing a chair at his invisible phantoms. Carmela also subtly checks in with Tony throughout the episode, attempting to see if he’s found the guy who shot Chrissy. The episode revolves around a family in crisis, hospital visits, and religion, and ends with Tony and Big Pussy emptying a couple clips into a 23-year-old failed hoodlum. Tony returns home to Carmela and nods in the most badass way possible that the guy’s dead. They make love as “Lover’s Prayer” plays again.
6) “Soprano Home Movies” (S6/part 2, Episode 13)
Acting as a quasi season premiere for part two of season six, the episode revolves around Tony and Carmela staying with Bobby and Janice at their summer home in the Adirondacks. A drunken monopoly game turns into a brawl that ends with Bobby winning. For the rest of the episode the audience is wondering if Tony will whack Bobby as punishment. Instead, Tony insists that Bobby kill a French-Canadian dude on contract. Bobby kills the guy and returns to his loving family as a new murderer. The episode closes with “This Magic Moment.” It’s a disturbing, understated start to a dark final season.
5) “I Dream Of Jeanie Cusamano” (S1, Episode 13)
The season 1 finale is the best episode of the first season, but not just because it weaves Dr. Melfi’s and Artie’s story perfectly into the mob storyline. Really, it’s Tony’s mother Livia who’s the star. The smiles she flashes when Tony confronts her over the plot to murder him is unforgettable. She’s finally revealed in all her deranged glory, as the architect of all of Tony’s dysfunction and also the one pulling Junior’s strings. She’s a ball of misplaced and confused rage. Junior’s crew is wasted by Tony before the feds come for him. The season ends on a positive note, as Tony toasts his family over dinner at the new Vesuvio, imploring them to remember “the little moments… that were good.”
4) “Whitecaps” (S4, Episode 13)
Everyone was expecting a bloodbath at the end of season four. Throughout a season in which everyone was plotting to betray and kill everyone else, it was finally looking like the big hit of the season would be the Brooklyn boss Carmine Lupertazzi, but in the end it was Tony and Carmela’s marriage that didn’t survive the season. Edie Falco brought it and won an Emmy, letting loose four years of marital frustration. Johnny Sack also finally came into his own as a major character, left in the lurch by Tony’s refusal to kill his boss. Plus, the season ends with Dean Martin singing “I Love Vegas” from the Rat Pack’s “Live At The Sands.”
3) “Made In America” (S6/part 2, Episode 21)
The series finale has to make it into the top ten, based almost entirely on the ending. After finally vanquishing Phil Leotardo, Tony’s inner circle has been decimated, but things are stable. Junior gets a badass and very sad sendoff. Paulie, the lone survivor of The Soprano crew, sits alone in front of Satriale’s with a cat. There will be no definitive closure but that’s not what this show was ever about. I have my theories about the last scene, but it really speaks to David Chase’s genius that he created what is probably the most tension-filled, dramatic moment of the series, and then ripped the ending away in a manner that kept the audience in a permanent state of suspense.
2) “Kennedy And Heidi” (S6/part 2, Episode 18)
The episode starts with asbestos removal crews fighting over where to dump their chemicals. In the following scene, Tony and Chrissy negotiate with Brooklyn boss Phil Leotardo about rates over where to dispose the asbestos. They leave the meeting without coming to an agreement. On the way back to Jersey, Chrissy, having fallen off the wagon again, flips his Escalade and starts coughing up blood from internal injuries. Tony’s about to help him and call 911 when he notices the trashed baby seat in the truck and wordlessly cups Chrissy’s mouth, killing him. It marks the gentle yet heartless end of their relationship, with Chrissy drowning in his own blood and Tony finally relieving himself of his unworthy underboss. And that’s all in the first ten minutes! The accident covers up the murder. Tony then goes to Vegas after faking sadness during the funeral and bangs Christopher’s gooma. They take peyote together and trip balls in Caesar’s, where Tony notices his luck has changed since Chrissy’s death. Back in Jersey, the asbestos removal guys, having been ignored by Tony, dump their toxic materials into the Meadowlands. Tony’s actions are literally poisoning his environment. Back in the desert, on the outskirts of Vegas, Tony watches the sun rise and holds his arms out in existential triumph while yelling (to no one) “I get it!” It’s all extremely unsettling.
1) “For All Debts Public And Private” (S4, Episode 1)
The season four premiere began the show’s major departure from the literal and figurative lighter early seasons and into the darkness that would define its later episodes. The shows cinematography itself is sepia-toned and just plain darker. The fourth season began filming in the weeks following the September 11th attacks, which is obvious as different characters contemplated what felt like, at the time, was the end of the world. Tony sleepily staggers down his driveway, as usual, only this time it’s to Time Zone’s “World Destruction.” Carmela, while trying to get Tony to start a living trust, shrieks that everything comes to an end. Tony finally acknowledges that there are only three ways out of the crime life in his one therapy session of the episode. Death, jail, or giving orders only through family members. He settles on Christopher as his heir by giving him the name and address of the man who killed his father. The episode ends as Christopher leaves a twenty dollar bill on his mother’s refrigerator. He had taken the bill out of the pocket of the murder victim that had bonded he and Tony together. Credits roll across a close-up of the twenty, as Johnny Rotten and Afrika Bambaataa kill it in “World Destruction.”
Rest In Peace, James Gandolfini