In New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano must deal with his own personal issues as well as though professional ones being head of the family, all having a huge impact on his mental state, this sees him seek professional help with a psychiatrist.
Number of seasons: 6
Season 1 – 13 episodes
Season 2 – 13 episodes
Season 3 – 13 episodes
Season 4 – 13 episodes
Season 5 – 13 episodes
Season 6 – 21 episodes
Tony Soprano is not always the tough guy that he appears to be to his mob workers and that family side and we get to see him stripped down in his weekly meetings with Dr. Jennifer Melfi showings that depression and anxiety effect all people. Something that you cannot fully control and more have to manage it in order to feel like your life is even a little bit normal. This is something that we get to witness Tony doing across the six seasons of the show.
Being able to fully watch all six seasons without any breaks or anything was quite frankly wonderful, when I have since looked back to the original air dates (see above) it must have been absolute torture watching 18 months to two years between some of the seasons. Although the people involved never even thought anyone would watch season one, oh how wrong they would be with that statement considering this tv series is regarded as one of the greatest of all time. Now that is something I can eventually understand and agree with, everything about this show is truly outstanding. I found myself engrossed, engaged and most importantly emotionally involved with the different characters.
Setting the groundwork’s that Tony Soprano has some issues as he collapses after a panic attack and this is when he begins the therapy with Dr. Jennifer Melfi, amazing character I must add! We get some details about how Tony was brought up and his fathers influence on how he became the big gangster he is to this day. His difficult relationship with his mother Livia and how her psychopathic nature has always made him struggle, along with his two sisters. He has a complicated relationship with his wife Carmela and his mafia ties. As they are beginning to get older his daughter Meadow and some Anthony Jr are increasingly finding out more about his dealings and the surveillance by the FBI who are constantly building a case against him. We get to know the men who work for and with Tony and that Paulie, Silvio, Christopher and Pussy are the men he trusts the most and has them moving through the ranks. Tony’s Uncle Corrado who we know more as Junior conspires with Livia to have Tony killed which doesn’t come off but it certainly shows that no love seems to be lost within this very dysfunctional family.
This season introduces one of my most hated characters in Richie Aprile who just happens to start a relationship with Janice (who is very irritating as well by the way). Seriously every time he was on screen it used to make me so annoyed, which I can admit and appreciate as very good writing for a character so horrid! Christopher gets engaged to Adriana and that is a relationship that while has some very bad moments they really did love each other a lot. Junior is placed under house arrest and with that it becomes rather difficult for Tony to accept what his Uncle did towards him. Big Pussy is supposed to be one of the most loyal to Tony but as we see he is an informant to the FBI and it wasn’t going to be something he could keep secret for very long! I have to admit that moment made me realise that no one was safe on the boat for Pussy with Silvio and Paulie! I guess that was the first big shocking moment and knowing that you should not get too attached to the characters as you are unsure what will happen to them next (even though that wasn’t fully possible).
Just when I was very happy with how season 2 got rid of the awful Richie out goes one character that is horrendous and in steps one that is quite frankly even worse in Ralph Cifaretto who had spent a lot of time in Miami but was back and larger than life and irritating constantly. He is then with Rosalie Aprile and it was like why Rosalie why! Her son Jackie Jr becomes involved with Meadow but he was not everything he appeared to be, something Tony found out and quite frankly warns him in a pretty nice way for Tony. This season has one of the most brutal moments with Ralph and his rage on the young girl Tracee, with the mafia codes in place (something I had to google a few times to understand the background of this) not much could really be done against him. This is something that causes a rift with Tony despite that he then gets promoted. Anthony Jr is struggling in his teenage years getting in trouble at school even though he is doing well on the football team.
We start to get more of a link between New Jersey and New York with under sos Johnny Sack being more involved going forward. This created a slight storyline that was well interesting when John takes massive offence when hearing that Ralph made a joke about his wife’s weight, baring in mind that is probably one of the nicer things Ralph had ever said about anyone. Something that seemed quite small was not going to be left alone by John. The racehorse which Tony and Ralph invest in creates another interesting arch for Tony. When it becomes clear that he seems to care more about animals than he does people, his bond with the horse was something unexpected. This is then linked to other incidents involving animals that seem to set him off, quite strange right when you see the number of people he has killed? Bobby Baccalieri who seems to be one of the nicer men in the organisation never cheating on his wife and totally loving her is left devastated when she is killed in a car crash, in comes Janice in a true horrible nature not allowing him to greave for her in his own way. Seriously some of the things she said to him and his two children were so cruel and shocking. Christopher is in real trouble with his heroine addiction and the family must eventually perform an intervention to safe him before it really is too late. In what should be a calm time everything kicks off and manages to be amusing. However, he is sent to a drug rehabilitation centre and that is a great turning point for his character. Adrianna having to deal with this also finds out her new found friend is an undercover FBI agent, have to admit that I was rather shocked (and impressed) with that twist. The Carmela and Furio story was rather lovely even though nothing actually happened between the pair but the friendship and intense moments between them was really something else.
We have a second Tony to enter in this season Tony Blundetto, Soprano’s cousin who spent time in prison and was not really very interested in being involved with the mob and turns down a job offer. He seems to have come through his time away realising that a straight life would be much better for him. The separation between Tony and Carmela is something that could have happened at any point previous to this and you really do feel proud of her for doing it (eventually) the lack of respect he had always shown towards her and the many affairs he had behind her back. The affairs worse than the random one night stands of course. This leads to A.J. being horrible towards his mother as if it was her fault and I have to admit I was very proud of her telling him to go live with Tony, although that was never going to be as nice as he expected. Vito Spatafore is a character we got to see quickly rise up the ranks but he was keeping a big secret from everyone and when Meadow’s boyfriend Finn turns up early for work one morning and sees him in the car with a security guard that is the first step of his gay life coming out. Just when it seems Christopher is doing better after the rehab stint it was about to come crashing down when Adrianna eventually told him about the FBI. I really did feel that one as well, she was backed into a corner by them and told many lies. That just shows how much I was engrossed in the characters even though the murders and everything else, I didn’t want the FBI to get Christopher or Tony isn’t that the strangest way to feel towards them!
The final season which has 21 episodes instead of the usual 13, something when reaching this point I was truly happy with as it meant I had so much more of The Sopranos to still watch and enjoy. No holding back or waiting around for everything to kick off in this season though when Uncle Junior shoots Tony in his confused state and it is a bad one with Tony fighting for his life in hospital. We are then given some very interesting episodes as Tony dreams that he has a normal life of a legitimate businessman when leaving hospital he has a slightly different outlook on life. This was just in time to attend Johnny Sack’s daughters wedding something that John was allowed to attend being let out of prison for six hours. The Vito storyline is about to hit very hard when he is outed as gay when in a gay night club having a good time when two men who know him spot him while doing a collection. It does not take very long for this information to get back to Tony and the gang and they must decide what to do with him. Phil Leotardo seems to take it the worst even though he is the acting boss in New York and Vito is a made man under Tony. I found some of these scenes especially when he flees to New Hampshire very emotional. It was a very tough storyline to go down with the men seemly very opposed to the gay lifestyle. Even though this was something that was never flaunted and quite frankly none of them had any idea about it for many years. I really thought that showed a very different edge and created some very interesting talking points, with the most tragic of endings of course. So many emotional moments during this season and the one with Christopher struggling to control his addictions after doing so well is something Tony eventually loses it with. Then we get A.J. being dumped by his fiancée and he seems to suffer the same depressive nature as his father. The suicide attempt and Tony finding him is probably one of the most difficult to watch scenes in the whole series. I can easily admit that I cried, it was a horrible scene and it certainly showed Tony’s love for his son. No one is safe as it seems and that tension certainly made it difficult. Not forgetting Paulie getting the news about his aunt actually being his mother and vice versa something that he has no clue how to deal with at all. Then we have Johnny Sack and the cancer. Seriously it all is going on in this season. Then we get to the closing the final moments of Tony in the diner waiting for Meadow to arrive and then the screen going black, one of the most outstanding endings to a tv series ever. I love that it was left that you could decide whether Tony was murdered or not!
The character development over the six seasons is something that is truly unique and quite frankly amazing, I feel that is one of the biggest reasons why the show was and still is so well regarded and popular. Even though you are fully aware that these are bad men you cannot help but like them and root for them at times. Then you doubt your own morals but that just shows how deeply we get involved with them. I cannot really think of many shows that manage to do that type of thing. I don’t think I have ever loved and hated a character as much as I did for Tony Soprano. Along with the hard hitting moments, it really does delve deeply into depression, anxiety, panic attacks, cancer, Alzheimer’s, drug addiction, anger issues, sexuality, growing up and general life it manages to have a fantastic comedy edge as well. Even if you feel a little bit unsure if you should be laughing at that part, but that is what makes it feel more real. We all back jokes at stupid times when we feel they are needed to lighten the mood and that is something The Sopranos does in fantastic manner!
Characters growing up as well in terms of the children within the family that helped to show that more time had passed between different seasons. Something that was a pretty good way to leave it more open in all honesty.
The performances from the whole cast are truly outstanding led by James Gandolfini who is perfect as Soprano managing to capture so many different emotions throughout the seasons. Edie Falco is not given the easiest of roles as Carmela and works at it so brilliantly, I found her rather annoying early on but I feel she was given more of a high powered role in the later seasons. Lorraine Bracco is one of the standout performers as Jennifer Melfi given the chance to push Tony like no other woman in his life and that is truly fantastic to watch. Michael Imperioli as Christopher is given probably the best development through the drug addiction and moving through the family ranks, my favourite character easily and his performance is just breathtaking to watch. Steven Van Zandt as Silvio has the best facial expressions in the whole show and considering this was his first acting experience he is just outstanding. That wig as well! Certainly helped shape his character. Tony Sirico was Paulie was larger than life and stole many scenes in the best possible manner. Seeing mother Robert Iler and Jamie-Lynn Sigler grow up in front of our eyes as their characters was something that I really enjoyed as well, showing that the college experience doesn’t always work out how you might like it to.
Drea de Matteo as Adriana was given an amazing character who again was given the chance to shine so many times. Standing up to some of this harden gangsters. Steve Schirripa was very well developed as Bobby and grew as a character so much throughout, at first just being the guy who looked after Junior and ran his errands to really being in with Tony. John Ventimiglia as Artie was another of my favourites as while he wasn’t fully in with the mob life he was at the same time, having them constantly in his restaurant. Sharon Angela as Rosalie was certainly given some amazing moments and brought a lot of the comedy with her straight up expressions. Dominic Chianese as Junior was a true joy another character you loved to hate at times due to his nature, but boy did he have a hell of a lot of charm!
Everything about The Sopranos is truly outstanding and I will forever be disappointed with myself for not watching it before living in New Jersey in 2009, just think of all the places I could have visited that were used for filming. Certainly something I will always see as a missed opportunity. But I am more than happy to eventually share the joy for this groundbreaking show and appreciate the genius behind it. With the incredible writing and performances. Must mention Pine Barrens right? What an episode!
*It feels only right to be publishing this review, gushing or praised piece about the incredible Sopranos on what was the date of the final episode 13 years ago, that’s right the final episode was broadcast on 10th June 2007!*