HBO’S The Sopranos definitely has its fair share of deaths. While some characters have it coming, others knock on the Grim Reaper’s door at extremely unexpected moments. Creator David Chase and the other screenwriters on the show have definitely helped in building an atmosphere of surprise and dread with some of the death scenes.
The best example of this might be the very final note on which the show ended. With just a jump-cut to a black screen, viewers can only figure if Tony Soprano died in the end or stayed alive. Even though there’s plenty of evidence suggesting the former possibility, this list would include well-established deaths in the narrative rather than open-ended ones. Trigger warning: descriptions of violence.
Vito Spatafore gets one of the most tragic story arcs as he’s a closeted homosexual man. As his secret is revealed, he runs from his life fearing that his toxic masculine peers might end up killing him. While his boss Tony Soprano plans to not take such an extreme step, his brother-in-law Phil Leotardo sees Vito’s sexual identity as a mark of shame for his family and is intent on finishing him.
There seems to be some hope towards Vito’s survival as Tony feels Vito is a good-enough earner and hence, an asset to him. However, Phil’s homophobia doesn’t fade away. As Vito reaches his motel room, he’s ambushed by two of Phil’s men. What follows is a disturbing scene of violence as they duct-tape Vito’s mouth and beat him to death.
Dominic ‘Fat Dom’ Gamiello
Most of the mobsters in the show are short-tempered and can be easily provoked if anyone passes any comments that question their so-called ‘masculinity’. Working under Phil Leotardo, Dominic Gamiello murders Vito Spatafore. After the hit has been carried out, Dominic, who belongs to the Lupertazzi crime family jokes to Silvio Dante that the other members of the New Jersey crew might also be homosexual.
Silvio doesn’t take this remark in jest and instructs Carlo Gervasi to hit Dominic a little, as he himself strikes a blow to Dominic’s head from the back. Carlo panics and ends up stabbing Dominic repeatedly.
Tony B aka Tony Blundetto was a beloved cousin of Tony Soprano’s who lands in trouble when he kills Phil Leotardo’s brother in pursuit of personal vengeance. This starts a power struggle between Phil and Tony’s forces as the latter desperately tries to bring peace.
It becomes evident that Tony B might soon die as he goes into hiding. What’s shocking about his death, however, is how Tony doesn’t agree to Phil killing him, as he fears that Phil would only torture Tony B bringing him pain and suffering. The head honcho of the Soprano family instead wishes that Tony B dies a quick death. And so, he decides to take matters into his own hands, shooting Tony Blundetto in an instant with a shotgun.
Robert ‘Bobby’ Baccalieri, Jr
A major reason why Bobby’s death can be hurtful to viewers is that he was probably the nicest man in the New Jersey crew. He kept no mistresses on the side, unconditionally loved his romantic partners, and tried to be a good role model for his children.
As the show reaches its finale, the power struggles between Phil Leotardo and Tony Soprano increase to such a level, that men on both sides start getting sacrificed like lambs. One such sacrifice is that of Bobby as he’s fatally shot at a toy-train shop. It’s darkly poetic as he was a keen aficionado of such train models.
Ralph ‘Ralphie’ Cifaretto
Be it his unruly attitude or tasteless humor, Ralphie Cifaretto has ended up in trouble more than often. Sometimes, these drawbacks in his personality led to near-death experiences.
The triggering incident to his death turns out to be the racehorse Pie-O-My’s injuries (and eventual death) from a stable fire. It turns out that Ralphie set the fire to collect insurance money. Grieving over the horse, Tony strangles him to death and then calls up his nephew Christopher who’s asked to cut up the dead body and dispose of it.
Just like Ralphie, Richie Aprile also proves to be quite troublesome for Tony Soprano’s criminal operations. Hence, there seems to be a high chance that one of Soprano’s crew might end up killing Aprille. It turns out that his killer would end up being none other than his own fiance Janice Soprano.
As the couple discusses the possible homosexuality of Aprile’s son, he ends up punching Janice in the face. Taken aback by his toxic masculinity and normalized domestic abuse, Janice loses her cool and ends up shooting him down with a shotgun. The first bullet is aimed at his chest while the second one strikes his head.
Adriana La Cerva
Christopher Moltisanti’s longtime partner Adriana La Cerva is shown to be serving as an FBI mole for over a year. When she finally reveals the secret to Christopher, he reacts in a violent fashion, strangulating her. After talking to Tony, it’s decided that Adriana would have to be killed before any more information is leaked.
Painting a false story of Christopher attempting suicide, Silvio Dante drives her to an abandoned forest. By the time Adriana hears her death bells ringing, it’s too late. A disturbing truth is established, the truth being Christopher’s loyalty to the family was way more than any empathy for his lover.
Tracee’s murder was arguably one of the most graphic and disturbing scenes of the series, which only goes on to show the hyperviolent effects of men like Ralphie who harbor a fragile male ego. A dancer for the Bada Bing, she carries Ralphie’s child and asks him for child support. Ralphie just responds by using demeaning remarks and slapping her.
His ego hurt, Ralphie violently reacts by brutally beating her to death. The incident is so sudden and unwanted that even Tony Soprano grows morbid.
J.T. Dolan aka JT was Christopher Moltisanti’s AA sponsor and a Hollywood screenwriter. He has often been beaten up or threatened by Christopher who forces JT to write screenplays based on his bizarre ideas.
One night, Christopher is ridiculed heavily by Paulie and the other members of the crew. This causes him to drink heavily and show up at JT’s door at an odd hour of the night. JT is infuriated and asks him to leave, wishing to not talk to him anymore as he’s in the mafia. Driven by his drunkenness and anger, Christopher turns back and shoots him in the head, killing him in a split-second.
No viewer might have expected a major character like Christopher to die so suddenly even though it all adds up later. As Tony Soprano and his nephew crash their car in an accident, the latter ends up in a more critical condition. Tony realizes that Christopher lost control of the car because he’s clearly under the influence of drugs. As Christopher pleads for help, Tony just shuts his nostrils making him choke on his own blood.
All through the show, Tony tried ignoring Christopher’s mistakes giving him another chance to improve. But it seems that by this episode, Tony has reached his breaking point and is ready to murder his own kin. A negative depiction of him in The Cleaver might be another reason for Tony’s increasing hatred towards Christopher.