Some great television shows are immortal. The Sopranos was an expensive, epic production with a visceral plot that wasn’t afraid of blood, gore, crime, and death. Viewers liked shows that were high-budget, unapologetic and shown in a serialized format, and that made the genre popular.
Later, dramas like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones were possible because of Tony Soprano and his crew. Thanks again, HBO! A big part of that successful mix was the memorable characters, several of which formed their own followings. Here are the ten smartest characters on The Sopranos, ranked by intelligence.
Corrado “Junior” Soprano
In the first few seasons, Junior was a father figure to Tony and helped him keep the family business humming. When he was younger, he worked closely with Tony’s father and built up some of the most important parts of the family business.
He was loyal and honest with Tony only to a point, as he was slightly miffed to see his nephew inherit a business he had created. Despite his obvious intelligence, however, his greed and resentment led him to make some bad decisions, like aligning with Livia to murder her son and getting careless when it came to the FBI. He used a reliable old trick, feigning illness, to soften the blow of prosecution when he was eventually caught and used the same tactics to get around the rules that bound him to house arrest.
Tony Soprano being who he is, plus a made man and a crime boss, he’s romatically involved with women who aren’t his wife. In the culture of The Sopranos, this isn’t unusual. A new word entered our lexicon, “goomar,” the term for the mistress of the Don.
Out of the three “goomars” that Tony had, Gloria was the most shrewd, manipulative and preceptive of them all, plus she lived an independent life as a skilled Mercedes salesperson, unlike the other mistresses. She was only on the show for a single season but had the most influence on Tony’s character, and her suicide in Season 4 prompts a confrontation between Tony and another notable person on this list.
You had to be sharp to stay married to the mob and survive. Other characters on this list who were wives or girlfriends didn’t fare so well, but Carmela was smart enough to ride the wave and kept her cool through some of Tony’s most egregious crimes and sometimes fatal edicts. Realism was her foundation while other wives indulged in the fantasies of upper-class mob life.
You have to be smart to meet issues head-on and that’s how Carmela kept her family together. She was so pragmatic about Tony’s misadventures and piggish behavior that it was painful to watch sometimes, but she knew how to keep her head in the midst of family chaos, which ensured not only her survival but also her prosperity.
Smarter in the sense that he always had a mild manner, Bobby also had the brains to stay out of any real trouble. He works his way up through the family mostly by peaceful means, and although he clearly doesn’t like violence he doesn’t shy away from it as a necessary part of the business. Bobby was unique in the sense that he stayed loyal to his wife and didn’t hold grudges or seek revenge.
He starts out as a low-level foot soldier to become one of the top advisors and aides to Junior Soprano himself. Out of the other characters, he seems to have a quiet sense of wisdom that other impulsive members of the team lacked, especially his fellow family members, which is why his death was that much more tragic
The adventures that Janice had in her younger years made her the rebel of the family, but upon her return after a tumultuous few years overseas, she settled down and took on the role of a regular middle-class resident of New Jersey. She doesn’t work a regular job but instead seems to have figured out numerous ways to game the system and stay on disability.
That can be clever or lazy depending on how you look at it. Janice’s machinations might be smart, but they cross over into the realm of evil several times, like when he hatches a plan to seduce Bobby by using his kids as leverage or gets Tony to dispose of an ex-boyfriend’s body.
Tony Soprano isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to academics, which he would tell you himself if he had the vocabulary, but he’s ruthlessly clever when it comes to reading people, making intricate plans, and fulfilling all of his obligations as a Don, no matter how gruesome.
Like so many other characters on this list, his intelligence eventually gave way to bitterness, paranoia, and crushing guilt. His mother, Livia, and his former mistress, Gloria, literally haunted his dreams until the end of the show.
Furio was a unique character on The Sopranos who was always an outsider and a mystery. He was intelligent in the same way as a medieval European lord if you’re thinking of consolidating power, dealing with troublemakers, and hiding money. Furio was always cold, calculating, and realistic, especially when it came to Tony.
There’s only one other character on this list who escaped from Tony Soprano’s clutches, and Furio is one of them. Furio really shows his brains when he takes some sage advice and returns to Italy rather than betray Tony, and we can assume he survives the show because his ultimate fate remains a mystery.
Meadow has the best of both worlds. She possesses her father’s emotional intelligence and her mother’s savvy, plus she’s book smart. As the show progressed, she grew out of the role of a whiny, spoiled teenager who moved out of her brother’s shadow to become a more dominant character when it came to the question of the family’s future.
She has some articulate and insightful views about the Mafia and organized crime, how it operates, and even why it exists. Nobody else on the show has the education or insight to ask these questions, and by the time the show came to a close Meadow was contemplating a career as a high-powered, white-collar lawyer. You can bet her parents, especially Carmela, are extremely pleased about this.
When it came to nefarious schemes, nobody was more notorious than the vicious DiMeo family, and Tony Blundetto isn’t only cut from that cloth but he also has a high IQ to match. A truly evil genius, Tony has an interesting connection with his cousin, the current boss of the family. Tony Soprano was supposed to take part in the botched hijacking that sent Tony Blundetto to prison for an extended period of time.
While Blundetto was stuck in jail, Soprano’s career thrived and he was a Don by the time Blundetto got out. When he was released, instead of openly pursuing revenge, he played the role of a reformed criminal who wanted nothing more to do with the criminal lifestyle. Of course he never really wanted to go straight, and his greed overrides his intelligence, getting the DiMeo family mixed up in the Lupertazzi crime family’s internal war before he dies.
It’s not just because she’s a polished, classy professional with a degree and clinical certifications, although that definitely helps. Out of every single character on the show, even from the people who were the closest to him, Jennifer Melfi was the only one who ever really understood Tony Soprano.
Not only was she smart enough to do that, but when she figured out who and what he was, she was smart enough to refuse to ever see him again, as a friend, acquaintance, or patient. Throughout The Sopranos, Tony was always able to keep people from leaving him no matter how bad things got by using manipulation, family protocol, or violence. None of those worked on Jennifer Melfi, but anyone who watches the show knows how hard it was for her to break free, even though she wasn’t “married to the mob.”