To the aggressive song Woke Up This Morning, views of New York and New Jersey are replaced by shots of a man with a cigar sticking out of his mouth. Soon everyone will know that this is Tony Soprano – the main anti-hero of the great epic about the Mafia, which tells as much about personal growth as it does about American-Italian life – mistresses, casseroles and gangster raids.
But what exactly were the moments that put The Sopranos on a pedestal inaccessible to others? There are many, but we have selected the top five.
1. College – Season 1 Episode 5
The president of HBO at that time was afraid that the viewers would simply turn away from the show after College. This is understandable – in the first four episodes we see an ambiguous but still ordinary protagonist, a businessman with criminal tendencies.
After Tony accidentally sees a snitch hiding in the witness protection program in another state, tracks him down and kills him in cold blood, everything changes. At that moment, the greatest anti-hero in TV history is born, and the viewer is plunged into the life of a ruthless criminal.
2. White Caps – Season 4 Episode 13
Not only scenes of murder, but also good old arguments can break viewers’ hearts. Tony is trying to buy a lake house to bring his family together. Carmela feels happy for the first time in months, but everything changes when she gets a call from Tony’s ex-lover. Carmela, who has suffered cheating for many years, can’t take it anymore because for the first time she is told about it to her face.
Over the course of the hour-long episode, Carmela and Tony manage to fight three times – each scene is not only brilliantly written, but also incredibly performed by James Gandolfini and Edie Falco. It is no exaggeration to say that viewers may have seen some of the best acting in the history of television.
3. The Second Coming – Season 6 Episode 19
The mostly unremarkable episode explores Tony’s relationship with his most troubled child, AJ, who has gone from being a school bully to being paranoid and depressed. To many viewers, his failed suicide attempt seemed like just another comedic moment – this loser can’t even kill himself.
However, it is one of the most emotionally powerful moments of the entire show: even though AJ floundering in the pool with a block tied to him looks funny, what happens a little later is important. First, Tony comes home and saves his son, after which his initial anger is replaced by understanding and a rare tenderness for the child, who cries at the realization of his actions.
4. Made in America – Season 6 Episode 21
The war with New York is over, Phil is killed, and Tony goes to the nursing home to tell Uncle Junior about Bobby’s death, but due to dementia, Junior understands nothing and does not recognize Tony at all. It seems like an unremarkable scene before the legendary finale at the diner, but it turns out to be almost stronger than the final minutes of the show.
Tony finally understands that his uncle didn’t lie about dementia, and the viewer is convinced of the transience of life: it’s just that for some it fades slowly, while for others it disappears instantly, like the sudden appearance of a black screen.
5. Made in America – Season 6 Episode 21
Once again, Made in America. Why? Because The Sopranos finale is the best finale in TV history. And this is the main injustice that the show committed with all its followers, as no one can now end the show the same way – just a black screen, and a sharp break in the middle of the sentence.
The ending of The Sopranos isn’t about whether Tony survived or not. What’s more important is that we’ve already been made aware that Tony is incurable, he’s not going to change, and the only thing left to do is to leave him where he is.