As the new prequel film The Many Saints of Newark looks back at the teenage years of Tony Soprano, the protagonist of The Sopranos, it’s the perfect time to rewatch some of the key episodes from the critically-acclaimed HBO drama series. Produced by Sopranos creator David Chase and directed by Alan Taylor, who has previously directed several episodes from the series, The Many Saints of Newark promises to reveal much about Tony’s origins, the entire East Coast criminal underworld in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and crucial but unseen Sopranos character Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), the movie’s protagonist. Although he’s been long-dead during the events of The Sopranos and never actually appears in the series, Dickie was an influential member of the DiMeo family. Apart from being Christopher’s father, he was also Tony’s mentor.
Meanwhile, young Tony Soprano will be played by Michael Gandolfini, the son of James Gandolfini, who originally played Tony in the series. Several other key characters from The Sopranos will also be in the film, including Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano (Vera Farmiga), Johnny Boy Soprano (Jon Bernthal), Janice Soprano (Alexandra Intrator), Junior Soprano (Corey Stoll), Artie Bucco (Matteo Russo), Silvio Dante (John Magaro), Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri (Billy Magnussen), Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakiola), and Jackie Aprile (Chase Vacnin). The film will focus on the conflicts between the DiMeo crime family and its rival gangs amid the tensions building up to the 1967 Newark race riots. With all these Sopranos characters returning in Many Saints of Newark, it’s obvious that although the prequel is a standalone film, it’s primarily aimed at long-time Sopranos fans.
The Sopranos ran from 1999 to 2007 and produced a total of 86 episodes throughout its 6-season run. Watching the entire series nonstop would take around 3 days and 14 hours. Considering what’s been revealed about the plot of The Many Saints of Newark, which of these episodes are the best ones to rewatch before watching the new prequel?
“Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
The very first episode establishes the most important characters and plot points in The Sopranos. A panic attack forces Tony to try talk therapy with psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), which he has to do in secret, as the very act of seeking help would compromise his standing in the DiMeo crime family. The pilot also marks the beginning of the story of Tony and Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), his distant cousin, protege, and recurring headache Christopher’s actions contribute to the brewing tensions between Tony and his uncle Junior Soprano (Dominic Chianese), his mother Livia Soprano (Nancy Marchand), and his wife Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco). Apart from Christopher, the pilot then introduces other members of Tony’s crew, such as Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico), Big Pussy Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore), Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt), and Hesh Rabkin (Jerry Adler). The ducks – a recurring metaphor throughout the series – also make their first appearance. Because of all this and more, the pilot is the most crucial Sopranos episode rewatch.
“Meadowlands” (Season 1, Episode 4)
After Junior Soprano threatens Christopher with a mock execution in the Meadowlands during an earlier episode, Tony is forced to confront the increasingly volatile actions of his uncle and fellow capo. This is the first episode in which the true extent of Tony’s genius is revealed. Following the death of his close friend and boss Jackie Aprile, Tony gets Junior to back off by letting him take the reins as the new boss in exchange for some of his uncle’s assets. The other capos find this agreeable, as it allows Tony to still act as the de facto boss, appeases Junior’s long-time desire to rise to the top, and essentially gives them a new “lightning rod” to take the government heat. Culminating in Jackie’s funeral, this Sopranos episode introduces crucial members of the larger organization that Tony and his family are part of, many of which will either appear in or have direct connections to the events in The Many Saints of Newark.
“Down Neck” (Season 1, Episode 7)
After Tony’s son AJ, also known as Anthony Jr. (Robert Iler), gets in trouble at school, Tony recalls childhood events that overlap with the story in The Many Saints of Newark. This includes a flashback to when a young Tony (Bobby Borriello) sees his father, Johnny Boy Soprano (Joseph Siravo), and uncle Junior (played by Rocco Sisto in Sopranos flashbacks) beating up someone who owes them money. He also recalls how his mother Livia (Laila Robins in flashbacks) threatened him as a child. Tony discusses this and other early memories of his family with Dr. Melfi, which reveals how he was raised and how this affects his own parenting. Meanwhile, Anthony Jr. inadvertently reveals to Livia that Tony sees a psychiatrist, which only feeds more fuel to the fire that is Tony’s love-hate relationship with his mother.
“Fortunate Son” (Season 3, Episode 3)
In this episode’s flashbacks, young Tony witnesses how Johnny Boy and Junior cut off the finger of Mr. Satriale for unpaid gambling debts. Tony’s father talks to him about the family business, compliments his bravery when he doesn’t run away after witnessing violence, and cautions him never to gamble. And when he sees his father cutting fresh meat from Satriale’s at the dinner table, young Tony gets his first panic attack and faints.
“For All Debts Public and Private” (Season 4, Episode 1)
While Dickie Moltisanti is discussed in several conversations throughout The Sopranos, this episode is when Tony tells Christopher how his father was killed by New Jersey detective Barry Haydu (Tom Mason). According to Tony, Dickie’s hit was ordered by a criminal named Jilly Ruffalo, whose eye was gouged out by Dickie as payback for a cellmate’s death. Meanwhile, in the trailer for The Many Saints of Newark, Dickie is shown grabbing a drill after throwing an unknown person on the table, which could be a confirmation that Tony was, in fact, telling Christopher the truth. Even as Christopher doubts the truth behind this story, he still carries out Barry’s execution at Tony’s behest, hoping to impress his cousin and mentor.
“In Camelot” (Season 5, Episode 7)
Played by Danny Petrillo, a teenage Tony lies to Livia at the behest of Johnny Boy, who fails to show up at the hospital after Livia suffers a miscarriage – providing deeper insight into young Tony’s strained relationship with him his parents. Unlike the other episodes, these flashbacks are set even closer to the same time as Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark.
“Soprano Home Movies” (Season 6, Episode 13)
Tony and Carmela drink and play an increasingly intense game of Monopoly with Janice Soprano (Aida Turturro) and his husband Bobby Baccalieri (Steven R. Schirripa), a soldier and advisor of Junior Soprano. Tensions flare up when Tony and Carmela tease Janice about her promiscuity as a young woman, and the discussions reveal more about Tony and Janice’s early lives.
“Remember When” (Season 6, Episode 15)
After federal agents find the body of Willie Overall, Tony’s first murder victim, he goes to Florida with Paulie Walnuts to lie low. There will be a younger version of Paulie appearing in The Many Saints of Newark, and in this episode, he spends much of his and Tony’s “vacation” time talking about Newark’s good old days, discussing some of the key events in the prequel film while also offering a different take on the era.
“Kennedy and Heidi” (Season 6, Episode 18)
From the first to the last season of The Sopranos, Christopher’s issues with drugs and overall unpredictability result in more than several headaches for Tony and his crew. Christopher’s entire story arc echoes the organization’s disdain for using and dealing drugs, not only because it makes for unreliable made men but also due to the long jail sentences attached to drug-related activities. This story arc reaches its boiling point when Tony finally kills Christopher in season 6 after the two are caught in a car accident. In The Many Saints of Newark, Christopher is just a baby, and his final moments in The Sopranos are definitely worth checking out before seeing the upcoming HBO prequel.