The Sopranos never misses in debates about the greatest TV shows of all time, and there is a good reason for that: the HBO series hardly has any flaws. As evil as the characters are, they are extremely likable. Additionally, most of the episodes are perfectly written, making it quite difficult for both audiences and critics to pick a favorite.
Luckily, a few sites make it easy to filter out the cream of the crop. Ranker is one such site and it perfectly represents the opinion of viewers since the rankings are established by fan votes. Since it’s the fans that get to have their say, some critic favorites such as “College” and “Whitecaps” do not make the cut.
“Made In America” (S6E21)
In the series finale, the war between the DiMeo and Lupertazzi crime families finally comes to an end when Tony’s men whack the boss of the New York organized crime outfit at a gas station. The series also wraps things up with a cliffhanger ending, leaving plenty of clues that Tony Soprano died.
The quality of “Made In America” is boosted by the controversial ending, making it the most discussed episode of The Sopranos. Several other things about it are unforgettable too, including the execution of Phil Leotardo, who up until that point had proven to be a senseless menace. And for the first time, it appears like everyone in Tony’s family has a sense of direction. A.J. is getting into the movie business, Meadow is looking forward to starting her own family and Carmela doesn’t have to worry about hiding anymore.
“Members Only” (S6E1)
Tony goes to visit Junior at his house but the elderly mobster, who is suffering from dementia, mistakes him for Little Pussy Malanga and shoots him. Eugene Pontecorvo, one of the worst FBI informants in The Sopranos also considers quitting the mob.
The episode’s brilliance lies in the dying minutes when Junior surprisingly pulls the trigger. It’s a perfect twist as even though there were hints that Tony would get shot someday, Junior is the last person audiences expect to harm Tony at that point. Their rivalry had also died down when the shooting happens. Additionally, the issue of depression is also examined keenly through Eugene who decides to take his own life due to the pressure of being trapped in the mob.
“Whoever Did This” (S4E9)
In this episode, Tony’s favorite racing horse, Pie-O-My, dies when a fire razes down the stables. He suspects Ralph, who he thinks started the fire in order to collect the $200,000 insurance money. After an argument, Tony kills Ralph.
Throughout the show, Tony demonstrates that he has more empathy for animals than humans and Pie-O-My’s case is the perfect example of that. The loss stresses him deeply, yet it’s made clear that there are many other horses like it out there. “Whoever Did This” can be considered a bittersweet episode. Ralph dies, ending his sadistic reign but at the same time, the death paints Tony as unlikable since he had no proof it was the high-earning Capo.
“Pine Barrens” (S3E11)
Paulie and Christopher are tasked with collecting a debt from a Russian mobster named Valery but things go terribly wrong. Thinking they have killed him, the two take Valery’s body to the Pine Battens to bury it only for him to overpower them and escape. They then get lost in the woods while trying to find him.
It’s always a thrilling watch when movie or TV characters get stranded out in the wild and try to figure out their way to civilization. However, apart from the fights and frantic searches, what truly makes “Pine Barrens” a unique episode is the humor. The most memorable among Paulie’s funniest quotes in The Sopranos also comes in the episode. It’s arguably the funniest quote overall on the show and it comes when the Capo misquotes Tony.
“Amour Fou” (S3E12)
Gloria Trillo, the most intriguing among Tony Soprano’s best mistresses, becomes more and more erratic. When she refuses to break up with Tony, he sends Patsy to threaten her. An ambitious Jack Jr. also decides to rob a poker game but it turns out to be a wrong move for him.
“Amour Fou” packs in the suspense and tension as audiences can’t help but wonder what will happen as Gloria is driving Carmela home. Will she kill her? Will she tell her? Gloria is also portrayed as the boldest of Tony’s mistresses. She doesn’t fear him and it only takes cold eyes from Patsy to remind her that she is dealing with the mob. Jacky Jr. also becomes a model for poor decisions when he robs the game, a choice that makes him get whacked.
Ralph damages the eye of the Bada Bing manager while recreating a scene from Gladiator. Later, he beats his girlfriend Tracee to death after she embarrasses him in front of his colleagues.
Ralph is barbaric throughout the season but “University” finds him at his peak as a villain. Everything he does in the episode is shocking and brutal. His decision to kill Tracee marks the point of no return in his frosty relationship with Tony because the Bada Bing dancer was also close to the Don. The Bada Bing is also considered sacred ground for the New Jersey mob and Ralph’s decision to kill Tracee there is deemed unpardonable sin by everyone.
The Knight In White Satin Armor (S2E12)
Big Pussy grows disgruntled with his lack of opportunities in the DiMeo crime family begins to cooperate more with the FBI. Additionally, another shocking death happens when Janice shoots her fiance Richie after he punches her.
Richie’s death is the highlight of the episode but rather than it triggering melancholy it becomes a reason for celebration. The mobster was not only making plans to topple Tony but was also subjecting Janice to domestic violence. Moreover, his hatred for his son, influenced by his homophobia felt unjustifiable. Apart from the Richie drama, seeing Big Pussy become so delusional that he thinks he is part of the FBI now is also hilarious.
“The Happy Wanderer” (S2E6)
Compulsive gambler Davey Scatino, who happens to be Tony’s childhood friend, begs him to participate in the Executive Game. Regrettably, he loses money, forcing Tony to beat him up and take his son’s SUV as part of the payment.
The episode shows just how biased Tony is when dealing with his friends. he fails to show Davey any mercy yet he has been seen to forgive his other childhood friend, Artie Bucco, for everything he has done. It also becomes clear how Tony’s actions affect those close to him. His feud with Davey ends up driving a wedge between Davey’s son and Meadow, who up until that point had been close friends.
“The Blue Comet” (S6E20)
Dr. Elliot Kupferberg reveals to fellow therapists that Dr. Melfi’s secret patient is Tony Soprano, causing them to resent her. This makes her contemplate stopping her sessions with the mob boss. Elsewhere, Bobby and Silvio get shot by Phil’s men. Bobby dies but Sil ends up in a coma.
Events in “The Blue Comet” make audiences sympathize with Tony because everything is falling apart for him. Not only does his attempted hit on Phil fail, forcing him to go to hiding, but two of his best lieutenants get shot too. And given the humiliation of Dr. Melfi, it’s hinted that it’s only a matter of time before the Don gets cut off by the only person he could open up to.
“Long Term Parking” (S5E12)
Adriana confesses to Christopher that she is an FBI informant after her handler forces her to wear a wire in this episode. Sadly, Christopher tells Tony, who tasks Silvio with executing her.
Adriana’s fate is a sad one, because she was never malicious. She had only been coerced to be an informant and was honest enough to open up to Christopher. Up until that point, she had also proven herself to be one of the few nice characters in a show filled with evil souls. Nonetheless, her death serves as a reminder that working with the authorities is a cardinal sin in the mob.