HBO’s The Sopranos is undeniably one of the greatest shows of all time. Monumentally influential, incredibly popular, mature and complex – it really doesn’t get much better than this. And like many stories of its kind, The Sopranos isn’t afraid to go to some dark and scary places. And said dark and scary places often involve death. This isn’t a show that holds your hand or telegraphs its moves. Nope, if a character is going to die, they can die in the most surprising, unpredictable way possible. And it is glorious.
These are the five most shocking Sopranos deaths (and five we totally saw coming).
Surprising: Richie Aprile
This death doesn’t get the respect it deserves. We’ll go ahead and say it – the death of Richie Aprile may have changed the way major character deaths were written. Before The Sopranos, TV dramas were quite predictable. The Big Bad Guy of the season always dies, and he always dies in some big, climactic season finale.
Not so with Richie Aprile. Not only was this not a season finale, but his death didn’t even come at the hands of Tony. Not only did it not come from Tony, but it came in the middle of an everyday dinner! Absolutely no one saw this playing out the way it did, and it changed The Sopranos, and TV in general, for the better.
Totally Saw Coming: Adriana
We love Adriana as much as the next person, but her fate was sealed for a long, long time. Beginning in season four, Adriana begins working with the FBI. Now, this is obviously a big no no within organized crime, and it’s basically a guaranteed death warrant. Provided you get caught, of course.
Of course, Adriana was caught, and Silvio was sent to make her pay. We didn’t want Adriana to die. Far from it. But we saw it coming from a mile away.
We obviously knew that crap was going to go down as The Sopranos neared its finale. And yeah, we knew Christopher was pretty much done for when he relapsed. But we would have never guessed that Christopher’s end would come the way it did. This is another brilliant example of The Sopranos subverting audience and storytelling expectations.
His death literally comes out of nowhere and without even a semblance of warning. And there’s not really a big to-do about it, either – he simply crashes the car and gets strangled for his carelessness.
Totally Saw Coming: Sal
As surprising as Richie’s death was, The Sopranos was still kinda adhering to the storytelling tropes of TV dramas in season two. As such, Sal’s demise wasn’t really all that surprising. And, quite frankly, a little cliché. Sal is set up as the big “villain” of season two, as he is working with the authorities.
Naturally, the family finds out, takes him out on a boat, and does their business. This is taken straight from Mafia Movies 101, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t quite gel with what The Sopranos would do in its later seasons.
For an example on what The Sopranos did do in its later seasons, look no further than the death of Ralphie. Typical storytelling conventions would have Ralphie dying at the end of season three. He was the primary antagonist of the season, he was causing lots of trouble, and Tony wanted him dead. And yet he is made Captain.
Whaaaa!? Nope, his death doesn’t come until midway through season four, when he is unceremoniously beaten and strangled by Tony. And just like that, without fanfare or spectacle, Ralphie was gone.
Totally Saw Coming: Livia
Livia certainly helped make season one memorable. And while season two was certainly great, we found ourselves missing Livia, her constant whining, and her manipulative schemes.
Unfortunately, her significantly reduced screen time and Nancy Marchand’s increasing sickness spelled the end for poor Livia. Marchand tragically passed away on June 18, 2000, and her death was written into The Sopranos. Unfortunately, we got that bizarre superimposed head thing out of it. Talk about one of The Sopranos‘ major blunders…
Surprising: Gigi Cestone
This is yet another brilliant example of an anticlimactic death serving the plot in a bizarre and unexpected fashion. Gigi served as the capo of the Aprile crew and often clashed with the jealous Ralphie. Meanwhile, his incompetency was causing problems with Tony.
This tension was slowly bubbling and looking to spill over in exciting fashion – and then he dies on the toilet off-screen. It’s kind of death you hear about and experience in real life, but never in a major television show like this. Such is what made The Sopranos so good!
Totally Saw Coming: Jackie Aprile Jr.
Jackie’s death was a long time coming. Jackie was causing more and more problems as season three progressed, and it’s clear that he and Tony were butting heads. Unfortunately for Jackie, things came to a head when he stupidly decided to hold up a card game. Ralphie ended up giving the order, and Jackie Aprile Jr. was taken out outside the Boonton Projects.
It was the natural culmination of a season-long storyline, and it was sad to see such a young and promising man go down such a dangerous and nonsensical path
No, poor Cosette wasn’t really a “character” so to speak. But in our opinion, her death is what makes The Sopranos so special. And so darkly hilarious. What other show would have one of its main characters sit on and kill a dog while stoned out of their minds on heroin? What other show would show said death in all its graphic glory?
What other show would film the scene in such a nonchalant, everyday way? Despite all the deaths on The Sopranos, it was Cosette’s that made us gape our mouths the widest (and laugh the hardest, have mercy on our souls).
Totally Saw Coming: Phil Leotardo
Naturally, we all saw Phil’s death coming. He was the chief antagonist of season six, and season six was ending. We all knew the finale would see Phil die, and we were right.
And while we totally saw the death coming, we didn’t expect it to be filmed in such a surprising and graphic manner! Phil was suitably the final death of the series, and what a final death it was.