The mobsters all behave in a similar way in The Sopranos, since they all live by a code and are aware of the traditional rules they must follow in order to survive. Nonetheless, they each have their own unique personalities and so do their friends, families, and associates. And nothing better shows what kind of person a character is than their words.
Since most characters on the show are extremely extroverted, they always have plenty to say. Some of their statements only support an arc and develop a storyline, but others highlight their prepotent traits as well as their beliefs. And in the world Tony and his crew live in, even negative traits can make someone seem cool.
“You Don’t Gotta Love Me, But You Will Respect Me!” – Tony Soprano
When Christopher demands that Jackie Jr. be whacked, Tony fires back with a quick, “No, thanks!” Christopher then ticks him off by suggesting that the love he had for him is diminishing, and Tony doesn’t respond too kindly.
In the New Jersey underworld, love doesn’t have the same gravitational pull as respect, and Tony understands this well. Over the course of the series, he remains keen on maintaining a quasi-benevolent style of leadership. He is reasonable but not too nice, not even to his nephew because he knows that weak and overly considerate mob bosses get toppled.
“The Guy Was An Interior Decorator. He Killed 16 Czechoslovakians.” – Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri
After a scuffle with the stubborn debtor Valery, Paulie and Christopher believe they have killed him, so they head over to the New Jersey Pine Barrens to bury him. To their surprise, he overpowers them and flees. Shortly after, Tony calls Paulie to warn him that Valery was once a Russian Interior Ministry agent who killed 16 Chechen rebels, but Paulie mishears him and then delivers this misquote.
Paulie not only sits atop the list of characters with the highest kill count in The Sopranos, he is also the funniest member of the DiMeo Crime Family. Most of his scenes tend to be comical and that’s because he is not very smart. It’s indeed hilarious that he would believe an interior decorator would kill 16 Czechoslavkians, and that Czechoslovakia is even still a country, but this is just Paulie being Paulie.
“You’re Only As Good As Your Last Envelope.” – Silvio Dante
Paulie complains about his decreased earnings to Silvio when he becomes too cash-strapped to pay for his mother’s treatment. At the same time, he is also courting the Lupertazzi family because he feels neglected by Tony.
Ambition is a common trait in the Cosa Nostra, but many a mafioso seek greatness without having what it takes to achieve it. As the consigliere, Silvio is very wise. He knows exactly what it takes to be valued and that’s bringing in plenty of money. When one’s earning power decreases, so does their importance.
“Dad, Are You In The Mafia?” – Meadow Soprano
Meadow directs the question to her father as he is driving her to Maine to check out prospective colleges, and she has somehow figured out that they aren’t a “normal” family.
Meadow is often portrayed as an overachiever and one of the smartest characters in The Sopranos, hence it’s expected that she’d not only be bubbling with curiosity but also seeking confirmation. She has always been the most understanding and least judgemental member of her family too. Tony knows and appreciates this, which is why he confirms that he is indeed in the mafia.
“Federal Marshals Are So Far Up My A** I Can Taste Brylcreem.” – Corrado “Junior” Soprano
During a chat with Richie, the old-timer laments how the FBI is trying to build a case against him. He hates how the scrutiny is preventing him from conducting business.
For most of the series, fate backs Junior into a corner with no way for him to wiggle out, and as a result, he is always complaining. From his health to his tenure as boss, everything takes a turn for the worse for Junior. Nevertheless, he has a positive outlook towards life, hence he always finds humor in his misfortunes. As a result, Junior’s best quotes in The Sopranos trump those of many other characters. The “Brylcreem” reference is specifically about a hair product that American men used in previous decades.
“That’s My Guy, Adriana. My Uncle Tony. The Guy I’m Going To Hell For.” – Christopher Moltisanti
Tony punishes Christopher by keeping him out of heists when he bungles a key cigarette smuggling operation. At home, an unhappy Christopher laments but still makes it clear that he will stand by Tony.
Christopher’s loyalty towards Tony is commendable, considering that Tony doesn’t always treat him right. Part of the reason he feels indebted to Tony is that the mob boss has shown some form of nepotism towards him, helping him get made and rise up the ranks quickly, at the expense of other mobsters. Christopher’s loyalty is so strong that when he has to choose between keeping Adriana’s FBI secret and telling Tony, he chooses to tell. As a result, Adriana gets killed.
“We Need To Repeat What’s Familiar, Even If It’s Bad For Us.” – Dr. Jennifer Melfi.
Bothered by the erratic behavior of his mistress, Gloria Trillo, Tony asks Dr. Melfi for advice. Instead of telling him what he should do, the therapist helps him understand why he is doing it.
As an accomplished therapist, Dr. Melfi’s modus operandi involves tackling a problem by pointing out its root cause first. She is aware that Tony is sticking to Gloria because she’s given him so many great moments. And by pointing this out, she also showcases her understanding persona. She is never judgemental, hence she doesn’t call out Tony for cheating on his wife. Neither does she judge him for repeating what hurts.
“What’s Different Between You And Me Is You’re Going To Hell When You Die!” – Carmela
Right from the pilot episode, it’s proven that Tony and Carmela are not the happiest of couples. They both label each other as contemptible, but Carmela assures him that he’ll go to hell, whereas she’s heaven-bound.
Carmela is deeply religious, and for this reason, she considers herself a better person. Her perspective is tied to hypocrisy since she’s sinful too, despite being a regular churchgoer and a friend of Father Phil. She is blind to the murders and heists her husband commits, but more than glad to enjoy the perks. She also enjoys using her status as one of the renowned mob wives in The Sopranos to intimidate others, something that might prevent her admission to heaven.
“You Could Tell Everything About A Man From The Way He Treats Women.” – Adriana La Cerva
Ralph’s reputation as a clueless lover precedes him and this angers most women on the show, including Adriana. During a chat with Carmela, she criticizes him.
In as much as most of the mobsters are portrayed as promiscuous, they are very generous and loving towards their partners. This is Adriana’s idea of a perfect man. One who sees women as precious beings that ought to be handled with care. She rightfully can’t understand why Ralph is so brutal. Even though she and Christopher have had bad days, she is used to being treated well.
“When Your Opponent Gives You An Opening, Be Swift As A Hare.” – Janice Soprano
After a love-making session, Janice and Richie conspire to cook Tony over an open flame. She suggests that Richie take advantage of Tony’s feud with Junior and overthrow him.
Janice is renowned for subterfuge. She doesn’t manipulate Richie to pull off a coup-de-tat because she wants the best for him. She does so because she wants to be the wife of a mob boss. The fact that Tony is her brother doesn’t concern her. Her manipulative tendencies are demonstrated several other times on the show, like when she squeezes herself into a grieving Bobby’s life by endearing herself to his children.