It’s hard to believe more than 20 years have passed since The Sopranos debuted on HBO. The game-changing mob-drama about the depressed and anxiety-ridden Italian gangster, Tony Soprano, all but changed the landscape of television through its cinematic quality. The five-time Golden Globe-winning series began to show us what kinds of stories could be told on the small screen, leading to such sterling examples as The Wire, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, and many more.
Despite the irreplaceable loss of star James Gandolfini, a planned prequel to The Sopranos entitled The Saints of Newark is still slated to be released on March 12, 2021. With 10 months away, let’s check out the 10 best episodes of The Sopranos season 1, according to IMDb.
Boca (Episode 9) 8.6/10
The morality of the Soprano code comes to light when the capos’ desire to see their daughters score soccer scholarships takes a backseat to serving swift justice. That is, when the mobsters learn the local soccer coach is a child molester, they react appropriately.
With everyone else under FBI surveillance, Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) goes to Boca Raton, Florida, with his girlfriend. His predilection for giving oral sex comes to light, which eventually leads to a major rift between him and Tony. In retaliation, Junior informs those around him that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist.
Pax Soprana (Episode 6) 8.6/10
The episode titled Pax Soprana refers to Pax Romana, the period of peace in the Roman Empire from 27 B.C. to 180 A.D. Unfortunately, Tony can’t wait that long to whack a toe-stepping rival!
As Tony begins fantasizing about his shrink, Dr. Melfi, his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) makes a bold play to win back Tony’s affections. But Tony is too distracted by keeping Uncle Junior in line as the new boss, who begins overstepping his boundaries by taxing Hesh (Jerry Adler) too large a fee. Tony solicits the help of Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola) as a result.
Pilot (Episode 1) 8.6/10
In the fascinating pilot episode of the series, we’re introduced to the highly complicated New Jersey gangster, Tony Soprano (Gandolfini). However, viewers might have been caught off guard by how much of the criminal activity takes a backseat to Tony’s crippling anxiety and increasing domestic strife.
When Tony suddenly passes out from stress and anxiety at his son A.J.’s (Robert Iler) birthday party, he finds the courage to visit a psychiatrist, a major no-no for Goodfellas. He meets Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), who, as a fellow Italian, Tony learns to trust with his innermost secrets.
The Legend Of Tennessee Moltisanti (Episode 8) 8.7/10
In Episode 8, Christopher Moltisanti’s (Michael Imperioli) love of movies comes to the fore when he expresses his desire to write a screenplay based on his life. Tony objects, thinking such exposure will lead to danger for all involved.
However, the real excitement of the episode comes when Tony catches wind of the Federal indictments coming his way. He and Carmela rid their house of all the cash, jewels, and criminal contraband they can before their property is raided. But that’s the least of Tony’s problems. His mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand), informs Uncle Junior that he’s been seeing a psychiatrist, which could compromise the business.
Meadowlands (Episode 4) 8.7/10
The stakes rise as the power dynamic shifts in the wake of mob-boss Jackie Aprile’s death. As a result, Tony assumes more responsibility but does so in a way that keeps him and his immediate family protected. Meanwhile, Christopher suffers a minor-meltdown following the murder of his partner, Brandon Fillone.
When the capos elect Tony to replace Jackie Aprile, Soprano deflects the responsibility over to his Uncle, Junior Soprano (Dominic Chianese). However, Tony isn’t able to keep his son A.J. in the dark about what he does, as Meadow tells him about the shady family business.
Denial, Anger, Acceptance (Episode 3) 8.7/10
As Tony hashes out his severe mommy issues with Dr. Melfi, he juggles a number of outstanding business deals in episode three. He visits cancer-stricken mob boss Jackie Aprile (Michael Rispoli), and sends his two most trusted goons, Sal (Steven Van Zandt) and Paulie (Tony Sirico), to shake down a married man.
Elsewhere, Meadow Soprano (Jamie Lynn-Sigler) scores crystal meth from her cousin Christopher, who’d rather supply her with safe drugs instead of letting her find poison on the street. We also meet the Soprano’s culinary friends, Artie (John Ventimiglia) and Charmaine Bucco (Kathrine Narducci).
College (Episode 5) 8.9/10
The fifth episode of season 1 is largely hailed by critics as one of the most memorable chapters in the entire Sopranos saga. As Tony and Meadow go on a road trip to visit potential colleges, Tony spots a rat in New England who has entered the Witness Protection Program. When Meadow gets drunk with the college tour-guides, Tony goes after the snitch with murderous vengeance.
Meanwhile, Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco) enjoys a night with Father Intintola (Paul Schulze), drinking wine and watching old movies. When Carmela makes a romantic move, she’s denied by the latently homosexual priest.
Nobody Knows Anything (Episode 11) 8.8/10
The familial backstabbing rises to Shakespearean proportions in episode 11 when Uncle Junior makes it clear he has no choice but to eliminate Tony. Even Tony’s batty and vindictive mother, Livia, agrees it might be best.
Meanwhile, Tony suspects Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore) to be an FBI informant. Tony assigns Paulie Walnuts to whack Big Pussy if and only when he discovers that he’s wearing a wire. The mission fails, leading to Pussy’s departure from town.
Isabella (Episode 12) 9.1/10
The pharmaceutical sway Dr. Melfi has put under Tony takes a massive toll when he has bed-ridden hallucinations of the gorgeous next-door Italian exchange student named Isabella (Maria Grazia Cucinotta). Luckily, Tony isn’t too inebriated to fend off an assassination attempt by two goons hired by Junior.
In fact, the failed hit-job actually reinvigorates Tony in ways Melfi’s prescribed Prozac and Lithium cannot. With newfound vim and vigor, Tony sets out to end his quarrel with Uncle Junior.
I Dream Of Jeannie Cusamano (Episode 13) 9.2/10
It’s no surprise that the season finale ranks the highest, according to IMDb users. All of the untied story strands are woven together beautifully to complete each character arc and resolve the underlying plot points.
Tony hears the heartbreaking conversation between his mother and Junior over the plan to take his life. However, in a fortunate bit of timing for both, Livia suffers a stroke right before Tony can suffocate her with a pillow in her hospital bed. Meanwhile, Junior gets arrested and sent to the clink before Tony and his men can whack him on the streets. Worse yet, Livia accidentally informs Artie Bucco that Tony was responsible for burning down his restaurant.