HBO’s epic narrative chronicling the ups and downs of the Soprano crime family is not only told through amazing plot lines and stellar writing, but also through a large cast of dynamic, powerful characters.
A portion of these characters are women, and in most cases, their lives are written to serve and revolve around the male characters of the show. Despite this misogynistic setup, the women still constantly offer voices of reason and acts of control that clash brilliantly with the men’s out-of-control, senseless crimes. Here’s a ranking of the 10 best female characters on The Sopranos.
While she may just be a hallucination of Tony’s, Isabella is still an amazing character. At first Isabella seems to only be a sexual fantasy in physical form, but she serves a pivotal role in the development of the “real” characters within the show. Her appearance leads to a verbal fight between Tony and Carmela, further revealing the amount of distrust present in their marriage. Isabella’s manifestations also provoke several conversations between Tony and Jennifer, as they attempt to deconstruct Tony’s hallucination and eventually uncover his issues with female caregivers, furthering their relationship simultaneously. For a character that doesn’t actually exist, Isabella has a large effect on the ongoing narrative.
Irina is Tony’s Russian mistress, and while she doesn’t appear too often, she takes over every scene that she’s in. The key thing about Irina’s character is that she exists in a show defined by people lying and backstabbing one another, yet she doesn’t take part. She tells the truth about how things are and how she sees things.
This says much about her character. She is constantly insulted and treated unfairly (usually by Tony), but she isn’t afraid to stick up for herself and say what she believes.
Rosalie is one of Carmela’s close friends, and the widow of late mob boss Jackie Aprile Sr. She is a very strong-willed and unique character, having gone through so much tragedy in the background of The Sopranos narrative, and still showing an ability to carry on and give much-needed advice to her friends in the foreground of the plot. Her relationship with Carmela is defined by that advice-giving, with Rosalie usually being the one to sit in the mentor’s chair. For someone who goes through a lot of heartbreak, Rosalie proves to be one of the strongest characters on the show.
A long-time friend of Carmela and Tony, Charmaine is the wife of Artie Bucco, who she co-owns a restaurant with. The power of Charmaine’s character, in a similar vein as Irina and Rosalie, comes from her ability to stand up and tell people how things are and how they’re going to play out. She calls the shots in her marriage, even when Artie is resistant to her ideas. She seems to be one of the only characters who disapproves of the life of crime that Tony promotes.
This outlook leads to several verbal fights between her and Artie, but Charmaine nearly always gets the last word in, showing her confidence and power as a character.
Janice is one of Tony’s sisters and Livia’s daughter, who shows up suddenly at the news of her mother’s hospitalization. She is hated by Tony and Carmela, and Livia harbors resentment against her for moving to the west coast. Janice is often described as “a snake in the grass,” however her ability to lead on other characters and trick them into assisting her is truly a blast to watch on-screen. She’s successful as a character because her goals and motives for her actions are not only a mystery to the other characters, but a mystery to the audience as well. So as Tony and Carmela attempt to figure her out, the viewers try to do the same. Janice may be a snake, but she sure makes an easy job of revealing other characters’ flaws and misdoings.
Adriana La Cerva
Adriana is a powerhouse of a character. She has big hopes, which are matched by equally large dreams, and she isn’t afraid to put in the work to get herself there. Adriana doesn’t fear conflict, which occurs often in her sometimes abusive relationship with Christopher.
During rocky times, she still holds the willpower to make both her thoughts and dreams known. She is one of the most determined characters on the show, and it’s this determination that both drives her character’s arc and places her in the top half of this list.
The mother of Tony and his siblings, Livia is one of the most conniving and self-serving characters in The Sopranos. Her secret motives and the question of whether or not she is faking her health issues constantly throws other characters into chaos. Livia’s power as a character is evident most in her ability to directly affect other character’s lives while she sits in her house, in her retirement community, and even in a hospital bed. She holds dark secrets, and constantly finds new ways to play the role of the puppet master for many of the larger (and darker) plot points in the show, which earns her a high standing on this list.
The daughter of Tony and Carmela, Meadow is a strong young woman with a rebellious spirit. She constantly finds herself in a game of push-and-pull with her parents when it comes to parental restrictions, rules, and her own freedom as a teenager. Meadow often finds ways to manipulate Carmela and Tony in order to get her way, and is the one to reveal to her brother, A.J., that their father is involved in the mob. Not many things go over Meadow’s head, and her fierce attitude towards her family’s deeds and willingness to call other characters out earned her a solid 3rd place.
Dr. Jennifer Melfi
Jennifer is Tony’s therapist, but plays a much larger role than simply granting him an outlet to vent frustrations. She is one of the most developed female characters on the show, as an upstanding therapist who is able to offer a wonderfully academic point of view on the Soprano crime family’s day-to-day activities. Beyond this, Jennifer’s continuous interactions with Tony spark a tense confusion of her moral outlook towards crime, even to the point of defending Tony in the presence of friends.
The internal conflict she faces challenges her mental state, her relationships, and her work, while at the same time developing her as a complex character and therefore earning her the 2nd place slot.
The wife of Tony and mother to Meadow and A.J., Carmela is a deeply complex and well-written character. Filled with guilt for allowing Tony to bring the mob life into her home, Carmela constantly grapples with her occasional disapproval of crime, while at the same time being forced to acknowledge how much she’s benefited from it. She attempts to soothe her shame by throwing herself into church life and taking lots of advice from her friends (Rosalie in particular). Carmela confronts Tony several times in relation to his mob activities and his constant cheating on her, and while their arguments rarely improve her situation, she continues to fight for herself and her children. Such a conflicted mental state forms an intricate and almost tragic character, and awards her the spot of 1st place.