More than two decades after its initial release, The Sopranos remains one of the most important shows in modern TV history. In many ways, the series laid the groundwork for the entire tradition of smart, sophisticated television dramas with mature content that have come to define the Golden Age of Television.
Of course, the most important reason for the show’s success is its protagonist, Tony Soprano, the mob boss who suffers from panic attacks. Tony is a ruthless criminal who tortures, extorts, and murders people for purely selfish reasons. However, he is also a family man who genuinely cares about people.
Seeing A Therapist
As a rule, Mafia members do not see therapists. In fact, they tend to kill their own people if there is any reason to suspect a member is seeking treatment for their mental health.
When Tony Soprano began suffering panic attacks, he sought treatment with Dr. Melfi, a psychiatrist. This was a risk to his life. He took such a risk because he wanted to be the best version of himself to help those around him.
Tony’s best friend outside the mob is Artie Bucco, the chef and owner of the restaurant Vesuvio’s. After Tony learns that his uncle plans to assassinate someone at Vesuvio’s, Tony has one of his subordinates, Silvio, blow the restaurant up.
This allows Artie to collect on the insurance and keeps his restaurant from being ruined due to the mob hit driving away business.
Caring For A Horse
Tony has a hard time expressing emotions and affection towards people. He has an easier time showing affection for animals. When one of his capos, Ralph Cifaretto, buys a racehorse, Tony becomes deeply committed to the well-being of the animal.
Ralph kills the horse in an act of arson — just one of the many lives destroyed by Ralph’s callous cruelty. This breaks Tony’s heart and he ends up killing Ralph with his bare hands. However, while the horse was alive, there was nothing Tony would not do for that animal.
Learning Eastern Philosophy
When Tony begins a relationship with his new comare, Gloria Trillo, he begins taking an interest in her interests. This is one of the rare times Tony actually shows that he cares for another person, and especially rare for how he usually treats the women he sleeps with.
Not only does he begin reading Sun Tsu’s The Art of War and adapting Chinese and Vedic modes of thought, but he employs these in his approach to life. Years after his falling out with Gloria, he is still citing samurai culture in meetings with his Capos.
Christopher Moltisanti is Tony’s younger cousin and the man being groomed to take over the Soprano family after Tony dies. He is also a heroin addict.
Christopher’s addiction leads him down a self-destructive spiral as his life falls to pieces. He beats his fiancee Adriana and accidentally kills her dog. Despite the Mafia’s taboo against therapy, Tony holds an intervention for Christopher, even getting Silvio and Paulie to be part of it.
Sparing Christopher’s Life
During his intervention, Christopher insults his mother, lashes out, and then threatens to rat on his fellow members of the Sopranos crime family. He is soundly beaten and taken to the hospital.
Normally, the Mafia kills anyone who becomes an addict, seeing such people as liabilities. Considering that Christopher threatened to rat, he should be dead. However, Tony spares him on the condition that he gets treatment for his addiction.
Giving Artie A Loan
When Artie wants to make a business investment, he asks Ralph Cifaretto to front him some money. Ralph turns him down, and Tony ends up giving Artie the money.
In fact, Tony gives his old friend an amazing deal, so that Artie is given a decreased percent to pay back on the original loan.
Showing Artie Mercy
When Artie’s business investment falls apart, Tony coaches his friend on how to collect. When this fails, Artie panics. After all, he owes New Jersey’s biggest mob boss money and can’t pay it back.
Artie attempts suicide, but Tony stops him. Then Tony forgives the debt — something he would never do for anyone else. All he asks is to eat for free in Artie’s restaurant, something he was basically doing already.
Meadow Soprano has a strange relationship with her father. She is easily the smartest person in the family, causing her to butt heads with her parents, who do not understand her. Throughout the series, Tony tries to understand his daughter, accompanying her on college visits, talking with her about her future, and even supporting her goals that do not align with the family’s traditional conservative values.
When Meadow and her mother argue over the gay themes in a Herman Melville novel, Tony seems to be on his daughter’s side. He will never be smart enough to understand his daughter’s thinking, but he tries and gives what guidance he can to help her with the wisdom of his lived experience.
The Beach House
As Tony and his wife Carmela’s children get older, the family begins to drift apart. Meadow is preparing to move far from home, while their son, Anthony Jr., becomes increasingly distant as he starts reading philosophy and literature.
To keep the family together, Tony buys a beach house which he knows will be a special place everyone can enjoy. He is right, and even Meadow — who had been preparing to move away — shows her excitement over it. Unfortunately, this all falls apart when Tony’s affairs cause the family to become even more divided, but his effort should be commended.