In the second to last episode of The Sopranos, Tony’s therapist, Dr. Melfi, drops him as a patient after concluding that he’s essentially a sociopath. As boss of the New Jersey crime family, Tony puts the family business above all else, and almost never acts out of anything but raw self-interest.
On occasion, however, Tony’s kinder side shines through. He has a particular soft spot for animals, which, as Melfi discovers, is common among diagnosed sociopaths. He also, in rare cases, shows empathy for his fellow humans.
Animals: The Ducks
When audiences first get to know Tony in the pilot episode, he explains to his therapist how he took a liking to a family of ducks that made a temporary home in his swimming pool. He fed them and cared for them, and had a panic attack on the day they flew away.
His love for the ducks symbolizes his love for his own family, and his anxiety attack at their departure represents his fear that one day, like the ducks, they’ll be gone.
Humans: Giving Hesh His Tax Profits
When Soprano family associate Hesh Rabkin is unfairly taxed by Tony’s uncle Junior, Tony goes to bat for his old friend and helps convince Junior to lower the amount due. When Hesh eventually pays Junior $250,000 in back taxes, Junior splits the money among the ranking members of the family, including $50,000 to Tony.
Tony feels bad about having profited from Hesh’s tax, and so he wraps his share of the profits in an envelope and gives it to him, along with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Animals: Poor Little Cosette
The family stages an intervention for Christopher in an attempt to treat his drug addiction. During the sitdown, Tony learns that Christopher, while under the influence, accidentally suffocated his dog to death by sitting on her and not realizing she was there.
“You killed little Cosette? I oughta suffocate you,” says Tony, enraged that an innocent animal fell victim to Christopher’s irresponsible behavior. Given the fact that Tony and Christopher hurt people for a living, it was particularly striking to see Tony so upset over a dog he barely knew.
Humans: “You Eat, I Pay”
Tony takes his daughter, Meadow, and her boyfriend, Finn, out to dinner at an upscale steakhouse. Finn, as a gesture, pays the bill, unbeknownst to Tony. Tony’s old school sensibilities kick in, and he chastises Finn, warning him, “You eat, I pay.”
Later on, Tony sees Finn is upset and apologizes for snapping at him. “I didn’t mean to bite your head off in there,” he tells him, “You’re a good guy. I appreciate you trying.” Finn cracks a smile, and Tony pats him on the back.
Animals: Angie Bonpensiero’s Runaway Dog
Tony is furious to learn that Angie Bonpensiero, his former associate’s widow, approached his wife, Carmela, for financial assistance. He shows up at her house to set her straight, and she comes outside carrying her poodle. She drops the dog when she gets scared, and is afraid Tony will hurt her.
Instead, Tony’s mood instantly changes when addressing the dog. He smiles and pets her, and gives her his signature Jersey “How ya doin'” greeting.
Humans: “I’ll Take Care Of It”
One of the most emotionally intense scenes in the series occurs when Christopher tells Tony that his girlfriend Adriana is an FBI informant. Christopher breaks down in tears, telling Tony that he doesn’t have the heart to do what needs to be done. Tony embraces him and assures him that he’ll “take care of it.”
Under normal circumstances, at best, Christopher would be required to clean up his own mess. At worst, he himself would be part of the cleanup. But Tony had a special soft spot for his nephew, and it showed itself in this moment, however heinous the crime would be.
Animals: Pie O My
One of the most memorable storylines in The Sopranos involves the family’s racehorse, “Pie O My.” When she dies in a fire, Tony suspects Ralph Cifaretto of burning down the stable intentionally and avenges her death by beating and choking him to death.
Less famously, another tender moment occurs between Tony and Pie O My when she falls ill. He visits her in her stable and pets her gently, telling her “it’s alright.” He ends up lighting a cigar and spending the evening by her side.
Humans: The Man Was A Legend
When Feech LaManna is released from prison, he’s allowed to keep earning, so long as he doesn’t step on too many toes. Needless to say, he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
Because of their personal affinity for him, however, Tony and Silvio decide not to have him whacked. Instead, they surrender him to the authorities by setting him up with a truck full of stolen TVs in his garage, an admittedly strange show of affection, but better than the alternative.
Animals: The Mysterious Tabby Cat
A stray cat makes a home in the guys’ safe house, and they bring him over to their social club behind Satriale’s pork store. The cat endlessly stares at a photo of the recently deceased Christopher, which creeps out Paulie Walnuts.
Paulie tells Tony he wants the cat out of there, citing a bizarre superstition about how cats “suck the breath right out” of baby humans. Tony vouches for his furry little feline friend, telling Paulie, “Leave him. He’s a good guy.”
Humans: A Beautiful, Innocent Creature
In one of the series’ most disturbing scenes, Ralph murders Tracee, a 20-year old stripper, in the parking lot of the Bada Bing. When Tony discovers her body, he is visibly devastated. To make matters worse, he knows that because Ralph is a made man, he can’t exact a proper punishment for this horrific act.
An interesting fan theory: when Tony is choking Ralph to death later in the series after he accuses him of killing his horse, he cries out “She was a beautiful innocent creature!” Some feel that he was actually referencing Tracee, and not to Pie O My the horse.