Tony Soprano, the hero of The Sopranos, is, to put it lightly, a complicated man. As the boss of the DiMeo crime family of North Jersey, he lives under the constant threat of persecution at the hands of law enforcement, or of bloody revenge carried out by his enemies in the mob game. He does not live an easy life.
This stress, coupled with his personal problems, makes him erratic. While Tony can be thoughtful and loving as a father to his two children, Meadow and Anthony Jr. (A.J.), he often takes his issues home with him, at the expense of his family. Here are five times Tony Soprano was a good dad, and five times he was terrible.
Good: Ice Cream With A.J.
Tony had lots of touching moments with A.J., partly because he saw so much of himself in his son. When A.J. is feeling down after being grounded, Tony gives him a bit of tough love to make him own up to his mistakes and pay the consequences.
A.J. is in the middle of studying while this is happening, proof that he is doing what he needs to do to move past it. Tony cheers up his downtrodden son by having a bowl of ice cream with him after their talk. It’s the little things that count.
Bad: Tony’s Treatment Of Noah
Tony is none too pleased when Meadow begins dating an African-American boy that she met in college. The reason he objects to their relationship is not because of the quality of his character, but because he does not approve of his racial background.
He even goes so far as to pull her boyfriend, Noah, aside to tell him that “she (Meadow) didn’t do you any favors bringing you into this house.” Tony’s blatant racism causes an understandable rift between him and his daughter.
Good: Coming Clean With Meadow
Meadow reaches the point where she flat out asks her father if he is in the mafia. Tony and his wife, Carmela, have tried to hide his criminal activity from their children, for obvious reasons.
Although he initially lies to her like he always has, Tony eventually comes clean (to a degree), admitting that a portion of his income comes from mob-related activities. It was good of him to not insult his daughter’s intelligence by continuing to pretend to be someone he’s not.
Bad: Slapping A.J.
Tony’s bad temper is his calling card on The Sopranos. While physical punishment is not a habitual behavior of his as a father, he lets his anger get the best of him after A.J. is expelled from school.
He unleashes an open-handed slap across the face when his son mouths off at him. While A.J. certainly deserved to be punished, there were probably more constructive ways to go about it in that moment than striking him.
Good: Apologizing To A.J.
Tony rarely holds himself accountable for his wrongdoings. The few times that he does usually involve his children, as he does seem to actually care about being a good dad and raising them to the best of his abilities.
Tony belittles and berates A.J. over his inadequacy, but later apologizes with a touching speech and some pizza and soda. He tells him he “couldn’t ask for a better son.” Tony has his flaws, but he fiercely loves his kids.
Bad: Giving Meadow Her Friend’s Car
Meadow’s close friend, Eric Scatino, has a father with a sizable gambling debt to settle with Tony. His father, out of desperation, gives Tony his son’s car to lessen the heat a bit.
Tony then gives the car to Meadow as a present, though Meadow immediately recognizes that it is her friend’s car that Tony probably acquired as a result of some sort of illegal activities. There is no telling why Tony thought giving his daughter her close friend’s car was a good idea.
Good: Late Night Heart-To-Heart With Meadow
Meadow always seems to cut through her father’s facade. In this way, as Tony acknowledges, she is a lot like him, for she is not a sucker for anything. Tony has a rough night and decides to drink away his sorrows by himself downstairs, when Meadow comes along.
This is when the heart-to-heart occurs, which involves him saying that everything he has done, does, and will do is for her and A.J. This level of vulnerability might have been aided by the alcohol, but Tony surely has a soft spot for Meadow and A.J.
Bad: Smashing A.J.’s Windshield
A.J. and Meadow get Tony riled up very easily, as they both have their personality flaws as well. One of A.J.’s biggest ones is laziness. When Tony gets his son a job working construction, he is not satisfied with his son’s ungrateful reaction.
Thinking that his son is not taking him seriously when Tony says he will not allow him to flake on this job, he proves how firm his orders are by smashing the windshield of A.J.’s car with a football helmet. You know, everyday dad stuff in the Soprano household.
Good: Saving A.J.’s Life
Tony’s son goes through some significant low points on The Sopranos, the most notable being his attempted suicide. When Tony comes home to find A.J. drowning in the pool, he leaps into the water to save him.
A.J. could be difficult to handle, but his dad could be counted on to be there when it mattered most. Luckily, this was turning point for Tony’s only son.
Bad: Showing A.J. How To Treat People
One moment Tony is teaching A.J. about his Italian heritage by marveling at a church built in the ’20s, and the next he’s insulting a pair of African-Americans in a poor neighborhood.
Tony’s racism is well-documented throughout The Sopranos, but showing his impressionable son first-hand how he treats people of another race only serves to hurt his development.