The Sopranos

The Sopranos: Every Season Of The Show, Ranked From Worst To Best

What is the best season of The Sopranos? Each season has its own great qualities, but some are better than others.

Sometimes less is better. Most of the TV shows that are considered all-time greats wrapped things up in about six seasons or less. TV shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad made sure to not drag out the story for too long. The same applies to The Sopranos which ended after the sixth season.

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During its run, the series was nominated for a whopping 111 Emmys. But were all its seasons good? Yes, they were, but some were better than others. What is the best season of The Sopranos? It’s something that fans often debate as each installment of the beloved show has strong merits.

Season 5 (2004)

Split image of Tony, Phil and Tony B in The Sopranos season 5

● No. of episodes: 13

The fifth season of The Sopranos introduced a lot of great new characters, many of them played by some of the series’ biggest names, but the vicious Phil Leotardo was the only really significant and lasting addition to the ensemble. Steve Buscemi gets a great storyline as his character, Tony B, struggles to reclaim his life after a lengthy prison sentence and provided Tony Soprano with one of his toughest moral dilemmas. But it was over all too quickly and his character became something more like a glossy guest appearance.

The season’s most standout moment came when Adrianna finally met her end, delivering one of The Sopranos‘ saddest character deaths and spelling the beginning of the end for Christopher too. It certainly puts the importance of narrative threads like the Tony B plotline in perspective.

Season 4 (2002)

Split image of Ralphie, Tony with Pie O My, and Tony and Carmela in The Sopranos season 4

● No. of episodes: 13

Even though most of its moments feel ultimately anticlimatic, Season 4’s tension is a thing of beauty. There was always the threat of someone getting whacked but it rarely happened. Johnny Sac ordered hits on Ralphie and Carmine, but despite the threat building up over multiple seasons, nothing happened. Christopher and Adrianna’s relationship was a complicated one too. The former was living with addiction while the latter was secretly cooperating with the FBI.

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Ralph didn’t end up getting whacked by Johnny as many expected. Instead, Tony killed him over a disagreement concerning a horse. Christopher’s addiction was so bad that several people had to meet and try to find out a way forward. The intervention scene was the only one to feature four regular cast members at the same time and the overall dynamic of the ensemble was a little missed. The season’s true highlights were the relationship struggles between Tony and Carmela. Their scenes delivered some of the best performances from the entire series, with it all coming to a head in the finale.

Season 3 (2001)

Split image of Paulie and Christopher, Melfi and Tony, and Tracee in The Sopranos season 3

● No. of episodes: 13

The third season was all about the variety of great episodes and subplots rather than the larger story arcs. The best episode was “Employee of the Month”, in which Dr. Melfi’s morality was made clear when she realizes she has the opportunity to use her association with Tony to seek justice against a man who brutally assaulted her.

Tony’s own sense of morality became clear throughout the season too. Ralphie crosses a terrible line when he murders Tracee, and Tony is the only member of the crew who truly responds as the audience does to the horrific crime. Jackie Jr’s subplot was also fascinating. As the son of a former capo, his dad didn’t want him to go into the business, but it wasn’t that easy. The season had another brilliant episode named “The Pine Barrens” which set up the long-lasting conflict between Christopher and Paulie as well as delivering some of the show’s funniest moments ever.

Season 6 (2006 – 2007)

Split image of Vito, Tony and Phil Leotardo in season six of The Sopranos

● No. of episodes: 21 (split into two parts)

In the sixth season, Tony stopped pretending he was a good guy and went into full “mob boss’ mode. He also proved just how much appearances matter when you are a capo. A near-fatal shooting had left him weak and he knew that a weak boss could be easily overthrown so he made a move to reassert his authority, something made all the more difficult by a now unavoidable Phil Leotardo, who steps into the role of the show’s final big bad, as it were.

What the final season is ultimately remembered for, however, is its controversially ambiguous ending. By providing no real closure for Tony Soprano and his immediate family, the show stayed in step with its own established structure, dropping viewers out of this slice of life just as they had been dropped into it in the first season. It also fed more fuel to an undying fan fascination with its inhabitants that, if anything, has only become more intense as the years have gone on.

Season 1 (1999)

Split image of Christopher, Tony and Paulie in season one of The Sopranos

● No. of episodes: 13

The first season of The Sopranos did a great job at planting the seeds for one of the most popular TV shows ever made. Every little detail mattered and so did every word in a conversation. The first season also had one of the best episodes in the series titled “College.” In it, Tony spotted a former FBI informant while taking his daughter Meadow on a tour of potential schools, leading him to one of his coldest kills.

RELATED: Uncle Junior’s 10 Best Quotes From The Sopranos, Ranked

Tony also takes center stage in one of the series’ most gripping sequences as two men attempt to take him out in “Isabella”, with all the bubbling tensions still coming to a satisfying head in the final episode while still setting up so much more to come.

Season 2 (2000)

Split image of Matthew, Salvatore and Richie from The Sopranos season 2

● No. of episodes: 13

What helps the second season stand out as the best season of The Sopranos is the introduction of the DiMeo Crime Family’s former capo Richie Aprile. Tony always had to deal with a lot of foes but none gave him a harder time than Richie. He had the same effect on the series that Lalo had on Better Call Saul. Before him, the show was simply good but after him, it became unbelievably excellent.

Richie’s narcissism and penchant for violence can also be equated to that of Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas. Interestingly, he doesn’t get killed by Tony but by his fiance, Janice. Another thing that made Season 2 great was Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpeserio’s dilemma as an informer. The moment when he eventually gets whacked on Tony’s boat is an unforgettable one and the season had many notable deaths. The audience knew this one was coming but it was still shocking when it happened.

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