Although it has been off the air for years, the impact The Sopranos had on the television landscape can be felt to this day. In an age when network programming still dominated, this HBO show proved cable television could tell complex and thrilling stories without restrictions. Years later, it is that kind of storytelling that has ushered in the golden age of television.
The drama followed New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano as he struggled with his deadly life of organized crime as well as his own personal demons. The show never shied away from the darker elements of its characters, resulting in some truly shocking moment.
Given that he was a mob boss, we knew from the start that Tony Soprano was not going to be the kind of main character you normally see on television. He cheated on his wife, broke laws and sanctioned acts of violence. However, in this episode from the first season, the show gave a glimpse of just how dark Tony’s story would be.
While taking his daughter Meadow on a tour of colleges, Tony spots a man who previously ratted out colleagues of his. At the end of the episode, Tony drops his daughter off, tracks down the man and murders him with his bare hands.
Vito Is Gay
Aside from the violence and crime they participated in, the main characters in The Sopranos were often hard to love due to their extreme prejudices. Tony, his crew and even Carmela were never shy about expressing their racist and homophobic views. This made things especially complicated when one of Tony’s men was revealed to be gay.
Vito is first seen in a sexual act with another man before news starts to spread and his reputation turns sour. The group’s disgusting prejudices become even worse when they decide this revelation means Vito must die.
Junior Shoots Tony
Junior Soprano is introduced as Tony’s uncle and a high-ranking member of the crime family. He and Tony are often at odds due to Tony’s rise to power and Junior feeling like he is being overlooked. Things grow even worse as Junior begins to develop dementia over time.
As his condition worsens, Junior begins to think old rivals are after him. One night as Tony is over at his house preparing dinner, Junior becomes confused and thinks an enemy is in his house. He comes downstairs and shoots Tony. Though he lives, the moment effectively ended the relationship between Tony and Junior.
Tony’s Mother Dies
The relationship between Tony and his mother was one of the most fascinating aspects of the show. Livia Soprano was a very abusive mother and routinely treated her son horribly, even trying to have him killed.
Their extremely combative relationship came to an end in Season 3 when Livia died in her sleep. Sadly, the moment was as much a shock to the creators of the show as it was to the fans. They were forced to kill off Livia after the sad death of actor Nancy Marchand.
Carmela Leaves Tony
Tony and Carmela never did have the strongest marriage, as could be expected given their lifestyle. Tony was a rage-filled man who would often lash out, not to mention his many affairs which Carmela was not oblivious to. Still, after all she put up with, it was a shock when she finally decided it was enough.
After one of Tony’s mistresses calls their house, Carmela cannot pretend to be ignorant anymore. In a fit of rage, she throws Tony out of the house and begins pressing him for a divorce. Given what they had been through together, to see them reach this point was intense.
Tony Kills Ralphie
Ralph Cifaretto was one of the most unhinged and unpredictable characters on The Sopranos. Though a clever man and effective member of the crew, Ralphie can become suddenly violent and the smallest provocation, so you knew things were going to end badly with him.
As his relationship with Tony continues to deteriorate, Tony confronts Ralphie about the death of a horse Tony had grown to love. Enraged, Tony suddenly attacks Ralphie and the two engage in a brutal fight before Tony beats Ralphie to death.
A.J.’s Suicide Attempt
A.J. Soprano was the only son of Tony and Carmela. Though he was first oblivious to the true nature of his father’s work, he soon realizes he is a mobster and struggles with his conflicted feelings for years. He was often in trouble at school and with the law but gradually seemed to turn things around.
After his fiancée leaves him, A.J. begins suffering from serious depression which is largely ignored by his parents. This leads to him attempting to kill himself by drowning himself in the family pool. Tony ends up saving A.J. but it was a shocking and dark moment for the character.
For many seasons, Adriana was the loyal girlfriend to Christopher and a bit of an outsider among the main crew. However, she is eventually given one of the show’s most heartbreaking storylines as she is forced to be an informant for the FBI.
Unwilling to betray Christopher, she confesses her secret to her. Unfortunately for her, Christopher remains loyal to Tony and tells him. Tony then lures Adriana into a trap and Silvio kills her as she begs for her life. It was one of the show’s darkest moments.
Tony Kills Christopher
Christopher was one of Tony’s closest and most loyal followers, however, he was also a deeply troubled person. He continuously struggled with his drug addiction and often sought to make a life for himself outside the life of crime. This eventually made Christopher a major concern for Tony.
After Christopher and Tony are involved in a car accident, Christopher begs Tony to help him escape so he doesn’t get another drug charge. Deciding that Christopher has become too much of a liability, Tony suffocates him, freeing himself of his burden.
Cut To Black
After six seasons, The Sopranos was finally coming to an end with a hugely anticipated finale. Fans everywhere were wondering how things would end for Tony. Would he be killed? Would he be arrested? Would he get a happy ending? The actual ending proved more shocking than all those theories.
The final scene of the show found Tony and his family at a diner together as “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey plays on the jukebox. We see glimpses of the diner’s other patrons as the tension builds. Then it cuts to black. We are left to fill in the blanks ourselves.