Matthew Weiner is considered to be one of the greatest names currently working in television. Widely known as the creator, showrunner, and head writer of Mad Men, Weiner also earned a lot of acclaim for his writing work on The Sopranos. Often hailed as the greatest television show ever made (and one of Mad Men‘s most important predecessors), The Sopranos is a genuine work of art that helped legitimize TV as an art form.
And while Weiner’s contributions to the show came quite late (he wasn’t added to the writing staff until season five), they were nevertheless monumental.
Sentimental Education – 8.3
Serving as the sixth episode of the fifth season, Sentimental Education is mostly remembered for the tragic story involving Tony Blundetto. Fresh out of prison, Tony tries turning his life around and “going straight” by opening a massage parlor. However, things change for the worse when he finds $12,000. Tony suddenly spends all his time drinking and gambling and wastes the money. When confronted by Kim, a stressed and tired Tony beats him up and leaves the massage business behind to work for Tony and the mob.
Luxury Lounge – 8.3
Moving on to season six, Luxury Lounge is a good, if somewhat underwhelming, episode of The Sopranos. Much of the storyline is rather insignificant, which was difficult to digest when the show was nearing its end game. This one follows two storylines – one sees Artie in a feud with Benny, and the other sees Christopher and Carmine traveling to Hollywood to sell their movie. A character like Carmine is always entertaining to watch, and any episode with his presence is better for him being in it. That aside, Luxury Lounge doesn’t stand out.
Kaisha – 8.3
Kaisha had the unfortunate distinction of being lumped with season 6A. Often considered the weakest stretch of the entire series, 6A was often criticized for its overabundance of dream/coma sequences and relatively meaningless storylines (Christopher’s movie, Vito). Weiner served as one of just three writers on this episode – the other two being Terence Winter and showrunner David Chase. For such a stacked writing team, Kaisha was a middling finale to a middling half-season.
Rat Pack – 8.5
Rat Pack served as Matthew Weiner’s debut on The Sopranos, and he was the sole writer credited for the episode. The title Rat Pack refers to a few things, with the most obvious being the three informants that litter the episode.
These informants include Jack Massarone, Ray Curto, and Adriana. It may also refer to the batch of newly released ex-cons that arrive on the show (whom Junior refers to as “old rats,” and the painting that Jack gives Tony. It’s a dense and important episode, and Weiner proved himself more than up to the daunting task.
The Test Dream – 8.6
Matthew Weiner is a sucker for a good dream sequence. Mad Men contained a few good dream sequences, and he penned what is perhaps the densest and “dreamiest” of Sopranos episodes – season five’s The Test Dream. Co-written by Weiner and David Chase (who always prove a stellar collaborative team), The Test Dream is most famous for its extended twenty-minute dream sequence in which Tony realizes that he must kill Tony Blundetto to prevent a war. It’s a great episode, filled with hidden details, memorable images, and some fantastic filmmaking.
Unidentified Black Males – 8.8
Another great episode of the fifth season (perhaps the Sopranos‘ best season), Unidentified Black Males gets its unique name from the mob’s penchant of blaming African Americans for various misdeeds and misfortunes. This episode contains four unique scenarios in which various members of the crime family blame their misfortunes on “unidentified Black males.” The episode is also notable for introducing Vito as a homosexual man – a fact that would be of paramount importance throughout the first half of season six.
Mayham – 8.8
The first half of season six is particularly divisive, as is Tony’s time spent in the purgatory-coma. However, Mayham proves a brilliant episode – and also the best one concerning “Kevin Finnerty.” Solely written by Matthew Weiner and directed by Jack Bender (who directed some of the greatest episodes of Lost), Mayham is mostly remembered for the gorgeous (and very creepy) sequence at the Inn at the Oaks. Weiner certainly knew how to write a stellar dream sequence, and the one found at the end of Mayham is one of the best in the series.
Soprano Home Movies – 9.1
While season 6A may have proved disappointing for some, 6B is often considered the greatest stretch of episodes in the series’ run. It starts with Soprano Home Movies, which itself is often considered one of the show’s best episodes. Co-written by four members of the writing team, it’s obvious that all the talent was brought out to start 6B in amazing and intriguing fashion.
With a unique setting, a heartbreaking story involving Bobby, Tony at his slimiest, and a fantastic ending, there’s really no going wrong with Soprano Home Movies.
Kennedy And Heidi – 9.1
Another stellar episode co-written by Weiner and David Chase, Kennedy and Heidi is widely known as “the episode where Christopher dies.” Chase once again proved his unpredictability and penchant for throwing curveballs, as Christopher’s death comes out of nowhere and happens within the first ten minutes of the episode. The rest is devoted to Tony’s reaction – and subsequent “spiritual” trip to Las Vegas. Chris’s death, the unique Vegas setting, and the ambiguous ending (“I GET IT!”) all combine to create one of the greatest episodes of The Sopranos.
The Blue Comet – 9.6
The final episode co-written by Weiner and David Chase and the last one written by Weiner, The Blue Comet served as the devastating penultimate episode of The Sopranos. This episode contains the departure of many beloved characters, including Artie Bucco, Jennifer Melfi (who decides to stop treating Tony owing to his sociopathic behavior), and Bobby Baccalieri, who is murdered on orders by Phil Leotardo. It’s also interesting to note that The Blue Comet is the second highest-rated episode of The Sopranos – currently tied with Long Term Parking and just behind Pine Barrens.