Despite its often hilarious writing and charismatic protagonists, the main characters of The Sopranos are generally not good people. The show perfected the idea of the TV anti-hero, offering likable and often sympathetic characters who nevertheless performed some horrible actions. These people shouldn’t be likable, yet viewers enjoyed watching them all the same.
Their antagonistic demeanors became especially prevalent in the show’s later seasons when the story veered into darker territory. The family’s actions often make for difficult viewing, as they kill, rob, bribe, and injure many others throughout the course of the story, including innocent people.
When Chris & Paulie Kill A Waiter
Chris and Paulie are two fan favorites, but they are arguably the coldest and most heartless characters on the show. In the fifth season episode Two Tonys, Chris and Paulie are accosted by a waiter over their small tip. In return, Chris throws a brick into his head and Paulie shoots him dead.
Everyone enjoys watching dramatic mob violence, usually with the understanding that the carnage occurs within the confines of the mafia. But in this case, two protagonists maim and kill a total, innocent stranger, simply because he had the (naïve) gall to ask for more money. It was sickening.
When Paulie Kills An Old Lady
Despite sporting some of the funniest quotes in the series, Paulie also enacts some of its most grotesque violence. In the fourth season episode, “Eloise,” Paulie is caught stealing money from his mother’s friend, Minn. After trying (and failing) to play it off, he graphically strangles her to death with a pillow.
Minn was totally innocent, aside from cutting all interaction with Paulie’s mother after she accidentally caused a car accident. The show was always at its darkest when it broke the confines of the mob and displayed its protagonists killing innocent civilians.
When Ralph Kills A Pregnant Woman
The third season was met with widespread controversy, as many viewers and critics felt that it had gone too far in its depiction of violence. “Employee of the Month” depicted Melfi’s sexual assault, and just a few episodes later, Ralphie beat the pregnant Tracee to death outside the Bing.
Ralphie always remained one of the scariest side characters, as he didn’t have much of a limit and contained an explosive temper. For many, this sequence crossed a line — not only by killing off an innocent character, but also an unborn child, as well.
When Vito Kills A Stranger
After spending much of the sixth season in New Hampshire, Vito returns to New Jersey and immediately kills a stranger when he drives drunk and accidentally hits a man’s car.
He attempts to pay him off with cash, but the man insists on informing the police and going through insurance, causing Vito to shoot and kill him to prevent their intrusion. Vito had actually been portrayed quite sympathetically throughout the sixth season, but this sequence served as a stark reminder regarding his true nature.
Patsy’s Metal Pipe
Despite his unassuming physical appearance, Patsy Parisi is one of the most cold-blooded characters on the show. This is horrifically showcased in the fourth season episode, “No Show.” Christopher confronts Patsy at a construction site and a worker threatens to call the police.
Once Christopher leaves, Patsy smashes the man over the head with a metal pipe, causing him to instantly crumble to the ground. If the hit didn’t instantly kill him, then it definitely could have. It showcases the sheer brutality of the DiMeo family, proving that they aren’t scared to involve outside people — provided they butt in first.
When Chris Kills J.T. Dolan In Cold Blood
While not an innocent character per se, J.T. Dolan certainly didn’t deserve to die. Throughout the series, Dolan serves as Christopher’s rehab acquaintance and creative partner. But near the end of the series, Christopher shoots and kills Dolan in a drunken rage.
It serves as one of the show’s most shocking deaths. It comes fast and without much precedence, and it unequivocally portrays Christopher as an irredeemable character willing to kill friends in cold blood.
When Richie Maims Beansie
Fans loved to hate Richie Aprile, and he served as the series’ first brutal antagonist. After getting released from prison, the first thing he does is go to Beansie and attempt to extort him. When Beansie refuses, Richie smashes a coffee pot over his head and runs him over with a truck. While it doesn’t kill the poor man, it leaves him paralyzed.
While the first season of The Sopranos contained its fair share of violence, this was brutality on another level. It was personal, it vicious, and perhaps worst of all, it was done purely to maim and intimidate.
When Tony Kills His Own Cousin
In the shocking sixth season episode, “Kennedy and Heidi,” Tony strangles Christopher to death by plugging his nose after a car accident and allowing him to choke on his own blood. It’s arguably the worst thing that Tony ever did, and it serves as the final nail in the collapse of Tony Soprano.
With this brutal action, Tony was effectively made irredeemable and audiences lost all sense of sympathy for the once likable character.
When Bobby Kills An Innocent Person
One of the series’ most emotionally devastating episodes, “Soprano Home Movies,” sees Tony at his most vindictive. After Bobby beats him in a fistfight, Tony grows resentful and orders Bobby to whack the brother-in-law of a business associate.
This would prove to be Bobby’s first hit, and Tony orders it to break his childish and innocent soul. Bobby travels to Montreal and personally kills the innocent man inside a laundromat, ending his life and permanently tarnishing Bobby’s.
When Silvio Kills Adriana
On a show full of violent gangsters, Silvio Dante is arguably the coldest of them all. In the emotional fifth season episode, “Long Term Parking,” Tony orders the assassination of Adriana, as she had been working with the FBI. Silvio picks her up, ostensibly to visit Chris in the hospital, and takes her to the remote woods where he then drags her from the car and kills her.
Silvio’s actions throughout the scene are completely remorseless, portraying him as a heartless soldier who will do anything to maintain the safety and integrity of the family, even if it means killing Christopher’s long-term girlfriend.