The Sopranos is widely regarded as one of the best, and probably the most influential, TV dramas of all time. It’s often credited with launching the cable boom of the 2000s (particularly the antihero trend that pervaded the decade), and it has consistently drawn praise for its writing, directing, thematic content, and performances.
But what is the absolute best of the best of The Sopranos? Like every TV show, not every episode is a winner. But The Sopranos remained consistent, and it produced some of the greatest episodes of TV ever put to air. These are the greatest of them all.
Season 1: I Dream Of Jeannie Cusamano (9.2)
The Sopranos concluded its incredible, legendary, and enormously influential first season with I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano. As is often the case with season finales, I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano serves as the highest-rated episode of the first season on IMDb, sitting at 9.2.
Tony learns that Junior was behind his attempted hit, Livia tells Artie that Tony had his beloved restaurant burned to the ground, and Tony orders a series of hits – including those of Jimmy Altieri, Chucky Signore, and Mikey Palmice. It’s a wonderful blend of mob and personal stories, and it served as a fantastic cap to the show’s introductory outing. Fans couldn’t wait for more.
Season 2: Funhouse (9.4)
Once again, the season finale proves the highest-rated episode of the bunch. Funhouse proved an even better season finale than I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano, both due to its experimental filmmaking and quality of drama.
The episode contains one of the show’s most famous dream sequences, as a delirious Tony (suffering from food poisoning) dreams of a talking fish with Big Pussy’s voice. It also saw the death of Big Pussy himself, who was killed by Tony, Paulie, and Silvio for serving as an FBI informant. It had a little bit of everything that made The Sopranos so great – the weird, the philosophical, and the straightforward excitement.
Season 3: Pine Barrens (9.7)
Pine Barrens is a different type of Sopranos episode – and one that is widely regarded as the series’ best. Directed by Steve Buscemi, Pine Barrens is a largely comedic episode centered around the misadventures of Christopher and Paulie. The two get lost in the titular Pine Barrens after attempting to bury a Russian (who wasn’t really dead), resulting in utter comedic perfection.
The episode contains the famous “He was an interior decorator!” line, as well as the glorious image of Chris and Paulie eating ketchup packets to survive. Part survival story, part bumbling buddy comedy, Pine Barrens is The Sopranos at its absolute best.
Season 4: Whoever Did This & Whitecaps (9.2)
Unlike the prior three seasons, season four actually contains two highest-rated episodes – episode nine, Whoever Did This, and the season finale, Whitecaps. Both are tied with a score of 9.2. Whoever Did This is known for containing the death of Ralphie Cifaretto, who is viciously beaten and strangled to death by Tony.
Perhaps even more famous is Ralphie’s disposal, which sees Christopher both decapitating the man and comically learning that he has been wearing a wig. Whitecaps is a relatively subdued hour of The Sopranos (at least in terms of season finales), with most of the drama centering around the disintegration of Tony and Carmela’s marriage.
Season 5: Long Term Parking (9.6)
If not for Pine Barrens, then Long Term Parking may be considered the finest hour of The Sopranos. In fact, some may actually prefer it owing to its more serious and tragic tone. This is the episode in which Christopher makes the horrifying realization that Adriana has been working as an informant.
Rather than running away with her (as he initially planned to do), Christopher betrays his long-term girlfriend and goes to Tony, who proceeds to have Silvio kidnap and kill Adriana. It’s one of the series’ defining sequences, and even those who have never seen an episode of The Sopranos might recognize its famous imagery.
Season 6A: Members Only (9.2)
While season six is technically one long, extended season, many fans split it into two sections – 6A and 6B. This is mainly due to how the season was aired, with 6A running from March to June of 2006 and 6B from April to June of 2007. Season 6A is arguably the show’s least popular, which is due in large part to two controversial aspects – Tony’s extended time in purgatory/a coma, and the prolonged focus on Vito’s adventures in New Hampshire.
Members Only is the most well-received episode of the season’s first half, and it is by far the most “normal” and traditional of the bunch. It also contains a killer cliffhanger, as Tony is shot in the stomach by his demented Uncle Junior.
Season 6B: The Blue Comet (9.6)
While 6A left some fans incredibly frustrated, 6B proved one of the series’ strongest string of episodes, and it ended The Sopranos on a truly fascinating (if still a little controversial) note. The final four episodes in particular are especially strong, and each sits over 9.0 on IMDb.
However, the best of the bunch is the series’ penultimate episode, The Blue Comet. This is certainly the more “traditional” ending (next to Made in America’s more thematic and divisive one), as it sees most of the mob story wrapped up in brutal fashion. It’s one of the bloodiest, most tragic, and most conclusive episodes of the show, as it sees the death of Bobby Bacclieri, the shooting (and presumed death) of Silvio, and the final appearances of Artie Bucco, Charmaine Bucco, and Dr. Melfi. It also contains an amazing ending with Tony hiding out in a safehouse with a AR-10 assault rifle, ready for war.