New Jersey is firmly engrained into the identity of The Sopranos, and the setting often proves its own character within the show and its goings-on. Just as Albuquerque is firmly associated with Breaking Bad, or Baltimore with The Wire, so too is New Jersey to The Sopranos. And because the setting plays such a vital role, it’s not often that The Sopranos veers outside of the territory.
But that’s not to say it never ventures outside the Garden State. Sometimes The Sopranos would take a road trip of sorts, and these episodes often proved the most fascinating and memorable.
Arguably one of the most famous episodes in Sopranos history, “College” took the show outside of Jersey by its fifth episode. It sees Tony and his teenage daughter Meadow traveling around Maine to visit various post-secondary institutions.
While there, Tony spots someone who used the work for the mob but is now living in witness protection, prompting him to kill the man in broad daylight. The move was revolutionary at the time, turning Tony into an even darker character, launching the age of the antihero, and challenging preconceived notions about TV protagonists.
Season 2’s “Commendatori” isn’t really necessary in terms of story (outside of introducing Furio), but it still proves one of the show’s most memorable episodes owing to some spectacular imagery and a nice change of location.
In this episode, the team travels to Naples, Italy to conduct some mob-related business. While there, Tony falls for Annalisa, Christopher gets high and sleeps through most of the trip, and Paulie suffers from some major culture clash (despite being intensely proud of his Italian heritage). It’s easily one of the show’s funniest outings.
Calling All Cars
Calling All Cars is filled with dream sequences, and it proves one of the most dream-heavy episodes of the entire series. That, and the episode’s unique locations, help it stand out within the otherwise controversial fourth season. One sequence sees Tony traveling to New York City to meet with Carmine and Johnny.
But more memorably, Tony meets with Little Carmine in Florida, and the episode ends with a very Florida-heavy image as Tony stands on his hotel balcony in the early morning dusk and watches over the beach and pine trees below.
“Cold Cuts” portrays Tony at his most unlikeable, and it proves the episode in which the show really begins turning on Tony as a sympathetic character. Tony sends both Tony B. and Christopher up to Kinderhook, New York to move some bodies that were buried at Uncle Pat’s farm.
He meets them a few days later and spoils the jovial mood. The episode is very notable not only for its gorgeous woods-based setting but also for the characterization of Tony and the ways in which he spoils everyone around him like a poisonous cloud.
Luxury Lounge may not be in the upper echelons of Sopranos episodes, but it is nevertheless a very entertaining detour to a very distinct non-Jersey location. Written by Matthew Weiner, “Luxury Lounge” sees Christopher and Little Carmine venturing to Hollywood in a failed attempt to find Cleaver (the independent slasher movie they are producing) some big-name actors.
They manage to score a sit down with Ben Kingsley (in one of the show’s most iconic cameos) and watching both Christopher and Little Carmine stumble their way through meetings always proves entertaining.
Coming in at the tail end of season 6A, “The Ride” is a brilliant Tony and Christopher-based episode that sparks the downfall of the latter. The episode sees Christopher and Tony venturing home from a trip to Pennsylvania and stopping at a fancy restaurant.
While there, Christopher breaks his sobriety by drinking with Tony and toasting his wedding. It may not prove the most memorable episode, but The Ride is paramount in breaking down Christopher, re-introducing him to substance abuse, and starting the downfall that would result in his death.
Season 6A is quite adventurous in terms of location, and “Cold Stones” continues that tradition by venturing to France. Carmela travels to Paris with her friend Rosalie, and while there, she suffers from a breakdown of sorts while visiting all the old and abandoned ruins.
She realizes that nothing lasts forever and that even the most extravagant things will fall and crumble. It’s a fascinating moment in terms of Carmela’s character development, and the episode features some wonderful Paris imagery.
Soprano Home Movies
Arguably one of the best episodes of the series, proving a tragic story for Bobby Bacala. Tony and Carmela visit Bobby and Janice in upstate New York, and while things initially go quite well, Tony and Bobby end up fighting once Tony insults Janice.
The egotistical Tony then enacts one of his worst decisions as boss by ordering Bobby to make his first killing. It tarnishes Bobby’s soul, and it proves Tony as a negative influence on those around him. It’s a thrilling bit of character development for both characters, the upstate New York setting often proves peaceful and picturesque.
“Remember When” proves a brilliant episode, both harkening back to the third season and shattering the relationship between Tony and Paulie. In this episode, the body of Tony’s first victim is unearthed, and both he and Paulie venture to Miami to lay low.
While there, Tony questions Paulie about his potential involvement with the Lupertazzi family and debates whacking him on a boat. It proves one of the tensest scenes of the entire series, and quite ironically, it helps make Remember When one of the show’s most unforgettable episodes.
Kennedy And Heidi
“Kennedy and Heidi” begins with what is arguably the most famous death in the entire show, as Tony strangles a gravely injured Christopher to death by plugging his nose after a car wreck. The rest of the episode is then devoted to exploring Tony’s reaction to the death. Unfortunately, this reaction is not a nice one.
He proves exceptionally selfish, doesn’t tell anyone the truth, and later goes to Las Vegas where he gets high with Christopher’s mistress and wins big at roulette. The universe has awarded Tony for his actions, and he realizes that there is no such thing as karmic justice. It’s a devastating ending to a devastating episode.