The Sopranos: Every Episode Ranked & Reviewed

**WARNING: This article has many spoilers. Only for people who have watched the show or aren’t planning on watching it. But if you aren’t planning on watching it, why would you be reading this article?***

I discovered The Sopranos when I was eleven years old and it was love at first sight. I even had a Sopranos cake for my Polar Ice birthday party when I was twelve. It’s my favorite show of all time.

Obviously, the show goes much deeper into the fragile human psyche and commentary on American government, business, crime, etc than I could comprehend all those years ago, so with every re-watch, throughout my childhood to early adulthood, I get a little more out of it. I feel like after 7-10 complete watches of this show, I understand it pretty deeply but know that I’m going to learn/discover even more with my next re-watch. Anyway, really dragging on writing this intro, let’s get into it…

86. Christopher

Season: 4 ; Episode: 3

Story by: Michael Imperioli, Maria Laurino ; Teleplay by: Michael Imperioli ; Directed by: Tim Van Patten

If you only knew how much time I spent desperately trying to NOT make this my worst episode of all time. It’s just the only one where the A storyline simply doesn’t work. Originally it was supposed to be about Paulie instead of Silvio reacting to the Native American protests against Columbus, and that would have been funnier, and made a lot more sense given his track record for weird, seemingly unwinnable arguments. This somehow feels like Sopranos doing a very special episode about Columbus Day and that just doesn’t jive with the tone of the show, especially the much darker and nihilistic tone the fourth season in particular sets. The one saving grace is the beginning of Janice/Bobby which displays some amazing acting from both Aida Turturro and Steve Schirripa. C+

85. Everybody Hurts

Season: 4 ; Episode: 6

I love Annabella Sciorra as Gloria Trillo as much as anyone, but this is such a mess of an episode. First of all, Tony is drunk and out of control in every scene but somehow like shakes it off by the next episode. He’s sad cause he learns Gloria hung herself, which prompts the signature strange Sopranos dream sequences. The dream here is compelling and deeply sad, but the rest of the episode is all over the place and follows dumb teen AJ for a subplot about him discovering people exist that are richer and even more powerful than his dad. I’ll say it here, Devon Pillsbury – most boring AJ GF ever. C+

84. D-Girl

Season: 2 ; Episode: 7

Written by: Todd A. Kessler ; Directed by: Allen Coulter

Look, something about Sopranos doing Hollywood episodes never quite work and D-Girl is probably the guiltiest of the bunch. Christopher wants to be a big Hollywood screenwriter so he starts banging his cousin Gregory’s girlfriend and hanging out with Jon Favreau. He quickly realizes no one is actually your friend in LA and that his new “friends” are just using him to help squirt out a mob movie treatment. There’s a really over-the-top and straight up satirical movie-within-a-movie scene involving Janeane Garofolo and Sandra Bernhard that flat out doesn’t work. It’s too wink-wink quirky and belongs in a sitcom. The subplot of this episode, involving Pussy grappling with wearing a wire and betraying his best friend, is much more resonant and powerful. ALSO, WHAT KIND OF ANIMAL SMOKES MARIJUANA AT HIS OWN CONFIRMATION?!? B-

83. Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood

Season: 3 ; Episode: 1

Written by: David Chase ; Directed by: Allen Coulter

Season 3 might be my favorite season of The Sopranos. While it doesn’t have the strongest through line (shout out to Season 2!), it has the largest collection of truly outstanding episodes. However, Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood, the first part of a two-part season opener, is far and away the weakest of the bunch. Its biggest sin is following the POV of the FBI investigators that are on the Soprano case. We simply don’t care enough about Skip Lipari or the Rao’s guy to be totally engaged. The best scenes here involve Patsy Parisi at an awkward work lunch and then in Tony’s backyard, crying his eyes out while waving a pistol and pissing in the pool. Thank God Tony never saw that, otherwise he’d be sleeping with the fishes! AMIRIGHHHTTTE?! B-

82. A Hit is a Hit

Season: 1 ; Episode: 10

Written by: Joe Bosso, Frank Renzulli ; Directed by: Matthew Penn

Another episode where the subplot is much more compelling and interesting than the actual A plot. The subplot here is Tony having the frightening realization his rich asshole neighbors are only interested in his company cause he’s a mobster. In one of the best Melfi/Tony sessions, he recalls a kid with a hare lip and speech impediment they used to hang out with cause his voice made them laugh. Tony cries and says he felt like this “poor fucking bastard” musta felt like. The A-Plot is Christopher trying to get into the gangster rap business while Bookeem Woodbine tries to fuck Adriana. The stupid band they’re trying to promote has a song that’s hilariously on-point for this era of music. B-

81. The Fleshy Part of the Thigh

Season: 6A ; Episode: 4

Written by: Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider ; Directed by: Alan Taylor

This is a decidedly very weird episode of The Sopranos‘ Season 6A that seems the most out of place. There is some good comedic elements like Bobby getting hired to shoot a rapper in the buttocks or the return of Janice’s born-again, narcoleptic boyfriend sporting a “Terry Schiavo – You Go Girl!” t-shirt that seems like something Janice made or at least had the idea for. However, we’re more than ready for Tony to exit the hospital at this point, no matter how compelling guest star Hal Halbrook is. B-

80. Commendatori

Season: 2 ; Episode: 4

Written by: David Chase ; Directed by: Tim Van Patten

A controversial choice to place so low on the list, but hear me out. Most of this episode rises and falls on the gimmick of The Sopranos do Italy, and while there are some funny moments, mostly involving Paulie and various townspeople or sex workers, we can’t shake the feeling that what’s brewing back home in the Garden state is far more interesting than a hot lady boss or an old guy yammering on about the George Washington bridge. Much like D-Girl, the far superior subplot involves Pussy, this time scared and backed into a corner cause an old Elvis impersonator buddy saw him with an FBI agent. He’s pretty sure he knows nothing, but just to be sure, Pussy pays him a visit at his house to bash his skull in with a hammer. B-

79. Boca

Season: 1 ; Episode: 9

Written by: Jason Cahill and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; Directed by: Andy Wolk

The subplot of this episode involving Junior taking his goomar to Boca Raton to eat her out in private is one of the funniest things Sopranos has ever done. Unfortunately, the Coach Hauser is a pedophile and Ally tried to commit suicide A story is very after-school-special, an unfortunate trope in the first season of The Sopranos, almost always involving AJ or Meadow. B-

78. Watching Too Much Television

Season: 4 ; Episode: 7

story by: David Chase and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and Terence Winter ; teleplay by: Terence Winter and Nick Santora ; directed by: John Patterson

An episode trapped in the sloggy middle of season 4, Watching Too Much Television is most notable for its harrowing ending where Tony beats an almost naked Zellman with a belt in front of his ex. It seems partly because Tony wants to impress Irina in some sick way but mostly because he’s a big sad baby. This episode spends an awful lot of time building the relationship between Tony and Zellman, and Zellman and his business partner in the HUD scam, Maurice, just to completely end this story line at the end of the episode. B

77. Meadowlands

Season: 1 ; Episode: 4

written by: Jason Cahill ; directed by: John Patterson

Not quite as after-school special-y as Boca, Meadowlands‘ main story with AJ fighting at school and finding out about his dad via Meadow (from that awfully dumb website with the Tommy Gun bullet holes and the wiseguy string music) rings a bit inauthentic. I mean how can you listen to that kid’s line “Nobody won. It’s a draw!” and not laugh your dumb ass off. Also, don’t know if it’s this episode or Down Neck but the N64 controller acting from James Gandolfini and Robert Iler is just terrible. This episode gives us our very first surreal dream sequence involving getting a boner from your mother while she turns into your shrink and the death of former DiMeo family crime boss, Jackie Aprile, Sr. Bye Jackie, we hardly knew ye but we’ll get to know your shitty kid a couple seasons later. B

76. Full Leather Jacket

Season: 2 ; Episode: 8

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Allen Coulter

The shortest episode of The Sopranos, clocking in at only 43 minutes. This one focuses a bit too much on Matt Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte for my taste but when they try to kill Christopher at the end, it really accelerates the action of season 2. The dumb choice to cast the same actress as identical Jeannie Cusumano twins is distracting, and really takes the air out of a typically fantastic Edie Falco performance. Also, the whole jacket thing with Tony and Richie is funny, mostly due to David Proval‘s quietly explosive performance as Richie. I, like Carmela and Richie, lovvva da triiiiipppe. B

75. Pie O My

Season: 4 ; Episode: 5

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Henry J. Bronchtein

The beginning of the season 4 middle slump, Pie-O-My is solid table setting episode but nothing too interesting happens. Tony and Ralphie go in on a horse together and that leads to some of the season’s best moments. Besides that, Janice is moving in hard on Bobby and has a beautifully passive-aggressive moment with JoJo Palmice, Mikey P’s widow. Also Tony and Carmela continue to fight about money and the FBI really start to turn up the heat on Adriana. It ends on a beautiful note with Tony smoking a cigar and petting his horse while “My Rifle, My Pony and Me” from Rio Bravo plays. One of the best music moments of the show. B

74. The Telltale Moozadell

Season: 3 ; Episode: 9

written by: Michael Imperioli ; directed by: Daniel Attias

Another solid table-setting episode that probably could have been scrapped for parts to support other season 3 episodes, this one follows Tony’s amour fou relationship with Gloria Trillo (an excellent Annabella Sciorra) as well as AJ vandalizing the school swimming pool with Lady Gaga. I think Jackie Jr. and Meadow are fucking at this point or just about to. B

73. Luxury Lounge

Season: 6A ; Episode: 7

written by: Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Danny Leiner

The better of the two “Christopher Goes to Hollywood” episodes, and honestly the funniest. Chris and Little Carmine, an inspired pairing of buffoons, try to get Sir Ben Kingsley to do their shitty Cleaver movie and end up beating and robbing Lauren Bacall. Back in Jersey, Frankie Valli is whacked and Artie and Tony’s relationship implodes when he gets mixed up with a French con artist. This is a real standout performance by John Ventimiglia. B+

72. Kaisha

Season: 6A ; Episode: 12

written by: Terence Winter and David Chase and Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Alan Taylor

A huge letdown for fans at the end of Season 6A, mostly because nothing major happens. Chris starts fucking Julianna Margulies and pretends she’s a black woman, AJ has amazing, wild sex with Bianca for the first time and Phil has a non-fatal heart attack that puts his feud with Tony into perspective…for a bit, then he’s an asshole again. The use of Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” is on point here used both in the beginning when Carlo is shoving Fat Dom’s head down a storm drain and at the end while the Soprano family minus Meadow gathers around the Christmas tree. It’s a very good episode, but not great, better if you see it as a Season 6 act break versus a finale itself. B+

71. Rat Pack

Season: 5 ; Episode: 2

written by: Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Alan Taylor

The weakest episode of the show’s stellar fifth season is still pretty fucking good. We get to meet Tony Blundetto (the incomparable Steve Buscemi) and we follow his adjustment to life with the Soprano family after prison. This episode has some really funny and powerful moments, mostly due to Buscemi and Gandolfini‘s undeniable chemistry, but still, this is a table-setting episode more than anything. I want Buscemi‘s Miami Vice jacket. B+

70. Live Free or Die

Season: 6A ; Episode: 6

written by: David Chase and Terence Winter and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

Whelp, the cat’s out of the closet. After being spotted by the crew in a Village Person’s outfit, Vito goes on the lam fearing what they’ll do to him for being gay. He goes to a really New Hampshire charming bed and breakfast and falls for a short order cook that owns a diner who kind of looks like my stepdad. It’s all a tad adorable and I certainly like “out Vito” more. Unfortunately, for the Soprano crime family, it’s still 1954 and they can’t get down with Vito’s hairy bedfellows. They run him out of town and what ensues is a bunch of asshole bigots in see through socks exchanging violent and thoroughly not creative homophobic jokes that hint that maybe some of them are little gay. This episode would work far better if the actor who played Vito, Joe Gannascoli, was better – there I said it. He’s not a very good actor so his entire arc (and it’s a fairly well-written one) for Season 6A doesn’t hit as hard as it should. It’s a shame. This might be the only time the mob genre has tackled homophobia at such length. B+

69. Do Not Resuscitate

Season: 2 ; Episode: 2

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and Terence Winter ; directed by: Martin Bruestle

Kind of a letdown after Season 2’s stellar season opener – Guy Walks Into A Psychiatrist’s Office…I think the stuff with the joint fitter’s union guys and the old man that talks to Tony about Moses and the History Channel doesn’t hit the emotional chord they were going for, seems to distract from the season’s through line and doesn’t pay off, but I love Janice and Livia’s Mommie Dearest hospital scenes (minus that dumb Livia falling down the stairs uber-90s visual) and that ending with Tony carrying Junior after he fell in the shower to Ella Fitzgerald‘s “Goodnight My Love”. It’s adorable beyond words. B+

68. Another Toothpick

Season: 3 ; Episode: 5

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Jack Bender

This is a very good but not excellent episode tucked in between two of the season’s best episodes – Employee of the Month and University. Burt Young is fantastic here as Bobby Sr. and his Mustang Sally hit remains one of the most brutal slayings of the entire show. The best moments, however, come from Tony, Junior and Janice. Being a Terence Winter-penned episode this of course has wonderfully funny dialogue. B+

67. …To Save Us All From Satan’s Power

Season: 3 ; Episode: 10

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Jack Bender

I love the idea behind this episode – Tony gets Scrooged by revisiting old memories of Big Pussy during the holidays. There’s a lot of nostalgic goodness here but given the concept you’re left wanting more from this episode, especially so late in the season. The ending, with Tony receiving a Big Mouth Billy Bass that reminds him of the dream he had where Pussy (as a fish) copped to being a rat – is priceless. The look on Gandolfini‘s face, pure panic while frantically trying to put on the facade of laughing with his family at the gift serves as a reminder that he was one of the best actors to ever live. B+

66. Chasing It

Season: 6B ; Episode: 4

written by: Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

The weakest episode of the final nine, but by no means a bad episode, follows the tragic end of Tony’s relationship with Hesh, his dad’s best friend. Tony is losing hard at the craps table, so much so that he owes Hesh thousands of dollars. In classic Anthony Soprano fashion, he acts like a big baby and makes Hesh feel like he’s the bad guy and goes as far to even imply the threat of violence to him. It all comes to a head when Hesh’s girlfriend dies in her sleep, leaving him out of both money and the love of his life. We also get weird Vito Jr. pooping in the school gym showers and stepping in it as well as the most physical fight Carmela and Tony have in the entire show. It’s a really cold and cruel episode, and of course it’s from Mad Men‘s Matthew Weiner. B+

65. Denial, Anger, Acceptance

Season: 1 ; Episode: 3

written by: Mark Saraceni ; directed by: Nick Gomez

After two stellar opening episodes by creator David Chase, things take a slight downturn in the series’ third episode Denial, Anger, Acceptance. A lot of big stuff happens like Brendan Filone getting Moe Green’d in his bathtub, Christopher selling speed to Meadow so she can do better on her SATs (and later getting almost killed by Junior) and really the first Junior move against Tony, which sets into motion the main arc of the first season. However, the connective tissue here and some of the dialogue have a network television feel to it. Not as bad as Meadowlands or especially Boca, but you could tell they were still finding their groove. The whole subplot with the Rabbi and Rabbi’s son seems a bit put upon (the show would get better at subtlety as it progressed) but it does prompt some howling laughs thanks to Paulie and Silvio’s winning dynamic. B+

64. Sentimental Education

Season: 5 ; Episode: 6

written by: Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

The only episode of the show directed by legendary filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and one of the weaker season 5 offerings in my opinion. Carmela and Mr. Wexler (a perfect David Straithirn) start seeing each other and it becomes very clear, in Wexler’s words, that she’s strong arming him with the only weapon at her disposal – her pussy. Carmela seems to genuinely be into this dude but she understands she can use sex as leverage to get AJ better grades. This seems to take away from the momentum of season 5’s arc and doesn’t really confirm anything we didn’t already know about Carmela from that “don’t take the blood money” therapy session in Season 3. The episode’s other story, involving Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi) randomly finding a bunch of money, investing it in his massage parlor business and then reverting back to being a criminal is tragically predictable and poignant. B+

63. Mergers & Acquisitions

Season: 4 ; Episode: 8

story by: David Chase and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and Terence Winter ; Teleplay by: Lawrence Konner ; directed by: Daniel Attias

The last episode in Season 4’s middle slump and easily the best of those. Tony has a new girlfriend, Valentina and she’s just as crazy as he is. Technically, she’s Ralphie’s goomar but once she meets Tony it’s all over. It also fast tracks the Tony/Carmela split. This is a slow-burn, relationship-building episode that doesn’t prominently feature Ralphie but is more or less all about him – more specifically, his submissive and masochistic sexual quirks. It’s revealed to all be about the way his parents treated him (really hinting at severe sexual abuse) but wisely, the episode never puts us in a situation to feel bad for this psychopathic woman killer. We just feel shock more than anything. This episode is notable for a really erotic sex scene where Tony and Valentina graphically tongue fuck and a hilarious scene where Tony pays Janice to spill the beans on Ralphie’s sexual proclivities. B+

62. Mayham

Season: 6A ; Episode: 3

written by: Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Jack Bender

This episode had a hard act to follow with the whole Kevin Finnerty introduction and Tony getting shot, but it does have a magnificent ending sequence where Tony must choose to enter the afterlife or stay alive. The afterlife is represented by a big family reunion in the distance and St. Peter is represented by Tony B. (Buscemi reprising his role for the final time). The rest of the episode is pretty good but not stellar – aside from Paulie severely injuring his nuts, we get Silvio buckling under the pressure of being boss and Chris beating up his NA sponsor (a great Tim Daly) and forcing him to write a screenplay for CLEAVER. B+

61. He Is Risen

The best Millennial Sopranos meme ever.

Season: 3 ; Episode: 8

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and Todd A. Kessler ; directed by: Allen Coulter

The Sopranos does Thanksgiving the only way it knows how – with mountains of tension stemming from the brutal murder of a young stripper. Two episodes prior, in one of the most gut wrenching scenes of the entire show, Ralphie beat poor Tracee to death when she actually managed to stand up for herself. Tony flipped out and punched Ralphie in the face, which set into motion all this drama between the Soprano crews leading Tony to force Carmela to cancel Thanksgiving plans with Rosalie and Ralphie. This episode focuses mostly on domestic family stuff and I’m all here for it – Meadow getting closer with Jackie, Jr., Carmela trying to put together a feast and Tony meeting his new goomar, Globe Motor Saleswoman of the Month, Gloria Trillo (Anabella Sciorra). This episode also features a great comedic set piece – Janice bringing her new narcoleptic born-again boyfriend, Aaron, to Thanksgiving dinner. Needless to say, he keeps falling asleep. A-

60. Remember When

Season: 6B ; Episode: 3

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Phil Abraham

It really speaks to the quality of this show that this is the 60th ranked episode. Remember When is one of the final nine episodes, in which Tony and Paulie go on the lam together after the FBI accidentally dig up Tony’s first body. It’s basically a high-wire, and gradually irritating odd-couple routine in which Paulie can’t keep his fucking mouth shut. We legitimately think Tony will kill Paulie at one point, but like any old married couple, they brush it off an go about their business. The subplot involving Uncle Jun’ running an executive card game in his nursing home is even sadder yet somehow darkly humorous in spurts, resulting in Junior facing an even worse fate than death – dementia and his complete loss of self. “Wipe yourself off, you’re bleeding.” from Rush Hour (Ken Leong) is especially riveting as a young inpatient who idolizes Junior. A-

59. Johnny Cakes

Season: 6A ; Episode: 8

written by: Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

Usually I’m quite averse to AJ-centric episodes but this one hit really hard. Basically, AJ has no direction in life and is acting like a total Old Town Scottsdale fucknozzle. He quickly learns nobody gives a shit about him, and that they’re just using him to get facetime with his dad. He decides his life needs purpose so he plans to avenge his father by stabbing Uncle Junior to death, a la Vito Corleone in Sicily in Godfather 2. He sneaks a large knife into the nursing home, but upon seeing Junior’s confused face, he quickly realizes he can’t do it. The dumb fart drops his knife and gets tackled by security. In probably the most riveting father/son scenes between AJ and Tony, Tony lays into AJ who responds that he’s a fucking hypocrite because everytime they watch Godfather 2, Tony cheers when Vito kills the Don. “That’s just a movie. You make me wanna cry, AJ.” Tony’s words ring truth but don’t count out AJ’s perspective, he was raised by a fucking multiple murderer, so is anybody here shocked that this happened? We also get some cute shit from the Vito-fucks-a-short-order-cook-who-looks-like-my-stepdad-IRL storyline, but it never reaches it’s full potential because Gannascoli‘s acting just isn’t at the level it needs to be. A-

58. All Happy Families

Season: 5 ; Episode: 4

written by: Toni Kalem ; directed by: Rodrigo Garcia

Eating my stupid words as we round the corner to another AJ-centric episode, but I guess you could argue this is more about the family unit as a whole – minus Meadow, who is away at college. Tony and Carm are separated and AJ is acting out. When Carmela lets him go to an unsupervised concert in the city, AJ and his friends destroy a hotel room and super glue their faces to the carpet. What ensues is the most intense Saved By the Bell episode ever, where AJ talks shit to Carm but once Tony arrives he changes his tune fast. The two subplots here are pretty good too – Johnny Sack sending Billy and Phil Leotardo to whack Lorraine Colluzo (sp?) in the most degrading and sexist way possible and Tony sending Feech La Manna (the great Robert Loggia) back to prison. This episode was written by Toni Kalem, who plays Angie Bonpensiero (Pussy’s wife), and she clearly understands how difficult it is to be the parent of a teenager. A-

57. Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request…

Season: 6A ; Episode: 5

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Steve Buscemi

This is a great but rarely talked about “event” episode that takes place at Allegra Sack’s wedding (Johnny’s bland-ass daughter), involving Johnny Sack trying to get Tony to commit to whacking Frankie Valli. There’s a lot of sadly funny wedding hijinks here but the real gut punch of this episode is little baby Tony unjustly beating up his young bodyguard to prove to the guys that he’s “still got it.” This is another episode really showing how machismo poisons every relationship of this show. And yes, I wrote that sentence so I wouldn’t have to say “toxic masculinity”. A-

56. Moe N’ Joe

Season: 6A ; Episode: 10

written by: Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Steve Shill

A truly excellent episode that is anything but flashy but refuses to be mere filler. Vito’s new life in New Hampshire ends when he realizes he simply cannot work for a living. He leaves in the middle of the night and crashes into a car while driving drunk. The owner of the vehicle wants to get their insurance companies involved so Vito blows his brains out. On the Jersey side of things, Janice is pissed that Tony picks on Bobby, so Tony ends up buying them Johnny Sack’s old house to which Janice puts on this whole crying scene in Tony’s basement that equal parts cringe-y and hilarious. Aida Turturro is definitely the MVP of this one. A-

55. Toodle-Fucking-Oo

Season: 2 ; Episode: 3

written by: Frank Renzulli ; directed by: Lee Tamahori

With the introduction of Richie Aprile (the great David Proval), Season 2 really got rolling. Aggressive, entitled and arguably psychotic older sibling to Tony’s dead bestie, Richie is so utterly convinced he’s owed everything in the world when he gets out of the can. Tony is glad to see him but quickly recognizes he’s going to be a problem. Said problem is exacerbated when Richie cripples poor Beansie with his SUV over a flimsy money dispute and especially when Richie begins balling Janice like he did in high school. The episode also explores Dr. Melfi’s life outside of treating Tony, mainly running into him after ending their therapy and sheepishly proclaiming “toodle-oo!” A-

54. The Strong, Silent Type

Season: 4 ; Episode: 10

story by: David Chase ; teleplay by: Terence Winter and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Alan Taylor

Christopher is out of control on drugs. After shooting up and accidentally sitting on Adriana’s purse dog, breaking the dog’s neck, Adriana has had enough. She enlists the help of Tony, Carmela and “the family” to talk some goddamn sense into Christopher. During an ill-advised intervention session led by Casey Jones from Ninja Turtles (Elias Koteas), Christopher almost blabs about the business and gets beaten up by Paulie and Silvio for calling his mother “a fucking whore.” Eventually, Chris agrees to go into treatment and Tony assures him this is his only shot at redemption and anyone else “would have a steel-jacket antidepressant right to the back of the head.” Chris goes off, and we barely see him again till Season 5. This episode has a lot of great moments and a few hilarious ones, especially Silvio’s contribution to the intervention. “Disgusting.” It only occasionally feels like “a very special episode.” A-

53. Down Neck

Season: 1 ; Episode: 7

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Lorraine Senna

Flashback episodes are always a gamble, especially in Sopranos‘ first season where they didn’t have the budget to make the 60s look like anything much more than a Forensic Files‘ re-enactment. However, the flashbacks are wisely framed around an equally compelling present day story of Tony trying to understand why AJ is getting into so much trouble at school. We get some good stuff in the 60s like Livia threatening to impale young Tony with a big ol’ meatfork, Janice being an all around pain in the ass and a clown getting arrested. One of the most compelling Mefli/Tony sessions is also in this episode, where Tony expresses his desire of wanting his kid to look up to him but not to be him, a glaring contradiction Tony is well aware of. A-

52. Big Girls Don’t Cry

Season: 2 ; Episode: 5

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

I said I didn’t love Christopher-Goes-To-Hollywood episodes, I didn’t say anything about Chris-Trying-To-Be-A-Writer episodes in general. Big Girls Don’t Cry gives us Imperioli‘s first truly great performance on the show that shows him trying to reconcile his relationship with his long-dead father while taking a stupid acting for writers class. This episode also unleashes Furio on America by having him shoot a coke head’s kneecaps off. A-

51. Two Tonys

Season: 5 ; Episode: 1

written by: Terence Winter and David Chase ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

The season 5 opener after the big Tony and Carm split sees Tony a bit lost without Carmela, so much so his emotions drive him to profess his love to Dr. Melfi. After she rejects him, he calls her a “cunt” and storms out of her office. It’s a typically amazing display of acting between Bracco and Gandolfini, and it further develops their relationship which really takes a back seat in the second half of the show. At the house, Carmela and AJ encounter a bear and call over Tony to help them. He sends over Little Paulie with an AK-47 to stand guard. The subplot of this episode is even better, it surrounds Christopher feeling the weight of having to pay for everything when the crew goes out for big dinners. Of course, Paulie catches wind of his discomfort and decides to torture him. It all ends in a parking lot argument where they accidentally kill a server unhappy with his 2% tip. It’s really fucked up and tragic but in classic Sopranos fashion, it’s punctuated by perfect comedic timing and physicality, especially from Tony Sirico. A-

50. Irregular Around the Margins

Season: 5 ; Episode: 5

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Allen Coulter

The game of telephone heard round the world is the centerpiece in this nerve-wracking and really, quite funny in spurts Christopher/Adriana episode. Tony and Adriana are working late one night, railing lines of coke, and decide to drive to Adriana’s dealer to get more. On the way, they get into a massive car accident and both are rushed to the hospital. A rumor goes around that Adriana was blowing Tony when the accident happened (apparently, he came all over the sun visor) triggering Christopher to flip out and try to kill Tony. Luckily, Tony B (Buscemi) is the cooler head and proves to Christopher that based on Adriana’s neck injuries she couldn’t have had Tony’s penis in her mouth. I am clearly in the minority opinion that thinks this is bit too easy/convenient of a fix for a show so steeped in tragically realistic inevitability, but hey it’s a really riveting episode from start to finish. A-

49. Eloise

Season: 4 ; Episode: 12

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: James Hayman

A really great, Carmela-centric Terry Winter episode that seems to get buried by the sheer weight of it’s follow-up episode, Whitecaps. Carm is fucking irritated, with her husband’s neglect, her son’s laziness and even her daughter’s college reading list. She feels underappreciated and unloved, so she creates this airport-romance-novel-foreign-lover-archetype in Furio (the guy who blows off people’s kneecaps) who couldn’t be further from that. Furio, unfortunately, is also in love with her (but more so the idea of her, I think) and almost throws Tony into a helicopter blade before blowing town and exiting the show for good. There’s some Johnny Sack/Carmine/Tony beef, but it really takes a back seat to Carmela’s series of Karen-eque meltdowns. The best scene of the episode is during a dinner with Meadow and her roommates where she goes off on this whole “gay agenda” invading our children’s think spaces. There’s also an amazingly dark but very funny scene where Paulie suffocates an old woman bullying his mother with a pillow and then steals all her money. A-

48. Guy Walks Into a Psychiatrist’s Office…

Season: 2 ; Episode: 1

written by: Jason Cahill ; directed by: Allen Coulter

One of the stronger season premieres, opening, quite iconically, with Frank Sinatra‘s “It Was a Very Good Year” to catch us up with the fam. AJ is combing his hair, Tony is still sleeping around, Paulie is marathon-fucking a stripper on a pool table and Pussy is back! He tells Tony he blew town cause he saw that everyone was turning against him for wrongly thinking he was the rat. Tony is pissed but elated to see his best friend, and completely unaware the rat really is Pussy. This episode also perfectly introduces a new major character on the show, Janice, Tony’s sister, played by the incomparable Aida Turturro. She’s trying to sell Livia’s house and collect the money, before “rain-dancing back to the commune.” She’s the perfect adversary for Tony, just as dementedly clever but nowhere near as charismatic. THERE YOU GO, YOU BIG MOUTH FUCK! A-

47. Army of One

Season: 3 ; Episode: 13

written by: David Chase & Lawrence Konner ; directed by: John Patterson

Not the best season finale The Sopranos has ever given us, and in many ways upstaged by the two previous episodes – Pine Barrens and Amour Fou. However, it has such a moving ending where Junior, processing his cancer diagnosis, delivers a powerhouse vocal performance of old Italian ballads at Jackie Jr.’s funeral. “This is such bullshit!” Meadow proclaims. She’s right, a bunch of assholes ultimately responsible for Jackie Jr’s death, singing and stuffing their faces, not giving a shit their dead friend’s kid is now dead. I’d be more passionately behind her if Jackie wasn’t such a tool, but you know, she has a point. Dominic Chianse deserved an Emmy this season but I think they gave it to one of the West Wing boys. A-

46. In Camelot

Season: 5 ; Episode: 7

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Steve Buscemi

Another underrated Terry Winter episode – they’ll be several more – that pumps the brakes on the overarching plot of Season 5 to deep dive into Tony’s subconscious relationship with his dead dad. He meets Fran Felstein, his dad’s old mistress, and strikes up a friendship with her/helps her pay her bills. What starts out as a sort of friendship sours quick when he realizes she’s just some gold digger. He also realizes his dad is just some asshole. Don’t have heroes, they just let you down. Your parents fucking suck. It all culminates in a truly unsettling scene, where Fran puts on a JFK captain’s hat and sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to Tony. It’s terrifying. A-

45. Calling All Cars

Season: 4 ; Episode: 11

story by: David Chase and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and Terence Winter ; teleplay by: David Chase and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and David Flebotte ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

The above image is from Tony’s weird masonry job in Italy dream, and maybe the single most unsettling thing I’ve seen on this show. Tony opens the door to an old Sicilian house to find this shadow of a woman (looking suspiciously like Livia) at the top of the stairs. The dark specter feels judgemental, threatening, yet somehow maternal, much like Livia herself. The rest of the episode is Tony going to Florida to talk with Little Carmine about his dad acting like a prima donna and a fantastic subplot involving Janice using an ouija board to terrorize Bobby’s children and insert herself into their lives. I guess she feels justified cause she spent so much money at Outback Steakhouse. I mean, the sides alone were $40. A-

44. The Weight

Season: 4 ; Episode: 4

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Jack Bender

Super underrated Sopranos episode that plays like a hybrid of an espionage thriller and a heartfelt PSA about loving your fat body. Two episodes ago, Ralphie made a joke about Ginny Sack having a 90-pound mole removed from her ass and Paulie leaked that info to Johnny. Johnny, who is now super pissed, wants Ralphie whacked. Tony on the other hand, doesn’t want. Ralphie is a massive prick, but he’s also his top earner. So Johnny Sack puts out a hit on Ralphie and Tony and Carmine put out a hit on Johnny Sack. Neither end up getting whacked, but the tension is palpable. Johnny calls off the hit when he catches Ginny gorging herself on laundry snickers. They have a legit heartfelt moment and it goes a long way in developing Johnny Sack beyond his shouty boss persona. The best scene here is when Silvio and Christopher visit the weird, possibly inbred, partly blind assassin family for some murder plots and Carvel ice cream cake. A-

43. Fortunate Son

Season: 3 ; Episode: 3

written by: Todd A. Kessler ; directed by: Henry J. Bronchtein

Very much a sequel to Season One’s Down Neck but better in almost every way. It features some excellent Tony/Melfi sessions and really zeroes in on the relationship dynamic between Tony and AJ. It also explores the idea of fatherhood from Christopher’s perspective, whose father has passed and in many ways was replaced by Tony. Instead of joining football, like AJ, he’s joining the “family business” by getting made. Of course, it isn’t nearly as romantic as he pictured, and starts running behind on paying Paulie. Remember Tony, a don doesn’t wear shorts. A-

42. From Where to Eternity

Season: 2 ; Episode: 9

written by: Michael Imperioli ; directed by: Henry J. Bronchtein

Not all Imperioli penned episodes are bottom of the barrel, his first effort, From Where to Eternity, a surreal tangent about the fallout from Chris’ attempted murder, represents one of the biggest storytelling risks the show has ever taken. Imperioli himself has a limited role in it because it’s actually about how the people surrounding Chris are reacting to this tragedy. Most notably, how Paulie reacts to it by having a weird crisis of faith. He starts believing that the ghosts of his victims are waiting to tear his soul apart when he eventually dies and goes to hell. He ends up convincing himself he’s just going to purgatory, so he can take a deep breath and have a gabagool sammy. There’s an amazing exchange between Tony and Carm about the possibility of her getting an STD from Irina, to which Tony replies, “Hey, I had her tested for AIDS. Who do you think I am?!” Spit-out-milk funny! A-

41. Marco Polo

Season: 5 ; Episode: 8

written by: Michael Imperioli ; directed by: John Patterson

Imperioli‘s finest hour as a writer comes with the last script he’d ever write for the series. It’s a wonderful big event episode that takes place mostly at Carm’s dad’s surprise party. After having the surprise spoiled by Junior, who the fuck else?, Hugh demands that Tony be there to which Carmela is hesitant cause they’re separated. Tony ends up coming and getting talked down to by Carm’s mom’s pretentious Italian friends who are allergic to tomatoes, but not before he slaps some sazeecha in Hugh’s face. It all ends with Tony and Carmela sparking some old romance in the family pool. After the party, Tony B. (Buscemi) decides to take a contract job of hitting one of Johnny Sack’s favorite guys as retaliation for Lorraine Calluzzo. This jump-starts one of the main conflicts of the season. A-

40. The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti

Season: 1 ; Episode: 8

written by: David Chase and Frank Renzulli ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

You know who had an ark? Noah. This is the first episode where we really get to dive into fourth billed Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli‘s Christopher, and it’s honestly one of the best Chris-focused episodes of the series. When indictments are handed down, Tony and crew have to disappear weapons, kruggerands and stacks of cash from their houses, cause they know the FBI are coming with warrants. In the lower ranks, Christopher gets paranoid, freaks out and digs up/tries to move Emil Kolar’s decomposing body cause they’re building condos or something where he buried them. Imperioli is really fantastic in this episode and it focuses on him trying to figure out who he is and what he wants – to be a mobster or to be a screenwriter. SPOILER ALERT – He’s terrible at both. I admire the courage of this show to paint Christopher as stupid as he’d be IRL and yet somehow managing to get us to care about him. This episode also features a fantastic dream sequence involving Adriana, on her knees in a ballet costume, eating polish sausage out a dead guy’s hand. A-

39. Stage 5

Season: 6B ; Episode: 2

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Alan Taylor

Hands down, the best of the showbiz episodes that has so much going on it might make your head spin. Cleaver starring Daniel Baldwin finally premieres and sparks a whole paranoia between Tony, Carmela and Christopher, because Carmela points out to Tony the whole movie is Chris’ filthy fantasy about killing Tony as revenge for what he perceived went on between Tony and Adriana. On top of the many hilarious Cleaver scenes there’s some great Tony/Dr. Melfi stretches concerning Tony’s relationship with Christopher and even a massive mob hit that prompts Phil Leotardo into action. A-

38. Cold Stones

Season: 6A ; Episode: 11

written by: Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider and David Chase ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

As the title would indicate, this is a really cold episode. Not as explosively entertaining as most penultimate episodes, but really cruel and sadly realistic in its disposal of Vito for being gay. We never see it but we hear it spoken of – Phil Leotardo ambushes him at his hotel and has his men sodomize Vito to death with pool cue while he watches. Is Phil gay? Phil is definitely gay. Is he though? He is, however, 110% a piece of human garbage and it’s a real treat when ten episodes later he gets his head blown off and then run over in front of screaming wife and grandchildren. This episode also features one of the most brutal stabbings I’ve seen on TV, committed by Silvio and Carlo over Vito. The Carmela/Rosalie stuff is maybe the best plot line here, this is the most we got to spend on their friendship. A-

37. All Due Respect

Season: 5 ; Episode: 13

written by: David Chase and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: John Patterson

This poor episode will always live in the shadow of Long Term Parking, but it’s a really fantastic episode in its own right. It wraps up the Tony B story line with a bang, puts Johnny Sack in prison and sets up complex, Adriana-related tension between Tony and Christopher for that final season. It just isn’t anywhere as shocking, taut and thoroughly nerve-wracking as Long Term Parking despite it’s great use of Van Morrison‘s “Glad Tidings”. A-

36. Cold Cuts

Season: 5 ; Episode: 10

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Mike Figgis

I feel like this episode is remembered among die hard Sopranos fans mostly for that terrible freeze frame/wipe edit that looks like it was made in fucking Microsoft PowerPoint. It’s such an odd choice and I wish a gif of it existed so I could show you. Since it doesn’t, I’ll share this freeze frame from the episode’s brilliant final scene where Tony, fed up with Janice’s discovery of happiness, baits her into flipping out and attacking him. It’s sad, painfully funny but not nearly as tragic knowing how much of a fucking monster Janice is. They both are. That whole family. As Bobby would say, “You Sopranos…you go too far!” There’s also some great relationship building between Tony B., Christopher and Tony S. which more or less becomes moot when Tony B. gets his face blown off three episodes later. A-

35. Unidentified Black Males

Season: 5 ; Episode: 9

written by: Matthew Weiner and Terence Winter ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

Or the episode in which Vito gets caught taste-testing a security guard’s cannoli. Meadow’s dumb dentist-in-training boyfriend catches him and it’s super awkward and he very logically thinks Vito might have him popped to keep his secret safe. Meadow reacts like the gigantic fucking asshole she is and tries to make it all about her and him wanting to leave her. In other news, Johnny Sack is furious about Joey Peeps getting whacked and is damn certain it was Tony B. Tony S. is damn certain as well but tries to play dumb to protect his cousin, which opens up this great and powerful Tony/Melfi scene where Tony reveals his love for his cousin spawns from guilt and not actual love, cause Tony’s a sociopath and incapable of feeling love. A

34. No Show

Season: 4 ; Episode: 2

written by: Terence Winter and David Chase ; directed by: John Patterson

People often forget how great the beginning of Season 4 really was. With the exception of the terrible Christopher, and before it went head-first into that mid season slump with Pie O My, these are an essentially perfect string of episodes. No Show is notable for many reasons – Chris becomes acting capo since Paulie is in the can, Meadow uses Jackie Jr.’s death as somewhat of an excuse to be a brat and has that incredibly tense showdown with Tony where she calls him “Mr. Mob Boss” and Adriana gets brought in by the FBI and scared to the point of vomiting. The previous episode, For All Debts Public and Private, set up the greater themes of the season and really the rest of the show (everything comes to an end, recession/9/11 commentary, etc.) but No Show really dives back into the internal lives of the characters. A

33. Pax Soprana

Season: 1 ; Episode: 6

written by: Frank Renzulli ; directed by: Alan Taylor

Best remembered for that very 90s but still fire Xzibit-scored montage where Junior is made boss and the FBI pose as busboys to get photos. Tony has agita over Junior rising to power even though he put him there. Junior feels like he has too much to prove and begins making decisions that really fuck with Tony’s cash flow. When Junior taxes Hesh though, he’s gone too far and Tony is brought in to help out. This episode does a great job of really establishing a lot of the Junior/Tony dynamic more so than previous episodes of the debut season. The best stuff comes from Tony and Carmela though, their anniversary dinner and that beautiful little scene on the pool chairs is a little miracle of acting and writing. A

32. For All Debts Public and Private

Season: 4 ; Episode: 1

written by: David Chase ; directed by: Allen Coulter

After being gone for sixteen months, The Sopranos returned for its bleak fourth season which really set the tone for the rest of the series. For All Debts Public and Private succinctly lays out the major themes of the fourth season which is beginning to realize the end is nigh and that money is getting harder and harder to get. Bobby is made captain and delivers a hilarious Nostradamus/Quasimodo line, Carmela is super worried about the family’s financial future when she sees Angie Bompensiero handing out polish sausage samples down at the Piggly Wiggly, but this episode is really about the Christopher/Tony, father/son, mentor/mentee dynamic. Probably the second most important relationship on the show behind Tony and Carmela. Tony gives Chris “a present” – the chance to kill the dirty cop that murdered his father – which brings them closer together. IS THAT HIM?! WITH THE SOMBRERO ON!!!!???? A

31. Proshai Livushka

Season: 3 ; Episode: 2

written by: David Chase ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

After a seriously weak part one to Season 3’s special two-part premiere, part two blows the hinges off the goddamn door. Livia finally dies and her funeral is predictably a pain in the ass. Janice flies in trying to turn the funeral into some “fucking California shit” and immediately makes everything about herself. Carmela and really, everyone else besides Tony, sees the situation for what it is – a mean old woman nobody liked died, so I guess it’s sad? Tony sinks into a deep, booze-soaked depression that sees him bawling his eyes out watching The Public Enemy upon seeing a representation of a mother who actually loved her mobster son. Livia was a miserable piece of shit and she’d be the first to agree with that sentiment. Anyway, the speeches at her funeral are some GOAT Sopranos comedy moments including Christopher’s high rant about DNA and cloning, Tony’s barbs to Janice and Carmela’s final speech about how Livia was a miserable woman who didn’t want a funeral but her kids disobeyed her wishes so everyone met in a room to genuinely struggle to say anything nice about the woman. But she was still Tony’ mom. And a boy is supposed to love his mother. Aye caramba, what a nightmare! A

30. Members Only

Season: 6A ; Episode: 1

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

The best season opener besides the pilot, Members Only is impressive for the sheer amount of big events it crams into a single one-hour episode. Informant Ray Curto dies, Eugene Pontecorvo, is revealed to be a rat and tries to retire from the mafia only to get denied by Tony and hang himself because his family is falling apart, Janice and Bobby have a baby and Junior, in the throws of dementia, shoots Tony into a coma. This is the biggest “gotcha” moment the show has had since Janice lit up Richie back in Season 2. It’s a really fast-paced episode. It runs so the next episode, which kicks of the two episode Kevin Finnerty saga, can walk. A

29. The Test Dream

Season: 5 ; Episode: 11

written by: David Chase and Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Allen Coulter

Sopranos really set the gold standard for television drama series to do dream sequences. While many shows make it seem like some cheap gimmick, Sopranos uses its dream sequences to inform us more about characters, namely Tony and how his logic which informs his decision-making operates. The Test Dream features the most ambitious dream sequence yet, taking up roughly half of the entire episode. It’s bizarre, funny, achingly sad, surprisingly poignant and not so “random” because every little piece tells us something important about Tony’s perspective. Annette Bening playing Annette Bening playing Meadow’s boyfriend’s mom is wonderfully insane and completely in line with how we sometimes cast celebrity faces as different people in our dreams, and it’s great to see John Heard back playing Vin Makazian playing Meadow’s boyfriend’s dad whose strikingly mediocre rendition of The Commodores‘ “Three Times a Lady”, followed up immediately by a mousy announcement that he has to tinkle, is literal magic. A

28. Walk Like a Man

Season: 6B ; Episode: 5

written & directed by: Terence Winter

I never see this episode on other Best of Sopranos lists and it always somewhat surprises me. Christopher is one of the most beloved characters on the show and this is truly his swan song. Yeah, he dies in the first eight minutes of the next episode, but this is more him saying goodbye to the world. Struggling and failing with his battle for sobriety, he has a hauntingly lucid moment that none of these wise guys really give a shit about him. It’s fucking real sad because of how unnervingly real it is. This is maybe Imperioli‘s best acting work on the show and certainly his most vulnerable. “My friends have abandoned me” he solemnly tells Tim Daly, like he’s already completely accepted it. He follows it up with a hilariously dumb mispronunciation of the word “ostracized” before blowing Tim Daly‘s brains out. It’s the perfect chaotic cherry atop this carefully observed, character-focused episode. A

27. Bust Out

Season: 2 ; Episode: 10

written by: Frank Renzulli and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: John Patterson

The concluding chapter of the two-episode Davey Scatino saga, in which we learn how dangerous it is to even be merely friends with Tony Soprano. But Davey’s life isn’t the only life spiraling out of control, Tony is facing a serious murder beef on the Bevilaqua hit cause the two whitest East Coast liberal cliches positively ID’d Tony. There’s a scene set in their living room where they’re reading art books and arguing while jarring, atonal music blares. This episode features some amazing acting from Gandolfini and a really good guest performance by Robert Patrick. It ends with Journey‘s “Wheel in the Sky”. A

26. The Happy Wanderer

Season: 2 ; Episode: 6

written by: Frank Renzulli ; directed by: John Patterson

Even better than the concluding chapter of the Davey Scatino saga, is the introductory one. Tony is running this big executive poker game where people like Frank Sinatra, Jr. and David Lee Roth can come to gamble their kids’ college funds away to a bunch of mobsters. Really this is a great domestic side of Tony clashes with crime side of Tony episode and shows how he handles a non-criminal friend who owes him money…basically the same way as if a mobster owed him money. His tone with Davey changes and we see not only the deterioration of a long time friendship but a terribly misjudgement on Davey’s part that being a childhood friend would shield him from the wrath of Tony Soprano. There’s some great poker table shenanigans and Steven Van Zandt really runs away with the episode during a deranged cheese rant involving your sister’s crotch. A

25. Kennedy and Heidi

Season: 6B ; Episode: 6

written by: Matthew Weiner and David Chase ; directed by: Alan Taylor

Ten minutes into this episode, Tony murders Christopher. They get into a major car accident partly because Chris is using again and partly because Heidi is out after curfew on her learner’s permit. When Chris tells Tony they need to switch places cause he’ll never pass a drug test and Tony sees what a tree branch did to Chris’ baby’s car seat, he makes a conscious decision that Christopher needs to die. He suffocates him with his bare hand while Chris chokes on his own blood. Most TV dramas that kill off a major character in the beginning of an episode use the rest of that episode to explore how sad/angry/happy it makes the people surrounding them, but Kennedy and Heidi slyly takes Tony out of New Jersey and puts him on a drug-fueled spiritual journey in Vegas with Chris’ old goomar. It’s a wild second half that perfectly represents the narrative risks The Sopranos frequently took. No surprise it’s co-written by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. A

24. Employee of the Month

Season: 3 ; Episode: 4

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: John Patterson

Perhaps the most notorious, controversial and talked about Sopranos episode surrounds the brutal and unexpected rape of Dr. Melfi at the hands of some random asshole. It’s one of the most difficult to watch episodes and you really don’t understand its purpose other than showcasing Lorraine Bracco‘s incredible range until the very end. Melfi is presented with a monster of a moral dilemma after the police let her her rapist go. Does she get street justice by telling Tony about it or does she not tell Tony, not get justice, but doesn’t become responsible for the torture/murder of a human, no matter how awful that human is. The ending sees Tony ask her if there’s anything she’d like to tell him. Melfi takes a huge pause and we, the audience, want nothing more for her to say yes so this son of a bitch can pay. But she says, “no” because she realizes the ramifications of getting justice that way. The ending chastises us in a way for wanting mob justice, no matter how completely deserving the victim would be. It’s pretty brilliant. A

23. Where’s Johnny?

Season: 5 ; Episode: 3

written by: Michael Caleo ; directed by: John Patterson

Not a big episode by any means, but a great example of why The Sopranos was so great. Even during a week where the most insane thing didn’t happen, they managed to keep us on the edge of our seat by simply exploring character relationships. This one is about Junior’s relationship with Tony and Junior losing his mind and trying to reclaim former glory. It ends with maybe the best Tony/Junior scene where Tony asks if Junior loves him. Junior, even wrestling with dementia, is able to understand this and tears up, as if physically unable to express his love for his nephew. It was even nominated for a writing Emmy, so there, doesn’t seem so insane to rank it this high anymore, huh? A

22. 46 Long

Season: 1 ; Episode: 2

written by: David Chase ; directed by: Daniel Attias

The pilot was phenomenal and the sophomore episode was nearly as good. With every character/dynamic of the first season more or less established, 46 Long takes a closer look at Tony’s relationship with his mother, Livia, and how deep into crazy town that goes. After accidentally running over her friend with her big ass old lady car, Tony and Carmela feel it isn’t safe for Livia to be living alone anymore so they get her a Trinidadian maid. Livia is racist as shit, so that blows up in Tony’s face, so he decides to stick her in Green Grove Retirement Community, basically a Marriott for seniors. This is a touchy subject for most adults and their elderly parents, but it becomes increasingly more heated with the don of New Jersey and a bottomless black hole of a mother like Livia. This is the only episode in the entire 86 episode run to begin with a cold open and it really doesn’t need to be there. It’s a decent enough scene but it seems odd going back and watching it now. A

21. Whoever Did This

Season: 4 ; Episode: 9

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

A fast-paced, bleak, overwhelmingly violent and admittedly, pretty funny mid-season episode that revived season 4 from it’s coma. Joe Pantoliano deservedly won a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for this episode. Ralph’s son is dying in the hospital from an archery related wound inflicted by his friend because Ralph was clipping his toenails in the bathtub instead of watching his fucking kid. Overwhelmed with grief, he gets into a fatal fight with Tony over the murder and possible insurance money collection of their race horse, Pie O My, so a very high Christopher gets called over to help dispose of the body. This is maybe the most realistic fight the show has staged, its sluggishness gives it a disturbing weight. The second half of this episode turns into a disturbing two-hander between Christopher and Tony with Tony finally confronting Chris about his glaring drug problem. Hearing Michael Imperioli say “I dadddn’t” (which the fucking closed captioning doesn’t pick up) is a rewind over and over again moment. A

20. The Second Coming

Season: 6B ; Episode: 7

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

Terry Winter, who wrote four of the nine final episodes all by his lonesome, was arguably the best writer on the show. This is his final episode, the third to final episode of the show, where Tony really writes a check with his temper, his ass can’t cash. After a New York capo sexually harasses Meadow at a restaurant, Tony retaliates by curb stomping the dude in front of the reptilian Butchie. This happily pushes Phil Leotardo into a position where he’s justified by mob rules in wiping out Tony and his crew. More tragically for Tony is AJ’s botched suicide attempt which really pulls the band aid off of how unhappy AJ is. Tony is angry to be sure, but much more scared and sad for his son. There’s a beautiful moment where he rescues AJ from his swimming pool/cinder block fate and begins by yelling at AJ but then cradling him like a baby. This really is the beginning of the end, a real Ozymandias of an episode. A

19. The Sopranos

Season: 1 ; Episode: 1

written & directed by: David Chase

I think the most shit anyone can talk about the pilot is that Gandolfini didn’t have his accent yet, but seeing as though this existed at a time where pilots were often filmed a year or two years before the rest of the season, I think it comes together pretty freakin’ nicely. Deploying voice over narration for the only time in the series, Tony takes us through all the whacky characters and complicated situations of his life beginning with those goddamn ducks. There’s a different Father Phil, Irina and Satriale’s is Centanni’s, however, this ultimately feels like The Sopranos because of the quality of the writing and performances. It all leads to a wonderful emotional breakdown Tony has during his initial session with Dr. Melfi. He’s afraid he’s gonna lose his family. A

18. The Blue Comet

Season: 6B ; Episode: 8

written by: David Chase and Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Alan Taylor

While Made in America, the series finale of the show, slows a lot of shit down in classic downplayed Sopranos fashion, The Blue Comet is the fast-paced, action-packed, uber-violent payoff most fans were expecting. In the penultimate episode of the entire show, Tony needs to whack Phil before Phil whacks him. Unfortunately, this gets fucked up and the fallout sees Bobby getting whacked and Silvio getting put into a coma. Tony has to go on the lam because nobody can find Phil and there’s a contract out on his life. It’s incredibly intense and tragic, and being the second to last episode of the show it presents first-time viewers with the possibility that ANYTHING could happen. Dr. Melfi also has her final scene of the show here, dumping Tony after she reads a medical journal article that therapy helps make criminals better criminals. The scene where Bobby gets killed is especially upsetting. He’s shopping for a model train and the store clerk asks if it’s for his son. Solemnly, Bobby replies, “No, he’s not interested in that.” And that’s his final thoughts before getting gunned down by Phil’s assassins. A

17. The Ride

Season: 6A ; Episode: 9

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Alan Taylor

Maybe the single most underrated Sopranos episode of all time, The Ride pissed a lot of viewers off when it first aired because it, along with many episodes from Season 6A, wasn’t in a rush to wrap things up and is more than comfortable meandering/marinating in character stuff. Any slow burn character-building episode I typically love, but I see people’s frustration with the somewhat aimless nature of the first part of the final season. But it’s actually not aimless, because it’s informing us to what’s going on in the heads of our favorite gabagools. Christopher is bored AF with sobriety and begins dabbling in heroin again. There’s maybe the best musical sequence The Sopranos has ever done, with Christopher getting high and petting a stray dog at this Italian street fair to Fred Neil‘s “The Dolphins.” It also shows how the bond between Chris and Tony has cemented over the years when they decide to rob a biker gang committing an armed robbery on little more than a whim. Paulie is also heavily featured here trying to soothe his guilt over abandoning Nucci by buying a bunch of shit for the church’s Italian street fair. It’s a particular religious ceremony or something but I have no idea what it is. Basically, townspeople cover this saint statue in $1 bills and pass it around the crowd like a mosh pit. Is it the patron saint of erotic dancing?! Anyway, there’s also a scene where Paulie hallucinates seeing the Virgin Mary and it’s ridiculous. This is a slow, somewhat messy episode that low-key demonstrates every strength of this show. A

16. House Arrest

Season: 2 ; Episode: 11

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

One of the funniest episodes of the show and one I was shocked to see at the ass end of The Ringer‘s Sopranos episode ranking. This is the first great Terry Winter episode that sets the stage for two of the top ten episodes of series – The Knight in White Satin Armor and Funhouse, but more on them later. Having just beat the murder charge, Tony is laying low at Barone Santiation, bored out of his mind. After having wild sex with Dick’s born-again Christian receptionist, he gets a rash brought on by the stress of Richie selling cocaine on Barone’s garbage routes. There’s some funny Tony/Janice moments as the big Richie/Janice wedding ramps up, but the funniest moments come Junior settling into how old he is. He meets an old acquaintance’s widow he was always sweet on and then gets bored by her and tries to ghost her. Kinda hard when you’re under house arrest – FUUUUCKKK. This episode is also notable for featuring this hilarious extra (pictured above) who gets down HARD to Boston’s More Than a Feeling. The Sopranos has always been the funniest drama ever but when it’s this biting, it’s better than most modern sitcoms. A

15. Join the Club

Season: 6A ; Episode 2

written by: David Chase ; directed by: David Nutter

I feel like a broken record here using the phrase “huge storytelling risk” but I don’t know how else to describe an existential episode about the after life following Tony imagining himself as a air conditioning salesman from Kingsman, Arizona at a weekend conference in Costa Mesa, California where he loses his wallet and memory before getting accosted by two Buddhist monks that claim he sold their monastery a faulty heating system. Sopranos has done dream sequences before, but nothing like this where Tony’s fate is so up in the air. Ultimately, it’s a story about loneliness, from Kevin Finnerty (but really Tony knowing on subconscious level) feeling isolated from his family, to Carmela (in one of the best Edie Falco performances) completely breaking down in desperation to Tony’s unconscious body. Besides all the sadness and confusion, there’s something quite calming and zen about this episode. It’s about the search for self, one we must be patient on. A

14. Amour Fou

Season: 3 ; Episode: 12

story by: David Chase ; teleplay by: Frank Renzulli ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

Annabella Sciorra should have won an Emmy for this episode, her scenes with Gandolfini (who did win an Emmy for this episode) marking the end of Gloria + Tony are extraordinary. Tony dumps Gloria after she chucks a london broil at his head and she’s desperate to get him back. After getting him to agree to meet with her, she tries to strike up a relationship with Carmela, which sends Tony off the rails. It all culminates in a violent showdown with Tony having the realization that Gloria reminds him of his mother and then him choking her while she begs him to kill her. It’s really disturbing stuff and a fitting conclusion for a season that so closely examined Tony and the gang’s frightfully misogynist yet sadly traditional attitudes toward women. Even more chilling might be the Patsy/Gloria interaction in the test drive car, where Patsy pulls a gun on her and warns that if she contacts Tony Soprano again, his face will be the last she sees, not Tony’s. Patsy then promises, “It won’t be cinematic.” The rest of the episode sees Jackie, Jr. rob a card game and accidentally kill Paul Mazursky. That tracks. A

13. Second Opinion

Season: 3 ; Episode: 7

written by: Lawrence Konner ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

A buffer episode between the Ralphie-kills-Tracee-so-Tony-wants-him-whacked storyline, that ends up being one of the most powerful episodes of the entire show. Dominic Chianese‘s (Uncle Junior) finest hour as he struggles to comes to terms with his cancer diagonisis, gets ignored by a doctor named John Kennedy and day dreams about selling out Tony to the Feds and marrying Angie Dickinson, of course. The other part of this episode, even better, sees Carmela seriously reckoning with the ethical dilemma of being married to a mobster but still craving security and let’s face it, the power, her position holds. Her conversation with the psychiatrist where he tells her he won’t take her blood money and infers that she is fully aware what she has to do to but just won’t do it. It isn’t a “big event” episode where something changes the course of the series or a major character gets put to bed with the fishes, but this is an example of how low-key brilliant The Sopranos was even in its quietest moments. Also I think we’re all relieved Tony didn’t kill Angie Bompensiero’s dog with a baseball bat. A+

12. Isabella

Season: 1 ; Episode: 12

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Allen Coulter

The last three episodes of the first season are, in my mind, the strongest series of three episodes the series has ever seen. It’s like a mini finale, because at the time, creator David Chase didn’t think there would be a Season 2. These three episodes wrap so much up in a concise but never rushed way that feels entirely in step with what the show has always been trying to accomplish. The penultimate episode, Isabella, sees Tony in a dark depression following the disappearance and assumed death of Pussy, his best friend and trusted soldier that he initially thought was a rat. He ends up being the rat, but Tony doesn’t know this yet. He’s so depressed he imagines a young, gorgeous Italian dental student staying at his neighbor’s house and going out to lunch with him. You don’t know if Tony is imagining a surrogate lover or mother, or both. Probably both, this dude is a fucking mess. It all culminates in Junior’s botched assassination attempt, that only eliminates a jar of orange juice, and sets Tony on the course to get his revenge. Great use of Cream’s I Feel Free at the end. A+

11. Nobody Knows Anything

Season 1 ; Episode: 11

written by: Frank Renzulli ; directed by: Henry J. Bronchtein

Slightly better than Isabella, but not as flashy, is Nobody Knows Anything, the first of those three final Season One episodes. Detective John Heard (Emmy nominated here) gives Tony intel that his best friend and soldier, Pussy Bonpensiero, is working with the FBI. This sends Tony’s entire world into a tailspin and what we get is an insanely intense interrogation episode where Tony is trying to get to the root of why this man he loves and trusts would betray him. Tony also reckons with himself heavily in this episode as it is the precipice of his downward spiral in Isabella. It also gives us maybe John Heard‘s best screen performance as a crooked cop. You might remember him as Peter McCallister from Home Alone. R.I.P. A+

10. University

Season: 3 ; Episode: 6

story by: David Chase & Terence Winter & Todd A. Kessler and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; teleplay by: Terence Winter and Salvatore J. Stabile ; directed by: Allen Coulter

An excruciating watch, even more so than Season 3’s Employee of the Month, coldly and quite horrifically details how these men treat women they view more as property than anything else. Tracee is a young, pregnant dancer/sex worker at The Bada Bing who has the intense misfortune of being the psychopathic Ralph’s goomar. She takes a shine to Tony and in a weird, fucked up way it’s a father/daughter relationship it’s heavily implied she’s never had. She tries to bake him banana bread but he insists that they keep their distance for the sake of the employer/employee relationship. When she confronts Ralph about the baby and her love for him, he freaks out and ends up beating her to death. Tony and the gang, truly horrified by this display, are left at a place of what to do with Ralph. Most dramas of the early 2000s would undoubtedly paint Tracee as a fairly one-dimensional character, but The Sopranos sees her as a fully realized human which makes the outcome that much more tragic. But the tragedy is necessary here to show how this group of men view strippers and really every woman in general orbit. Not just to show, but to literally, hammer it into you. There’s a powerful cut between Silvio beating on Tracee for missing work while Ralph watches and laughs from a distance, to the guys, including Ralph and Silvio, at a dinner party, laughing with their wives about dumb shit. This episode also positions Ralph as the new main antagonist in Tony’s life and really as a character as detailed and frightfully complex as the series leads. A+

9. Made in America

Season: 6B ; Episode: 9

written & directed by: David Chase

The infamous mid-scene cut to black that pissed off so many Sopranos fans was in retrospect, the perfect way to end this series. Really this final episode dies the way the show lived – in seemingly mundane but quietly powerful moments. Sure, Phil Leotardo gets whacked in a supremely satisfying and totally outrageous way, but most of this is couple banter between Tony and Carmela, AJ navigating a new girlfriend who shares his posing-as-cynical limited world view and Janice dealing with life as a widow, stuck with three kids, two of which aren’t even hers and quite frankly, hate her. There’s a wonderfully touching final meeting between Tony and Junior which seems to put a gentle cap on a conflict that has followed them since the first episode of the show. Life goes on, even if we’re not there to see it. Did Tony live? Did he die? Pretty sure he died as there’s a glaring clue earlier in the season where Tony imagines dying is like a movie, just “fade to black.” But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Whatever happened, our time with these characters has ended. It’s a moot point. A+

8. Funhouse

Season: 2 ; Episode: 13

written by: David Chase and Todd A. Kessler ; directed by: John Patterson

An amazing follow-up to the shocking and hilarious The Knight in White Satin Armor, the season 2 finale doesn’t deal with the opposite of a surprise death – one we’ve known has been coming all season, executed in a long, drawn-out, painful-to-watch scene that somehow doesn’t make it any less shocking. Pussy is working for the feds, and Tony’s subconscious knows it. He has an elaborate series of nightmares brought on by food poisoning which lead him to the same conclusion. He goes over to Pussy’s house, sick as shit, and finds the recording equipment himself, prompting him to take Pussy out on a boat ride he’ll never come back from. Tony manages to murder his best friend and still make his daughter’s high school graduation. That’s being a parent, folks! A+

7. The Knight in White Satin Armor

Season: 2 ; Episode: 12

written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: Allen Coulter

The most jaw-dropping, out-of-left-field moment of the entire series is when Janice blows Richie away at the dinner table. After an argument about his son possibly being gay, Richie punches Janice in the mouth, prompting her to come back with a glock and gun him down, once in the chest, once in the head. The look on Richie’s face is priceless, he’s as shocked as we are, in what few seconds of life he has left. This prompts Tony to have to come over and dispose of the body, giving us an incredible series of scenes between Aida Turturro and James Gandolfini that are dark, sad and accentuated by hilarious one-liners. Everyone always talks about the chemistry between Falco and Gandolfini, it’s undeniable, of course they do, but the chemistry between Gandolfini and Turturro as siblings is absolutely spot-on as well. Here’s my favorite exchange from this episode:

Janice: (referring to Richie) What did you do with him?

Tony: We buried him on a hill. Overlooking a little river, with pine cones all around.

Janice: (emotionally breaking) You did?

Tony: Oh Jesus, what the fuck? What’d you care what we did with him?

Janice: (sobbing) I loved him so much!


6. Soprano Home Movies

Season: 6B ; Episode: 1

written by: Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider and David Chase and Matthew Weiner ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

What a bold way to kick off the final mini-season to the most critically acclaimed drama of all time – with a four person bottle episode, set mostly in a cabin and heavily featuring a chaotic game of Monopoly. Tony, Carmela, Janice and Bobby go up to a cabin and drink, bicker and ultimately fight, even physically between Tony and Bobby, over Tony monologizing about how many blow jobs Janice gave under the boardwalk. This is maybe the funniest episode of the show, so sharply written, and for the beginning of the final episodes it’s nice to just sit back with four main characters and take our time with them. A+

5. College

Season: 1 ; Episode: 5

written by: James Manos, Jr. and David Chase ; directed by: Allen Coulter

Speaking of critically acclaimed, College was at a time, considered to be the best episode of any television drama ever. It’s the first true masterpiece of the show and after five episodes finally shows us the cold-blooded killer in Tony Soprano. During a college trip with Meadow in Maine, Tony runs into an old rat in witness protection, but the rat spots him too. It’s a cat and mouse game of whose going to kill who, until Tony strangles him to death outside his office with wire. The B plot, which may even be better, involves Carmela almost crossing the line with Father Phil when an at-home communion almost turns into hot sex. This episode is so tightly paced and put together, not a single scene seems like it could shortened or extended, and it’s not even the best episode of season one! A+

4. Long Term Parking

Season: 5 ; Episode: 12

written by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Tim Van Patten

Easily the most emotionally grueling, feel-it-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach episode The Sopranos has to offer, and at one point, my #1 favorite episode. The jig is up, Adriana has to tell Christopher she’s a rat and try to get him to go into witness protection with her. He predictably goes insane and starts strangling her and then collapses in tears in her arms. Tony and Carmela may be the main romantic?/sexual relationship of the show, but Christopher and Adriana’s dynamic is equally as fascinating and even more tragic. Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo both won Emmys for this intense episode that ends with Adriana’s brutal death at the hands of Silvio. Christopher makes a terrible choice to trade her life for the family and really hammers that final nails in his coffin. He’ll be a walking corpse for the rest of the show. A+

3. Whitecaps

Season: 4 ; Episode: 13

written by: David Chase and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess ; directed by: John Patterson

Edie Falco and James Gandolfini, but especially Edie Falcos work here still stands as maybe the best acting television has ever seen. The long awaited, anticipated, feared Tony/Carmela Splits-ville is like watching an intense two-person play, fueled by brilliant dialogue created by Chase and possible MVP Sopranos writers Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and brutally honest performances. There’s more plot to this 75 minute episode (the longest in Sopranos history), like Tony trying to buy a beach house before his impending divorce and trying to get out of it, as well as Johnny Sack pushing Tony to move against Carmine for the sake of the Esplanade cash flow. But it really lives and dies with the Tony/Carmela scenes that make up probably 75% of the episode. A+

2. Pine Barrens

Season: 3 ; Episode: 11

story by: Tim Van Patten & Terence Winter ; teleplay by: Terence Winter ; directed by: Steve Buscemi

The funniest episode of the show and arguably the most out-of-the-box, Pine Barrens is a weird bottle episode that sees real Felix/Oscar energy between Michael Imperioli’s Christopher and Tony Sirico’s Paulie. Tasked with picking up a cash payment from a Russian mob dude because Silvio has a cold, things go totally awry when Paulie begins insulting the Russian. The Russian insults him back and Paulie loses his shit and breaks his windpipe with exercise equipment. Paulie and Christopher then have to take the Russian out to the woods and bury him, and pray the Russians don’t find out what happened. This episode balances humor and genuine suspense so well, and never overrides deep-rooted character truths for cheap laughs. Every gag comes from the predictable behavior of the Paulie and Christopher we’ve known for three seasons at this point. The subplot, which could have easily been just a breather between the snowy woods thriller, is in a lot of ways just as thrilling. Tony’s relationship with Gloria is crumbling, all coming to a head when she chucks a London Broil at his. Tony and Bobby rescue Paulie and Christopher in the woods and we cut to Tony’s session with Melfi where he still can’t figure out that Gloria is essentially his mother, Livia. A+

1. I Dream of Jeannie Cusumano

Season: 1 ; Episode: 13

written by: David Chase ; directed by: John Patterson

Controversial choice for #1, I know, but having watched this series seven to ten times (seasons 1-3 more than 4-6 tbh), this is the episode that sticks out to me as the most scene-by-scene perfect. Chase had no idea Sopranos would become the monster hit it eventually became and therefore wrote the final episode of the first season to be the final episode of the show, period. Everything important gets wrapped up in satisfying ways – most importantly, Tony’s relationship with Livia and Junior, his mother and uncle. After the FBI spills the beans about them trying to have Tony killed, Tony makes moves against Junior that kills his guys and lands him in prison. Tony also visits Green Grove to confront his mother which ends in him legitimately trying to suffocate her with her own pillow. Livia also tries to kill Tony once again by convincing Artie that Tony burned down his restaurant, so Artie confronts him with a sniper rifle in a parking lot. Carmela finally tells off Father Phil, saying he’s a creep obsessed with the “whiff of sexuality” and preys on spiritually thirsty married women. Yeah! Fuck Father Phil! Meadow almost gets to third base with her Dominican boy toy and Paulie gets a bad case of poison ivy to the faccia. Also the screenshot, yeah it’s graphic and gross, this used to scare the shit out of me as a twelve year old! It’s Jimmy Altieri, the rat that took the rap for Pussy, shot in forehead, with an actual dead rat stuffed in his mouth. This is the Soprano family’s idea of a subtle message about the consequences of informing. What is subtle though, is that wonderfully quiet and intimate ending. The family is trying to get over to Aunt Barb’s house for dinner, but a storm outside is too intense to keep driving. They pull into Artie’s restaurant and have a meal. Tony makes a toast to the family about remembering the good times. That was going to be the end of the entire series and in that worst case scenario where it was, not a bad way to go out at all. A+

Bye now

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