The Sopranos is one of the highest-rated, critically acclaimed television series of all time. At the time of when the show first started back in 1999, creator David Chase had no idea the kind of success the show would have, or the influence it would be to the world of television for years to come. As an avid fan of the The Sopranos, its difficult to narrow down the brilliance and genius of the show into five of the best episodes, but despite this, here are the ones I consider to be memorable and show-stopping.
It is recognized as one of the most influential shows of all time, known to pave way for in-depth, dynamic, and literary shows (also known as prestige tv) like The Wire and Breaking Bad. The show centers around mafia boss Tony Soprano, as he tries to balance the responsibilities of being a boss while maintaining a home with his wife, Carmela and his two children, Meadow and Anthony Jr. (AJ).
Unlike the one-dimensional mafia characters that have been portrayed in cinema and television before, Tony is a complex and multi-dimensional character. He is stern and strong, yet weak and broken; have you ever heard of a mafia character seeing a therapist and taking Prozac? Running for a total of six seasons with 86 episodes, there are plenty of episodes to choose as the best- based on what you like, what you find funny, and what makes you want to cover your eyes at points.
As an avid fan of the The Sopranos, its difficult to narrow down the brilliance and genius of the show into five of the best episodes, but despite this, here are the ones I consider to be memorable and show-stopping.
Sopranos Best Episodes #5 – College (Season 1: Episode 5)
Known to be David Chases’ favorite episode of the series, College highlights the difficulties that Tony has balancing his life as a mafia boss and as a family man. In this episode, Tony takes a trip touring colleges with his daughter, Meadow. While on the trip, he spots a former member of the DiMeo crime family who became a “rat” or an FBI informant, Fabian Petrulio. Petrulio is following Tony and the tension between the two comes to a head and Tony ends up strangling him.
The dichotomy between Tony’s life as a father and the brutality of his role as a mobster is brilliantly displayed in this unforgettable episode.
Sopranos Best Episodes #4 – Employee Of The Month (Season 3: Episode 4)
Dark and stimulating, this episode is one of the reasons why the Sopranos is so critically acclaimed. The episode begins in an unfortunate nature, with Dr. Melfi getting brutally attacked and raped in a parking garage on her way home from work. She is shocked and shaken by this event, which leads her to talk more frequently with her therapist and try to make sense of the event and seek justice.
The complexities and depth of the characters is particularly highlighted in this episode, as Dr. Melfi has temptations of telling Tony about her attack, knowing he can easy take care of it and seek revenge on him. However, at the end of the episode during a session with Tony, she breaks down yet refuses to tell him about what happened, leaving the audience with their jaw wide open.
Sopranos Best Episodes #3 – The Sopranos (Season 1: Episode 1)
The big bang (not to be confused with Tony’s strip club, the Bada Bing) of the series, the episode that started it all is the pilot.
In this first episode, the audience is introduced to Tony Soprano, a middle-aged man who appears to be normal by every stretch of the imagination. He has a beautiful home, a loving wife, and two wonderful children. But as we learn, not everything is as it appears.
At the beginning of the episode, Tony is seen talking with a therapist going through the nuances of his daily life and discusses his recent problems with debilitating anxiety attacks. This episode sets up the plot and themes for the remainder of the series as well as introduces us to the central characters in Tony’s life.
You can’t go wrong with this classic episode!
#2 – The Knight In White Satin Armor (Season 2: Episode 12)
Viewers were introduced to Richie Aprile in the beginning of season two and many (like myself) absolutely despised his character. Soulless, power-hungry, and downright rude at times, Richie never seemed to present himself in a respectful manner like the other mob-connected men of the show.
When Janice, Tony’s sister, announces that her and Richie are engaged to be married, it just about sends everyone into a frenzy, including Tony. In an argument during dinner, Richie punches Janice in the face, causing her to bleed and cry. He makes smug remarks and is surprised when she returns to the room with a gun, shooting him straight in the chest.
If anyone were to kill Richie, certainly it would be Tony- but not in this case. Janice acts on impulse and emotions, leading her to call Tony to get her out of this difficult situation. Impeccably written and suspenseful, this episode leaves you wanting to travel inside the TV to become apart of this complex family.
#1 – Pine Barrens (Season 3: Episode 10)
Written by Terrence Winter and directed by none other than Steve Buscemi, Pine Barrens is one of the most memorable and brilliant episodes of the Sopranos.
In the episode, Tony assigns Paulie and Christopher to collect from a Russian mobster, Valey. The two aren’t necessarily happy with having to do this job and things get particularly heated when they arrive at Valey’s apartment. Paulie decides to throw a few shots and breaks Valey’s universal remote which leads to a full blown fight between the two. After severely beating him (to the point which the two think he’s dead), Paulie and Christopher wrap him in a carpet and put him in the trunk of their car.
Unsure of where to dispose of his body, Paulie suggests the Pine Barrens along the Garden State Parkway. The two are shocked when they go to bury him and find that Valey is alive! He beats them with a shovel, then runs through the woods to escape.
The episode is filled with comedic relief as the two try to survive in the woods in the middle of winter after getting lost with no cell service.