The answer to both of these questions is a big, fat YES. The Sopranos, which premiered on HBO in 1999, remains after 20 amazing years of television, one of the best shows ever made.
The show brought about a television revolution giving the people their first complex and intricately layered antihero in Tony Soprano.
It established HBO as a cultural force to be reckoned with and brought long-form cinematic storytelling to TV dramas. Read on for a complete review.
1. Article Summary
On 10th January 1999, a mobster walked into a psychologist’s office, and television was never the same again. From the pilot itself, writer and producer David Chase wove an intricate tale about a man struggling with his personal and professional life.
Full of backstabbing and betrayals, guided by a personal moral code, it explored mobster tropes. It redefined the standard of masculinity set by The Godfather.
2. Is It Worth Watching?
When the only discussion taking place online is whether ‘The Sopranos’ is the best show of all time or whether that title belongs to ‘The Wire,’ you can bet that it is worth watching.
Through six seasons (the last one split into two), David Chase told a violent and morally ambiguous story of changing times and old rivalries.
The story revolves around a New Jersey crime family boss Tony Soprano. He seeks help from a psychologist for his increasing panic attacks. The modern organized crime isn’t just about gambling, prostitution, and labor unions but also involves health-care scams and junk bonds.
Surrounded by bitter family members and old rivals, Tony realizes that his best years of crime were long gone before he succeeded to the head of the family.
II. Cast & Characters
Long before television gave us antiheroes like Walter White and Dexter Morgan, David Chase introduced Tony Soprano to the world. James Gandolfini won multiple nominations and awards for his portrayal of the intimidating gangster.
The character was so intimidating that viewers were captivated by his performance and felt a great sense of relief when he displayed a glimpse of humanity.
A man struggling to balance his family at home and the family at work who would violently eliminate rivals and then kiss his children goodnight, Tony Soprano was an iconic character. The power that he held was enviable.
Edie Falcao, as Carmela Soprano, Tony’s wife, also gives a breath-taking performance. Her chemistry with Tony provides some of the show’s best moments.
Dr. Melfi, the psychologist with whom Tony seeks solace and redemption, exposed the heavy toll that his actions had on him. Played by Lorraine Braco, she served as a membrane between Tony’s life in the Mafia and the world beyond. Her contempt and disgust at his actions and curiosity about Tony’s life mirrored the viewers’ thoughts.
A powerful woman held her ground against Tony and exposed his raw emotions and the mental toll of his actions. Their sessions always kept the viewers hooked.
Several characters revolved around Tony like his protégée Christopher (Michael Imperioli) and Silvio (Steven van Zant), who was portrayed with excellent acting and backed by great writing.
3. Final Thoughts
Throughout the series, complications in Tony’s life arose, ensued and were overcome in sweeping story arcs. The viewer felt guilty for enjoying the everyday life of this violent criminal. Still, they just couldn’t get enough of it.
Released after the Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas, it combined comic rhetoric with gruesome murders like the movie but also examined its aftereffects.
The series broke the mold and redefined television and was the face of the HBO revolution. Without the Sopranos, there wouldn’t be complex long-term stories such as Breaking Bad.
A series that hasn’t met its match in 20 years is a gripping and entertaining watch even today. The Sopranos remains a classic. The involvement of the F.B.I. in Tony’s activities and the rampant surveillance into his family also strain ties inside his crime ring.
Not every season is written evenly, and very little happens in some episodes. But these small flaws in an overall phenomenal story which spans 86 episodes are negligible.
The show, which ends with an abrupt fade to black, has created controversy among fans but maybe the best or worst ending to the tale depending on your interpretation and engagement with the story.