"I'm in the waste management business. Everybody immediately assumes you're mobbed up. It's a stereotype, and it's offensive."
— Tony Soprano
The Sopranos is a deconstructive Criminal Procedural series centered around North JerseyMobBoss Tony Soprano, who after a panic attack secretly begins seeing a therapist. Hilarious Reality Ensues as his therapy coincides with him sending his troublesome, sociopathic mother Livia into a nursing home when it becomes apparent that she's no longer able to take care of herself.The show focuses on Tony's problematic dual families: his biological family — long-suffering wife Carmela, his straight-A student daughter Meadow, underachiever son A.J., and his equally morally bankrupt sister Janice — and the organized crime family he is involved in, who include his bitter uncle Junior, his 'nephew' (actually his wife's cousin) Christopher, and more.The series ultimately ended with one of the most infamous cases of No Ending ever to air on an American TV show. See the WMG page for various interpretations.Created by David Chase, the Pilot Episode was shot in 1997, the show premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on January 10, 1999, and ended its original run of six seasons and 86 episodes on June 10, 2007.The series is noted for its high level of quality in every aspect of production and is particularly recognized for its writing, cinematic style, and the performances of its lead actors. The show is credited with bringing a greater level of artistry to the television medium and paving the way for many successful drama series that followed and ultimately launching what many consider a new golden age of dramatic television. It also won a multitude of awards, including twenty-one Emmys and five Golden Globes. Whenever serious critics and TV fans get together to determine the greatest TV drama of all time, the final showdown is almost invariably between The Sopranos, The Wire and Breaking Bad.Now has a Character Sheet under construction. Due to the Loads and Loads of Characters any and all contributions would be greatly appreciated.
This show provides examples of:
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Abusive Parents: Tony is emotionally manipulated and terrorized by his difficult mother throughout his childhood and well into his adult life. One notable incident featured his mother threatening to stick a fork in his eye when he was only ten years old. Tony's father was outwardly friendly, but also a manipulative sociopath who indoctrinated his son into violent crime and the mob. It's implied that the various degrees of emotional manipulation and terror Tony suffered under his parents is what turned him into the violent sociopath that heads the New Jersey crime families. Oddly enough, Tony manages to become a better father to his kids than his parents ever were to him (despite being an aforementioned violent sociopath), and his children turn out relatively nice and normal, even if they have a few issues of their own.
In one episode, Paulie says, "I lived through The Seventies by the skin of my nuts when the Colombos were goin' at it." Tony Sirico, the actor who plays Paulie, actually was an associate of the Colombo crime family before turning to acting.
There are several references to Bruce Springsteen in the show (Chris: "The turnpike is jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive."), whom Steven van Zandt has played with for years. But it's difficult to tell if it's a deliberate Allusion because, hey, it's Jersey.
A recursive one. The lead in Christopher's movie Cleaver is named Michael. The character is based on Chris himself, who is played by Michael Imperioli. In-universe it is probably a Shout-Out to Michael Corleone from The Godfather.
Chris shoots a bakery worker in the foot for taking too long with his order. In Goodfellas, he was shot in the foot for taking too long making a drink.
The murder of Angelo Garepe referred back to the death of Billy Batts in Goodfellas; both were beaten, thrown into a car trunk, and shot while pleading for their life. Batts was played by actor Frank Vincent (Phil Leotardo) who reverses his role from victim to executioner.
Michael Imperioli wrote five episodes of The Sopranos and was the only actor to write multiple episodes. This would probably explain Christopher's interest in screenwriting and production.
Christopher in Season 1 when he suffers a mock execution. Reversed later in Season 5 when Tony is about to kill him and Chris doesn't back down from an accusation.
Lorraine Calluzzo offers to blow the Leotardo brothers during what turns out to be a mock execution.
Alas, Poor Yorick: Christopher holds a skull this way when he is relocating the bones of an old murder.
Alas, Poor Villain: In a rare occurrence, Johnny Sack is given a touching and empathic death scene, dying after a long illness and surrounded by his anguished family. The show makes a point about a broken mobster dying of cancer is still a human being, a father and a husband. In-universe, even the mobsters who felt betrayed by the man mourn his loss and honor his memory.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played straight for almost all the female characters. Played with Melfi, who feels an unhealthy attraction to Tony but is able to fight it off.
All Psychology Is Freudian: Played with. Tony Soprano cites Sigmund Freud (whom he learned about in his "semester and a half" of college) to explain to Melfi that he understands therapy "as a concept", but the show deals with psychology a lot, and it really isn't here. Often called the most accurate fictional depiction of what actually happens in therapy. Tony however is diagnosed with a compelling Freudian Excuse and Freud is also the Trope Codifier for Oedipus Complex, one of the Mommy Issues mentioned often by Melfi despite Tony's repulsion.
American Dream: One of many aspects of American life and culture that is critically examined in the show. Like most of the show's themes, it's dealt with in a manner complex and nuanced enough to defy a black-and-white answer.
Amoral Attorney: Neil Mink and Harold Melvoin, traditional and very expensive mob-lawyers who reinforce the genre-savviness of the bosses and their ability to commit crime or get away with it.
And a Diet Coke: Vito orders a Grande Nacho and a Diet Coke at Crazy Horse in "Pie-O-My".
Animal Motifs: Several used as symbolism throughout the series, e.g felines represent Adriana or Chris and migratory ducks the fragile family of Tony. A more concrete example is the parting gift Tony gives to his goomahs, a horseshoe-shaped jewel.
Anyone Can Die: Too recent to call it the codifier, but probably the first series a lot of people think of when they think of this trope. Many deaths are out of the blue, making wham episodes frequent.
Arcade Sounds: Bobby Baccalieri's son plays a computer full of generic laser blasts, beeps, doots, and other such game noises. The game he's playing is Max Payne...
Actually, he just watches the game's intro. Funnily enough, Max Payne is about a guy who wipes out New York mob (among other people).
Tony asking "Don't you love me?" to Junior who is going through early stages of dementia and has behaved badly to Tony. Junior is left shaken, speechless and showing a Single Tear.
"Hey Pussy...did she even really exist?"
Artifact Title: In-universe: the DiMeo Crime Family, of which the Soprano crew is a part, still bears Ercole "Ecky" DiMeo's name, even though he's been in prison for decades, and no one named "DiMeo" has any part in running the family.
Ascended Extra: Many characters start out with minor roles and grow more prominent as the series goes on. Johnny Sack and Vito Spatafore are both barely seen in Seasons 1 and 2, but are major players later on; Bobby Bacala is another notable example. Adriana was promoted to main character and Chris' girlfriend only after the pilot.
Ben Kingsley and Lauren Bacall make a cameo when Christopher is pitching his own movie. The role finally goes to Danny Baldwin.
Invoked in "The Test Dream". Annette Benning is playing Finn's mother in Tony's dinner dream. He recognizes her, and later in Tony's episode-long dream she appears as herself.
Asskicking Equals Authority: While Tony recovers from a severe gunshot wound, he notices that his old lieutenants don't follow his orders as readily as they used to, and he suspects that they now see him as weak. Tony responds by goading his hotheaded, musclebound bodyguard into fighting him. He kicks the everloving shit out of the much younger man in front of his entire crew, to their visible shock, then calmly walks into the bathroom and coughs up blood into the sink. No one questions his orders after that.
Ass Shove: It's mentioned off-handedly that Vito Spatafore was sodomized with a broomstick while they were murdering him.
As the Good Book Says: Despite their dubious morals, the mafia members all appear to be Catholic, which is Truth in Television, and make occasional references to The Bible. Religion is also used as a plot point on occasion; for example, when Christopher recovers from his shooting he mentions he had a vision of going to hell (or possibly purgatory), and in another episode, Tony tries to persuade A.J. that God exists when he loses faith.
Automobile Opening: Tony driving from New York to his home in New Jersey. His route is deliberately inefficient to provide more interesting visuals.
Authority Equals Asskicking: All of the capos and bosses in the mob are either capable fighters and killers, or they used to be in their younger days before they rose so high that they no longer need to get their hands dirty.
Authority in Name Only: Corrado Soprano (Junior) is the official boss of the family, but not the one calling the shots. Invoked by Tony in season 1 when he sets up Junior as a fall guy to shield himself. The FBI tries to use it as wedge against them, but Junior denies it.
Junior: My nephew running things? Not that strunz. Not in this life.
Badass in a Nice Suit: Zig-zagged. The mobsters like to wear plain sportswear, but they dress up according to their fancy businessmen status when the occasion requires it. Members of the Lupertazzi crew can usually be seen in suits, befitting their more successful and refined nature when compared to the Jersey crew. Carmine Lupertazzi also stated to Tony that "a Don doesn't wear shorts".
Bad Boss: Tony is a successful manager but he verbally shreds his underlings on a regular basis. He is entlited by the hierarchical level of the Mafia but crosses the line once and gets called on it when he physically assaults Ralph, as beating another made-man goes against the rules. Christopher is another victim of this kind of abuse.
Bambification: A minor character has a quiet moment with a deer. Then it runs away and Tony brutally garrotes him.
Bears Are Bad News: In season five, a marauding bear drops by the Sopranos' compound a number of times, alarming Carmela and panicking A.J. At that moment Tony isn't living there, so he posts some of his underlings as guardians. Eventually he defends the fort himself, posted through the night with weapon in hand, emphasizing the necessity of a strong male family leader.
Junior literally goes to war when his sexual tendency to go "south of the border" and "down to the muff" is mocked by Tony.
Tony's love of animals, while (theoretically) his big humanizing feature, loses a bit of its luster when he snaps and kills Ralphie Cifaretto over the possibility that he might have been responsible for the death of their race horse. A reaction that seems even more extreme in light of the fact that Ralphie had previously beaten his girlfriend to death for no reason in a public parking lot, and Tony let it slide. Arguably the horse was the straw that broke the camel's back, but still. It's been theorized that the way Tony is talking about the horse as he's beating Ralph to death is actually his reaction to the death of Tracee.
The aforementioned Ralphie has a lot of them, some of which make too little sense to even try to explain here. Ditto for Richie Aprile.
Bobby Baccalieri. When Tony made a crack about Janice (Bobby's wife at the time) and her high school promiscuity, Bobby was offended enough to initiate a room-wrecking fist fight with the Boss.
Johnny Sack is usually calm and collected, unless someone makes a remark about his wife.
Tony doesn't take it well when he is reminded he never had the makings of a varsity athlete.
After a certain dream and resulting boat ride in "Funhouse", singing fish are this for Tony. "Take me to the river, drop me in the water."
At one point Tony thinks Janice is acting way too nice and out of character so he deliberately invokes Janice's button by asking questions about her strayed son. Janice being Janice, it's malignant and amusing at the same time.
Big Applesauce: The much larger NY families become major players in the final seasons.
Big Bad: Not in the typical Once a Season fashion of many shows; season 2 has Richie Aprile and the final season has Phil Leotardo. Partial examples in Junior in season 1, in tandem with Livia, and Johnny Sack in season 5, as they stay agreeable for the most part and while there is some build-up or major conflict, it gets resolved or defused very quickly before becoming an arc.
Alternatively, the show has three successive Big Bads, each lasting two seasons: Livia Soprano, Ralph Cifaretto, and Phil Leotardo.
Big Screwed-Up Family: The Sopranos, the two families (the criminal one also called DiMeo sometimes). Tony tries his best to avert it. The mere basis of the show.
Black Comedy: A gritty portrayal of the mob life where the hypocritical nature and sociopathic deeds of the characters generate humour, sometimes bordering on the absurd while keeping the realistic feel. The show places such an emphasis on humor that David Chase is quoted as once having said that sometimes he and the writers weren't sure whether they were making a drama or a comedy.
Born in the Wrong Decade: A constant source of drama. Tony and his pals are well aware that the mob's heyday is long over with, but they have a hard time coming to terms with it. Tony says it explicitly at one point.
Meadow: It's the 90s, parents are supposed to talk about sex with their kids.
Tony: No, you got it wrong. Out there, it's the 90s. In this house, it's 1954. 90s... (points to the open front door) ...1954 (points to the floor). Got it?
Broken Ace: Tony. Top of the line in his profession, wealthy, charismatic, powerful, ruthless, a keen business acumen, a beautiful family and drop-dead goomahs. Underneath it all, he suffers from some serious Parental Issues and other mental problems, which cause him to have panic attacks.
Broken Pedestal: Chris and Tony, Tony with his father, uncle and other old-schoolers. Zig-zagged most of the time as things are never black or white and character's internal struggle is one of the dynamics of the show.
Burial at Sea: After Tony Soprano and his gang kill Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (a long-time friend who betrays them to the FBI), they wrap up his body, and with heavy hearts, give it a decent burial at sea. Overlaps with Cement Shoes, a common way of body disposal during the series. Chains and actual concrete blocks are used as an anchor.
Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Tony angrily mocks this when Janice asks hims what was done with Richie's remains. "We buried him on a hill overlooking a little river, with pine cones all around. C'mon Janice, what the fuck? You want to know?"
Car Fu: Tony and Richie viciously rely on the pedal to enforce their wills over hirkers.
The Cast Show Off: Dominic Chianese (Junior) is a talented tenor (having released at least two albums of Italian and American songs), and it's his voice we here when Junior sings Salvatore Cardillo's "Core 'ngrato" ("Ungrateful Heart") at the end of "Army of One."
In one episode, Tony watches The Fugitive — oddly, he doesn't notice that Ralphie has a minor role in it.
Goodfellas. It's mentioned quite a few times in the series, even though half of the major cast are in it, including but not limited to Michael Imperioli (Christopher), Vincent Pastore (Pussy), Tony Sirico (Paulie), Frank Vincent (Phil) and Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi), who played a major supporting role in the film as the main character's wife.
Similarly, The Godfather Part II is referenced a number of times, in which Dominick Chianese (Uncle Junior) has a supporting role as Johnny Ola.
Frankie Valli is mentioned several times, is an acquaintance of Tony's and the names of some of his songs are used in a few episode titles. He appears in later seasons playing the New York underboss Rusty Millio.
Chris references Bruce Springsteen in one episode, even though Steven Van Zandt (Silvio) is guitar player in the E Street Band.
Noah Tannenbaum's father, a Hollywood attorney who frequently represents celebrities, claims to have met the actor Tim Daly before. Tim Daly would later go on to play the recurring character J.T. Dolan.
The similarities between Tony's life and Analyze This don't go unnoticed, but no one seems to note that Benny Fazio (Max Casella) has a small role in it.
Most of Tony's angst derives from his position of boss. He mentions the trope often, argues that his greedy underlings have no idea how hard it is to be a boss, and warns his friend Johnny Sack about it several times.
In season 6 Silvio doesn't last more than a few days as regent because the responsibility quickly takes a toll on his health.
Carmela in the first season is a more of a gun moll than in later seasons. In The Pilot, after hearing a noise in the night, she expertly locks and loads an assault rifle, ready to throw down. In later seasons she's more of a sheltered suburban housewife. A later episode has her again looking for a possible intruder in the house, and she's much less prepared.
In the pilot, shot a year before the dubious greenlight, Tony is already a peerless boss, not a mere capo and provides a voiceover. Some later recasts and several physical changes are noticeable.
Bobby Baccala is hateful, cynical and outspoken in private towards Tony in his first appearances, in contrast with his Gentle Giant/Extreme Doormat usual behavior.
Cliff Hanger: Notably averted. Creator David Chase considered them a cheap narrative device and the sequences are never split between episodes. One very rare cliffhanger is used at the end of Season 6 opener — Tony laying on the ground with a bullet wound — and the end of the second to last episode could be interpreted as one.
Tony debriefs Paulie and Chris over the phone about a guy they have to deal with:
Tony: "He is an ex-commando! He killed sixteen Chechen rebels single-handed! He was with the Interior Ministry. Guy's like a Russian green beret. He can not come back and tell this story. You understand?"
Paulie: "You're not gonna believe this. He killed sixteen Czechoslovakians. Guy was an interior decorator.
Chris: "His house looked like shit."
Silvio and Chris get Tony exasperated when he argues about his strong, silent type role model:
Discussed early in the show. In theory, everything said during therapy falls under doctor-patient privilege and is out of reach from the law, but there are instances where this doesn't apply so Tony remains cryptic in many conversations, hindering the effectiveness of his treatment and frustating his doctor.
The doctor-patient privilege is also used to have meetings with Junior in his doctor's office when he's on trial, as the government can't wiretap the doctor's office.
Confessional: Carmela requires it during one of her crises of conscience.
In an early episode, Tony tells A.J., "There's an old Italian saying: you screw up once, you lose two teeth." Much later on, in season five, Tony has a lengthy dream and during it, he loses two of his teeth.
Pussy Malanga, the enemy that Junior wants dead in the pilot episode, shows up again in Junior's mind in the first episode of the last season.
In the season one finale, in a restaurant, Tony advises his children to "try to remember the times that were good". A.J. brings the phrase back in another restaurant in the series finale, but Tony doesn't remember his own counsel.
Carmine Sr. dismissively calls the Jersey Family "a glorified crew" in Season 4. Phil Leotardo cites his words near the end of the show.
Contrived Clumsiness: Paulie Walnuts drops Valery's universal remote and gives a sarcastic oops after Valery tells him sternly, in his thick Russian accent, that "remote goes on docking station". Unsurprisingly, the conflict escalates from there.
Cool Boat: Tony's yacht, The Stugots. Envied and praised by some characters, and a common place for Tony's escapades. The name is a derivative of stu cazzo, the Napolitan term for "testicles", and an insult.
Cool Car: Lots of them, as befits the lavish lifestyle of the mobsters. One of the primary Conspicuous Consumption objects. Examples with plot relevancy include:
The Jersey crew steals high-end vehicles which are later sold to the Camorra in Napoli (yes, like in Italy), which then sells them in Eastern Europe.
Gloria Trillo is a saleswoman for Mercedes.
Johnny Sack buys a striking Maserati during his happy days. The car has to be sold later unofficially to Christopher and is finally impounded.
Cool Horse: Pie-O-My, Ralph Cifaretto's racehorse. Tony grows immensely fond of the horse, referring to it as "our girl," in direct contrast to Ralph, who brusquely instructs the trainer to whip it good. Tony's growing expectation of an increasing share of the winnings creates tension between the two. The poor animal dies in a mysterious fire which ends up ruining a few lives and sending ripples through the entire criminal underworld.
Corrupt Politician: Several examples, most notably State Assemblyman Zellman, who is Tony's equal partner in a major scam.
David Chase is the Italian man who ignores Paulie in "Commendatori". He also appears as an extra in "Luxury Lounge" and is the voice on the phone in "The Test Dream".
Matthew Weiner plays TV-pundit and mafia expert Manny Safier in "Two Tonys" and in "Stage 5".
Criminal Procedural: Organized crime variety. A relatively "blue collar" gangster family overshadowed by New York. The focus is set on how the professional and personal issues tend to overlap and conflict.
Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: In the first few seasons, Dr. Melfi gradually gets distraught by her therapy sessions with Tony Soprano, leading to weight gain, drinking, and needing therapy herself. In season 6, Dr. Melfi learns of a psychological study which discourages the use of traditional psychoanalysis with career criminals, as it too often validates the use of hypocrisy and deception for them; this is apparently a significant factor in her decision to end Tony's therapy.
The mobsters actively avoid using incriminating words and have colorful euphemisms and Trouble Entendre for their illegal enterprises.
Tony tells a guy that a job might involve "getting messy, real wet work". The FBI agents listening prick up their ears, only to realize a few seconds later he's asking a plumber to fix his burst water heater.
Parodied in the last season when Johnny Sack's 'civilian' brother-in-law gives a shot at the Spy Speak, but his efforts comically complicate the conversations.
Cure Your Gays: When Finn asks what is going to happen with Vito, Chris tries to ease his mind by telling him that they'll make Vito pay for some therapy. A classic mix of Blatant Lies with amusingly ignorant comments so prevalent in the show. Vito also tries to discuss it with Tony, to no avail.
Vito: It was the medication I was on. For my blood pressure. It fucked with my head, but I'm over that now. I could probably get a letter from my doctor Tony: A note from your doctor saying you don't like to suck cock?
Cut Himself Shaving: After the "intervention" for Chris' drug addiction (where he gets the crap beaten out of him), he is taken to the ER. Tony explains to the nurse that he sustained his injuries "slipping off the kitchen counter while spraying for ants". At her skeptical look, Tony elaborates, "Well, he was wearing socks."
Deadly Bath: Brendan Filone is in his bathtub when he is shot by Mickey Palmice.
Death Equals Redemption: After his son is shot in the chest with an arrow, Ralphie starts to regret the bad things he's done; soon after he is killed by Tony during a fight over Ralphie's "possible" involvement with killing Pie-O-My. Tony even had a dream about him that showed a caterpillar one moment and a butterfly the next, all while perched on his bald head.
Decapitated Army: Invoked by Phil in season six. Killing Jersey's leadership would make its crew assimilable or at least easier and cheaper to deal with.
Demoted to Extra: Larry Barese, an important captain in season one, who only makes punctual appearances later.
Disposing of a Body: One of the 'professional challenges' that pop-up from time to time. Cement Shoes / Burial at Sea (after some body hacking) is the standard method of choice but straight ground burial is also used. It tends to generate problems in the long-term as the threat of unburial and discovery is always a possibility.
A small comedic subplot involved Tony meeting a gangsta rapper in the next hospital bed over during his recuperation. One of the guys' entourage is a fledgling rapper who realizes that surviving a shooting is key to getting famous, to which he hires Bobby Baccala to do it. Bobby shoots him in the ass. If the connection wasn't apparent enough, they dress the character in white pants, a white tank top, and a white hat at the time.
This is done more seriously in an early subplot involving Carmella's "affair" with Father Intintola, her priest.
Johnny Sack describing the joke Ralphie made about his wife. "He said she was having a 90 pound mole removed from her ass. The implication was that her ass is so big she could have a mole that size removed from it."
Paulie has a habit of repeating the setup and punchline to his jokes.
Double Standard: The writers didn't really have any. The characters, on the other hand...
Downer Ending: Nothing upbeat about the finale: even though Phil Leotardo is killed, ending the mob war between New Jersey and New York crews, most of Tony's key guys are either dead or otherwise incapacitated, making the future of the Soprano crime family pretty grim. Even worse, Carlo, one of the last trusted members of the organization, decides to testify against Tony and others. Meanwhile, while AJ finally gets his life back on track, Meadow essentially becomes her mother, with prospects of marrying a mob lawyer. Uncle Junior completely loses himself and is left to die in a mental hospital and Bobby's kids are stuck with Janice, who starts resembling her and Tony's mother Livia. Tony himself stops visiting Dr Melfi as she realizes he cannot be saved and abruptly ends Tony's therapy, with no real conclusion. And, finally, the last scene of the series implies Tony might have been killed in front of his family... or not. Everybody loses. Paulie may be the dark horse winner, make of it what you will.
Driven to Suicide: Vin Makazian, Gloria Trillo, and Eugene Pontecorvo. Subverted with A.J..
Drugs Are Bad: Chris struggles with heroin and cocaine addictions, and is berated and judged hopeless and unworthy by Tony and the gang. Paulie particularly. They resent more the weak nature of Christopher than the badness of drugs since the mobsters casually indulge in the habit too and selling'em is a regular source of income.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: A major issue for Christopher. He spends the entire show carving a status for himself, yet after deep personal sacrifices and a rank of Captain he gets and feels disrespected. Near the end of the show, after a long struggle he seems redeemed and happy, he is a captain, has a new and stable family and his long-awaited movie project is a reality. Then comes an ugly feud with Paulie, some disrespectful jokes and a general lack of empathy with Tony, which when combined make him snap and relapse into his drug habits, with fatal consequences.
Epiphany Therapy: Subverted to hell and back; Tony mostly uses what he learns in therapy to be a more efficient mob boss. Dr. Melfi eventually realizes this and terminates the sessions for good.
Paulie Walnuts. And how. His love is fickle, though, as seen in "The Fleshy Part of the Thigh": turns out he only loves his mama as long as she really is his biological mama. He gets over it eventually.
Tony. He literally goes berserk when Dr. Melfi diagnoses Livia with borderline personality disorder and reads the symptoms to him. It's zig-zagged many times, as Tony is full of love and hate.
Christopher has also a soft spot for his mother, and Phil Leotardo harassing her comes out as one of the nastier Kick the Dog moments for Phil.
Tony and the crew are appropriately horrified and disgusted when Ralph beats a stripper, pregnant with his own child, to death.
Phil Leotardo is disgusted that Tony would screw over his own uncle to become Don.
The gang is downright appalled when they hear about Coach Don Hauser's affair with one of Meadow's high-school friends.
The mobsters all express disapproval at Christopher's drug habits.
Richie Aprile, who condones the beating of a woman if, and only if, the man is her husband.
During the uproar within the gang after Vito gets outed, Tony is (or at least tries to be) the lone voice of tolerance, suggesting that perhaps Vito's sexuality is his own business and not sufficient reason to have him whacked.
The Coalition of Italian-American Associations issued a joint statement in 2002 condemning the show for perpetuating negative Italian-American stereotypes.
Done in-universe as well, with Sil viewing Anti-Columbus Day protestors as racist against Italians.
Evil Is Petty: The mobsters all do horrible things at various points but still find time to be complete dicks too. Brought to new levels when Tony forces the kind, gentle Bobby to murder someone over something trivial as he feels Bobby offended his pride by beating him in a fight. After Tony was antagonizing Janice and refused to stop when Bobby asked.
Tony is adamant that A.J. doesn't go into the life like him, partly because he's simply not cut out for it.
Jackie Aprile also felt this way towards his own son, and arranged with Tony to make sure this wouldn't happen before he himself died in the fourth episode. Tony doesn't succeed and Jackie Jr. ends up dead later on, further strengthening his decision to keep A.J. out of it.
Exiled to the Couch: Self-exile in "Army of One": In the midst of their fight about sending A.J. to Military School, Carmela starts picking up blankets and pillows; then Tony grabs them, and says, "leave it to me!"
Done in-universe. The nasty boss from Cleaver is modeled almost verbatim after Tony, who fails to realize this at first. It becomes a major wedge between him and Chris. Chris, terrified by the implications, strong-arms the nominal writer into taking credit for the character. He claims that he stole the character from another movie, but Tony (who's on the fence about the thing) easily sees past the lie, checks the original movie and takes serious offense to the whole issue.
Steven van Zandt takes Silvio on the road wholesale for the show Lilyhammer
Flashback: Used occasionally to recall significant events of Tony's life.
Florence Nightingale Effect: Discussed. Tony quickly develops feelings towards his therapist, which are unrequited for pragmatic reasons.
Foe Cooties: Tony was more than happy to have sex with his rival Ralphie's girlfriend, Valentina, but refused to make her his permanent mistress until he found out she never had sex with Ralph (due to sexual tastes being for S&M rather than conventional sex).
As discussed above, this show opened the door for a lot of shows that tried to show "gritty" depictions of crime families. Most of those shows only copied the shocking violence, and not the great dialogue, wicked sense of humor, complex themes and excellent acting that made this show a success, which is why they're all gone. The show itself isn't subtle in its attempts to pick up where Goodfellas left off in its demythologising of the Mafia. A truly impressive amount of the cast of this show had parts of varying significance in that film. In case it wasn't obvious enough, their first choice to play Tony Soprano was Ray Liotta.
An in-universe Real Life emulation. Jackie Jr. learns that Tony and co. had their major breakthrough in the criminal world when they robbed a poker game organized by a big shot mobster so Jackie decides to follow the example. It ends badly, a made-man is killed and Jackie gets whacked for it.
Foreshadowing: After Johnny Sack confesses in court his involvement in the mafia and is sent to prison, a disgusted and infuriated Tony tells Silvio:
Chris's friend and sponsor J.T Dolan, in a very reminiscent way, but he manages to stay afloat.
Tony himself ends up 'chasing it' after a bad luck streak. Being rich and powerful, he can afford it, but goes through it in a very unpleasant mood and insults his friend and moneylender Hesh with the All Jews Are Cheapskates trope.
Gayngster: Vito Spatafore is a straight deconstruction; the other gangsters find it disgusting, Tony, his only defender, is given a hard time, the guy has to flee and is eventually killed for being gay. Vito essentially commits suicide by returning to the fold despite having found a new life and an attractive boyfriend.
Genius Bruiser: Tony Blundetto's IQ was revealed to be 158. Given his line of work, he almost certainly qualifies for the bruiser aspect as well.
Genre Savvy: In season 5, Tony gets Feech La Manna sent back to jail after realizing he shows the exact same signs of wanting to usurp his power as Richie Aprile did in season 2.
Girls with Moustaches: In one episode, several of the wiseguys are sitting around their no-work jobs, "breaking balls" about each other's girlfriends. One teases another, saying his girl had a moustache so bad it must have been like kissing a fireman.
Go Karting with Bowser: Once the FBI agent tasked to Tony's crew is re-assigned to anti-terrorism, he starts frequenting Satriale's, Tony's hangout, because the sandwiches are so good.
Gory Discretion Shot: Most of the mob executions are shown in their bloody entirety... except Adriana's.
Gossip Evolution: Tony gets in a car accident while Adriana is in her car. Rumors circulate into Tony crashing the car while Adriana was giving him a blowjob and go from there; the rumors aren't true, but the two did share a lot of Unresolved Sexual Tension that they most likely would have resolved (if you follow) had they made it to their destination.
Hair-Trigger Temper: Anyone would want to watch their step around pretty much anyone in the cast. While there are a few exceptions that are a little more level-headed, they all have their Berserk Button.
Hands-On Approach: Done by a lesbian tennis coach showing blatant favoritism towards Adriana when she and Carmella take up tennis. The reason why is all but spelled out, but Adriana herself doesn't get it.
Harsher in Hindsight: In-universe example: Chris groused about the Feds not investigating him like they were the senior Mafiosi, and he even bought a stack of newspapers which referred to him as a "local mobster". One has to wonder if he ruefully reflected on this in later seasons, when the FBI spent what must have been thousands of taxpayer dollars to specifically bring him down—oh, and it indirectly/directly resulted in Adriana's death, too.
Tony: Now that my father's dead, he's a saint. When he was alive, nothing. And my dad was tough. He ran his own crew. A guy like that, and my mother wore him down to a little nub. He was a squeaking little gerbil when he died.
Secondary characters like Artie and Tony's father-in-law.
How We Got Here: Done at the beginning of an episode when Tony suffers a panick attack, the action is literally rewinded to the moment he meets Meadow's black-Jewish new boyfriend.
Humiliation Conga: Season six includes a neutral one with Johnny Sack going through hell once he's the big boss; arrested, incarcerated, embargoed and humilliated in front of his family and friends on the day of his daughter's wedding. He shames himself by breaking the Omertà code of silence to lower his sentence, only to die of cancer not much later.
Hypocrite: If you ask most characters, being a mafioso or abetting family member of one doesn't go in the way of being a good Christian or upstanding citizen.
Hypocritical Humor: The characters' numerous hypocrisies are frequently showcased for laughs and irony:
Many of the mobsters consider themselves to be observant Catholics and the mobwives, who live on blood-money, are very devout and self-righteous.
There is also season 4's "Christopher" where many characters associate protests against Columbus day as a slight against Italian-Americans and complain how the media portrays Them as violent, uneducated mobsters. It becomes humorous when You realize that almost every character on the series falls into at least one of those categories.
Idiot Ball: Loan Shark Tony takes a SUV used by David Scatino's son as collateral from the busted-out Scatino, and then gives it to Meadow, who is a close friend of said son. Not surprisingly, a fight emerges between father and daughter.
Imagine Spot: Adriana has a particularly sad one in "Long Term Parking".
I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Mentioned often by Tony. "I'm running a fuckin' business, not a popularity contest!" Besides his close family and business associates he has no real friends; he manages to alienate Artie, David Scatino, Hesh Rabkin and Zellman among others.
"Big Pussy" gets a second one, much to his chagrin, Tony keeps calling him "beached whale".
Phil gets called "The Shah of Iran". He resents it and brings it up when he summarizes the reason why the DiMeo family sucks.
Insistent Terminology: Tony has an issue with a "retiring community" being called a "nursing home" and corrects the term every time. In later seasons when his mother is no longer in one he does the opposite correction.
Jerkass: Most of the gangsters, it comes with the job description, with an odd Faux Affably Evil character here and there in the mix. The mafia is an underworld inhabitted by sociopaths and alpha-males or bitches. While lot of guys do qualify, nobody matches up to the level of sheer obnoxiousness that is Ralph Cifaretto, who... well. Just watch the man in action, why don't you.
Jury and Witness Tampering: Corrado Soprano Jr. persuades a juror not to deliver a guilty verdict against him by hiring someone to threaten the safety of the juror's family.
Karma Houdini: Double Subversion for Jesus Rossi. First, he rapes Dr. Melfi, but is caught by the police not even a day later... then is released a day after that due to a computer error. Melfi even has the chance to tell Tony about what happened to her (which would inevitably lead to Rossi being mutilated or killed) but chooses not to.
Kavorka Man: Despite being a criminal prone to violent outbursts and not being particularly attractive in terms of appearance (he's middle aged, balding, and noticeably overweight), Tony finds himself in relationships with several women throughout the show in addition to his wife, Carmela. Evil Is Sexy and All Girls Want Bad Boys working in his favor, no doubt.
Georgie gets gratuitously beaten up on a regular basis.
Ralph beating Tracee to death.
Corrado's constant mistreatment of Bobby is precisely written to balance the sympathy/empathy attached to his increasing emasculation and senility.
When Chris is torn apart after ratting on Adriana, Tony gets annoyed by his nephew's plight and brutally beats him instead of giving any kind of humane support.
Phil killing Vito on merely homophobic grounds and extending his scorn to Vito's strayed son.
Paulie and his chronies pointlessly bully Christopher and disrespect his daughter. In turn, the evoked sympathy is lost when Chris kills Dolan, his sponsor and only friend as a consequence of said disrespect.
Tony making contemptuous remarks against Kelli for being too melodramatic during the funeral of her late husband, like "Jackie Kennedy".
Kill 'em All: The last few episodes "take care of" Christopher, Bobby Bacala and Phil Leotardo while Silvio is in a coma he may never wake up from, and Tony himself may have been shot in the final scene.
Knee-capping: Paulie threatens a sports teacher who inherits the garbage business with this. Later on, Paulie obliges.
Lampshade Hanging/Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the season 6 opener, Tony tells Dr. Melfi when they're discussing Vito's secret homosexuality that it bothers him how every other show on TV tends to rub the gay agenda or lifestyle in your nose.
The Last Dance: Baccala Sr. has a pretty awesome/brutal one, while in the terminal stages of lung cancer.
Let Me Tell You a Story: Tony tells Junior the story of how Octavian became Augustus and ruler of The Roman Empire. The aesop about greed and generosity is unclear and it's lost on Junior, so Tony switches to a more mundane story about two bulls mating with as many cows as possible.
Loan Shark: The mobsters, naturally. One of their usual sources of revenue.
Long Runners: Eight years is a long time for an HBO show (they tend to run for six seasons, which The Sopranos did, but spread over only six years).
Loud of War: Tony resorts to this against a man who refuses to return him the entrance fee of a house that Tony no longer wants. The man lives by the sea, so Tony's men play invasive crooner music day and night from a boat with almost sheer impunity until the man finally caves in.
The Mafiya: Makes a rare appearance, most notably in "Pine Barrens", in which a Russian mobster proves surprisingly difficult to kill. Slava, the head of the Jersey branch and close friend of said mobster, is Tony's main money launderer.
Make It Look Like an Accident: A twisted version near the end of the show: Tony suffocates Christopher when they have an accident, killing him. The doctors think Christopher might have made it but they have no way to determine the actual fact.
Malaproper: About half the characters, and supposedly a major reason for the show's popularity in its midlife. Little Carmine Lupertazzi is one of the most frequent offenders, to the point where other characters refer to him as "Brainless the Second" and exchange confused looks during one of his malapropism-riddled speeches. Some examples:
A pint of blood is worth more than a gallon of gold.
We're in a fucking stagmire.
You're very observant: the sacred and the propane.
I give him his present, this mellifluous box.
There's no stigmata connected with going to a shrink.
They release these fucks from the can. Obviously, he wasn't rea-bull-ated.
Masquerade: Tony tries to shield his children from the truth and denies the existence of The Mafia, but Meadow is too smart for that. She gradually embarks in the same masquerade in front of outsiders, a thing noted by her parents.
Against Tony's opinion, Janice tries to forcefully do one for Livia but it totally backfires. A stoned Christopher delivers a bizarre eulogy, the relatives don't have anything good to say about the deceased, Carmela and her father explode against Livia and their rant is shared by others.
Season 3 ends with Jackie Jr's wake and half the cast bawling to Uncle Junior's Italian song.
Subverted with Junior as he doesn't actually care about some deceased individuals and he just wants to attend to any planned funeral to dodge his house arrest for a while.
Mister Sandman Sequence: "To Save Us All From Satan's Power." The brief 1995 sequences include multiple references to O.J. Simpson and Valujet, and features Jackie Sr. and Big Pussy prominently smoking in a restaurant. (It also mentions Pussy's wife booking a cruise on the Dawn Princess, which actually set sail two years later, but that's neither here nor there).
The Mole: Big Pussy, Adriana la Cerva, and Raymond Curto are the three most notable ones.
Mommy Issues: And how. Tony goes out of his way to please his miserable mother, a manipulative, self-pitying control freak who resents her children for being happier than her. The Moral Event Horizon comes when she tries to put a hit out on him. Despite this, Tony seems to be a much better parent. Janice, on the other hand, inherited her narcissism, self-pity and lack of empathy.
Mood Whiplash: Often masterfully done. Scenes of deep introspection or lighthearted comedy will sometimes, without warning, erupt into frantic violence.
One-legged and determined Svetlana remarks that Americans don't know what a real problem is and live an easy existence compared to the average miserable life in Russia/USSR, yet they are wimpy complainers.
Valery, a Mafiya member and former Spetsnaz who boasts in a frozen forest about harsh weather being warm to him, and gets away from Chris and Paulie when he was suppressed and about to be executed. He seemingly gets his throat crushed and his head shot, but manages to escape into the pine barrens. His uncertain fate lead to a WMG that David Chase deliberately HandWaved in the season 5 opener.
Ms. Fanservice: Adriana. If she's not parading around in her undies for Chris, she's bending over a trash can wearing very tight pants. Lampshaded in the third season opener when the FBI agent keeping tabs on her prays to God that he not be reassigned.
Mugging the Monster: Bobby goes to make his pickups from an inner-city Newark "client" late at night, and winds up getting robbed by some street kids. Because he didn't bring any backup, they get away with it, and the rest of Tony's crew mock Bobby for quite some time.
Naïve Newcomer: The FBI sends a younger agent to "turn" Adrianna because they think she'll respond better to a young woman. When Adrianna is discovered and murdered by Silvio, Chris plants her car at the airport long-term parking to suggest that she ran away. Only the new FBI agent believes it, and the other agents' laughter at her gullibility is a serious Tear Jerker.
Naked in Mink: Some ladies would wear a fur with nothing underneath.
Native American Casino: Tony makes a deal with the owner of such an establishment (and even visits his casino) in an attempt to use backdoor politics to stop a Native American protest of a Christopher Columbus parade.
Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters: Generally averted since the predatory nature of the mob is not hidden and the local business suffer regularly, but the Jersey mobsters throw a traditional Santa Claus party and occasionally organize activities for the community. Deconstructed examples:
Junior liquidates a drug dealer for selling drugs to children. This is viewed as old fashioned and the other capos resent him, as it was a bad business decision.
Paulie is appointed manager of an amusement fair. He is such a cheapskate that he cuts corners and security budget to the point one ride becomes hazardous and an accident ensues.
Paulie and Chris kill a waiter who confronts them over a very low tip. They guy has a sudden seizure and Paulie, to resolve the issue simply shoots the poor bastard on the spot.
Tony and Ralph's mistreatment of Bada Bing's bartender Georgie reaches absurd levels. Compilation
Junor's behavior towards his devoted and kind hearted assistant Bobby Baccala is unpleasantly harsh.
Noble Bigot: Tony is more tolerant than many of his friends and colleagues, but even he freaks out when he discovers Meadow is dating a half-black, half-Jewish classmate from a wealthy New York family.
He also spews a lot of homophobic slurs after finding out Vito is gay, but when Dr. Melfi points out that he doesn't sound like he means it, he admits that his true feelings are closer to "Who gives a shit?"
No Ending: Probably the most notorious example. Take a look at this, this, and this to see portions of the ending, as well as details that pop up in it.
Non-Actor Vehicle: As mentioned above, Steve Van Zandt is primarily a musician. Silvio was his first acting role (it gets somewhat resumed in Lilyhammer). Van Zandt also served as music consultor for the show and picked songs for the soundtrack from time to time.
Once a Season: The first episode of a mid-season shows Tony walking to the front of his house in his bathrobe to pick up the newspaper. In later seasons he doesn't but there is a logical explanation for it.
The unlucky barkeep at the Bada Bing will once a season, without fail, be beaten up by another character for no good reason.
Averted. A lot of strange nicknames made up for it though.
Even the nicknames start to overlap. In the pilot, there is some consternation when rumors get around that Uncle Junior wants to kill "Big Pussy" - one of Tony's right hand men, and not "Little Pussy" - one of Junior's.
The two Tonys, Soprano and Blundetto, were referred to as "Tony uncle Johnny" and "Tony uncle Al" as children, later simplified as Tony A. and Tony B.
Also subverted. Tony and his son have the same first name, but the latter is always called A.J. to prevent confusion.
This is actually a three-person case: Tony and A.J. are Anthony John Soprano, Sr., and Anthony John Soprano, Jr., respectively, so the natural choice of nickname for the latter would be "Junior;" however, "Junior" is already Corrado Soprano, Jr., Tony's "Uncle Jun."
The name "Jason" has to take the cake for most common among satellite characters. You have Jason La Penna, Jason Blundetto, Jason Barone, the "two Jasons" Gervasi and Parisi, and Lorraine Calluzo's younger boyfriend Jason.
Overly-Long Gag: Paulie's habit of repeating his jokes is a funnier quirk on its own.
Tony deciding against his initial feelings during the Blundetto crisis. His crew is uneasy but Tony is a bit shielded as only Silvio manifests the opposition face to face. It's complicated as violent pressure from New York is a major consideration too.
Tony deciding against his personal criteria during the Vito situation in season 6, his soldiers and captains are openly rebellious about it and he finally gives the go ahead basically because of peer pressure. A moot dilemma in the end because Phil beats him to the punch.
Averted by A.J., who befriends some gangster wannabes who idolize him for being the son of the big man and make him accessory to some violent extortions, but he is unaffected.
Pet the Dog: Literally. One of Tony's few virtues is a love of animals. It was was used against him via Melfi's fellow shrink friends, who point out that Tony's empathy for animals is also a sign of being a cold-blooded monster, since animals often mean more to such people than humans.
The mobsters all have "legitimate" jobs, which they never show up for, and don't actually work when they do. Getting such "no-show" jobs is an important point during negotiations.
Christopher is the only one seen regularly earning, but then again he is a rookie while the rest of the characters we mostly see are bosses and spend most of their time hanging around Bada Bing or Satriales. Explained by the hierarchical system; senior mobsters have their own crews and do mostly managerial work or collections, but do perform delicate tasks or street jobs from time to time - Paulie assaults Columbian drug dealers in Season 6.
Subverted during an episode after Tony believes the FBI is about to pinch him for executing one of the mooks who shot Christopher. While he doesn't get pinched, Tony's lawyer suggests he clock in at his trash collection company just to create the mask of "respectable businessman." The job bores Tony to tears and he even develops a rash from the change in routine. So he goes back to hanging out at his restaurant with his crew and everything goes back to normal.
Begets major plot points later: When Meadow uses her dad to get Finn an allegedly "No Work" job at a construction site, he's not comfortable spending time with the mobsters so he actually works. And being the young go-getter that he is, he shows up early to see Vito and another man having sex in the parking lot. Later, the man who owns Barone Sanitation dies, and his son (unaware of his father's "arrangements") tries to sell, threatening Paulie's legitimate income cover. Paulie viciously attacks him.
Playing Sick: Junior, feigning dementia to avoid criminal prosecution. Invoked and then twisted as Junior is really going senile.
Police Are Useless: Apparently there is no law enforcement in the state of New Jersey. Tony and his crew are endlessly worrying about the FBI but there's never a hint of state and local cops investigating them for their various crimes. It's hinted and shown that the Mafia has influence and leverage over the civil servants who can control the local police (e.g. Zellman) and some cops are on the Mafia's payroll; Bobby mentions a local police as one of his sources of information. Season 1 explores this with Vin Makazian, the detective who feeds information to Tony, and yet Tony treats him with contempt and not as a valuable asset.
This makes sense to anyone who knows New Jersey; the state gives local government a lot of power and has a very town-centric mindset; areas that might be one municipality elsewhere often form several in NJ.note Example: Hudson County and Essex County together have a population of about 1.4 million; their land area is roughly equivalent to Queens plus Manhattan (i.e. smaller than NYC) and only a bit larger than Philadelphia, with a population of 1.5 million, and Philly is geographically small (of the top 20 largest cities in the US, only San Francisco has a smaller land area). To put it another way: One of the nation's largest and densest cities is in New Jersey; it's just that it's divided into 34 municipalities in two counties. Consequently, police forces are weakened by division: the areas with the most crime tend to be the poorest and most underfunded (and therefore most likely to be corrupt), while the areas with the cash to fund a good police force tend to be low-crime anyway, with cops mostly focusing on traffic violations and adolescent shenanigans rather than Mob business. More generally, organized crime had, thanks to RICO, really become a main focus for the Feds by the 90s, more or less preempting the local law-enforcement efforts.
Politically Incorrect Villain: Well, pretty much all of the male gangster characters are quite politically incorrect and are (obviously) professional criminals. Phil might count in particular, as he is a more homophobic/generally unpleasant person than Tony (although not necessarily much more evil). Nicely illustrated during a conversation about Vito's strayed son.
Phil: I guess the turd doesn't fall far from the faggot ass.
Tony (quietly disgusted): That's beautifully put, but you are family right?
Post Modernism: Very often, almost Once per Episode the show features some classic movies and songs relevant to the plot and references to other fictional works are common. Tony himself is a movie buff with a great VHS and DVD collection and at one point the roots of gangster cinema are discussed, including the The Public Enemy, the film cited by Creator David Chase as one of his major influences building the main characters.
Pragmatic Villainy: Displayed numerous times, the level-headed mobsters know when to avoid high-profile crimes because being flashy is bad for business. One specific example has Tony berating Richie for selling drugs in the garbage routes, but only because it will draw the attention of the Federal Government, not out of any moral qualms. An issue explored in otherworks of the genre alluded to in-universe and Truth in Television.
Psychopathic Manchild: Several characters are debatable examples, but Paulie in particular exemplifies this trope. He has the petty self-centeredness and impulsivity of a spoiled child, and the callous disregard for human life of a stone-cold murderer.
Also Tony puts Janice on a bus to Seattle, after she shoots her fiance, Richie Aprile. Tony's solace is short-lived; she comes back 'for good' on a plane (that Tony has to pay for) the next season... two episodes later.
Rape as Drama: Melfi is raped in a rather horrific sequence and later finds out, due to the police screwing up when they arrested the man, that they can't bring charges against them. And then has the misfortune of finding out that her rapist is "Employee of the Month" at a coffee shop she frequents. Angry, full of rage and realizing that Tony would easily murder the scumbag rapist, with or without her permission if told about it, Melfi decides to keep what happened to her a secret.
Rasputinian Death: The Russian mobster from "Pine Barrens". After seemingly getting his throat crushed, he turns out to still be alive. After seemingly getting shot in the head, he simply disappears into the Pine Barrens. Paulie even compares him to Rasputin, and we never find out what happened to him or if he even died of his injuries.
Rated M for Manly: Sex, drugs, violence, male bonding, fatherhood, and diatribes about the emasculated state of contemporary Western society abound. The show is a deconstruction and frequently subverts itself, though, by reminding viewers that most of the "manly men" in question are in fact morally bankrupt human beings whose inability to express themselves in any way other than aggression makes both them and their families miserable.
Reality Is Unrealistic: In contrast to typical Hollywood portrayals, the experience of being shot in the head at close range would in fact be very much like "cutting to black" - the bullet would pierce the brain before it could process the sound of the gunshot.
Many actors in the show were arrested during the show's run. Their real crimes were not that serious though, certainly not on the level of their characters.
Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) was allegedly a member of the Colombo crime family in the 70's and was convicted of robbery and weapon possession.
Lillo Brancato (Matthew Bevilacqua in the 2nd series) was charged with murdering a cop in 2005, and although he was acquitted of that, was still sentenced to ten years imprisonment on a related burglary charge.
Tony Darrow (Larry Boy Barese) was an associate of the Gambino crime family and had been convicted of beating an extortion victim.
Nancy Marchand (Livia Soprano) died between seasons. The writers gave her a final scene with Tony, cut from her previous work with him. It was terrible. Most jarring was that Livia's lines are pretty generic with Tony's dialogue made to fit. Not to mention that Tony probably wouldn't have visited his mother or even talked to her at that point.
Tony Sirico (Paulie Gualtieri) underwent back surgery around season 4 and was thrown in a jail to reduce his appearances. His role was fully restored once the actor recovered.
Vito's weight loss was written into the plot due to actor Joseph R. Gannascoli's actual weight loss. It's made surprisingly tragic.
Bobby Baccala and his love of toy trains, though it goes toward characterizing him as something of a Man Child who happens to also be a mobster.
Furio's Eurotrashy silk shirts, due to being a mobster raised in Italy.
Real Song Theme Tune: "Woke Up This Morning (Chosen One Mix)" by Alabama 3. A Thematic Theme Tune almost expository. Lyrics. Initially David Chase wanted a different opening music for every episode but the final theme changed his mind.
This is one of the reasons why Tony killed Christopher. Despite going to rehab and getting his act together, Christopher still did drugs from time to time, which resulted in the car crash with him and Tony.
Reformed, but Rejected: Chris's sobriety makes him drift apart from his pals, as the Bada Bing and other work places are a source of temptation. The others resent him for this. He carefully explains in an A.A. meeting how his sobriety hinders him professionally. Very sad how his almost unbearable struggle and related problems, combined with some disrespectful jokes Paulie cracks about him and his daughter make him relapse, eventually leading to his fatal car crash with Tony.
Red Herring Twist: During a food poisoning-induced dream sequence, Tony encounters a talking Red Herring that lays down some pretty hard truths Tony does not want to admit.
Relationship Reveal: Chris tells Tony he doesn't bring around his new girlfriend, Kaisha, to spare her from the racist mafiosi. When he goes off to meet her, we see his real girlfriend is Julianna, who Tony has been unsuccessfully trying to get with for several episodes.
Ralph is in Miami during the first two seasons before he shows up in Jersey.
Richie Aprile, Tony B and Phil Leotardo, who were in jail since '83. The Jersey crew avoiding their pinched guys (Paulie in season 4) is internally coherent; the big boss Ecole DiMeo is "a guest of the government" and he is rarely alluded to, if ever, after the first episodes. Lampshaded when Bobby Jr. mentions that he's never heard of Tony B.
Avoided with "Feech" LaManna, released together with Tony B and Phil Leotardo at the beginning of season 5, but who was frequently mentioned and referred to in season 3, with Ralph recounting how "Feech's" card game was hit and inspiring his stepson to attempt to reenact it. The same anecdote is replayed once "Feech" is released.
Tony describes himself as one, in the Stepford Smiler sense; putting on a happy, joking face to his family and friends while keeping his pain locked away. His claims -contested by Dr. Melfi - come across more as self-pitying than anything else, given his behavior throughout the series.
Reversed with Christopher's death; for Tony a big liability is 'gone' and he is very happy about that, but has to put on a sad grimace in front of the families. Eventually he suddenly just goes to Las Vegas to enjoy himsef.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Matush when he hears a gunshot during Jackie Jr.'s card game heist. And then later, Jackie himself, who steals a car and leaves his friend Dino to get slaughtered.
Secret Identity: Tony often conceals his real name to 'civilian' clerks and receptionists. This backfires soundly when he tries to use one of his usual aliases (Mr. Spears) with a new psychiatrist - aware of Tony's identity and line of work - who is Genre Savvy as he had seen Analyze This. Tony tries to argue that he is Wrong Genre Savvy as "Analyze This" is a comedy, but gets rejected anyway.
Sexy Priest: Father Intintola, who also develops feelings for Carmela and needs to beat a hasty retreat out of town.
Shown Their Work: In true Godfather style, Ralph gives pasta-cooking advice to his stepson Jackie. Writer Michael "Christopher Moltisanti" Imperioli learned it from a chef/fellow castmember, and advised people (on the commentary track) to try it. It works.
A playful one when Johnny Sack, on the day of his daughter's wedding, asks Tony for a professional favour. Christopher casually points out that Tony can't refuse as the whole thing is identical to the one from The Godfather; Tony corrects him telling it's the other way around, the father of the bride is the one who cannot refuse.
Numerous little nods and subtle references here and there to Goodfellas, a film defined by David Chase as "My Koran".
Tony praises The Art of War, ranks it way above The Prince and gives practical use to the teachings that Sun-Tzu provides in it. Later on, Paulie tries to emulate Tony and reads it in audiobook form. On one occasion he tries to boast about it, but can't even say the author's name properly (he utters something like Soon-Tizoong) and gets mocked for being an obnoxious brown-noser.
Slice of Life: The show is a character study rather than a thesis-oriented work.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Very, very cynical. While there's some room for interpretation, by and large the show can be seen as an extended critical examination of human nature, and more often than not the conclusions aren't pretty. What unites people of all races, sexes and socioeconomic backgrounds, as far as The Sopranos is concerned, is selfishness, myopia and hypocrisy (though also love, family and moral agency).
Ben Kingsley never loses his polite and calm demeanor when he is uncomfortably approached by some mafia men who are in fact deflected by his suave manners and refrain from further pressure. The mobsters however get frustated by it and they violently mug an 81-year-old Lauren Bacall so they don't leave their trip empty-handed.
Kingsley gets to express some restrained disdain and profanity when he finds himself sharing a flight with the gangsters. It's implied he knows they are the ones behind his friend Bacall's incident.
The Stoic: This is what Tony would like to be and sometimes laments that Americans - including himself - have gone soft, always whining, complaining and dominated by their emotions. His role model is Gary Cooper; the strong, silent type.
Stolen Good, Returned Better: Dr. Melfi is having trouble with her car, and with the mechanics who are fixing it. When Tony learns this during one of his therapy sessions, he has her car stolen, fixed, and returned that night. She's grateful, but not happy about it.
Stranger in a Familiar Land: A lot of the released Mafiosi—including members of "the Class of 2004"—who were in the can for 20 years are jolted by the changes since The Eighties, particularly the increasing laxness respecting Mob tradition. Phil Leotardo is a particular example.
Straw Nihilist: Anthony Jr. briefly becomes one in season 2. To his parents' dismay he suddenly starts espousing a nihilistic worldview, questions the purpose of life, name-checks Nietzsche, and declares that God Is Dead. It pops back up again in season 6 after his girlfriend dumps him.
The FBI bugs the nursing home where Livia is Junior's Lady Macbeth and plots against Tony.
The FBI has A Day In The Lime Light episode where the procedure regarding how to plant a surveillance bug in Tony's house is shown in detail. Tony is a Properly Paranoid boss who regularly sweeps his headquarter for bugs, relies on Pay Phones and avoids talking shop inside his house but he is vulnerable in the noisy basement. The bug eventually has a very limited use and the trope is subverted because the judge is adamant and the FBI is only given one shot at this method that is never used again.
An overall subversion is also justified.
FBI guy: We've had every one of Tony Soprano's phones bugged for four years, but the guy says less than Harpo Marx
Sympathy for the Hero: Tony eventually comes to feel this for Officer Leon Wilmore after seeing the damage he's done to Wilmore's life.
In the pilot, Junior wants to kill Pussy Malanga, one of his underlings, and insists on doing it in Artie Bucco's restaurant. Tony, knowing that would destroy his friend's business, tries to stop Junior. When Junior refuses to be swayed, Tony burns the restaurant down so Artie can at least take the insurance and start over. After some time Artie gets suspicious and resents Tony for it, who feels victim of the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished syndrome.
During the alleged Tony-Adriana affair the two suffer a car accident that arouses much suspicion and gossip. Chris refuses to believe Tony's innocence plea and Tony feels his only option is to kill the erratic Chris for it. Blundetto meddles and suggest and alternative; they go and ask the E.R. guy who treated the car accident. Blundetto, thanks to his medical knowledge asks the right questions that debunk the rumours about Adriana and Tony (the driver receiving a blowjob, mind you).
In retribution for an attempt on Christopher's life, Matthew Bevilaqua is shot over twenty times by Tony and Big Pussy.
Christopher and another mobster shoot Dino Zerilli in the head three times... and then Christopher walks up to his corpse and shoots him in the head two more times. This happens after the Pine Barrens incident and Chris has valid reasons for making sure a dead body stays dead.
A capo who disrespected Phil Leotardo is whacked by a few hitmen. One of them shoots him in the eye, and then riddles his abdomen with bullets.
Those Two Bad Guys: Christopher and Paulie often fit this trope, especially in the "Pine Barrens" episode.
Too Dumb to Live: Some of the minor characters are positively suicidal. For example:
In season 2, two small players decide to try and kill Christopher in an attempt to please Richie Aprile, who despises him, with the hopes that they'll get promoted. It doesn't work.
Then there's also Darwin Award winner Jackie Aprile Jr. who tries the same thing in season 3 by robbing Tony's gang.
Also, in season 6, after Vito gets brutally murdered because it was discovered he's gay, one of the visiting New York guys openly implies in front of Silvio and Carlo that they had gay sex with him. Hilarity ensues.
Too Soon: After 9/11, the title sequence was re-edited to remove the shot of the Twin Towers from Tony's sideview mirror. Later averted as the new Mafia-FBI dynamic post 9/11 is explored in detail, as the Feds don't consider the Mafia their biggest threat, and the Mafia start to question their "No Snitching" policy when terrorists are involved.
Tragic Keepsake: Tony actively defies it with an artistic picture of Pie-O-My. He gets rid of it because it brings painful memories and gets very angry when he discovers that Paulie rescued it from the garbage and restored it. The picture is finally disposed of for good.
Trouble Entendre: In the first episode, Tony is about to tell Melfi what he did to a guy who owed him money, when she interrupts by telling him that knowing the details of his crimes would put her in a very precarious legal situation. So Tony tells her that he took the guy out to coffee. The scene then cuts to a flashback of Tony running the guy over and beating him up. Tony slips some feeble truth in the story, as he was finishing a coffee in the meantime.
Truth in Television: Junior's gradual descent into senile dementia was realistically done, including accurate depictions of the victim's good and bad days, and the eventual separation from reality.
The depiction of Tony's depression is also excruciatingly realistic, with his condition rising and falling continuously even after he starts therapy and medication.
Turn Coat: A disgruntled Paulie tries to defect to New York so he starts feeding sensitive information to a cajoling Johnny Sack. Paulie discovers he has been duped when he learns that the New York big boss practically doesn't know who he is.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Almost every single male character is married or in a relationship with insanely hot women, while usually also cheating on them with other even hotter women. Subverted with Johnny Sack: due to his high rank in the New York crew, it's assumed that like all the others he has a hot wife with affairs on the side. In season 4 we see however that his wife is a rather large woman who he loves deeply and does not cheat on.
Undignified Death: Gigi Cestone, who suffers a heart attack while constipated on the Bada Bing toilet and surrounded by porn magazines.
Unfortunate Names: Phil Leotardo openly complains that his legal family name used to be "Leonardo," like the painter. But an Ellis Island bureaucrat goofed it up, and now he's saddled with a name for a ballet outfit.
The Unfair Sex: Averted. The two female characters who appear on the show are as ruthless as the male gangsters. Theres also Evil Matriarch Livia and immoral Janice. The wives on the show are depicted as hypocritical for claiming to be religious while living off blood money.
The Unreveal: So did Ralphie really kill Pie-Oh-My? What happened to the Russian? Did Hadyu really kill Christopher's father? And what about that ending?
The Unseen: Janice's son Harpo, who is mentioned repeatedly but never appears.
Vader Breath: Tony snorts heavily when he gets particularly agitated.
Villainous Breakdown: Tony's panic attacks are triggered by repressed phobias, thoughts and feelings and some unpleasant situations. He also can't go an episode without breaking down in anger or throwing a temper tantrum.
Villain Protagonist: Tony himself isn't one of the shows' best protagonists. He is a thug who kills other mobsters, being a womanizer and adulterer who cheats his wife behind her back, have a gambling addiction in the form of horse races, not a nice mafia boss to work for, and not to mention, being an asshole who frequently curses.
Villains Out Shopping: Omnipresent, since the show focuses on both the personal and professional lives of the mobsters.
Tony grabs a pillow and is going to smother his mother, but he gets interrupted. Melfi makes a Call Back to it much later, but Tony is in denial.
Paulie smothers an old woman with a pillow when she surprises him breaking and entering.
Wake Up Makeup: Averted, Tony frequently rocks some impressive bed-head.
We Used to Be Friends: Tony bitterly comments this regarding Johnny Sack as the New York boss gets more ruthless and less pragmatic and amiable. Still, Tony is very sad when Johnny passes away and still loves him despite some of his final actions.
Tony goes out of his way to please his unreasonable and sociopathic mother. Since he's never able to reach some harmony, he's helplessly haunted by this failure long after her death.
Tony: our mothers are... bus drivers. No, they are the bus. See, they're the vehicle that gets us here. They drop us off and go on their way. They continue on their journey. And the problem is that we keep tryin' to get back on the bus, instead of just lettin' it go.
What You Are in the Dark: Melfi gets an awesome one of these in season two. After getting raped, she realises that she could tell Tony, and he would ensure that the rapist died screaming... and chooses not to.
Zig-zagged. As mentioned above, depending on the occasion the mobsters dress sharply or casually. They often enjoy luxury items, refined cuisine and Artie's restaurant is one of the usual hangouts. On the other hand, below the surface they are somewhat glorified ruffians.
While Tony has moments of unsophistication he is not the average goombah, his "semester and a half of college" background really shows up from time to time, he is attracted to sophisticated women and can hold his ground intellectually with Dr. Melfi, understanding many references and complex concepts, e.g. he can cite Freud and Sun-Tzu. This particularly shows in his happiness that Meadow is on the path to a professional career, and his disappointment in A.J.'s...um...divergent...trajectory.
Paulie tries too hard to emulate Tony and appear cultivated (he appropriates a fine painting made for Tony) but he fails many times, he is prone to malapropisms and misconceptions.
Silvio pulls this with Tony when Tony seems willing to go to war against New York over the Blundetto-Leotardo situation. Tony gives it right back to him:
Tony: All due respect, you got no fuckin' idea what it's like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other fuckin' thing. It's too much to deal with almost. And in the end you're completely alone with it all.
Tony with Johnny Sack in a heated discussion regarding the Blundetto situation. Tony then gets tired of this formality and delivers an outright insult.
A former associate turned informant and relocated via it is found and executed by Tony during a trip with Meadow.
Chris and Adriana contemplate the option of joining it. They don't.
Women Are Wiser: Played straight more often than not; while there are certainly a few dimwitted or crazy women in the cast the major female characters tend to be wiser or at least more mentally stable than the men.
World of Snark: While some characters are more sarcastic than others, most characters make at least one memorable sarcastic quip. It's particularly notable in the "meeting of minds" between Tony and Phil, which features these exchanges:
Little Carmine: For whatever reason, certain incidents have expired lately, that, in addition to being dangerous, could have an adverse impact on our respective bottom lines.
Phil: I know Vito's bottom was impacted if that's what you're referring to.
Then a few seconds later:
Phil: He's MIA, a lot of people are concerned for his well-being.
Tony: So what the fuck would I know about that?
Phil: Well as coincidence would have it, he was last seen in New Jersey.
Tony: So was the Hindenburg, maybe you wanna look into that too.
You Always Hear The Bullet: Discussed and debunked by Tony, Bobby, Silvio and physically averted in the final scene, according to the main theory.
You Look Familiar: Joseph R. Gannascoli played a random bakery client named Gino in a season 1 scene (the one mentioned in Actor Allusion above) before landing into his Vito Spatafore role in Season 2.
Tony's extramarital affairs are naturally explored and generate a great deal of problems.
Practically all the mobsters indulge in this, it comes with the job description to have a goomah.
Carmela initially tolerates and rationalizes Tony's extramarital activities as a meaningless valve of escape and she longs for one herself until season 5, in which she has an affair with A.J.'s principal who identifies it as Sex for Services.
You Remind Me of X: As pointed out by his shrink, Tony's goomahs bear a resemblance to his unpleasable mother - dark hair, contemptuous and with issues - and even to Dr. Melfi herself - interesting, independent and sophisticated women. Tony ask his first and simplest lover to dress more businesslike, with Melfi in mind. Later on Tony makes a explicit mother connection with the troubled Gloria Trillo.
You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Lost in Pine Barrens and fearing for his life, Chris draws a gun on Paulie, who tries to calm him down:
Paulie: All the shit we been through. You think I'd really kill you?
Emulated by Artie — minus the gun — when he is rehearsing how he is going to confront a man who owns him money.
Cleaver is a Movie-Within-the-Show written and produced by Christopher Moltisanti in season 6, but who has been working on and off on the project since season 1. It is about Michael, a Mafia hitman who gets set up and killed by his associates. This is done at the instigation of Michael's boss Salvatore, who is lusting after Michael's fiancée. Michael is then resurrected as the eponymous "Cleaver", an undead zombie who kills off all his former enemies one by one, including his boss and former fiancée.
Asian Hooker Stereotype: Michael's Asian-American fiancée is due to marry him in two days and is initially worried when he goes missing, but all it needs to convince her to forget about him and bang his boss is two tacky come-on lines from Sal. Notable primarily for being a Race Lift, since Adriana was white.
Bad Boss: Salvatore is shown to be quite trigger-happy and unwilling to listen to reason while having a discussion with his crew. He probably even set up Michael's death to put the moves on his fiancée.
Self-Insert Fic: It's quite obvious that Michael is a stand-in for Christopher, Salvatore for Tony, and Michael’s fiancée for Adriana.
Tantrum Throwing: Salvatore angrily throws a bottle of coins against a cellar wall, shattering it.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In a roundabout way. Christopher consciously or unconsciously based much of the movie on his own life, Tony's behaviour, and his suspicions regarding Tony and Adriana having slept together. Carmela calls it "a revenge fantasy that ends up with the boss's head split open by a meat cleaver".