YMMV / The Sopranos

The Television Show:

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • A huge theme of the show. Nearly all of the characters are unprecedentedly rich with psychological nuance, complex (and often conflicting) emotions, and words and actions which can be interpreted in a number of ways. The show treasures ambiguity, and thus refuses any easy categorizations for its characters or anything else.
    • Meta example. Did David Chase ended the show that way to gain a typical audience reaction? Or was it an intentional "screw-you" to the fans? Explanation 
    • Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri. Is he a ruthless psychopath in every single way, or just a turbulent man with a childlike mind and poor impulse control? His Kick the Dog moments and Lack of Empathy (the waiter's murder, Minn's murder) seem to indicate the first interpretation. On the other hand, his moments of kindness or empathy seem to indicate the second interpretation.
  • Artistic License Law: Or at the very least, Legal Voodoo Shark, respecting Junior's indictments and jail in Seasons 1-2. The indictments appear to be federal ones, but then Junior is apparently detained before hearing. After a few weeks, his lawyer gets him out by claiming health problems, allowing Junior to be held on house arrest. All of this is a big to-do in the family. However, federal defendants are rarely held before trial and rarely have to post bail; instead, they are simply detained, released with conditions (like Junior's house arrest), or released without conditions, and this decision is made within a few days of the arrest. Junior would have never been held for more than 2-3 days in a real federal prosecution. Now, Junior could have been held longer on state charges (at the time; New Jersey would later adopt a federal-like system), but the charges are clearly federal.
  • Award Snub: The show got enormous amounts of critical acclaim but consistently lost the Best Drama Series award at the Emmys, first to The Practice and then (three times) to The West Wing (though it would eventually win for its fifth season). This led to some discussion about whether there might be some bias among Emmy voters against cable series, but at this point there's no real way to know. (Cable may have lost the battle but won the war on that front, though; a network show hasn't won Best Drama Series since 2006.)
  • Broken Base:
    • Season four, which either sucked out loud or was a good season that got crapped on because the show took an introspective turn.
    • Too much yakking and not enough whacking, or plenty of character development and drama?
    • The finale split people into camps of "lifers" and "deadheads" for months after with people on one side occasionally claiming that if you didn't agree with their take you weren't a real fan and simply didn't get the show.
    • Go to IMDB's message board for the series and you'll see that half the threads are either "Lifers vs Deadheads" threads or turn into focusing on that question at some point or another.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Much of the humor is built on Black Comedy and Refuge in Audacity, from both the writers and the characters. Bloody Hilarious examples abound, with the extreme violence used to reinforce the bathos.
    • Christopher's intervention has to be seen to be believed. The line-crossing happens when Adriana starts crying because Christopher, in a heroin haze, sat on her fluffy little dog and killed it. The gangsters then give up on the touchy-feely stuff and resort to beating the hell out of Christopher.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Although in its days the show was quite praised, some people end up irritated by its massive amount of unsympathetic characters and how dark this underworld really is. When the series' protagonist is a murderer, an outright prick towards everyone, a mob boss and a rather reprehensible person combined, this is inevitable.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Furio Giunta, particularly for being the most badass character on the show.
    • Drea de Matteo as Adriana. She went from a being an extra in the pilot and a minor character in the first season to one of the most popular characters and a big hit with critics especially in season 5 when her storyline came to a head and fans were devastated by the death of the character. Drea de Matteo won the Emmy for her performance in that episode.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    Carmela: You wanna train him to be a professional killer?
    Tony: Oh will you stop! They're soldiers. And the United States Army hardly ever goes to war anymore.
    • Also in Season 6, AJ actually considers joining the Army, but his parents talk him out of it.
    • Any fat joke towards Ginny Sack or Tony, because their respective actors, Denise Borino-Quinn and James Gandolfini, both died from health complications in middle age.
    • Gigi's death was initially laughably awkward, a stone cold killer randomly dying of a heart attack on the toilet surrounded by porno mags leaving all of his friends stuck doing their best to preserve his dignity after the fact. It became a lot less funny when Gandolfini died in the exact same manner. Tony's line comparing him to Elvis is especially heart wrenching, as Gandolfini is discussing on his own fate and making a comparison that was widely made upon his death.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • Not so much "genius" as "location", for obvious reasons, Jersey people get a big kick out of this show. New Jersey-based sportswriter Peter King bragged in his column that he interviewed Michael Strahan in the same booth where the show ended.
    • Carmella reading Flaubert's Madame Bovary in Season 5 will seem a lot more meaningful if you know that it's a novel about an unsatisfied housewife who has an extramarital affair. Fittingly, the book is recommended to her by Robert Wegler, who she ultimately ends up sleeping with.
    • The Madame Bovary parallel goes a step further if you also note that the other major literary work that Carmella and Wegner discuss is The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, with Carmella clearly empathizing with Heloise's isolation and her doomed love affair. Madame Bovary also includes a major character named Heloise Dubuc, who was Charles Bovary's wife in his unhappy first marriage; their marriage never worked out, in large part, because Bovary was in love with the titular character long before he actually married her. Carmella likely relates to Dubuc as well, since she reads the book as she's just getting used to the idea that Tony never really loved her.
  • Genre Turning Point: For the entire medium of television. Not only did The Sopranos make HBO universally known, it also established that high quality television drama can compete with film and literature in terms of telling artfully constructed, sophisticated stories for adults. The Sopranos is also credited with demonstrating that shows with complicated, continuity-heavy plots that didn't spoonfeed information to the audience could be successful — a revelation without which shows like The Wire and Game of Thrones would undoubtedly never have been greenlit. This eventually started spreading to basic cable as well, starting with Mad Men (created by a Sopranos veteran), and most notably executed with Breaking Bad. It also made the deaths of major characters a regular device in its storytelling, to the point that nobody was completely safe. This is now a staple of acclaimed television dramas. While other series had done many of these things before (such as Babylon 5), The Sopranos brought them all together or was not restricted by something like the Sci Fi Ghetto, allowing it to become the turning point for television. All of this has brought about what many consider to be a golden age of dramatic television.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • During Christopher's drug intervention, he counters Tony's criticism of his addiction by decrying Tony's weight and says that he's gonna die of a heart attack by the time he's 50. James Gandolfini died of a heart attack on June 19, 2013 at 51 years old.
    • Any scene between Tony and Meadow, because James Gandolfini never got to spend that kind of time with his own daughter, who was born just a few months before his death.
    • Phil Leotardo suffers an incapacitating heart attack. His actor Frank Vincent died on September 13, 2017 due to complications of heart surgery after a heart attack.
    • Satin Dolls, the strip club used on the show, became a real meeting spot for mobsters which ultimately caused it to be closed by federal order in 2017.
  • He Really Can Act: John Heard is best known as the dad from Home Alone or the Romantic False Lead from Big. However, his arc as Dirty Cop Vin Makazian in Season 1 is heartbreaking and even earned him an Emmy nomination.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • One of the subplots of the final season was Tony losing a grip on his gambling addiction, culminating in a scene where he loses thousands of dollars on a NY Jets game. New York has the game in hand, until Buffalo Quarterback J.P. Losman fumbles the ball, picks it back up again, and runs it in for a touchdown to win the game. Flash forward to when that game was actually played in New Jersey: Buffalo has the game in hand, until J.P. Losman fumbles the ball to the Jets, who then run it in for a touchdown to win the game.
    • Once upon a time, MADtv had a parody of the show that depicted just how disjointed the show would be if The Sopranos was shown on a non-premium cable channel and edited for all manner of violence, sex, and foul, abusive language. The actual syndicated version on A&E isn't as bad as the parody MADtv came up with (which depicted The Sopranos on PAX, of all channels, and featured an entire episode lasting less than five minutes), but it's still pretty funny that the show predicted that The Sopranos would be Edited for Syndication.
    • The major at the military school that Tony wants to send AJ to in season three. Who goes on about how society is making the current generation dependent on drugs, later becomes a man who puts through people through death traps to better themselves and make them appreciate their lives.
    • Then-unknown Michael K. Williams has a small cameo in "Army of One" where, among other things, he watches Jackie Jr. get a chess lesson.
    • In the Season 6 episode "Mayhem", Silvio angrily yells "Am I speakin' Norwegian here?" when trying to settle an argument between Bobby and Vito. Then, in 2012...
  • I Am Not Shazam: The central crime family in the show is officially called "the DiMeo family", not "the Soprano family"; the title refers to Tony Soprano's biological family, not his business one.
  • Internet Backdraft:
  • It Was His Sled: It's hard to find someone who didn't know about the show without hearing about how the finale ended.
  • Love to Hate: Paulie Walnuts. Ax-Crazy Psychopathic Manchild and incredibly entertaining and colorful. Also doubles with Creepy Awesome, all in one.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Although Tony tried, it was his mother Livia who could have defined it.
  • Memetic Mutation: It didn't last very long, but there were dozens of copies and parodies of the final scene all over YouTube immediately after the show ended. The Pittsburgh Pirates parody was the most famous. Also in one of Hilary Clinton's earliest campaign ads in the 2008 Presidential Election, when she used it to introduce her new campaign song.
    • You gadda X onna you X! *smack*
    • [Insert character here] never had the makings of a varsity athlete.
  • Moral Event Horizon: See here.
  • Narm:
    • Paulie. Everything about him is so over-the-top, comically absurd, Laughably Evil and cartoonish, it breaks the suspension of disbelief and sometimes it's hard to even take him seriously.
    • Tony's final scene with his mother, an extremely awkward mix of new footage of James Gandolfini and outtakes of the late Nancy Marchand which never comes close to being convincing.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • Varies depending on who you talk to. Seasons 1, 2, and 5 are generally agreed upon as being great. Season 6 (Part 1) and Season 4 generally receive the highest complaint value, though season 4 has its fans.
    • Season 6 (Part 2) tends to be lumped together with 1, 2, and 5 in acclaim, though one's opinion on the series finale can also be a huge factor in influencing whether it's a slight step down or just as good/better.
  • The Scrappy: Some fans really hate AJ Soprano. In his defense, however, he is given moments of genuine Nice Guy behavior. Whether or not they balance out moments where he and his friends pour acid on a guy or beat up a Somalian bike rider (as the result of an accident that was completely AJ's fault), YMMV. It's his Nice Guy moments that actually fuel his scrappy status to some. Mainly calling him out as a "Pussy", an hypocrital jerk, and generally a weak and spineless character shaming Tony just by existing.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Much like Watchmen did for comics, this show created a huge push for more Darker and Edgier television shows, which now make it pretty hard to appreciate just how groundbreaking it was at the time. Most notably, David Chase had to fight tooth and nail for Tony to be allowed to kill the informer in the fifth episode, as HBO execs were sure no one would watch the show again if he did it.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • One episode has Tony and co. cheering at what is obviously stock footage of a horse race.
    • Tony's last conversation with Livia. Nancy Marchand's death necessitated that the character be written out, so the crew employed CGI to superimpose Marchand's image on another actress' body. It was not convincing.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Although he had Artie's original Vesulvio restaurant burned down, Tony had good reason. Uncle Junior had been planning to stage a hit at Vesuvio on "Little Pussy" Malanga (not to confuse with Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero) and wouldn't change it because Malanga was comfortable there and had the hit went down, all of the regular patrons would be permanently chased away. So Tony had the place firebombed to ensure a win-win for both parties (no hit at Vesuvio, and Artie could rebuild it with the pay-out from his insurance policy). Also, Tony kinda saved Artie's reputation.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The show abused this trope a lot, especially when the most despicable characters were humanized and sympathetic to some degree. Sure, we're supposed to feel sorry for them after their awful actions...
    • The worst case of this being Ralph Cifaretto, a depraved, Ax-Crazy mobster. We are supposed to feel sorry for him during his sympathetic moments before his death. However, its difficult to side with Ralph when you realize that this is the same man who killed a pregnant woman with his bare hands.
  • Wangst: Most of Chris Moltisanti's screentime throughout Seasons 3 and 4 is spent getting drunk/high and going on long tangents of self-pity to his fiancee. After he gets sober, most of his screentime is spent complaining to her and his AA compatriots about how nobody takes his sobriety seriously.
  • Writer Cop Out: As is often the case with a story with No Ending, many viewers view the end of the series as David Chase simply not wanting to commit to a decisive end to the series and giving us nothing instead.

The Pinball Game:

  • Values Dissonance: This occurs if the game is set with "Adult Mode" turned off. Apparently, cursing and profanity is bad, but committing arson, burying bodies in the Meadowlands, and beating up civilians in shakedowns is okay.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/TheSopranos