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.
  • Awesome Music:
    • "Woke Up This Morning" by Alabama 3, a song whose tone and lyrics are so perfectly suited to the show that you'll be astonished it wasn't composed for it.
    • Also, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", as used in the final scene.
    • The two sequences in the season three premiere where the Peter Gunn theme and "Every Breath You Take" are played over each other. The two songs have the exact same beat and mesh perfectly.
  • 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.
  • Complete Monster: Richie Aprile sticks out as the most crazy and evil gangster in a world of crazy and evil gangsters. Impulsive, violent, greedy and callous, Richie at one point paralyzes a man with a car solely for perceiving disrespect. He's such a loose cannon that Tony has to stop him from killing gamblers at their casino for no reason. He also beats his fiancée for nothing more than saying she'd accept his son for being gay, which culminates in her snapping and murdering him herself. Beside that, he has numerous observations by other characters that he cares about no one but himself.
  • Creator's Pet:
    • Vito in season 6. Partly because his big arc was largely filler designed to pad out the first half of season six, due to Chase and HBO wanting to drag out the series for one final batch of episodes which had not yet been written.
    • Also Jackie Jr. in season 3.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Paulie Walnuts.
    • Furio Giunta.
    • 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.
    • Rogert Loggia as Feech la Manna.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: An argument about an Army career for A.J., before The War on Terror.
    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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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:
    • The web was a scary place to be after the series finale.
    • Ask a room full of TV connoisseurs which is the greatest TV series of all time, The Sopranos, The Wire or Breaking Bad. Go on. Ask.
  • It Was His Sled: It's hard to find someone who didn't know about the show without hearing about how the finale ended.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Almost all the main cast qualify at one point or another, but Tony and especially Paulie exemplify this. However, as the series progresses, their shadier actions start to outweigh their sympathetic qualities. Even Bobby Baccala proves from time to time that even if it isn't his normal personality, he can put on a very frightening persona. Ask a union rep who crossed Junior at one point.
    • Uncle Jr, especially in the final season.
    • Vito. He's a slimy, maneuvering worm, but some part of you just wants him to stay in New Hampshire and marry Nice Guy Johnnycakes.
    • Adriana. Almost a Butt Monkey but you'd have to be a cold bastard not to feel some sympathy for her...or a member of the mob.
    • Christopher can sometimes fall here when he isn't a complete psycho. For example, when he was being bullied by the two Tonies.
    • Carmela. Most of the time (due to Tony’s philandering, among other reasons), but particularly in Season 5 where she’s separated from Tony and constantly blamed, berated and generally pushed to breaking point by an adolescent and abusive A.J.
    • Bobby Baccala. Nobody else compares. Father killed off one season, his wife the next. And then he married Janice. Poor bastard. And then Tony goads him in to punching Tony in the mouth. Then Tony forces Bobby (who is not Ax-Crazy like his comrades) to commit a murder as a punishment.
  • 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.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Oh, so many. It is a show about the mob, afterall. In case the whole "lying, cheating, stealing and murdering" thing isn't enough, here are some specific ones:
    • Livia putting a hit on Tony, her own son.
    • Richie crossed it with Beansie's brutal paralyzation... just for perceive disrespect. However, his attempts to kill gamblers in a casino For the Evulz, just continues with the Moral Event Horizon.
    • The aforementioned incident involving Ralph and a stripper.
    • Paulie murdering an old woman... with his bare hands.
    • Christopher ratting out Adriana, leading to her murder.
    • Phil Leotardo crossed it with Vito's extremely brutal murder.
    • A very debatable one occurs when Ralph gains some sympathy after his son is injured, but it turns out that [[spoiler: he killed Tony's beloved race horse for the insurance money. Debatable because Ralph never actually admits to it and there's no proof that he was responsible. An argument can be made that Tony's love for animals was responsible for how he couldn't see the horse's death as anything but murder, and his dreams in the following episode seem to hint he knew deep down that Ralph may have been innocent in the matter.
  • Narm: 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.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Valery the Russian and his brief but memorable performance in "Pine Barrens", one of the most acclaimed episodes of the series.
    • Lou DiMaggio and the Atwell Avenue Boys.
    • Dr. Krakower, an aged jewish psycho-therapist that Carmella sees in "Second Opinion", he's in exactly one scene. He accurately tears apart her delusions of Tony being "a good man", and offers some of the most memorable lines in the series.
    • And of course, the unnamed patron in Holsten's in the final scene credited as "Man in Members Only Jacket" (or MOG to the fans). He may not have any lines, but the fans who do believe that Tony was killed in the final episode have this man to thank.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: A video game entitled The Sopranos: Road to Respect was released for the PlayStation 2 featuring an original plotline based on notes by David Chase and voiceovers by the TV cast, and while critics praised the story and voice acting, the gameplay was criticized as being shallow and repetitive.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Michael K. Williams has a brief cameo in the Season 3 finale, about a year before he became known as the fan favorite character Omar Little on The Wire.
    • The doctor who diagnoses Phil Leotardo in "Kaisha" is played by Aasif Mandvi, who had yet to become well-known for his appearances on The Daily Show.
    • A fifteen-year-old Stefani Germanotta—who would later become known to the world as Lady Gaga—briefly appears in "The Telltale Moozadell" as one of the girls watching A.J. and his friends vandalize the Verbum Dei swimming pool.
    • Major Carl Zwingli (the principal of Hudson Military Institute in "Army of One") is played by Tobin Bell, who would later become known for his iconic role as Jigsaw in the Saw movies.
    • An eighteen-year-old Paul Dano appears in two episodes as A.J.'s friend Patrick Whalen.
    • Will Arnett appears in 2 episodes of Season 4 as (the relatively quiet and kind) FBI agent Mike Waldrup, roughly a year before Arrested Development began airing and he became known for playing bombastic, Jerk Ass characters.
    • Vince Masuka (CS Lee) makes an appearance as the ER doctor who operates on Tony after he's shot in Season 6.
  • 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 people really hate Jackie Jr. for his gangsta wannabe and Spoiled Brat behaviour.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.