The Sopranos: A Retrospective

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In the midst of all our quarantine woes, many of us have turned to television as a means of escape. I myself am no exception and chose to binge a series I never got around to despite it being one of the most beloved, critically-acclaimed cable series of all-time.

The Sopranos debuted on HBO on January 10, 1999. Being only 7 years old at the time, I wasn’t tuning in for its debut, but it was largely brought to my attention in my teen years when everyone was talking about the finale. In fact, the controversy surrounding the finale was so massive that the first frame I ever experienced in the series was the shocking (and to many, underwhelming) final moments. With the upcoming release of a new prequel film, and with a lot more time for binge-watching on my hands, I decided to crack open the 6 season saga of Tony Soprano and his dealings in the mafia.

The show follows Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a New Jersey-based mafia boss who suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks. He seeks help from psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), a move that puts him at odds with his business and family. The series begins in a vein similar to that of previous famous mob movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas, but after the first season, its boldness begins to take shape. The series begins to draw from real-life mafia stories and even comments on their influence in politics and the entertainment industry. In fact, Tony’s nephew Chris Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) spends several episodes attempting to produce a screenplay based on his life and the life of Tony & Co. He even attracts the attention of film director Jon Favreau (playing himself) in one episode.

In addition to dishing out the guns, sex, and murder typical of a mafia show, The Sopranos also serves as a compelling family drama. Tony’s wife Carmela (Edie Falco) often finds herself at odds with her husband. She knows what kind of man Tony is, but doesn’t ask questions, all while struggling to maintain her Catholic faith. Their budding teenage children, Meadow (Jamie Lynn Sigler) and Anthony Soprano (Robert Iler) attempt to lead normal lives, but this is complicated by their knowledge of their father’s reputation.

The Sopranos is a massive achievement in storytelling and is set to continue this fall with the release of a prequel film, “The Many Saints of Newark”. The film is set to be released both in theaters and on HBO Max this September. For anyone wanting to catch up on The Sopranos, all six seasons are streaming on HBO Max.