While many consider The Sopranos to be the greatest television series of all time, I would go one step further, asserting that The Sopranos is not a show at all, but a competitive event, one which you’re all about to lose. While my tactics are incomprehensible to the human mind, and would require no fewer than 8 years of psychotherapy to even begin to unravel, I’ve decided to give you an approximation of my strategy by making a semi-exhaustive ranking of the show’s characters. I will note that I’m not the best with names, so forgive me if I misremember some.
One of the only characters that is a horse, and easily the most accomplished member of the Soprano family, Pony has one of the show’s best arcs. After single-hoofedly taking down a rival gang, Pony goes into hiding on the track, telling Tony that he “didn’t beat the case, so he did the race.” After winning the Kentucky derby, Ralph becomes jealous that Pony is a better earner than him. This leads to the show’s most tragic death, when Napoleon the pig sends Pony off to the knockery, telling him, “Pie-Oh-My wa mo shinderou.” I bawled for 10 minutes.
These are some Wise Guys
One of the most educated characters on The Sopranos, Bobby is a very nice guy and didn’t deserve anything that happened to him. Despite his wife being a total Karen, he still felt bad when she died, which is really nice of him. It’s never established what Bobby’s degree is in, but I like to think he studied math and economics, so I can feel better about myself.
Jenny the Shrink
David Chase originally wanted Tony’s therapy sessions to be improv, but decided to make Melfi a psychiatrist so she could have scripts. Jen is probably the smartest character in The Sopranos, being both a very good therapist and one of the few people not to sleep with Tony. Melfi is also one of the “uncorrupted” characters in the show, being offered the opportunity to utilize Tony’s power for personal reasons, but choosing not to. I am, of course, referring to the time when he offers her a sum of floor cash, which she declines, because accepting floor cash is a HIPAA violation.
Having Tony be friends with a restaurant owner was a great way of incorporating those dinner scenes you see in mob movies (e.g. The Godfather), and having him be friends with the greatest rapper of all time was a great way of incorporating those rap battle scenes you see in mob movies (e.g. The Godfather Part II). He is sometimes a little hard to understand with the whole baby voice thing, and when I turned on subtitles it just said “!!**++*slat!!**” which was weird. Later in the series, Artie branches out into loan sharking and Mexican cuisine, leading him to declare “I’m on them liens for real, I’m on them beans for real.”
Bearb was already one of my favorite characters in the show, mainly because she’s the only (human) Soprano who’s not awful. Then in Season 5, a bear shows up at the Soprano residence. At first you’re like “woah, a bear” and then you watch the bear for another forty-five minutes (the bear gets its own episode), and at the end, you find out that the bear is actually Tony’s sister. Unfortunately, the bear got pregnant and was unable to finish the series, so Tony’s sister gets replaced by a different actress. Very good twist all around.
Not many people know this, but Steve Buscemi wandered onto the set of The Sopranos one day and refused to leave. After giving him a few episodes to direct to placate him, David Chase eventually relented and made him a character. Unfortunately, at that point in the series they had run out of Italian names, so they had to reuse “Tony.” After trying unsuccessfully to change it to something cooler, Buscemi took to calling Gandolfini, “phony Tony,” which was wildly misinterpreted by the show’s star, who took it as a criticism of his phone use and sought treatment for his addiction to candy crush. Eventually Buscemi decided he had had enough, and declared: “I’m bored of this, I’m walking,” and went on to star in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, largely regarded by critics as “kinda like The Sopranos, but worse.” Shenanigans notwithstanding, he will forever be lauded for his valiant efforts as a firefighter during 9/11.
It’s not entirely clear why Sylvester is so mad all the time, but his face is the one I make when he’s not in an episode. Definitely the most loyal of Tony’s squad, Sil’s only flaw is that he’s a simp for Christopher Columbus. This has led some fans to theorize he might be gay, giving rise to an extensive catalog of homoerotic fanfiction featuring the two men as lovers. My personal recommendation would be “Just When I thought I was Out, He Pulled Me Back In (To his Arms).”
One of the best episodes of The Sopranos is when the gang travels to Italy, only to get accosted by a giant turtle that chases them into the sewers. Just as all appears to be lost, Mario comes down the pipes and stomps on his head 3 times, giving them a chance to escape. Tony is so grateful that he lets Mario come work for him as a plumber in the US.
Adrianna, better known as “Band Ade” for her love of music, is a really good girlfriend to Christopher, which is impressive because of how hard he sucks. Adrianna is sometimes referred to by her title “La Serva” (the server), a reference to her adroit tennis-playing skills. She herself prefers not to draw attention to it, stating multiple times that she “didn’t want to cause a racquet.”
Ayy, I’m walkin’ tier
The titular “The” in “The Sopranos” (short for “the boss”), Tony is the boss. He’s not the best of person, concurrently embodying racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, ageism, and Catholicism, but he is really, really funny. Tony’s fatal flaw, the one that really makes him irredeemable (and, according to my editor, irresistible to women), is his temper. He gets angry and assaults people with no provocation, usually his friends, which is not a very cool thing to do to your friends. At the beginning of the show, you think that most of Tony’s problems stem from his mother, who was pretty bad. As the series progresses, you find out both his parents sucked, and he’s in kind of a reverse-batman situation. Overall pretty great character, still haven’t totally forgiven him for giving Yeezus a 5/10.
At first I found Lois’ whole schtick to be kind of one-note, constantly raving about “good ‘ole fashioned values” and the “violence in movies and sex on tv,” but over time she really grew on me as the voice of reason. While she’s usually relegated to domestic disputes with the kids, talking to members of the community, or doing stuff with the church, I think these add layers of depth to the Sopranos’ canon, showing us that mob guys do boring stuff too.
Hands-down the best jazz musician in the 5 families, known for his signature catchphrase: “if you ate a (Johnny) saxophone, it would be a (Johnny) snacksophone.” Later bands together with Playboi Artie to form the jazz rap super duo “Artie J.”
Near the show’s end, the writers began getting a lot more experimental. A good example of this is when, following a near-death experience, Tony hallucinates Mahatma Gandhi, who takes him on a metaphysical journey through the history of British colonialism in India. This episode had a famously controversial ending, with a 20 minute scene showing the two marching for 240 miles from Amhedabad to Navsari, culminating in Tony breaking down and asking why Gandhi was making him go through all this, only for the latter to reply “simple, my child. You are salty,” and disappear.
The most common criticism of Meadow is that she’s kind of spoiled, and while that is true, I blame Tony for leaving her out of the fridge too long. Despite her shortcomings, Meadow does probably turn out as the best person of everyone in her immediate family. She attends Colombia to study drug trafficking, gets an internship at the ACL place (that subplot’s a real knee-slapper), and eventually opens her own brokerage firm called “Mea-Dow Jones” which I thought was cute.
Corrado in the House
Often referred to as “Uncle June,” a nod to him winning the dance contest at the Midsommar festival, Corrado is frequently in the house. After the death of Tony’s mother, Corrado takes over her maternal responsibilities, which include (but are not limited to) having dementia and trolling.
Don’t Svet It
As a Russian myself, I identify with Svetlana—I also have my own website. Easily the least annoying person Tony has sex with.
As a Jew myself, I identify with Hessian—I’ve also scammed artists out of millions in music royalties. Hessian’s generally pretty positive, hinting that he might be convex.
AJ spends most of the series being kind of the worst, but then amazingly turns into a pretty cool guy after Tony forces him to work construction, which inspires him to build character. He’s a pretty considerate boyfriend, and despite being unceremoniously broken up with, gets through it with just one charred SUV.
I was initially down with the whole “Tony hallucinating his dead dad” deal, but it got weird when they started doing cybercrime. The episode where we find out Tony’s wife is actually his sister is, however, pretty bomb.
Ferb is in the show for like 3 seasons and I have nothing to say about him, which is probably a good thing.
Literally me in real life
It makes me sad when people hate on Noah, because I don’t think I resonate with a single Sopranos character more strongly. Dude just loves film, is Jewish, and lacks any self-awareness or the emotional capacity to maintain long-term relationships. Leave my man alone.
Feech La Boys (The Feech Boys)
Feech gets out of prison after 20 years, leading to an interesting “Feech out of water” arc, where he has to learn how to use a Sony Walkman and not say the N-word. Personally I’m not a huge Feech fan, especially after he beat up that landscaper because “gardening is for fairies [sic].” My opinion of him did recover slightly after learning that this was in fact not a homophobic insult, but rather a genuine grievance stemming from his belief in the existence of mythical creatures, whom he held responsible for the creation of plant life and his subsequent spring allergies. He did have many classic expressions, like “to Feech his own,” and “give a man a Feech, he’ll feech for a day, teach a man to Feech, he’ll Feech La Boys.” Rest in Feech.
Easily the most devout cinephile in The Sopranos. I liked Phil most of the time, but I found his catchphrase, “uhm, priest to meet you?” pretty annoying.
Chris in general isn’t very reliable–I probably wouldn’t hire him for anything except dog sitting. I did relate to the part in the show where everyone was calling him lame for not drinking, as I regularly call people lame for not drinking.
Phil Leotardo, often referred to as “Leotardo DiCaprio” for his irresistibility to women and frequent critically acclaimed portrayals of “guys being dudes.” Frank Vincent unfortunately did not win an Oscar for his performance, due to The Sopranos being a television show.
While Thatcher’s hatred of big government and love of deregulation serves as a nice counterpoint to Tony’s Keynesian perspective, her lust for austerity measures ended up being a detriment to the show itself, as the budget was halved in the earlier seasons to fund wars in the Falkland islands. After her assassination by David Chase, the show’s production value increased exponentially, allowing them to finally afford a second camera (before they were filming everything on one camera).
Jack the Stripper
Jackie Jr., immortalized under the sobriquet “Jack the Stripper” owing to his frequent removal of clothing and propensity for murdering strippers, is kind of an asshole (in addition to murdering strippers). He was a shitty mobster, a shitty boyfriend, and a surprisingly decent scrabble player.
Apparently Tony Sirico agreed to play the part of Paulie on the condition that he would never be “a rat.” Evidently this offended David Chase, since he made his character live in the sewer and train turtles to use karate. The massive tusks jutting out of his face (which reportedly ate up a sizable portion of the show’s budget) were probably not a necessary addition to the character. However, they did serve as a satisfying set-up to that time in season 6 where Tony and co. are out of bullets and under attack from a warring gang-faction, until Paulie steps up and says “not to worry, boys, I’m armed two [sic] the teeth” and proceeds to take down all of the enemies. Kind of confusing episode, but god damn was it cool.
Jerry’s a freak in the sheets, but also a dick in every other respect. No one really likes Jerry, but they keep him around since he’s a good earner, having one of the most successful syndicated television series of all time. I was happy when Pony came back to life and trampled him to death.
The only things we learn about Tiger are that he drives a Mustang, and that he beats in a guy’s head with a golf club, neither of which are particularly cool.
Wolves of Wall Street
These two are what I imagine every person in a business frat looks like.
Jenny’s stupid husband who won’t shut up about how Italians are oppressed. The type of guy to call Nancy Pelosi a ”woman of color.”
Richie the Kiddo
Richie is introduced in the show when he shakes down a guy who owns a pizza parlor for pizza, then eats 4 pizzas in 20 minutes, before complaining that the delivery took too long, despite being in the restaurant where all the pizzas were served. He does other shitty things too, but that one really put me over the top.
More like Jan-not-nice! She might not be the worst Sopranos character, but she’s probably the worst Sopranos character. Every time she’s on screen she’s either extorting, manipulating, or just being annoying. She doesn’t necessarily do the most evil things, but there’s kind of a Dolores Umbridge thing going on? Like sure she hasn’t killed a bunch of people, but she’s just so much more hateable than everyone else, because she’s British. I’d call Janice the infimum of Sopranos characters, but I don’t think she’s the greatest anything.
All that said, the best character in The Sopranos is the girl reading this.