Category: TV

Every episode of ‘The Sopranos,’ ranked


2014 marks the 15th anniversary of the premiere of “The Sopranos.”

Earlier this month HBO finally released the complete series on Blu-ray. “The Sopranos” laid the groundwork for the new golden age of television we live in today. It told a story on the small screen that was greater than most films, and that achievement will be studied 100 years from today. Keep in mind that this is a TV show made by humans. It’s not perfect. But “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” and “Mad Men” are the greatest shows ever made and even their worst episodes are better than 99% of everything else that’s on television. So let’s take a look at the show that changed tv and the episodes that made it so transformational.

Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos?


Welles’ magic, Bunuel’s real-looking dreams, Poe’s sand that keeps flowing through our fingers no matter what we try to do to stop it, are the inspirations for the cut to black. The cut to black brought to American television the sense of an ending that produces wonder instead of the tying-up of loose ends that characterizes the tradition of the formulaic series. Tony’s decisive win over his enemy in the New York mob, Phil Leotardo, is the final user-friendly event in Chase’s gangster story that gratifies the desire to be conclusive, and it would have been the finale of a less compelling gangster story. The cut to black is the moment when Castaneda and the American Romantics rise to the surface and the gangster story slips through our fingers and vanishes.

I’m not guessing. When I asked Chase about the cut to black, he said that it is about Poe’s poem “Dream Within a Dream.” “What more can I say?” he asks when I prod him to speak more, and I admire his silence. I am his audience too and he wants me to reach for his meaning. And here’s what I conclude. Though you wouldn’t know it from watching Hollywood movies, endings are by nature mysterious. There is the instability of loss in an ending as well as the satisfying sense of completion. American television before Chase, with the exception of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, one of Chase’s avowed key inspirations for the art of The Sopranos, built a craft that dispenses with the destabilizing aspects of an ending. The true art of closure will not tolerate such a boring decision. Moreover, the art of closure forbids merely telling the audience in words that there is loss, since words can create the illusion of safety and control. Chase’s art seeks a silent level of knowing more profound than words. He believes we already know if we open up to that deeper part of us.

And now we know.


Outstanding first episode.  So many times the first episode is bogged down in exposition.  With this, it felt as though it was just naturally unwinding, ready to go off in many different directions.

Genius casting of Martin Freeman; squint and he even looks a bit like William H. Macy.  I’ve always liked Billy Bob Thornton, especially in Bad Santa.


Excellent last episode.  Interesting positioning re a fourth series: if it isn’t recommissioned, it is a very dark, arguably anti-religious third series; if it is recommissioned, all can be redeemed.

With a whole new cast (apart from Olivia Coleman) there’s clearly a reboot opportunity but at what point has it run its course?  I think a film might be the way to go out.