Before Deadpool was taking care of guys on his naughty list, and before Walter White was learning that in Chemistry, there are no half measures, James Gandolfini was doing favors, hitting targets, and curb-stomping perverts until his anxiety took the wheel on The Sopranos. The late Gandolfini plays the role of New Jersey Mob boss, Tony Soprano, so powerfully that the actors real name sometimes escapes my memory. With an ensemble cast behind him, Tony Soprano became a pivotal protagonist on television, by changing the way we think about villains. Gandolfini played the role to the core, having to dig deeper into a synthetic sub-conscious to present this role, especially since he had to act as a Psychiatric patient, and lay his thoughts out on the table. In a way, the wording of his problems related a horrific villains to our own world. It was the way that for six seasons, HBO got us to root for this particular villain, as opposed to the other opposing gangsters(more villains). Without The Sopranos, some of our favorite 2000’s shows may not have gotten the nod, or even chance to entertain us today.
It’s Relevance to an Era
The sopranos began at the end of the 1990’s, really capturing the Y2K “the world is changing” motif throughout the entirety of the series. All of the characters experienced character developments that tackled political and social issues of the time, as well as its relation to family tradition. In the Sopranos, you can find plotlines related to September 11th, LGBT affairs, and mental health as they begin to intertwine with Tony’s life in front of the family, and the mob. While we’ve seen so much success in the female lead television genre in recent media, The Sopranos really captures the concept of hyper-masculinity in the mafia, and really comes to bat at many characters crossroads. The people on the show are crazy with it, people get jaws broken for calling a mom fat, or thrown out windows for talking about their father, and pool sticks shoved up asses…it’s crazy. It’s explicit portrayals of violence really remind me of another popular HBO show, Game of Thrones.
New York Got Popped By Westeros
If you haven’t given The Sopranos a try yet, and love Thrones, history is begging you to give take the mobs offer. Before Game of Thrones was named HBO’s most popular show ever, Tony was at the head of that table. What I found funny about the whole Sopranos relationship with thrones is how similarly the plots are set up. They both feature intricate plots that span multiple families, locations, and personalities, and sometimes your favorite characters die gruesomely for no reason. Both of these shows have their fair share of Judases at the dinner table, less than faithful husbands and wives , battles of honor and family, and revenge. While George R.R Martin released his first Thrones novel in 1996, The Sopranos brought it alive visually, first. I know they’re two different shows, set in two different universes, but we all have our personal favorite story themes, and if you like one, you’ll probably like the other. Networks tend to know what leads to success.
Predating Greats, Exploring Villainy
When you look at television recipes that cooked up critical acclaim, as well as ratings, The Sopranos may have been the first to do so with EVIL…Well, at least evil, from an objective standpoint. We all understand that because of how character development works, we can’t help but root for a character, even if we know what they’re doing isn’t always just. While Tony Soprano was, especially if in real life (allegedly portrays John Gotti and the Gambino Crime Syndicate), an evil man, I’d be lying if there aren’t times that you cheer for him to be okay. The Sopranos may have paved the road for notorious, legendary anti-heros to grace our cinematic minds. These include Walter White, Frank Underwood, Deadpool, Daredevil….basically, the heroes that don’t stop bad guys from hurting good people, but instead, the ones that bring the pain to bad people. We can argue the moral reasoning behind every one of these characters gruesome action.Deadpool being the most defensible, personally, though closely followed by Heisenberg in my book. Despite what the arguments are, the character development behind all of these really stems from the bold choice Sopranos creators took by crossing the main characters moral line. For more about this stance on television trends, I recommend the book, Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad, by Brett Martin.
Mind of Mafia
I’m not going to dive too deep into this huge element of The Sopranos, because it’s better experienced from your point of view. Tony Soprano visits a psychiatrist, that eventually evolves into a tumultuous doctor-patient relationship, with both parties knowing that they’re speaking in code-talk,dancing around Tony’s notoriety for criminal affiliation. This does so much for me, as Tonys honest, but metaphorical, encrypted statements help you dig even deeper into the underlying thoughts Tony most likely has:
1.I have so much money
2. My Children are so difficult
3. Being a mobster may not pay off much longer
4. I can’t trust anyone, including this doctor.
Seeing the development of his thoughts out loud really the show more little gold coins to keep chasing throughout the series.
The Creative Staff’s Nod
There’s just one little character side plot that might just serve as more of an Easter Egg, or hidden in plain sight message throughout the show. One of Tony’s biggest adversaries on the show, Phil Leotardo, nicknamed Shinebox, is a nod to his role in Goodfellas, in which he gets his face wrecked, essentially. Ironically, on the show, Shinebox is now one ruthless motherfucker, for lack of a better word honestly. Tony’s “nephew” Chris is a captain starting pretty early on in the series, though his legal career pursuit, screenplay writing, is an underlying passion. Later in the series, Chris uses his ties to get a man to script him a film for to pay off a debt. He finances the movie through the mafia, and takes the credit to his name. I wonder if there’s any real life inspiration that sits behind this, you know, because the Sopranos has, well, writers. Is this a subtle acknowledgment of the fourth wall?
HBO and Amazon Prime Subscribers, if you haven’t yet, get sworn into the club.