By way of summarizing The Sopranos, I’m going to go through my top ten episodes of the series. It’s a lot tougher to do that with The Sopranos than with a lot of others, say Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Six Feet Under, since every episode is at such a consistently high level, and the show doesn’t usually use the build to a big mythology/finale episode structure of a lot of series. Every episode is so good that it’s mostly the weaker ones that stand out. But, there are still better and worse episodes, and I shall delve into them.
Notably, there are no Season One episodes on my list. A lot of people will tell you Season One is the show’s best season, and it is fantastic, but I don’t think it’s as layered and complex as the later years. Looking at that season now, none of the characters are as developed as they are in the later years. Adrianna is just a pretty girl, because the show's creator David Chase didn’t know at this point what she’d become, and the same is true of Paulie and Pussy. From a plot level, it’s probably the tightest season, but it’s also the most “TV” in the sense that it’s got more obvious standalone stories and a clear arc throughout the season.
While the later seasons are messier, they feel more real and more character centered. It’s the character hooks that make the series so wonderful, and that’s the reason that Season Five is my favorite season of the entire series. There, they used less serial plotting than in the previous seasons, instead focusing in depth on one or two characters each episode. This meant that each episode gave us a ton of development and much to ponder and discuss.
Also, I watched the first four seasons on DVD, then watched the fifth and sixth as they aired. So, it’s harder for me to separate those early seasons into individual episodes — they all sort of bleed together — while the latter are separated in my mind. I’d stand by these picks regardless, but it’s possible if I’d watched those earlier seasons separately, they’d be more distinguished.
Anyway, on to the Top Ten, in chronological order: