The Sopranos has been my favorite show for some time now, sometimes switching with The Wire but mostly staying on top. So my journey to write “Long Overdue Recaps” of each season was long, but a joy. This post is meant to consolidate those reviews in one place, and to offer some of my key takeaways from the experience.
- James Gandolfini’s performance is the best of any actor or actress in any television show. It comes down to quantity. We could go line for line on best TV moments between, let’s say, Bryan Cranston as Walter White and Gandolfini as Tony and the comparison would be close. But whereas we could capture most of Cranston’s best moments- because he also shares the series with a co-lead- we would be lost in a sea of Tony Soprano moments because he dominates the entire series with his giant frame and huge presence. He is on the screen so damn much and is asked to deliver time and again for 6 incredible seasons, and he just never freaking misses.
- I alluded to this in a couple of my posts, but I just absolutely cannot understand why Game of Thrones has the rep for killing main characters. Side characters? Maybe… but time and again The Sopranos developed characters richly and deeply, enmeshing them in the plot and the viewers lives and then offs them with more build and precision and significance than maybe any death in Game of Thrones other than Ned Stark’s.
- Pacing matters and characters matter. If you want to make a great drama series, take two things from The Sopranos (as I think most do). The first is to develop, really develop, all of your characters, significant and insignificant. Give them quirks and backstories, conflict and comedy. Give them sub plots and interweave thosd into the main plot. Make me feel something about them as much as possible and then every part of your story gets raised. The Sopranos shocked audiences and maybe themselves, by developing a character in the wings until all of a sudden they were the star of the show, like Vito and AJ and Phil and any number of characters. The show went for six seasons and never ran out of steam because it never ran out of characters to help complicate Tony’s life. As much as Tony was the focal point, he was never the only point./ And the second takeaway is to pace it out. The Sopranos always had storylines that spanned the series that was fed by storylines that spanned a couple seasons, fed by storylines than spanned for a single season, supported by storylines that spanned an episode or two. Too often series don’t have the clarity and foresight to balance all of those at once, and the show grows off balance from having only storylines that last an episode or two, or boring storylines that are insular to a season but take so long to develop any number of issues. The Sopranos is a masterclass in pacing.
- Lastly, I loved writing about The Sopranos. The only challenge was trying to clearly articulate the intricacies in the story and the meaning it conveys. It was a fun challenged, and I think that sometimes I may have even done it some justice. So I hope you will check out some of my thoughts on The Sopranos long after anyone is asking…
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