June 19, 2013 7:51pm PT by Michael O'Connell
James Gandolfini Remembered: 10 Definitive Tony Soprano Moments (Video)
With the June 19 death of James Gandolfini, TV has lost the man behind one of its most-iconic characters. For six seasons Gandolfini played Tony Soprano, the New Jersey mobster whose neuroses and frequent moments of levity made it difficult to ever completely dislike him -- despite the all of the affairs and graphic murders.
The Sopranos rode a wave of nearly continuous critical acclaim to 21 Emmy wins (including three for Gandolfini) and solidified HBO's status as the force to be reckoned with in scripted television. It's hard to distil Gandolfini's finest moments playing Tony in the immediate wake of his death, possibly because there's no shortage of material. From the violent whackings and throw-downs with his onscreen wife (Edie Falco), to his moments in therapy and the show's unendingly discussed cliffhanger, here are few signature Tony moments.
"College": Season 1, Episode 5
Tony's first on-camera kill doesn't happen until halfway through the first season. Appropriately enough, it takes place on a trip to show daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) New England colleges -- and he happens to run into an FBI informant who went into witness protection. Tony whacks the snitch during one of Meadow's interviews. He spots a particularly resonant Nathaniel Hawthorne quote at the admissions office: "No man... can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one may be true."
"Boca": Season 1, Episode 9
Artie (John Ventimiglia) and Tony pull an understandable 180 on Meadow's soccer coach, who turns out to be sleeping with one of her underage teammates. Instead of having him killed, Tony calls off a planned hit and let's the police take care of him. After a night of mixing alcohol and Prozac, he comes home and proudly tells Carmela, "I didn't hurt nobody."
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"I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano," Season 1, Episode 13
The hate-hate relationship between Tony and mother Livia (Nancy Marchand) was cut short by Marchand's 2000 death, but their exchanges in the first two seasons gave more than enough insight into Tony's tortured psyche. When she's wheeled into an emergency room in the first season finale, Tony tells her he heard her plotting with Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) about killing him. She seems to smile from under her oxygen mask. He royally flips out.
"Funhouse": Season 2, Episode 13
Tony's brutality and the bizarre complexities of mob families are rarely better showcased than in the second season finale that included Tony's long-awaited whacking of Big Pussy Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore). Pussy asked for one shot between the eyes. He got about a dozen in the gut.
"Employee of the Month": Season 3, Episode 4
The back-and-forth between Tony and Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) often anchored the series. She was among the most-relatable characters to the audience given how much she knew about Tony's wrong-doings -- and how much she cared for him in spite of that. When she's brutally raped in the third season, we wait for her to tell him what happened. Instead, an especially intuitive Tony notices something is amiss and attempts to console her and asks her if she wants to tell him something.
"Whoever Did This": Season 4, Episode 7
Ralphie Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano) was the worst. And though he had been asking for it for some time when Tony finally strangles the blowhard, it's Tony's love of his horse Pie-O-My that Ralphie killed in a stable fire that drives him to finally off his sister's latest bad boyfriend. The cherry on the cake, if you don't count the toupee flying off during the final scuffle, is Ralph's severed head being buried in a bowling bag.
"Whitecaps": Season 4, Episode 13
Tony Soprano did a lot of messed up stuff, but he never laid a hand on his wife. Bickering between Mr. and Mrs. Soprano grew to be too much by the season four finale, so after Tony tells Carmela that she should be cool with him having women on the side, the long-suffering matriarch flips and tells him about her steamy, unconsummated affair with Furio (Federico Castelluccio). Tony punches a wall and moves out.
"Join the Club": Season 6, Episode 2
Love them or hate them, the bizarre dream sequences that defined some of The Sopranos' experimental storytelling hits critical mass when Tony goes on a long, confusing dream-jaunt as a traveling salesman. Those expecting a speedy resolve to Tony's shooting at the hand of Uncle Junior in the previous episode got an acid trip instead.
"Luxury Loung": Season 6, Episode 7
When Benny (Doogie Hoswer, M.D. star Max Casella) is caught stealing credit card numbers from Vesuvio's restaurant, he is beaten within an inch of his life. Tony adds insult to injury with the delivery of this magnificent twist on an idiom: "You don't s--t where you eat. And you really don't s--t where I eat."
"Made in America": Season 6, Episode 21
Perhaps the most-discussed scene in television history, the underlying tension of Tony's possible whacking and Meadow's inability to parallel park is ultimately overshadowed by the charm of one last meal with this oddly endearing patriarch -- and Jersey diners' ability to prepare and serve onion rings in the span of one Journey song.