The Sopranos

The 10 Most Underrated Episodes of ‘The Sopranos,’ Ranked

There are very few shows today that can even compete with the brilliance of The Sopranos which, even decades later, continues to reign as one of the greatest series of all time. Created by David Chase, The Sopranos centers around New Jersey mobster, Tony Soprano, beautifully played by James Gandolfini, who, after suffering a panic attack, seeks help from a psychiatrist (Lorraine Bracco) hoping to address the source of his attacks while also maintaining his double life as a family man and mafioso. Out of the show’s six seasons, there are dozens of noteworthy episodes, such as season 1, episode 13, ‘Fun House,’ and season 3, episode 11, ‘Pine Barrens,’ but there are also some that deserve a bit more credit.

It’s safe to say that there isn’t necessarily a bad episode in the show, but it’s easy to understand that some are overshadowed by others. Even though some episodes are more memorable than others, there are a few forgotten gems, including season 1, episode 7, “Down Neck,” and season 5, episode 11, “The Test Dream.” With over eighty episodes, these are the 10 most underrated episodes of The Sopranos, ranked.

“Do Not Resuscitate”

Season 2, Episode 2

Aida Tuturro sitting next to Edie Falco at the dinner table in The Sopranos
Image via HBO

Livia Soprano, played by the incredible Nancy Marchand, was a vital (and comical) staple in the show’s early seasons, and while she was a constant and unbearable headache for Tony, it’s funny to see how she turns the tables on her oldest daughter, Janice (Aida Turturro) in season 2, episode 2, ‘Do Not Resuscitate.’ When Janice enters the picture, Livia’s personality comes full circle as she isn’t any more satisfied with her daughter’s care than her son’s. What makes the episode interesting is how, even with his mother out of his way now, his sister now serves as her replacement.

Even though Janice knows her mother can be manipulative and cruel, she still falls into her trap and becomes entangled in her web of misery and toxicity. On the other hand, Janice doesn’t fall too far from the tree and is only putting up with her mother because she has a personal agenda of her own. From imagining her mother “accidentally” falling down the stairs and using reverse psychology on Tony to wave a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) for Livia, the highly underrated episode sheds damaging light on Janice, revealing that Tony’s family problems are far from over.

9“Stage 5”

Season 6, Episode 14

The Sopranos - 2007 - Stage 5
Image via HBO

Season 6, episode 14, “Stage 5,” is a bleak but insightful episode in The Sopranos that reflects on past issues and rumors, such as Carmela’s (Edie Falco) suspicions of Tony having an affair with Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) and the tension between Tony and Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli). While everyone attends Christopher’s premiere of his movie, Clever, wheels begin to turn in the audiences’ heads, correlating real-life scenarios with the scenes playing out on the silver screen.

Aside from the rather awkward and tense movie premiere, the downfall of Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola) continues to plummet with more bad news and his hope of beating cancer is quickly dashed away. Even though “Stage 5” is a dark and a bit of a downer episode, it still sheds a rare light on the genuine human nature of these complex, larger-than-life characters who, most of the time, seem bulletproof from the hardships of reality.

8“Calling All Cars”

Season 4, Episode 11

Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Jennifer Melfi sitting in a chair in The Sopranos
Image via HBO

There is a constant theme of the paranormal in season 4, episode 11, “Calling All Cars,” which is considered to be one of the series’ creepiest episodes. The episode immediately kicks off with one of Tony’s dreams, which features heavy symbolism such as life and death as well as issues from Tony’s past that he has yet to come to terms with, including his mother and the suicide of his former girlfriend, Gloria Trillo (Annabelle Sciorra). The episode features Tony in a rare vulnerable state and while his dreams may appear to be out of place, they are a lot to unpack and serve as significant foreshadowing.

While Tony’s dreams are the episode’s central focus, his sister, Janice, sinks to an all-new low by anonymously encouraging Bobby Bacala’s (Steve Schirripa) kids to try and contact their mother, Karen, with an Ouija board. Of course, the experience has a detrimental impact on the kids, which results in Bacala turning to her for help, playing right into her sick, twisted hand. Aside from the episode’s eerie tone, “Calling All Cars” is an exceptional episode that adds immense depth to several key characters and is without a doubt one of the most underrated episodes.

7“Soprano Home Movies”

Season 6, Episode 13

Edie Falco standing next to James Gandolfini in The Sopranos
Image via HBO

From day one, Tony has busted Bobby Bacala’s balls and one would think once he married Janice, Tony might lay off a bit, but in season 6, episode 13, “Soprano Home Movies,” Tony finally pushes Bobby to his breaking point. To celebrate Tony’s birthday, Bacala and his now wife, Janice, invite him and Carmela to stay at Bobby’s family’s cabin for the weekend. When the couples sit down for a friendly game of Monopoly, Tony begins to relentlessly rag on everyone, specifically his sister, who ends up striking a chord with Bobby. For the first time, Bobby finally speaks up, and the two men engage in a physical fight with Bobby getting the better of Tony.

While the episode is noted for Bobby finally taking a stand against Tony’s ball-busting,it also marks the moment his life is forever changed, and not for the better. The next day, Tony tells Bobby to whack a guy for him, almost as a form of punishment for the previous night. The hit takes a noticeable toll on Bobby and the episode ends with one of the show’s best needle drops as Bobby swoops his little girl up in his arms, and stares absently out into the lake as his American dream fades away with “This Magic Moment” by The Drifters playing into the end credits.

6“Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood”

Season 3, Episode 1

James Gandolfini sitting at a table eating in The Sopranos
Image via HBO

In season 3, episode 1, “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood,” fans get to see things from the perspective of the federal agents and their continuous efforts to nail Tony with charges. While Tony is well aware that agents are watching him, he fails to realize that they’re also following his family and planning to secretly bug his home. Even though the episode still features the main characters and their antics, it’s interesting to see things from the other side as well as the sneaky loopholes the agents used to try and gather evidence against Tony.

The episode also pays a bit of homage to classic gangster movies,which would typically depict law enforcement as a bunch of buffoons or incompetent officers who were always outsmarted by the mobster or criminal. While the agents think they are two steps ahead of Tony, their egos are comically deflated when their plan is postponed due to a busted water heater, which ironically, they thought had several more months. Between the rare viewpoint of the agents to the humorous turn of events that blow up (literally) in their faces, “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood,” ranks as one of the show’s most underrated episodes.


Season 4, Episode 3

Robert Funaro drinking espresso while sitting next to Steven Van Zandt in The Sopranos
Image via HBO

Silvio Dante is one of few who always manages to keep his emotions in check and can be quite ruthless at times, but in season 4, episode 3, “Christopher,” fans see a different side of the beloved consigliere. When local Native American groups threaten to protest the annual Columbus Day parade, Silvio takes an extreme offensive and recruits some of the guys to try and put a stop to their efforts. From arriving at one of the protests and demanding they take a makeshift dummy of Columbus to sending Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano) in to deliver a message, “Christopher” is Silvio’s all-time best episode.

Aside from Silvio’s comical antics, the episode also touches back on one of Tony’s initial discussions with Dr. Melfi about Gary Cooper, you know, the strong, silent type. This quote plays an important role throughout the series, but in this particular episode, Tony puts things into perspective for Sil, pointing out that he accomplished everything in his life because of who he is as a person and not because he is an Italian-American. The episode is one of few where Tony actually makes a valid point and even though he got the short end of the stick, at least he turned the situation into a valuable lesson.

4“To Save Us All from Satan’s Power”

Season 3, Episode 10

James Gandolfini standing next to Tony Sirico in The Sopranos
Image via HBO

Season 3, episode 10, “To Save Us All from Satan’s Power,” starts with another one of Tony’s dreams and eventually leads to him thinking about his former friend, Big Pussy. While trying to cope with the difficult trip down memory lane, things only get worse when the guys pull out the Santa Claus suit Pussy used to wear at their annual Christmas party. Despite the ominous past surrounding Pussy, the episode has its comical perks, mainly with Bobby being forced to play Santa Claus.

The episode does a fantastic job of shedding a more positive light on Pussy and while he was a rat, he was still a wholesome, fun-loving man who loved his friends and family. Of course, the Christmas party is the highlight of the episode, but it also forces Tony to face the genuine grief he feels about his friend that he has been trying to deny for years. Between Bobby not turning out to be the best Saint Nick (“Next year, he’s going to Santa School.”) and the guys having to face the reality of missing their former friend, “Save Us All from Satan’s Power” is an emotional rollercoaster of an episode that deserves more recognition.

3“Down Neck”

Season 1, Episode 7

Nancy Marchand as Livia Soprano in The Sopranos
Image via HBO

In season 1, episode 7, “Down Neck,’ Tony has a trip down memory lane, revealing a bit of his childhood to Dr. Melifi, who immediately spots red flags regarding his mother. The episode marks the first time fans get to see a bit of Tony’s childhood and how he initially found out what his father did for a living. The flashback perfectly correlates with Tony’s son, AJ (Robert Iler), who recently discovered what Tony actually does for a living, which has a damaging impact on him and his behavior.

Despite his sessions with Melfi, Tony continues to think AJ is doomed because he believes he inherited his recklessness from him and his father, but in a classic case of nature versus nurture, Tony fails to realize the extensive efforts and changes he must make as a parent to effectively try to keep AJ from going down the wrong path. With the flashbacks and the uncanny comparison between Tony and AJ, “Down Neck” is one of the most fascinating and underrated episodes that digs deep into both characters, revealing not only their similarities but also the differences that set them apart.

2“46 Long”

Season 1, Episode 2

Steven Van Zandt standing up with his hands out in The Sopranos
Image via HBO

After the widely successful pilot episode, The Sopranos picked up with season 1, episode 2, “46 Long,” which brilliantly expanded the show’s universe without overdoing it. From Silvio Dante’s (Steven Van Zandt) hilarious impressions from The Godfather movies to Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) and Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore) having to track down AJ’s teacher’s car, the episode is an excellent stepping stone towards heavier, graphic content. The episode does give audiences an idea of this with Christopher’s storyline as he tries to prove himself worthy of his button in all the wrong ways.

The episode straddles the line between the everyday normal world and Tony’s underworld of crime and corruption, brilliantly demonstrating how the two worlds effortlessly intertwine. When Carmela casually requests Tony to find the stolen car, he goes an unconventional route which results in the teacher getting his car back with the same plates but in a different color and keys, making it apparent to everyone how Tony really got the car back, and accepting it as the norm. Some fans might consider “46 Long” to be a throwaway episode, but it actually adds more depth to the main characters in a short amount of time, revealing a glimmer of their true colors.

1“The Test Dream”

Season 5, Episode 11

The Sopranos - 2004 - The Test Dream
Image via HBO

Season 5, episode 11, “The Test Dream,” is one of the most marginalized episodes, mainly because fans fail to understand the symbolism surrounding Tony’s lucid dream. The Sopranos is so much more than just a drama about wise guys and the characters’ dreams, especially Tony’s, serve as another revealing layer that is vital to the show. After checking into the Plaza Hotel, Tony has a series of random dreams that feature notable scenes and old familiar faces, but the dream essentially foreshadows Tony’s near future.

When Tony wakes up, Christopher informs him that his cousin, Tony B (Steve Buscemi), has killed Billy Leotardo (name) and wounded his brother, Phil (Frank Vincent). While the issue between Tony B and New York had already been the source of Tony’s stress, his subconscious spoke to him through his dream, touching on his insecurities about being an effective and respected boss as well as the inevitable action he must take to avoid an all-out war between New York and New Jersey. Some viewers might be put off by the episode’s array of random scenes, but once they’re pieced together and fully examined, “The Test Dream” turns out to be a rather sharp episode.

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