With the recent deaths of The Sopranos‘ actors Tony Sirico and Bruce MacVittie, we decided put together a season-by-season ranking of the popular HBO mob series. Although every season is great and there’s no consensus on the order, we’ve aggregated the opinions of fans, critics, and this writer to make our choices.
Season 2 (2000)
The second season of The Sopranos has some big moments, such as Tony’s trip to Italy, and the deaths of Richie (David Proval) and Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore), but it’s a bit too dreamy for our sensibilities. We mean that literally. Season two has more scenes featuring the characters’ unconscious inventions than any other. While we’re not dream sequence haters (some of the dreams, especially in later seasons, are among the best parts of the series), season two is a little too heavy on fantasy and a little too light on the cynical yet believable reality that The Sopranos expertly cultivated.
Season 5 (2004)
Season five is arguably the least memorable run of The Sopranos. The highlights are Steve Buscemi’s character Tony Blundetto and his death at the barrel of Tony Soprano’s shotgun; Adriana’s (Drea de Matteo) cooperation with the FBI inevitably catching up to her; Vito’s (Joseph R. Gannascoli) extramafioso activities; and the black bear in Carmela’s backyard. Besides those storylines, season five didn’t have the makings of a varsity season, but it still collected four Emmys.
Season 4 (2002)
Some fans consider season four of The Sopranos to be melodramatic. Much of it revolves around romance, but its some of the most tense, explosive, and downright deadly romance ever depicted on screen. Tony and Carmela’s marriage deteriorates, facilitating exceptional acting from James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, respectively; Carmela has an emotional and near-physical affair with Tony’s bodyguard Furio (Federico Castelluccio); and Tony has a quasi-romantic relationship with Ralph Cifaretto’s (Joe Pantoliano) racehorse that dies in a stable fire, which Tony blames on Ralph and kills him for it.
Season 1 (1999)
The first season of The Sopranos gets credit for starting it all: presenting TV viewers with an animal-loving, therapy-attending mobster and his complex circle of (dis)trust. Beyond introducing these characters and their incredible actors, season one features such seminal storylines as Tony’s first onscreen hit, his toxic relationship with his mother Livia (Nancy Marchand), his children discovering his mafia ties, and the attempted assassination on his life. The Sopranos was finding itself during its first season, which we appreciate but must also count against its ranking.
Season 3 (2001)
Season three of The Sopranos is the only installment with a perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It contains, among many other hallmarks, the rise and fall of Jackie Jr. (Jason Cerbone); the rape of Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) and her annoyingly ethical restraint; Tony’s guilt surrounding a demoted traffic cop; and the highest-rated episode, “Pine Barrens,” which sees Christopher (Michael Imperioli) and Paulie (Tony Sirico) track a resilient Russian through the titular, snowy woods. The worst we can say about season three is CGI Livia. Shivers.
Season 6 (2006/2007)
The final season of The Sopranos was released in two parts: 12 episodes in 2006 and nine episodes in 2007. While some publications rank the parts separately, we’ve squished the whole thing together and found it too stacked to put anywhere but the floor. Season six has Uncle Junior’s (Dominic Chianese) sad descent into dementia; Tony’s near-fatal shooting, resulting coma, and transformation into Kevin Finnerty, a fantasy-Tony who traded his criminal case for a briefcase; Vito being outed and ousted; AJ’s (Robert Iler) suicide attempt; Tony and Bobby’s (Steve Schirripa) drunken brawl; and the deaths of many iconic characters. Of course, there’s the finale’s cut to black, which left a lot fans feeling cheated, but not us because