Today, 10 years ago, The Sopranos came to a close with arguably the most talked-about ending in television of the decade.
Starring a cast of veteran actors and some new faces, it would go on to become one of the most critically and commercially successful TV shows of our time.
More than anything, The Sopranos proved that TV was capable of several things. It could easily put itself on par with film in terms of production value, quality script-writing and depth. It could also very easily subvert the entrenched tropes of film, i.e. Italian gangsters are hard-nosed, unfeeling thugs. Most importantly, however, it showed that quality never goes out of style.
Spanning six seasons, The Sopranos was the herald to TV's Second Golden Age and became an international hit and made a household name of the now sadly departed James Gandolfini.
Here's our ten favourite scenes.
10. SEASON 1 - "Good morning, rat."
The first season is considered by some to be the weakest, although we feel that's an unfair assessment. It's true, the opening season was the most reminiscent of crime dramas like Goodfellas and so forth, but it was merely laying the groundwork for what was to come. This scene showed just how brutal Tony Soprano was willing to be, personally dispatching a known FBI informant who disappeared several years ago. What a line, too. "That's the thing about us wiseguys - the hustle never ends."
9. SEASON 5 - "Anybody ever die in your arms, you c***sucker? Give it time. See if I can't make that happen for you."
The Sopranos perfected the art of the tense meeting, this scene being a perfect example. Tony is brought before Phil Leotardo and Johnny Sack to answer for the death of Phil's brother. Although Tony is amiable and apologetic at first, Phil's anger forces him to return. It's a great scene that shows how, with a just few words, an entire storyline can play out.
8. SEASON 5 - "Oh mister, you OK in there?"
One of the most noticeable things about The Sopranos was its frequent use of black humour. Much like Goodfellas, it was often violent, sometimes racist and always included exceptionally vulgar language. Here, Tony meets Phil Leotardo on the street - who quickly bails when he realises Tony wants to talk regarding a debt. A high-speed chase ensues to the soundtrack of Rock The Casbah, resulting in an inevitable crash. It's a fantastically funny scene with a brilliant pay-off.
7. SEASON 3 - "Keep diggin'."
Pine Barrens was, for us, the best episode of The Sopranos. A totally self-contained story involving Paulie Walnuts and Christopher Moltisanti and a Russian "interior decorator", it played out almost like a Coen Brothers script. This scene, which sets up the episode, sees Paulie and Chris attacked by said Russian. The gorgeous cinematography by Alik Sakharov, coupled with the sound design and clever scripting, makes it a joy to behold.
6. SEASON 3 - "We're with Ralph."
This scene, involving an ill-fated hijacking of a card game, is a great example of how cleverly The Sopranos was edited. Again, using techniques in film, the scene is paced perfectly from the start before it descends into an all-out gun battle.
5. SEASON 4 - "It's anti-Italian discrimination."
More than anything, The Sopranos had fantastic dialogue. Rich, authentic, quotable and layered, it never felt like it was forced. It rolled out gently and easily. This scene's a perfect example. It's a nothing scene really, just the usual group outside Satriale's discussing Christopher Columbus and the protests against him. It's so human, people talking crap and blowing their noses, yet it's so real. You could easily imagine yourself eavesdropping on a discussion like this.
4. SEASON 5 - "You're unprepared!"
One of the most inventive aspects of The Sopranos over the different seasons was it use of psychology. It's true, the scenes with Dr. Melfi served almost as plot reminders and a sort of internal monologue for Tony more than actual psychoanalysis, however there were others. The dream sequences were incredibly unique and almost seemed to be pulled from the mind of David Lynch than David Chase. In fact, like Twin Peaks, these scenes really attempt to grasp at that unnameable feeling one has when in a dream. This particular one shows Tony's deep-seated fears and insecurities about his own sense of self, and his regrets for the path not taken.
3. SEASON 5 - "I'm sitting here, humbling myself out of friendship to you, John."
This scene is another perfect example of the various layers and textures The Sopranos frequently and easily worked with. The long-running narratives that spanned seasons were both flowing and labyrinthine in equal measure. Tony's cousin, Tony Blundetto, played by the always brilliant Steve Buscemi, is believed to have murdered an associate of Johnny Sack on the orders of his rival, Carmine Lupertazzi Jr. Tony Blundetto, who previously had given up the life in favour of a masseur business, is now back on the job and taking freelance assassinations. The scene begins with a comic moment, the misspelling of said murdered associate and ends with powerhouse acting by Gandolfini and Vincent Curtatola.
2. SEASON 2 - "Sooner or later, you're gonna have to face facts."
What film, or TV show for that matter, would think to have a pivotal scene such as this be played out like this? Tony, in the depths of a stomach bug, has a fever dream in which it's revealed to him that Big Pussy is an FBI informant - something he had suspected for some time. Again, it's almost like something from a David Lynch film and is fantastically well-written and wonderfully unique. Unsurprisingly, the whole episode was nominated for Outstanding Writing at the Emmys that year.
1. SEASON 6 - "No more, Butchie. No more of this."
The Sopranos was known for its incredibly varied taste in music. David Chase, the showrunner behind The Sopranos, was a well-versed muso and made great use of his encyclopaedic knowledge of music to wonderful effect. The final scene of the episode Stage 5 sees the deterioration of Christopher and Tony's relationship and Phil Leotardo's resolve to destroy the Sopranos in one swoop. It's a beautifully directed scene and the pulsing, vibrating electronic rhythms flow through the scene. Deep, powerful and unmistakably brilliant.