Episode 01 “The Sopranos”
It’s kind of weird to go back and watch the first episode of your favorite television show. Especially when 10 years have passed since it first aired. In the first episode of The Sopranos we’re introduced to a slew of the original characters that we’ve all come to know and love. It’s exciting to be reunited with these characters. For the most part we know which ones have been whacked and which ones survived. Then again, there are a few who’s fate we’ll probably never know.
The pilot episode starts out in Dr. Melfi’s office and Tony Soprano is the first character we’re introduced to. Kind of ironic that he was the first character to appear on the show and also the very last. The writers used a device in this episode that wasn’t often used on The Sopranos, they had Tony giving us a sort of voice-over introduction to his life which was also Dr. Melfi’s introduction to Tony Soprano.
There are certain points in the voice-over where James Gandolfini doesn’t even sound like the Tony Soprano we know. That’s expected though in early episodes of a series when an actor is still crafting a character. However if you watch the credits closely, even in the final season, there was always a credit for “Mr. Gandolfini’s Speech Coach” – someone helping him to put on that North Jersey accent and make it sound realistic.
Tony looks skinny as hell in this episode and Christopher looks young as hell. Speaking of Christopher Moltisanti, I found it very ironic that his first whacking on The Sopranos has him shooting a guy through the back of a head, while the guy was doing coke off of a cleaver. If you recall, Cleaver was the name of Christopher’s horror movie that premiered in season 6B, episode 2 (aka episode 79 entitled Stage 5).
The first person that Christopher whacks, as well as the very first casualty of The Sopranos, is named Emil Kolar.
The first episode of The Sopranos also features Christopher’s first mentions of writing a movie script / selling his life story to Hollywood. A theme that would run throughout the entire series for Chrissy; dreams of an alternate lifestyle and a life outside of the mob. When Christopher mentions to Tony the thought of writing a screenplay Tony comes right out and says it…”I’ll f’n kill you”. Talk about foreshadowing.
It’s always interesting to see how certain characters were introduced on this show. There are some major characters who either started out with a small part (Adrianna is introduced as a hostess at Vesuvio’s with no ties to Christopher – Drea de Matteo is credited as Hostess) or characters who started with a small part and were never really dealt with again (Silvio’s daughter – although she has another small part on an upcoming Season 1 episode, she disappeared from the series thereafter). Also there was an actor/character replacement right from the start – “Father Phil” was a totally different actor in the first episode. There are a few other replacements I’ll cover in other episodes / seasons too.
Other key characters who we’re introduced to in the pilot include: Carmela Soprano, AJ Soprano, Meadow Soprano, Junior Soprano, Tony’s Mother aka Livia Soprano, Hesh Rabkin, Silvio Dante, Paulie Walnuts, “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, Little Pussy, Artie Bucco, and Charmaine Bucco.
A more minor character who would briefly appear in the first season was Meadow’s friend Hunter. Hunter is played by Soprano’s creator David Chase’s daughter. She would also eventually appear in the final episode of the show.
Classic moments: The look on Tony’s face when he’s driving like a maniac to run down some guy who owes him money, Tony falling over not once but twice because of panic attacks, AJ’s line “what, no fuckin’ ziti?”, Silvio walking away from Vesuvio’s followed by an explosion, the look that Tony gives to Dr. Melfi’s date at the restaurant and the duck’s dramatic departure from the Soprano family’s pool.
One thing that kind of bothers me about the early episodes was some of the music – especially the “next on” music they used to use when you look at the upcoming episode trailer (if you have the DVDs, check it out and you’ll know what I mean). The music was really comic sounding and it didn’t have the dramatic sound that they eventually started using and that would help build up the tension / drama for next week’s episode.
Overall this episode is classic (of course) and all of the themes that would dominate this show’s epic arcs were set into motion. I remember I watched this episode a few days before the last episode aired in June 2007, just to see if I’d catch anything that would link the first and last episodes together. Besides David Chase’s writing / directing credits, the main theme that ties them together are the ducks and Tony’s fear of losing his family. In the end Tony attempted to get his whole family together for one last supper at Holsten’s. Whether Meadow made it to dinner with the whole family (or not) and if they all managed to survive that night, well that’s a conversation for a whole different day.