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Analyzing The Soprano's First Episode

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Perhaps a theme of the first episode of The Sopranos is the idea that even people who do bad things and kill others suffer stress and love their families just like anyone else. This is particularly emphasized with the periodic scenes with the psychiatrist and with the number of times depression is discussed.

I imagine the tone of this show to be a dark comedy. As such, I would visually create a dark atmosphere with dim lighting and an overall gray hue. I would also make sure that actors’ performances are not too dramatic or poignant and I would emphasize the physical comedy, such as the scene in which Chris and Big Pussy struggle to get Emil’s body into a dumpster and end up just propping it up against the side. Additionally, sound and music choice has an enormous effect on tone. I would make sure that the accompanying score is light and not too emotional in order to ensure that the comedic aspect of the potentially dark show is not lost on viewers.

Because I found the scene, as written, so amusing, I decided to analyze the one describe above in which Chris and Big Pussy try to dispose of Emil. In the show itself, I was underwhelmed by the physical humor of trying to toss the body into the dumpster. It makes realistic sense that the body would not be flung very high, but I imagined it flying higher which, for some reason, seems more humorous to me. As if they almost could have gotten the body in. Seeing the situation, however, it seems a little ridiculous that they’re even trying, which is likely the true intended humor. I found it a shame that they cut all of the rest of the messing with the body (though I notice that throughout the show, they have made many cuts to keep the action and story tight). Aside from this, the actor of Chris does a good job appearing very proud and determined (with his “sleeps with the fishes” quote) and Big Pussy sufficiently exasperated. This is emphasized by Big Pussy’s labored breathing. I also found that the line change at the end of the scene shifted the power dynamic a bit. While the script made it seem like Big Pussy felt Chris was beneath him and unworthy of hearing an answer (“I’m gonna tell you?”) the show’s (“Why would you even ask that?”) is far less condescending. In terms of camera work, I love the way wide shots establish how high the trash bin is. Additionally, the cut to a shot of the body falling over when Big Pussy explains that there are differences in between the current situation and the one from The Godfather emphasizes the ridiculousness and humor in their own pathetic situation. In this respect, the camerawork allows the full extent of the comedy displayed by the actors to be blatantly obvious for the viewers.

If I had to direct someone else in how to maintain consistency for the show, I would begin with maintaining the overall humorous tone. As a suspected before I even watched the episode, having a lighthearted soundtrack is paramount to keeping this dark series comical. Additionally, big contrasts in brightly lit shots and dark, shadowy ones– in scenes of “normal” family fun versus scenes of murder, for example– is also key to underscore the dichotomy in the characters’ own lives. In terms of performance, the show also hinges on Tommy successfully executing a depressive, anxious role blanketed by an often false-feeling, almost distracted kind of happiness serving as his self-proclaimed “sad clown” exterior. Carmela, meanwhile, should be simmering with sorrow, displeasure, and even anger as she watches her family — her cheating husband, her distant daughter– drift from her.

There are a number of plot threads established in this first episode that could grow into a full story. To begin, Carmela’s relationship with her daughter should be followed. Additionally, viewers likely would want to see Tommy continue to visit a psychiatrist and see if the Prozac begins to work. (If it does, it would be good to see how that changes the way he acts.) It would be interesting to see whether Chris will ever earn Tormmy’s respect and then, of course, there’s the question of what Junior plans to do to “take care” of Tommy.

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Analyzing The Soprano’s First Episode. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from
“Analyzing The Soprano’s First Episode.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
Analyzing The Soprano’s First Episode. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Feb. 2023].
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