The Sopranos – 100 Greatest Moments: 90-81

90. ‘Make It Happen’

Episode: The Blue Comet (SE6, EP20)
Characters: Phil, Butch DeConcini and Albie Cianflone

Phil declares war on Tony’s ‘glorified crew’, motivating his decision by stating that Jersey doesn’t live by the old mob standards anymore, ignoring the fact that nobody does and the mob is all about the money. Great scene, for the dialogues but also because it makes the tension level rise sky high. You know an old school mob war is about to break loose and anybody could get hurt. All bets are off now and the adrenaline is rushing through our bodies.

89. Louisville Slugger

Episode: Second Opinion (SE3, EP7)
Characters: Tony and Angie Bonpensiero

You gotta love how Tony handles this one. The widow Angie Bonpensiero is on Tony’s payroll since Pussy went MIA (whacked), but she’s still crying money problems to Carmela. When Tony arrives to sort it out, he sees that she is driving a Cadillac. His anger management lessons go straight through the window then and there. He takes a Louisville slugger from his car and takes out his frustration on the caddy. He then tells the frightened Angie: “You see my wife, you talk about oven cleaners. Anything else you come directly to me.”

88. The Oklahoma Kid

Episode: The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti (SE1, EP8)
Characters: Christopher and Bakery Clerk

The postmodern movie references are one element in making The Sopranos a great show. The best one appears in this scene. Christopher feels depressed because of his low ranking status in the mob, so he starts acting like a cowboy. “What is it, do I look like a pussy to you?”, he asks a bakery clerk who doesn’t, in his view, shows him the proper respect. Then he shoots him in the foot to teach him a lesson. The same thing happens to Michael Imperioli (who plays Christopher) in GoodFellas. He gets shot in the foot by Joe Pesci for forgetting to serve him a drink. Therefore Christopher’s reply to the clerks; “Arghh, you shot me in the foot”, is all the more hilarious. “It happens”, he says before walking out the door. Genius! Ps: That customer whom Chris sends away is indeed Vito in a different role.

87. Old Plotters

Episode: Pilot (SE1, EP1)
Characters: Junior and Livia

This little dialogue between Junior and Livia feels like a scene from a Roman tragedy like I, Claudius in which – not accidently – the evil mother character is also named Livia. During their drive to A.J.’s birthday party, Junior feels out Livia about a possible hit on Tony. First he pisses her off a little: “Remember the long hair and the drugs? Now, it’s fags in the military”, and then he says that “something may have to be done about Tony.” She doesn’t say anything! Brilliant set-up for one of Season 1’s major plot lines.

86. Bevilaqua’s Death

Episode: From Where to Eternity (SE2, EP9)
Characters: Tony, Pussy and Matt Bevilaqua

With Christopher almost shot to death, Tony is keen on revenge. This is an opportunity for FBI-informant Pussy to prove himself. He tracks down Bevilaqua and takes Tony there to whack him. Matt is understandably scared of what is coming, so he pisses his pants. After a brief interrogation, Tony finishes him off with a shot in the head. Matt is crying for his mother before the end. Then Tony and Pussy send out a message and pump Matt’s dead body full of lead. Afterwards, they go celebrate with a steak meal.

85. Phone Games

Episode: Whoever Did This (SE4, EP9)
Characters: Ralphie, Mrs Gualtieri, Vito and Eugene Pontecorvo

Ralphie figured it was Paulie who told the Ginny Sack joke to Johnny Sack. He calls Green Grove to get back at him. Paulie’s mum answers. Ralphie: “Hello, Mrs Gualtieri, this is detective Mike Hunt, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania Police Department. We found your son in a public men’s room in Lafayette Park. I don’t know how to put this delicately; he was sucking a cub scout’s dick.” He goes on for a while and has everyone in stitches. Including the audience. Too bad Ralphie goes this episode; he is one funny motherfucker.

84. Popping Cherry

Episode: Sopranos Home Movies (SE6, EP13)
Characters: Bobby and Rene LeCours

While Carmela claims that Tony Soprano is not ‘a vindictive man’, he still sends out Bobby to commit his first murder because he kicked Tony’s ass in a fist fight a couple of days earlier. The murder scene is delivered in quite a dramatic way; Bobby is obviously upset and his victim – a young guy – is seen badly suffering. A clever detail is that the first bullet ends up in the Laundromat and is heard quaking around till the end of the scene.

83. Furious Debut

Episode: Big Girls Don’t Cry (SE2, EP5)
Characters: Tony, Furio, Dr. Melfi, Dominic and wife

Fresh from Naples, Furio is given a first assignment by Tony. He has to straighten out the owner of a bordello and his insubordinate Filipino wife. He passes the test. Within a minute, he has caused more physical damage, pain and fear than any of the other guys would have achieved. Tony is enjoying himself in the car while he listens to the anguish inside. Then Melfi calls that she wants to take him back as a patient. How appropriate.

82. Happy Times

Episode: Pilot (SE1, EP1)
Characters: Tony and Christopher

This is a beautiful early moment in the relationship between Tony and Christopher where everything is still peaches and cream. Chris is unhappy because Tony did not compliment him on solving the Triborough Towers situation (the hit on Emil Kolar). Instead of kicking his ass, Tony understands. He has gone all soft because of the therapy he has been having. “That’s how I was parented, never supported, never complimented”, Tony says. Very soon after, Tony explodes anyway after Chris starts babbling about writing Hollywood screenplays. “You gonna go Henry Hill on me now?” Then they makes nice again. “Everything is gonna be alright from here on in. What could be bad?” Well, with these highly unstable characters, quite a lot.

81. Cheese Fuck

Episode: The Happy Wanderer (SE2, EP6)
Characters: Silvio, Tony, Paulie, Christopher, Sunshine, Johnny Sack, Frank Sinatra Jr., Dr. Fried, Matt Bevilaqua, Sean Gismonte and Davey Scatino

During the high stakes ‘executive game’, things get tense when Silvio is on a losing streak. When Matt starts wiping cheese under his seat he explodes. It is hard not to laugh at the ridiculous outburst that follows; “Leave the fucking cheese there, all right? I love fuckin’ cheese at my feet! I stick motherfuckin’ provolone in my socks at night, so they smell like your sister’s crotch in the morning. Alright? Now leave the fucking cocksucking cheese where it is!” Chris had already warned Matt; “he’s a sick fuck when he gambles.” Yes, he obviously is.

TV Dungeon: I, Claudius

(1976, UK)

Director: Herbert Wise
Written by: Robert Graves (novels), Jack Pulman
Cast: Derek Jacobi, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, John Hurt, George Baker, Margaret Tyzack, Ian Ogilvy

Mini Series (13 Parts)

‘let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out’

Marvellous BBC adaptation of Robert Graves’ novels about the Julio-Claudian dynasty as seen through the eyes of the unlikely emperor Claudius. Not a slight task to transfer this fascinating period of history to the small screen. But they pull it off with some brilliant production design, acting and writing.

Every episode (except for 10) starts with an aged Claudius flashing back in time. From the beginning of the dynasty when Augustus was emperor until the rulership of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius himself and finally Nero. Brian Blessed stars as Augustus, a decisive emperor with a talent for leadership. His reign takes place in a time of conquest when Rome was still rich and powerful. The scheming wife of Augustus, Claudius’ grandmother Livia, poisons everybody that has a claim on the position of Caesar until the time is right for her son Tiberius to rule. One by one the members of the imperial family are killed off by Livia. All except for Claudius who has a disability, but is held for a much greater fool than he really is.

The cast of this great mini-series is top-notch. Derek Jacobi does a fantastic job as Claudius. A man whose weaker points don’t withhold him from becoming a great leader. Even though it is by a great coincidence that Claudius gets to wear the Caesar robe. Claudius’ rulership follows the horrible reigns of Tiberius (excellent performance from George Baker) and the insane emperor Caligula. The poisonous Livia is portrayed by Siân Phillips, whose evil schemes are a joy to behold. John Hurt gives a terrifying performance as the utter mad Caligula whose very presence is constantly threatening to Claudius and others. By pursuing his mad ideas and his obvious fondness for sadism and incest (he marries his sister Drusilla) he makes an even scarier villain than Livia. There are also early performances from Patrick Stewart and John Rhys-Davies amongst others.

There is quite a lot of violent and sexual content although not everything is explicitly shown. Still for a TV series from the seventies it is quite shocking. Even this day it possesses the power to make some jaws drop observing the extravagance of the old Romans. Being a TV production there was no budget for grand settings à la Spartacus and much of the series plays indoors. Still all the sets look beautiful and give the series something theatrical.

To this day this remains one of finest mini-series ever made. A definite must-see to those who enjoy historic drama, intriguing plots and superb acting.