“You know you talk about these guys like it’s an anthropology class, the truth is they bring certain modes of conflict resolution from all the way back in the old country. From the poverty of the Mezzogiorno. Where all higher authority was corrupt.”
That explanation comes from Meadow Soprano (Jamie Lynn-Sigler), daughter of crime boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), rationalizing away the violent behavior that her boyfriend, Finn (Will Janowitz), witnessed at his job on the Soprano family construction site. After Meadow’s revelation, the camera fades into a shot of these same men attending a funeral — one of the show’s most common settings.
Attending this funeral is not only the man who ordered the killing but the man who pulled the trigger. When New York underboss Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola), becomes furious with them being there, Tony has to take him aside and remind him of one ironclad rule: “That’s the way it works, John.”
Regardless of how uncouth it is for a man like Johnny Sack to show this kind of emotion (something that comes back to haunt him later), Tony is 100 percent right. That’s the way it works.
The Sopranos (available to stream anytime on HBO Now), began by portraying Tony and his crew as likable enough guys who happen to be professional criminals. The challenge of a show like this: how to make the story about these criminals, while still giving the audience someone they’re able to root for. The Sopranos approached this by letting us be charmed by these characters, at least at first, before slowly peeling back the layers and revealing the sinister behavior that is a required part of their life of crime. Here, point by point, is how the show evolved.