Steve Buscemi has worked with some of the best directors in the world: the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and more. It’s no wonder that he displays impressive range as a director, helming a variety of shows like 30 Rock, Nurse Jackie, OZ, four feature films, and four episodes of The Sopranos (which is available to stream on HBO Now).
You may have forgotten that Buscemi directed that many hours of the show, with many only remembering his role as Tony Blundetto in the series. During his time behind the camera, though, Buscemi proved that he’s more than just an actor, with a keen eye and the ability to deliver some of the series’ most revered moments. Here’s a look back at the four episodes that Steve Buscemi directed.
“Pine Barrens” (2001)
“Pine Barrens” is one of the more famous episodes in The Sopranos primarily because large portions of it could work almost as well as a standalone narrative. Essentially, Paulie (Tony Sirico) and Christopher (Michael Imperioli) chase a Russian associate through the woods when their attempt at an execution fails and wind up out of their element in the frigid and unforgiving elements.
Buscemi keeps a tight two-shot control over his subjects, the journey through the snowy Barrens maintaining an ethereal quality with slow dissolves showing the passage of time. When the pair become stranded in a car, hungry and freezing, they briefly turn on each other before Tony and Bobby come to their rescue. It’s a fine hour of television and stands as one of the series’ best episodes.
“Everybody Hurts” (2002)
Co-written by Michael Imperioli, “Everybody Hurts” is a meditation on affluence and death. Tony attempts to find solace in good deeds following the suicide of Gloria, one of his mistresses. Elsewhere, Anthony begins contemplating the socio-political nature of his family’s wealth, especially when he finds out his girlfriend is enormously rich. One of the key scenes, though, is a haunting dream sequence expertly directed by Buscemi, wherein Tony interacts with Gloria one last time and she almost reveals the rope burn on her neck before Tony wakes up. The sequence plays like a horror film, with the ceiling chipping and cracking above Tony’s head and Gloria dragging her black scarf behind her. The scene is one of Buscemi’s best contributions to the series.
“In Camelot” (2004)
It’s interesting watch Buscemi’s directorial voice mature grow over the course of his his four episodes as director. Here he takes on weightier themes, more violence, and weaves in more narrative threads. The episode largely focuses on Tony’s relationship with one of his father’s mistresses — a sort of Oedipal construct — but it also tackles gambling, drug addiction, apathy, paying debts, grief, depression, while also displaying Tony’s increasing brazenness. Buscemi, himself, shows up briefly in the episode, but it’s Tony’s turn in the final act — when he realizes that the woman and mirage he’s been courting may actually be poisonous — that solidifies this as one of the more poignant episodes in The Boss’ character arc.
“Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request” (2006)
As Tony emerges from a coma, he attempts to reestablish control over his crew while the imprisoned John Sacrimoni and the New York conglomerate apply pressure. Buscemi, exhibiting more control behind the camera, uses some Scorsese-like techniques, and makes simple scenes like Carmella hustling down the driveway, and a quick pan during the wedding reception look polished. The highlight is the final sequence that sees him employ slow-motion to show Tony’s increasing rage over his perceived lack of masculinity. It’s a strong way to end his run on the series as a director, and enough to make you wish he directed more episodes.