The world of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) was a complicated one, and as the head of two very different families, it was inevitable his life would be impacted by many different women over the years. From his loving wife and daughter, his incredibly patient therapist, and a handful of women from all walks of life who found themselves attracted to the power he wielded as the head of a criminal empire. Over the course of The Sopranos‘ six seasons (which are available to stream anytime on HBO Now), we saw how these vastly different women would come to affect his life. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, here’s a look at the women who helped make Tony Soprano who he was, for better or for worse.
12. Fran Felstein
After running into his father’s former mistress, Fran Felstein (Polly Bergen), at the cemetery, Tony spends some time platonically courting her, securing the inheritance she’d been promised, and even lying to his therapist about her appearance. While drawn to the insight into his father’s past at first, Tony comes to resent his ‘other woman,’ who ends up reduced to some over-exaggerated anecdote he tells the guys sitting around the bar at the Bada Bing.
Tony was drawn to Valentina (Leslie Bega) for two reasons, her savvy sophistication, and the fact that she was Ralph’s (Joe Pantoliano) girlfriend. After breaking up with Ralph, Tony stepped in and carried on an affair with her for the better part of a year and seemed to genuinely appreciate her independence, while she seemed to lack any of the less-desirable traits he found himself typically attracted to. Of course, Tony breaks up with her just before he takes her home from the hospital after her robe goes up in flames, proving what an incidental role she played in his life.
Another one of Ralph’s girlfriends who finds herself drawn to Tony, though with Tracee (Ariel Kiley), working as a stripper at the Bada Bing, she was simply trying to be Tony’s friend. After she meets an untimely, and incredibly violent end at Ralph’s hand, Tony’s reaction is severe enough that it causes a deep ripple throughout his family. Later, as he sits sullen in a therapy session, he mentions the death of someone who worked with him, observing quietly that “it’s sad when they go so young,” a glimpse of Tony’s buried remorse over her loss.
9. Svetlana Kirilenko
Svetlana (Alla Kliouka Schaffer) played a couple of key roles in Tony’s life. She was both the caretaker to his mother (and the cousin of his girlfriend, Irina), as well as his one extra-marital affair that proved too much for his marriage to handle — for a time, anyway. While Tony had always been fond of Svetlana, he briefly pined for her after their encounter. Unfortunately for him, she casually shut him down, making her one of the few women who outright admitted she wouldn’t be able to coddle Tony’s need for approval.
8. Gloria Trillo
Like Valentina, Gloria (Annabella Sciorra) seemed like a strong, independent woman with a slick, professional demeanor. But little by little, a dark side to her personality started to surface. As an affair between the two continued to escalate, she started forcing herself into Tony’s world, which eventually drove him away entirely, but not before a heated, shocking confrontation with him. After learning about her suicide a year later, thoughts of her continued to resonate with Tony long afterward, often appearing in his many recurring dreams.
7. Adriana La Cerva
Adriana (Drea de Matteo) was about as close to the Soprano family as one could be without being a blood relative or a made guy. The longtime girlfriend of Christopher (Michael Imperioli), she spent years with his manic temperament, but faithfully stood by him nonetheless. As Tony and her grew closer in later seasons, his veil of fatherly endearment nearly gave way to another one of his countless affairs. After her relationship with the FBI was revealed, she was taken out by Silvio in one of the show’s most gut-wrenching episodes. Tony often played dumb as to her whereabouts, but still mourned her loss.
6. Janice Soprano
Tony’s older sister, Janice (Aida Turturro) was someone he both looked up to and resented. She was also someone who played both an ally and a villain in his life over the years. While she was never shy about having her own agenda, Tony loved her all the same, and as a result, he always looked out for her, from disposing of her fiance’s body to buying Johnny Sack’s (Vincent Curatola) house as a present for her and her husband, Bobby (Steve Schirripa). Through it all, Tony looked out for his big sister, even though she wasn’t always quick to show her appreciation.
5. Irina Peltsin
Irina (Oksana Lada) was always a thorn in Tony’s side. From drunk-dialing the Soprano house, throwing burning candles at him, and generally making a scene everywhere they went, it’s a testament to his feelings that Tony cared as much for her as he did. If his love for her wasn’t fully on display when he explains her suicide attempt to his wife (a ballsy move, even by Tony’s standards), it was when he reacted to the news that she’d moved on — to Tony’s business associated Assemblyman Ron Zellman (Peter Riegert). It’s the look he gives her after beating the man with a belt in his own home, a mix of rose-colored nostalgia and bitter broken-heartedness, that showed Tony’s heart on his sleeve.
4. Meadow Soprano
Tony’s beloved ‘Italian princess,’ Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) was his first born child, and was tremendously important to Tony, even if she knew that she’d always be second to her little brother, A.J. (Robert Iler). Still, Tony and Meadow shared a real bond with one another, and he always wanted the absolute best for her, even if they didn’t always see eye-to-eye on what that meant.
3. Dr. Jennifer Melfi
Life changed dramatically for Tony the moment Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) became a part of it. With Melfi, Tony suddenly had someone he could be as close to honest with as his life would allow. While he occasionally would confuse those feelings for love, Melfi remained patient with him (up until near the end of the series’ run), and was always ready to welcome him and all his monumental baggage back into her professional life. When their relationship ended, it was a devastating moment, both in the show, and for Tony.
2. Carmela Soprano
“You aren’t just in my life, you are my life,” Tony once told his wife, Carmela, and despite all his years of lying and extra-marital affairs, he was very much in love with her. While Tony may have fumbled a few times in showing her how much he cared, his love was never in question, even during the year they spent separated. As Melfi was once quick to point out, Carmela was the one positive relationship he’d formed, and while he came close to losing it a few times, he never gave up on their love.
1. Livia Soprano
While the actress who played Tony’s mother, Nancy Marchand, died between the show’s second and third seasons, Livia remained a prominent aspect of Tony’s life for years afterward. Following her character’s death, written into the show after the fact, Tony constantly sought approval from difficult, hard-to-please women, reliving his unhealthy relationship with her time and again with each new love affair. Like Carmela once told Livia during a confrontation, she was “bigger than life.”