In January of 1999, The Sopranos burst on the scene as a new hour-long drama series on HBO. Featuring James Gandolfini in the title role as underboss Tony Soprano of the fictional DiMeo crime family, the series was one of the very first to persuade television audiences to actually root for an antihero.
Right away in the pilot episode, the show made it perfectly clear what Tony was capable of, as not even his own family (or, Family) would be immune to his violence and aggression, nor would a business associate who, in a scene that feels at least partially cliched 16 years later, hadn’t “given him his money.”
As the episode concluded, Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me” played over the end credits. As the song goes, “The beast in me has had to learn to live with pain, and how to shelter from the rain. And in the twinkling of an eye, might have to be restrained. God help the beast in me.” The audience may not have realized it yet, but those lyrics foreshadowed what would end up being a big part of Tony’s life as a New Jersey crime boss, with a never-ending cycle of violent outbursts and tantrums.
Then again, his outbursts are one of the reasons we often look back on the character as being likeable, or, at the very least, entertaining. He didn’t take crap from anyone, and we kind of dug that. So, why not celebrate by looking back at his greatest “hits” (pun intended)?
He Beats Up His Driver For No Reason, Other Than To Show Everyone He’s Still The Boss
Poor Perry. The kid never saw it coming. Plus, he didn’t even do anything. Tony, in one of his all-time classic scenes, scopes the crowd, then picks a fight with the biggest, baddest-looking dude he can find, just to prove a point. Did Perry do anything to deserve getting the sh*t kicked out of him? Absolutely not. Did the entire crew learn a valuable lesson that day? You bet. And just for good measure, Perry later ended up apologizing to Tony for the incident. “Hey, Tone. Sorry for you beating me up earlier.” “Apology accepted, just as long as you realize…”
No Need To Get Testy
What do you do when a non-English-speaking man disrespects you in front of your mistress? Well, if you’re a normal person, you start re-thinking some of your life decisions. But if you’re Tony Soprano? You grab him by the balls and squeeze until he runs away crying, then you pack up your sh*t and get the hell out of there before the cops show up.
He Can Dodge Bullets And Fight Off Two Would-Be Assassins Using One Arm
As a wise man once said, (okay, it was Ozzie Guillen), it’s better to be lucky than good. That wisdom certainly applies in this scene, as Tony out-wits two professional killers who might rank among the worst assassins of all-time. The callbacks to The Godfather are obvious in this scene, and our hero thankfully escapes death in a similar way.
He Makes Road Rage Look Cool
There was always something about Phil Leotardo that rubbed me the wrong way. He was definitely a bit squirrely, considering he was a high-ranking New York mob man. That’s why it was easy to root for Tony to finally get his revenge on Phil for dodging him throughout this episode in a chase scene worthy of a high-budget movie. “Oh, are you alright, mister?” Classic Tony, rocking that casbah.
Sometimes, It’s Good To Have A Sidekick
As we’ve already seen, Tony could more than hold his own when it came to hand-to-hand combat. But in order to be a true bad ass, it sometimes doesn’t hurt to have some muscle by your side. When it’s a man named Furio who dresses in all black? All the better. “You got a bee on you hat.”
He Could Make Matt Bevilaqua Pee His Pants Just By Looking At Him
Here you have an up-and-coming wannabe gangster, played by the kid from The Bronx Tale, thoroughly wetting himself while giving up his friends, all because he’s scared of what’s coming. He had so much anxiety, and all Tony was doing was sitting there, asking questions while puffing away on a cigar. Enjoy your last meal, Matthew. Or, diet drink, anyway.
The Staple Gun
Not much more needs to be said, right? When the camera focuses on Tony staring at a staple gun, then the next scene shows poor Mikey P sitting in his car quietly reading a newspaper, it’s pretty clear what’s about to happen. Afterwards, Tony nonchalantly wipes the staple gun clean and drops it in the street, like nothing happened.