The Sopranos Most Confusing Plotlines, Ranked - Bliteoc

The Sopranos Most Confusing Plotlines, Ranked

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The Sopranos dawned the era of “Prestige TV” with cinematic visuals, rich lived-in characters, and riveting long-form storytelling. Featuring masterful performances by James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and others, in a talented cast, the show set a high bar for television. However, not every aspect of this groundbreaking HBO show produced the clearest and most concise viewing experience.

The show often made its audience work a little harder than most due to its many dream sequences, sudden character arrivals or departures, and open-ended conclusions to several plot threads. While some of these confusing plot lines have helped invigorate the show’s devoted fan base with their theories and arguments, others have left fans scratching their heads or checking to see if their cable cut out.

8. Celebrity Cameos

One of the stranger aspects of The Sopranos was the unexpected presence of multiple celebrities. While Tony’s nephew Christopher was obsessed with movies and even dipped his toe into show business as an amateur screenwriter, and as a producer of the fictional film “Cleaver”, it was jarring to see the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley and Jon Favreau playing themselves in the fictional world of New Jersey mobsters.

Other strange celebrity cameos include Nancy Sinatra Jr. performing at a Lupertazzi crime-family party, Christopher robbing Lauren Bacall, and former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth rubbing elbows with Tony at an underground card game. Even four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening pulled double duty in Season 5’s “The Test Dream” playing herself in a dream sequence AND another character’s wife. These appearances may have been fun Easter eggs for some fans, but others may have been thrown by their presence or taken out of the show entirely.

7. Barbara Soprano – The Youngest Soprano Sibling

The Soprano family tree consists of an endless web of “Dutch uncles” and nephews who may or may not be blood-related, but the show mostly follows the goings-on of Tony’s immediate family, Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese), his mother Livia (Nancy Marchand), and his sister Janice (Aida Turturro). The deep history surrounding these figures is displayed in flashbacks and mentioned in conversation, but one character featured in all 6 seasons is noticeably left out on most occasions: Barbara Soprano.

The youngest sibling of Tony and Janice, Barbara Soprano was throughout the series by two different actresses, Nicole Burdette and Danielle De Vecchio. First appearing in Season 1, Episode 7, the character pops up on screen sporadically, but is never explored in her own right. From her few, brief scenes, she appears to be the most straight-laced and well-adjusted Soprano, which leaves questions like — how was Barbara able to escape all this family dysfunction? Why is she not a bigger part of the family dynamic? What is her view of the family’s criminal roots? Questions like these are unaddressed throughout the series.

6. The Furio Guinta Story

Recruited by Tony on his trip to Italy in Season 2’s “Commendatori”, Furio (Federico Castelluccio) begins as a ferocious, imposing henchman that eventually transforms into a layered and complicated character. Furio’s arc is mainly explored as a tragic figure dealing with his violent occupation, like a fish out of water Italian immigrant in North Jersey, and a “will-they-won’t-they” love interest for Carmella.

His plot and character choices didn’t always jive episode to episode, but it may have left fans a little confused when Furio just disappears and never returns after his love for Carmella is revealed in Season 4. It makes sense that Furio would skip town to avoid the wrath of Tony Soprano, but it is a little unlikely he’d get involved with the Boss’ wife in the first place. And while all of this is puzzling enough, Furio’s sudden exit is never really addressed or followed up with revenge from either side, leaving fans with more to be desired.

5. Dreams and Reality

Other than organized crime, The Sopranos explored the world of psychology in its six-season run and would occasionally venture into baffling and peculiar dream sequences. Often induced by the anxieties in Tony’s life, these dreams typically feature odd imagery like Pacino impressions, talking fish, or Tony riding a horse inside his house. But occasionally, the show would aim to pull the rug out from under the audience with Tony having false sexual encounters with characters or confessing dark truths right before he wakes up.

Because of this, the audience was always kept on their toes during instances where the line between dreams and reality blurred. Especially when the cinematic imagery of a scene falls in line with what could be a dream sequence (e.g. Tony Blundetto’s hit on Billy and Phil Leotardo), fans of the show may have been confused at what was consequential to the show’s plot and what was not.

4. AJ Soprano’s Character Arc

One of the more interesting aspects of The Sopranos was the juxtaposition of a violent mob boss leading a double life, dealing with marital issues, and raising two young children. Meadow, being the oldest daughter, is Tony’s pride and joy, but his son AJ is a thorn in his side throughout the series. While AJ navigates typical issues for a young man with a strict father, AJ’s path ventures into some questionable areas that don’t hold to the character.

At one point in the series, AJ loathes the idea of a military school, but by the end, he’s training to join the military with dreams of being a helicopter pilot. He’s far from being a good student or intelligent, but in the end, he’s pretentiously quoting Yeats to Meadow and her boyfriend. Other examples are his suicide attempt, failed hit on Uncle June, and his “punk with long hair” phase. These character choices may be the show’s attempt at emphasizing AJ as a directionless, “soft” kid, but most of the time it comes off as ambiguous and scattershot.

3. Twins — Patsy and Philly Parisi

The Sopranos occasionally used the same actors for different characters. Joseph Gannascoli who played Vito also played a character named Gino in the first season. Saundra Santiago played Jeannie Cusamano and her identical twin sister. The most prominent example of the “identical twin” strategy is Patsy Parisi and his twin brother Philly Parisi, both played by Dan Grimaldi. While it’s stated in the show that Patsy and Philly were identical twins, fans would be forgiven if they were confused by this detail.

In episode one of the second season, Philly Parisi is murdered on-screen during the ensuing battle between Tony and Uncle Junior. In the Season 2 finale, only 12 episodes later, Dan Grimaldi appears again, this time as Patsy Parisi. The same actor whose character was memorably shot, only to appear later on as a different character with glasses may have been puzzling for some fans of the show. However, Patsy slowly becomes a larger part of Tony’s inner circle by the series end, clearing up some confusion from this aspect of the show.

2. Who’s The Rat?

The first season features Tony and company smoking out a potential rat in their outfit. It’s narrowed down to two individuals in their crew, Jimmy Altieri (Joseph Badalucco Jr.) and Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore), both of whom get caught by the FBI with an arsenal of illegal firearms. After Tony’s police agent pal reveals “Pussy” to be an FBI Informant, Tony is also visited by Jimmy who bailed out of jail a little quick, acting overly suspicious. Ultimately, Tony goes with his gut and has Jimmy whacked for being the rat.

This storyline was a highlight of the series, but it may have been hard to follow who the rat was. Jimmy was never shown conspiring with police, and it was later revealed that Pussy was an informant. The combination of events may have left the audience confused, as there were potentially two rats, instead of just one. Season 2 carries this plotline through with Big Pussy being found out and disposed of, contrasting how Tony and his crew treated both rats with different levels of respect and investigation. Still, fans may question whether or not Jimmy was a rat.

1. Kevin Finnerty or Tony Soprano?

As previously mentioned, The Sopranos wouldn’t shy away from the occasional dream sequence, but Season 6’s “Join The Club” stretched its dreamy strangeness throughout an entire episode. Immediately following Tony getting shot by the dementia-afflicted Uncle June, the episode finds Tony in a coma. The episode intercuts between what is happening at the hospital, as well as what’s presumably Tony’s experience on another plane of reality inside his coma.

This reality presents a much different, ordinary version of Tony that “could have been” if he was able to dodge his criminal upbringing. No longer donning his familiar North Jersey accent, Tony is tangled in a case of mistaken identity carrying the belongings and ID of another man named Kevin Finnerty. Much like the dream sequences, this coma experience is filled with symbols, oddities, and small connections to the reality of the show, but the episode itself is pretty slow, watching a straightedge, non-confrontational version of Tony’s struggle through a mundane situation with no real payoff or explanation.

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