10 Significant Moments from The Sopranos Pilot Episode
The Sopranos premiered on HBO on January 10, 1999, and T.V. was never the same. It’s funny to consider how easily The Sopranos could’ve started and ended at the Pilot, but fortunately, we get a total of 86 hour-long episodes. It’s over these 86 hours that I find myself connecting certain people, moments, or objects back to the Pilot and other early moments in the series. There’s so much to say, but for now, here are 10 significant moments from The Sopranos Pilot and how I see their connection to the bigger picture. (As a reminder, these are not listed in order of most to least significant. Instead, it’s more like a stream of my observations.)
1. "Who Are You?" -Livia Soprano
First, in response to Livia Soprano asking “Who are you?” in the Pilot, Tony apparently spends years trying to figure out the answer. I suppose it’s no surprise then that Kevin Finnerty has similar thoughts in early season six: “Who am I? Where am I going?” Well, all I know is…”Join the Club.”
2. Christopher acts like a Bevilaqua - Eager to quickly climb the mafia ladder.
Next, looking for recognition from Tony, Christopher Moltisanti “takes initiative” and shoots a family member of a company competing for a local garbage contract. “Taste the wares, Email!” While this technically leads to a positive outcome (the Kolars withdraw their bid), Christopher’s impulsive actions remind me a bit of Matthew Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte. Of course, when Matt and Sean shoot Christopher in season two, Christopher’s fortunate (son) enough to survive. Matt and Sean? Not so much.
By the way, I can’t help but love the song that plays in this scene, “I’m a Man” by Bo Diddley, especially when we see the pictures of past (real life) mafia bosses on the wall. See whatcha learn when you cross cultures?
Tony Soprano (1990s): It’s good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that, I know.
Johnny Boy Soprano (1960s): Reno is growing by leaps and bounds, Livia. It’s a chance to get in on the ground floor!
While Tony often romanticizes his father’s generation, Johnny Boy didn’t necessarily have a pair of those rose-colored glasses. For one example, let’s look at the “ground floor.” Tony’s certain the glory days are over, yet Johnny was also preoccupied by the idea of getting in on the ground floor. Imagine what they’d think about the prospects for the ground floor in 2022. Frankly, we all have our own version of the “ground floor,” whether you’re in the mafia or any other industry.
Next, as I type this, I hear Sil ask “Conspiracy theories now?” But don’t worry, as I’m not suggesting that Tony Soprano actually died in the Pilot. With that said, perhaps there are signs of Tony’s fate from the very beginning? (No, I’m not looking for an answer. Thinking about the possibilities, though, is the fun part.)
5. "You know, with T collapsing at the birthday...what would you do if he was, like, disabled?"
In other words, Christopher wants to know if he can fly to California to pitch Ben Kingsley on a movie, right? On a serious note, I find it bizarre that Christopher asks Big Puss what he’d do “if Tony became disabled,” particularly while he and Puss are carrying around a dead body. And Puss rightfully responds with “Why would you even ask that?”
6. Big Pussy Foreshadows His Own Disappearance.
Meanwhile, Emil Kolar isn’t the only one who disappears and never comes home. For example, look no further than Big Pussy Bonpensiero. While we all know that Puss went to sleep with the fishes, it’s not like an official memo gets sent to the family. Though I imagine Angie Bonpensiero knew at a certain point that Puss wasn’t coming home, sometimes it’s just easier to go into the unknown not knowing.
7. It's so kind of Tony to offer to build another ramp for the ducks.
Here, Tony looks so sweet talking to the ducks and offering to build them another ramp if they don’t like the wooden one that’s currently there. If only Richie Aprile could’ve been half as generous with building Beansie Gaeta a ramp after putting him in a wheelchair for life.
8. Those TEETH references start from the very beginning.
Further, there are numerous references to teeth throughout The Sopranos, and we don’t have to wait long to find one. In the Pilot, in fact, Tony offers cruise tickets to Artie Bucco that he received from some nice dentists. What, you don’t believe that? You’re too cynical! Tony’s a labor leader! You can join them at the next meeting of the United North Ward Dentist Merchants Protective Cooperative.
Moving on, I admit this Pilot moment may not be extremely significant in the grand scheme of things. Having said that, is this “Patrick” Meadow mentions the same Patrick (Patrick Parisi) that Meadow ends up with at the end of the series?
Finally, in The Sopranos Pilot, a “degenerate gambler” named Alex Mahaffey owes Hesh Rabkin $250,000. Tony sure has fun beating up Mahaffey in the Pilot, but ironically, later in the series, it’s TONY who owes Hesh nearly as much money ($200,000).
Well, you know what they say: “Sometimes, we’re all hypocrites.” By the way, speaking of quotes, here are my favorite quotes from The Pilot, in case you’re interested.