Reflection, Resentment, & Forgiveness Through The Eyes of The Sopranos

What would forgiveness look like on The Sopranos? Not just on the surface, but genuinely? What about resentment? We sure can see that on full display throughout The Sopranos. I can’t say for sure, but here are some thoughts on reflection, resentment, and forgiveness in the world of The Sopranos.

Tony & Livia Soprano

Tony and Livia Soprano dancing
Tony and Livia Soprano
"My mother wore him down to a little nub."
-Tony Soprano
"Pilot" (S1, E1)

First, Tony and Livia. Where do I even start? Well, actually, I do know where it started: it was in David Chase’s real life. According to Brett Martin, Chase actually based Livia Soprano‘s character on his mother. That so many people can relate really demonstrates how prevalent certain behaviors are in toxic relationships of all shapes and sizes. 

That Classic Passive-Aggressive Commentary

Livia Soprano talking to Tony Soprano in her house.

For example, In the Pilot episode, Livia tells Tony that “Daughters are better at taking care of their mother than sons.” Never mind that Tony’s the only child that stayed in New Jersey after Janice and Barbara left 20 years prior. In 46 Long, Livia tells Tony to take a carving knife from her kitchen and stab her in the chest to put her out of her misery. Oh, and she made sure to tell Tony she gave away all of her valuable jewelry to Tony’s cousin, Josephine. After all, Carmela never told her she liked it or anything.

Tony & Junior Soprano

Junior Soprano talking to the FBI in Jail in Season 1, Episode 13, "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano"
Tony and Junior Soprano, Season 1, Ep. 4 "Meadowlands" (HBO)

By the same token, Tony and Junior’s relationship was contentious right from the start. Despite Junior and Livia hiring hitmen to kill Tony, Tony had them over for dinner very shortly thereafter. Even if Tony hadn’t heard the FBI tapes, I’m sure he would’ve eventually realized one way or another that it was Junior and Livia who put out the hit.

In the same (dysfunctional) fashion, Junior shot Tony during the season six premiere. While we knew of Junior’s intentions in season one, by season six, things were a bit murkier. After his season one arrest, Junior tried very hard to play up the “old, sickly, senile” card for sympathy. He didn’t have to play the card for very long, as he was soon diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, he beat cancer, and then he beat the can, too. But he couldn’t win the war in his head, and his fate at the end of the show is truly heartbreaking.


"The man is driven, in toto, by his insecurities."

Tony & Paulie Walnuts

Tony and Paulie On the Boat in The Sopranos
Tony Soprano & Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri, Season 6, Ep. 15, "Remember When" (HBO)

Without a doubt, Paulie “Walnuts” provided some of the best Sopranos comfort food and unforgettable moments. While his character was unique, his problems with Tony were not. Tony never forgave Paulie for letting it slip to Johnny Sack that Ralph had made a joke about Johnny’s wife. Paulie, in turn, resented Tony for a couple of different reasons. Tony didn’t send Paulie money or pay him (or his ma) a visit while he was in jail. Also, Paulie was not too pleased with Tony’s decision vis-a-vis the division of the Esplanade jobs between Paulie and Ralph. I can’t lie: I was slightly nervous that Tony was going to whack Paulie in “Remember When.” Were you? 

For what it’s worth, I’ve always found it weird that Paulie was so vocal about not doing any rat-like activity. Even though Paulie never cooperated with the government, isn’t talking behind your boss’s back with the other crime family boss not a super loyal thing to do? I think he would’ve been more than okay with taking Tony out should the circumstances have escalated to that point. On the series finale, when Tony and Paulie part ways, you can tell forgiveness was not part of the equation.

Tony & Janice Soprano

Janice Soprano talking to Tony Soprano out by the pool
Janice & Tony Soprano, Season Two, Ep. 1 "Guy Walks Into a Psychiatrist's Office" (HBO)

Furthermore, it didn’t take long for Tony’s resentment to boil to the surface when Janice arrived at the start of season two. When Carmela called Tony to inform him of Janice’s arrival, he responded with “Whatever it is, I’m gonna be five grand lighter before she rain dances back to the commune.” Truthfully, I didn’t blame him. As it turns out, the Janice that he knew now identified as “Parvati.” Parvati went back to Seattle after a few weeks, but Janice decided to stay back.

By the same token, in season six, Janice and Tony have another falling out over what Janice feels is resentment Tony harbors toward Janice and Bobby that Junior shot him. While he says he doesn’t blame them for the shooting, he did say “No matter how much help I gave, you’d still be here complaining” so he didn’t exactly show goodwill. That’s not just some baggage–that’s the whole luggage store!

Ralph Cifaretto & Tony Soprano

Ralph & Tony Arguing in the kitchen
Ralph Cifaretto and Tony Soprano, Season 4, Ep. 9 "Whoever Did This" (HBO)

Out of all the Sopranos characters, it was Ralph Cifaretto who committed the most heinous acts of all. And we’re talking about The Sopranos here, so he did have some competition. As soon as he comes out swinging his chain in University, you know things aren’t going to end well. What we didn’t know is how absolutely despicable and horrifying that ending was going to be. The truth is, Tony wanted to kill Ralph ever since the night Ralph killed Tracee with his bare hands outside of the Bada Bing. As a reminder, Tracee was the 20-year old girl who worked at the Bada Bing and was allegedly pregnant with Ralph’s child (don’t let me forget to come back to that pregnancy thing). While Tracee and Tony’s daughter, Meadow, couldn’t have been more different in terms of lifestyle, Tony nevertheless saw Meadow in Tracee. You can’t blame him: He was, after all, being a human, which doesn’t bode too well for this thing of theirs (“ours”).

Christopher Moltisanti & Tony Soprano

Christopher & Tony Talking in the Car
Christopher Moltisanti & Tony Soprano, Season 1, Ep. 1 "Pilot" (HBO)

Furthermore, by the time Christopher dies, he’s already had about five lives in cat years. If Christopher Moltisanti weren’t Christopher Moltisanti, let’s count up just a few times his story would have cut to black:

  • In season one, when Christopher’s friend, Brendan, hijacked a truck with suits & ended up killing the driver.
  • Around that same time, Christopher & his friend, Brendan, gave crystal meth to Meadow and Hunter Scangarello to help them study.
  • Soon after, Christopher shot a bakery cashier in the foot for letting another guy (Vito, actually!) go ahead of him in line.
  • Fast forward a bit to season four, when Christopher got to go to rehab after facing an intervention over his heroin use. In any other case, his “intervention” would have been a shot to the back of the head. (Tony wasn’t very happy about him suffocating Cosette, either).
  • In season five, Chris went buck-wild and fired shots in the Bing out of anger over Tony and Adriana being in the car together.
  • I’m surely forgetting others…


In sum, The Sopranos is packed with enough baggage to choke a f**in elephant.* Tony’s hardly the only one carrying around all that extra luggage. So, it was only fitting to start with an analysis of reflection, resentment, & forgiveness surrounding the main character. Until next time, be sure to follow along on social media and check out some Sopranos trivia!

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