Much as we love The Sopranos – one of the best TV series of all time – time doesn’t always allow for a full rewatch. There’s other TV shows and movies to stay up to date with, like The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel film that charts Tony Soprano’s childhood and early teen years.
A number of characters from David Chase’s mobster drama are confirmed to be involved, including the younger versions of Corrado ‘Junior’ Soprano Jr, Livia Soprano, Silvio Dante, Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri, and more. What’s more, a few that were only ever mentioned, like Tony Soprano’s father, Giovanni ‘Johnny Boy’ Soprano, and Dickie Montasanti, have main roles, turning the whole series into a generational affair.
To make it easier to catch up before heading down to Newark, we’ve compiled five episodes that’ll keep integral parts of Sopranos canon fresh in your mind. Flashbacks, thematic character moments, some plain old deception, these entries make it so you can immediately line-up what happens in the upcoming thriller movie with the TV show.
‘Pilot’ – Season 1, Episode 1
Where it all began. The first episode, written and directed by creator David Chase, introduces not only the cast, but many of the broad conflicts that’d carry through to the end. Tony starts seeing Dr Melfi because of panic attacks exacerbated by Livia, his narcissistic mother. Bitterness at Tony’s leadership festers in nephew Christopher and uncle Junior, and the final scene makes clear the amount of targets on the patriarch’s back.
The weight and tone of the world is established, and Chase effectively puts all the interlocking family dynamics in motion. It reminds you of all the fundamentals, not least that Tony’s carrying a legacy he feels is well past its heyday.
‘I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano’ – Season 1, Episode 13
The end of the first season is a harsh reminder of Tony’s emotionally fraught background. He’s in denial about a failed attempt on his life from Livia, and the rivalry between him and Junior is becoming increasingly violent.
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Christopher can’t stand that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist, underscoring why therapy was needed in the firstSme place. When Livia has a stroke, Tony confronts her about everything in a rage-filled rant. “Don’t get in the middle of this,” he spits at a medic. Good advice.
‘Do Not Resuscitate’ – Season 2, Episode 2
Of course, Tony isn’t Livia’s only child, and while visiting their mom in the hospital, Janice starts bonding with her to get information about stashed money. Like mother, like daughter, Janice clearly only wants Livia’s home and savings, and she’s playing to her burgeoning dementia to do it.
Wrapped around Livia’s little finger, Junior gets an earful from Tony about doing her dirty work. Anthony Jnr lets slip that Janice and Tony are looking into a DNR order for their dear old mom, causing a spiral and making plain exactly how little love is going around.
‘Fortunate Son’ – Season 3, Episode 3
Notably, this offers a direction to the time period of The Many Saints of Newark. During a session with Dr Melfi, Tony talks of seeing his dad cut off someone’s finger, then having an anxiety attack watching his parents lovingly dance later in the evening. Violence, meat, and his parents are all connected to his internal panic.
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Christopher is fully initiated into the mob, as Tony continues to evolve his crew and bring in younger members. But he doesn’t take to it quite like anyone had hoped, causing doubts about whether this life really suits him.
‘For All Debts Public and Private’ – Season 4, Episode 1
One of the great mysteries of The Sopranos is outlined here that The Many Saints of Newark is sure to answer: what happened to Christopher’s father, Dickie? A close acquaintance of Dickie’s, Tony tells Christopher a police officer killed him. But is that the truth, or was Tony trying to protect him from what really happened?
Financial turnover is going down, and Tony buys some property off Junior in a backhanded gesture to develop it for himself. In therapy, he talks about creating a third option, outside of death or prison: delegating to family to protect himself. No shield ever lasts too long in Chase’s New Jersey, and The Many Saints of Newark might just let us know exactly how inevitable this all was.
The Many Saints of Newark is in cinemas September 22.