A flat-out treasure trove of television, The Sopranos Complete HBO Seasons 1-6 box set brings together every episode of a genuinely extraordinary series. Those that call it quite possibly the best show America has produced in the last decade aren’t far wide of the mark (although fans of The Wire could have an argument there).
To think The Sopranos all started from a simple sell: that a New Jersey mob boss falls into depression, and seeks out counselling to help him cope. And while early episodes followed Tony Soprano’s balancing act as he sought to keep this from his mobster friends, The Sopranos took this foundation and built upon it a collection of layered, intriguing characters from both Tony’s ‘work’ and ‘home’ families.
That’s only part of the reason for The Sopranos’ extraordinary success, though. Because the writers then seeded many delightfully intricate plotlines, that seemed to seamlessly weave between one another. The end result was that every character was important, and--crucially--there was a real sense of unease, as fans began to realise that The Sopranos could have a quiet run of episodes, and then suddenly take out a character you’ve spent hours engaged with.
It’s a fascinating cocktail. Ruthless yet emotional, violent yet intimate, brash yet insecure, the characters of The Sopranos are as three dimensional as television drama gets. It’s a tragedy it’s finished, but the six series in this box offer a stunning legacy, and a masterclass to anyone else in the planet looking to make a character-driven drama.