10 Best Scenes of The Sopranos Season 3
In season three of The Sopranos, tragedy waits at every corner. Even though the year takes on a much gloomier tone compared to its predecessors, the result is nothing short of dazzling and leads to some of the series’ most memorable moments. Here are the 10 best scenes of The Sopranos season 3.
10. “I’ll Be Watching You” (Episode 27, “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood”)
Contrary to the rest of season three, the premiere is a lighthearted installment told from an outsider’s point of view. The unique format gives the filmmakers an opportunity to experiment. Surprisingly, the most unforgettable aspect is a musical mash-up of “Every Breath You Take” and the Peter Gunn theme, which brings comic life to the FBI’s lifeless surveillance operation. It’s the most playful moment in the entire series. And a damn good remix of two iconic songs.
9. “Black Books” (Episode 33, “Second Opinion”)
Throughout season three, series creator David Chase uses music to artfully manipulate the audience into thinking the characters can be redeemed. For example, in the final scene of “Second Opinion,” Tony Soprano lovingly suggests to his wife Carmela that they go out on a dinner date. It’s one of Tony’s most genuine displays of affection, and the sequence is accompanied by a romantic acoustic guitar solo (“Black Books” by Nils Lofgren).
Nevertheless, it’s one of the most cynical endings that Chase has ever cooked up. The touching music hides the fact that Carmela has spent all episode contemplating divorce. She once again chooses money over salvation, although Lofgren’s ballad makes it seem like progress is being made.
8. Chris Draws a Gun on Paulie (Episode 37, “Pine Barrens”)
“Pine Barrens” is The Sopranos’ funniest episode and also one of the series’ most simple. Chris Moltisanti and Paulie Gualtieri almost kill a Russian mobster, unsuccessfully try to dispose of the body and end up getting lost in the New Jersey Pine Barrens during the dead of winter. Filled with existential themes and hilarious dialogue, the storyline reaches a climax when they each threaten to kill each other. Finally recognizing the absurdity of the situation, Chris lowers his gun and breaks down in hysterical laughter.
7. Tony Cries Watching The Public Enemy (Episode 28, “Proshai, Livushka”)
One of the more unexpected developments of season three is Livia Soprano’s death early in the year. Tony spends the rest of the episode unsure how to react. After all, his mother conspired to have him killed back in season one. His emotions finally give way when he watches William Wellman’s 1931 gangster classic The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney (who “was modernity”) as Tom Powers. Ultimately, Powers’ mother is the character that resonates with Tony the most. The love and care she shows her son causes Tony to end the episode in tears, the only time he cries during the entire hour.
6. “Return to Me” (Episode 38, “Amour Fou”)
“Amour Fou” concludes with a tender ballad — a Bob Dylan cover of Dean Martin’s “Return to Me.” The music makes it seem like moral progress is being made, even though the song comes at the end of another dark episode filled with impending doom. Jackie Jr. is about to die, and Gloria Trillo has just been threatened at gunpoint, yet mobsters like Patsy Parisi still have time to stop at the grocery store on their way home.
5. Dr. Krakower Tells It Like It Is (Episode 33, “Second Opinion”)
When Carmela decides to visit a therapist, she expects to be exonerated for her marriage to Tony. Instead, Dr. Krakower lambastes her for the life she’s chosen and the blood money she’s accepted, telling her she’s an accomplice and an enabler and that the only way she can save herself is by taking the children and leaving. It’s the most candid monologue The Sopranos ever gives us: “He’s a depressed criminal, prone to anger, serially unfaithful. Is that your definition of a good man?”
4. Oath of Omerta (Episode 29, “Fortunate Son”)
The Sopranos is a show about the disintegration of the Mafia at the turn of the century. Tony Soprano “came in at the end,” which means we aren’t privy to Cosa Nostra lore and tradition. That’s why Chris taking the Oath of Omerta is such a fantastic sequence. The atmosphere perfectly conveys the ritualism of a secret rite of passage. And the raven that Chris sees outside the window means he’s now damned for eternity.
3. The Russian Escapes (Episode 37, “Pine Barrens”)
In a comedy of errors, Valery the Russian escapes Chris and Paulie as he is held at gunpoint. The Italians chase him through the snowy forest, and Paulie fires what appears to be a kill shot just as Valery is about to get away, a torrent of blood seen spewing from his head. However, when the pair goes to investigate, Valery is nowhere to be found. The trail of blood and footprints stop abruptly, leaving Chris and Paulie in disbelief.
It’s one of the greatest mysteries in the entire show, and we’re only given one ambiguous clue: a bird’s-eye P.O.V. that watches the scene from the treetops above. Did Valery somehow escape? Or is it his soul watching from on high? The answer is never revealed. If nothing else, the fascinating enigma can perhaps help us decode the infamous series finale. Both scenes make sure to establish a character’s point-of-view before they potentially disappear forever.
2. “Core ‘ngrato” (Episode 39, “The Army of One”)
As evidenced in several entries on this list, season three of The Sopranos strategically uses music to manipulate the audience. Nowhere is this more evident than the final scene of the year, in which Uncle Junior sings a melodramatic Neopolitan ballad at Jackie Jr.’s funeral after-party. None of the onlookers can translate the lyrics, yet the song brings everyone to tears (even though nobody seemed to care about Jackie Jr.’s death in the first place).
Suddenly, the soundtrack smash cuts to a French ballad superimposed upon the scene, followed by a song in Chinese and another one in Spanish. All the while, the scenery remains unchanged. In the end, the song and sentiment become meaningless. Television and music often work hand-in-hand to provoke a preordained reaction, and even The Sopranos itself uses art in a superficial manner. Chase breaks the fourth wall and hopes we’re smart enough not to idolize his creation.
1. “No.” (Episode 30, “Employee of the Month”)
Out of all the tragedies that befall the characters in season three, none is crueler than Dr. Melfi being brutally raped by a random assailant. She’s the series’ most righteous character, and it’s painful to witness her be put through such a harrowing experience. We’d love nothing more than for Melfi to sic Tony on her rapist, although to do so would be to give in to his toxic violence.
And so, in the poignant final moments of “Employee of the Month,” Melfi ultimately rejects her desire to ask Tony for help. After she breaks out in tears during a therapy session, Tony rushes to console her. She regains her composure and tells him to sit back down. Tony remains concerned. “You wanna say something?” he asks.
The long pause — a prolonged, agonizing moment of silence — “No,” is Dr. Melfi’s painfully assured final response. We wanted her choice to be different, but she’s ultimately done the right thing. In the end, it’s amazing that such a tragic moment results in such a life-affirming personal triumph.