- "All due respect. You got no fucking idea what it's like to be number one. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other fucking thing. It's too much to deal with almost. And in the end, you're completely alone with it all."
- ―Tony to Silvio Dante[src]
Tony has to juggle North Jersey's most powerful criminal organization, keeping it functioning properly and keeping dissonance to a minimum. The relationship between Tony and his uncle, Corrado John Soprano, Jr. (better known as Junior Soprano), was very close for many years, with Junior acting as a father figure for Tony following the death of Giovanni (AKA Johnny Boy) Soprano, Tony's father. However, the relationship was strained when a disgruntled Junior became more and more marginalized in the organization as the FBI's investigation into his activities increased. He had Brendan Filone killed, which infuriated Tony. Furthermore, he conspired with Tony's own mother, Livia Soprano, to have Tony killed (although the hit failed). Before Tony realized his mother had helped to plan the attack on him, he had been very close to her and had taken care of her. But Tony's mother was a bitter and pessimistic woman who rejected Tony's help and became very angry with him when he placed her in a retirement community, which Livia claimed was a "nursing home". After the attempt on Tony's life, he proceeds to confront his mother at the retirement home, but discovers she has had a stroke. This does not deter Tony's rage as he angrily lets his mother know that he found out about the truth. Their relationship after this nearly deteriorates, as Tony barely speaks to her after that.
Despite a level of local notoriety, Tony has represented himself publicly as a waste management consultant to Barone Sanitation, one of the many fronts for his criminal enterprises. Tony had been using his putative nephew Christopher Moltisanti as a buffer between him and his capos during the past two seasons in order to insulate himself from the FBI. This subterfuge ended when Moltisanti was killed by Tony after an automobile accident. Christopher was driving while high on heroin and serves off off the road to avoid hitting an oncoming car. The car rolls off a hill and crashes upright. Tony, who was wearing his seat belt, manages to escape from the wrecked car relatively unscathed, but Christopher, who was not wearing his seat belt, is coughing up blood and may have severe internal injuries. Christopher admits that they seek medical aid or report this to the police, they will probably administer drug tests, which he will likely fail, so he asks for Tony to help him escape. After seeing a large branch destroy the empty baby seat in the rear seat, Tony is a aghast that if Christopher's daughter had been riding with them, the accident would have obviously killed her. Tony finally decides that while he loved Christopher, he would always be unreliable and dangerous to others. Instead of calling 911, he suffocates Christopher to death. In a dream sequence, Tony tells his true feelings about Christopher's death to Dr Melfi, saying: "I am relieved, he was a tremendous drag on my emotions, on my thoughts about the future. Every morning I wake up thinking, is today, the day that one of my best friends is gonna dime me to the FBI? And a weak fucking sniveling lying drug addict is the worst kind of bet."
Bobby Baccalieri was being groomed as Moltisanti's replacement until he was killed by Phil Leotardo's hitmen when the Lupertazzi Crime Family launched a war against the DiMeo Crime Family. Tony managed to strike a truce with Phil's underlings, however, and after Phil is assassinated, Tony returns safely to his criminal enterprise. He is last shown having dinner with his family at the famous Holstein's restaurant in New Jersey, though the possibility of a criminal indictment, thanks to a gun charge and testimony from Carlo Gervasi, looms over his head. A patron in Holsten's credited as "Man in Members Only Jacket" ominously looks twice in Tony's direction and then walks past Tony's booth to the bathroom, and walks out before the screen silently cuts to black. It is implied that Tony could have been shot in the back of the head and killed by the mysterious patron who was possibly a hired assassin, however, this has never been definitively confirmed and Tony Soprano's ultimate fate remains officially unknown, and with the death of actor James Gandolfini, its very likely that we will never learn if Tony was killed or not.
Tony was born on August 22, 1959, to Livia and Johnny Soprano. He grew up living with his mother, father, and two sisters Janice and Barbara in the Ironbound in Newark, New Jersey. His father was always involved in crime and Tony recalls some of his activities in flashbacks on the show.
Young Tony Soprano has been portrayed by several actors. Bobby Boriello played Tony in the episode "Down Neck" in which Tony recalls many childhood events relating to his childhood realization that his father was involved in organized crime, including his recollection of father's relationship with his older sister, Janice, and his use of her as a cover for attending meetings with criminal associates at a children's amusement park. At the time, Tony thought Janice was his father's favorite child. In therapy, when asked to remember happy childhood memories about his mother, Tony struggled to come up with any, eventually recalling that he witnessed his father falling down the stairs, causing the whole family to laugh, even his mother; he later described his mother as a cruel, joyless woman who wore his father down "to a little nub". Tony also has a distant relationship with Janice because she is always asking him for money and once tried to sell Livia's house by herself. Tony also ended up having to dispose of the body of her re-acquainted boyfriend Richie Aprile, after Janice killed him.
Tony went to high school with Artie Bucco and Davey Scatino and remained friends with them into later life. He played baseball and football, and according to Sal Bonpensiero, he nearly made All-County. In high school he met his future bride, Carmela DeAngelis. Tony was also close to his cousin Tony Blundetto. To keep them segregated, family members used to call Tony Blundetto "Tony Uncle Al" and Tony Soprano "Tony Uncle Johnny".
In their teenage years, the two Tony's spent summers at their Uncle Pat Blundetto's farm — Pat was a soldier in the DiMeo organization. Tony Blundetto was arrested for his part in a hijacking when the two cousins were young men. Tony was supposed to join Blundetto on the job but failed to because of a panic attack. To hide this from associates, he lied that he was unable to participate because he had been mugged "mulignans" (aka: black men) and injured. Tony also attended Seton Hall University. However, prior to completing his freshman year, he dropped out and elected to go into his father's criminal work. One of Tony's nightmares was where he was in a locker room all by himself, only to come upon the office of his deceased football coach. The coach, who is once again a living man, chastises Tony for dropping out of school. He remarks how he spent countless hours with Tony on the football field, only to throw it away by going into crime. He said if Tony had listened to his conscience, he could have continued on in a career in sports, possibly succeeding him as coach. This gave insight to that Tony did not originally intend to be a mobster and had some inklings towards a legitimate life.
Tony was part of an unofficial crew of young criminals consisting of Silvio Dante, Ralph Cifaretto and Jackie Aprile, Sr. Tony gained notoriety in the DiMeo crime family by robbing a card game run by Michele "Feech" La Manna along with Silvio and Jackie. From then on, he was on a fast track to becoming a made man. He committed his first murder at the age of 23 on Labor Day weekend in 1982, killing a small-time bookie named Willie Overall. In season one, Tony states that he knew former Gambino crime family boss John Gotti in the 1980s in that Gotti outbid him at an auction but gave him a ride home in the vehicle. However, given that one-time story and the tone of voice delivered, it may be likely Tony was telling a tall tale. His father shepherded Tony through his ascendancy, until his death in 1986 from emphysema, brought on by a heavy smoking habit. When he died, Johnny Boy Soprano had risen to the level of captain of his own crew — as had his brother Corrado "Junior" Soprano. Junior took over the paternal role and continued to advise and assist Tony. Tony remembers having to buy expensive dinners for Richie Aprile as a newly made man. Soldiers from Johnny Boy's crew, Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero and Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri, passed their loyalty on to Tony after Johnny Boy died, Tony then became acting capo of his father's old crew in 1986, making him the youngest capo in the family, at only 27. He was elevated to permanent capo in the late-eighties. His old friend Silvio Dante also joined him as a soldier in his crew.
By 1995, Tony was a well-respected caporegime in the organization when the boss of the family, Ercoli "Eckley" DiMeo, was sent to prison. Tony's longtime friend and fellow captain Giacomo "Jackie" Aprile, Sr. took on the role of acting boss in December 1995. With DiMeo in prison, Aprile became the official "Street Boss" of the family.
Under Jackie's rule, the DiMeo Family was peaceful and prosperous until 1998, when Jackie was diagnosed with intestinal cancer; afterward, the family slowly descended into turmoil. With Jackie in and out of the hospital, and as such not able to fully run the family, Tony began to take on many of his duties, much to his Uncle Junior's chagrin.
For a time in Summer 1998, Jackie seemed cured and was back on the street as boss and the family's woes were eased. By late spring, however, he was back in the hospital and had begun chemotherapy treatments. With Tony's role in the family's operation increasing and disagreements including Tony thwarting Junior's plot to kill "Little Pussy" Malanga in Artie Bucco's restaurant, tensions between Tony and Uncle Junior rose and reached an all-time high as Jackie's condition turned for the worse.
With Jackie's death in September 1998 crisis emerged as to who would run the family, and the soldiers and other captains began to prepare for all-out war within the family, but Tony brought a quick end to the conflict by making Junior the official boss of the family. Junior would unknowingly act as the lightning rod for the feds, while Tony would run the family from behind the scenes as a de facto boss starting in April 1999. Tony becomes the official boss after Junior is retired by the family, following Junior's shooting of Tony.
Tony's grandfather, Corrado Soprano Sr., was a master stone mason who emigrated from Avellino, Italy in 1910. He helped to build a church in Tony's old neighborhood in Newark that Tony has taken his children to, so he can tell them about their heritage, and the value of hard work. Tony also recalls that when he was only 13 his father would let him play around on the construction sites he ran, even driving heavy machinery, such as backhoes and diggers.
Murders committed by Tony Soprano
Tony has personally committed at least eight murders in the show, although he may have committed others that have not been shown or referenced considering his lengthy career in the Mafia. Furthermore, as boss of the DiMeo family, he is fully responsible for the deaths of others killed on his orders. The eight known murders committed directly, all explicitly presented onscreen, were:
- Willie Overall, shot and killed by Tony to "make his bones", a requirement for becoming a "made man"(September 6, 1982).
- Fabian "Febby" Petrulio, strangled to death with a wire by Tony for ratting out members of Paulie and Pussy's crew and joining the federal witness protection program 10 years earlier (September 1998).
- Chucky Signore, shot and killed by Tony for conspiring to kill him with Junior (April 1999).
- Matthew Bevilaqua, shot to death by Tony and Big Pussy for attempting to kill Christopher (April 2000).
- Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero, shot by Tony, Silvio and Paulie on a yacht, after they discovered that he was an FBI informant (June 9 2000).
- Ralph Cifaretto, beaten and strangled to death in a fight over Ralph's supposedly killing of their prize-winning race horse "Pie-O-My" for insurance money. (February 2003).
- Tony Blundetto, executed with a 12 gauge shotgun for the unauthorized killings of Joe Peeps and Billy Leotardo, in order to give him a quick demise and spare him from being the subject of torture from Phil Leotardo in revenge for his brother Billy's death (December 17 2004).
- Christopher Moltisanti, suffocated to death by Tony after a major car accident for being high on heroin while driving, and having become a liability for Tony in his eyes (November 2007).
Some murders hit him on a personal and emotional level leaving him perplexed as to how to cope with the situation. Most notably, after murdering his nephew, Christopher Moltisanti, he feels a rush of relief for finally being rid of his nephew, whom he felt he could no longer trust and had become a burden. However, he was plagued in having to "show the sad face" while the rest of his family grieves. However, Tony reassures himself that Moltisanti's murder was necessary, despite the hurt caused to his family and friends.
The murder of one of his best friends Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero in Funhouse weighs heavily on Tony. He is at first tempted to spare his old friend, but in the end knows what his priorities are, knowing that his lifelong friend is a government informant and a threat to his crime family. He is shot to death on Tony's boat by Tony, Silvio, and Paulie, then weighted down and thrown into the ocean. Prior to this, Bonpensiero confessed to being an informant, and the four have one last drink. Salvatore realizes this is his last day alive and begs not to shot in the face. He is then shot, although his request his granted as all bullets hit his torso. Tony was not alone in nightmares, as Silvio and Paulie admit in private they have all been haunted by nightmares of killing a good friend.
Tony kills Ralph Cifaretto after their horse, Pie-O-My, dies in a suspicious stable fire in "Whoever Did This". Tony tries to confront Ralph about the situation but, after a heated argument where Ralph unwittingly admits to having started the fire for insurance money to pay for his son's operation. When Ralph mocks Tony for his sentimental attachment to the horse, claiming he loves animals yet "eats steak and sausage by the truckload", Tony loses control and violently murders Ralph with his bare hands.
The murder of Matthew Bevilaqua was pure vengeance and an act that he believed had to be carried out since Christopher getting shot was a direct affront to him as boss of the DiMeo family, and as Christopher's cousin. Tony takes satisfaction in it, as it is revenge for an attempt on the life of one of his relatives.
The murder of his cousin Tony Blundetto is solely to save him from a far worse death if he were to fall into Phil's hands, and also to satisfy the leadership of the Lupertazzi crime family and protect Soprano's men from their wrath for not giving up Blundetto. However, like Bonpensiero, Tony was haunted by this murder.
The murder of his nephew, Christopher Moltisanti, is done out of necessity in Tony's eyes; Moltisanti's reckless behavior and persistent addiction to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol presents a threat to Tony's life and the DiMeo crime family. When Tony was about to call 911 for help, he sees the baby seat in the back seat of the SUV destroyed by a tree branch, and then closes his phone and proceeds to suffocate him by holding his nose shut so he chokes to death on his own blood. Additionally, Christopher's methods often violated the Mafia's code. Tony did not really plan to murder his nephew but saw the opportunity after a car accident caused by Moltisanti being high on drugs and finally had enough of Christopher's behavior. After killing Christopher, Tony tries to discover whether other mobsters or family members had similar feelings, it seems, however, that they do not. Tony is never suspected of this murder.
As a father
Tony is often portrayed as a loving father — he attends his children's sporting events on a regular basis and does all he can to insure they have all the luxuries and opportunities that life has to offer. He hopes that both his children will escape the life of crime he has led. Tony takes great pride in Meadow's achievements. In Season 1, he is moved to tears by her performance at a choir recital. He often tells people about her aspiration to become a pediatrician.
However, he also sometimes alienates his children with his behavior. He has always tried to conceal his criminal life from them — something that Meadow saw through early on and A.J. also realized with guidance from his sister.
Tony's over-protectiveness of Meadow has led to feuds between them on several occasions. For example, her first boyfriend at college was of part black heritage, and Tony's racism led him to try to drive him away. Meadow learned of her father's actions and didn't speak to him for several months, eventually reconciling at Christmas in 2000.
promised Jackie Jr.'s father that he would try to keep his son on the straight path. Tony was initially pleased with the relationship, believing Jackie to be a hard-working pre-med student from a good family.
However, since his Uncle Richie's release from prison and subsequent death, Jackie had become more and more involved in the Mafia. Tony realized this when he caught Jackie at strip clubs and a casino. He eventually beat Jackie up to warn him about abusing his daughter's feelings and confiscated a gun from him. Jackie was eventually killed by Vito for his involvement in the robbery at Christopher's and Furio's executive card game, and for shooting a made man, Furio. This drove Meadow to drinking and depression, although they'd broken up shortly before his death.
After Jackie's death, Tony accepts Meadow's college friends and gets along well with her fiancé, Finn, before the two separated under unrevealed circumstances.
Tony's feelings toward his son, however, are mixed, especially with worries about his future. From the beginning, Tony had doubts that his son could succeed him as Boss of the Dimeo Crime Family. His fears are confirmed as A.J. consistently demonstrates throughout the series that he lacks his father's dominating persona and cunning. Tony instead tells A.J. numerous times that he is proud that his son is gentle and kind. Tony was especially proud of A.J.'s prowess on the football field, even amid his failing grades in high school, but is frustrated with A.J.'s lack of focus after graduation.
After flunking out of Ramapo State, A.J. loafs around the house, parties, and for a time holds a job at Blockbuster, until his father, hoping to keep A.J. away from a life of crime, gets him a job working construction. There, A.J. meets Blanca, and in Tony's opinion, A.J. was doing well until he and Blanca broke up. Tony's worries again amplified around A.J.'s depression, a 'rotten putrid gene' that Tony believes he passed down to his son.
Hoping to get A.J. back on track, Tony rekindles A.J.'s friendship with "the Jasons", sons of two of his associates, and A.J. seems to be doing better. With the help of a therapist and medication, A.J. is finally getting back to college, this time at Rutgers University, to take classes and party with girls as Tony believes every college kid should. This later turns sour after A.J. sees his new friends attack a Somalian student on a bike and he regresses into depression. A.J. tries to drown himself in a swimming pool, but decides he wants to live; he is unable to escape the pool, however. Tony hears his cries for help, and rescues him. After A.J. is released from a mental health ward, Tony and Carmela dissuade him from joining the Army, and convince him instead to become involved in a film bankrolled by Carmine Lupertazzi, Jr., with the possibility of opening his own club.
Interests and hobbies
- Tony is an avid animal lover and enjoys feeding the ducks which visit his pool. He has a sentimental attachment towards animals, being traumatized by the loss of his childhood dog (as revealed in the episode In Camelot). Later, he invests in a racehorse, Pie-O-My, and becomes involved in horse racing through his friend Hesh who owns a stable. When his horse is eventually killed in a fire - possibly set by Ralph Cifaretto - Tony is deeply upset and saddened, arguably more emotional over the loss of the horse than the death of any human character on the show. When informed by Carmela that a black bear has been foraging in his home's backyard while they were separated, during Season 5, he reacts with interest, rather than fear. During his stay in the hospital after his shooting, he can be seen reading a book about dinosaurs.
- Tony enjoys fishing, as he is seen many times over the course of the show engaging in both freshwater and saltwater angling. His son Anthony Jr. frequently accompanies him on fishing outings and during the second season he presents his son with a gift of a Fenwick rod and a Penn International reel, both extremely high quality products. In the sixth season, while in Florida with Paulie, he rents a sport fishing boat, though he is not shown to have caught anything. Despite his love of fishing, he is sometimes haunted by visions of Pussy Bonpensiero incarnated in the form of a fish - presumably a reference to the disposal of his body in the ocean. A Big Mouth Billy Bass novelty singing fish, brought into the Bada Bing by Georgie, recalled his nightmare and disturbed him greatly. Tony is also a big sports fan, enjoying baseball, football, basketball, golf, horse racing, played varsity baseball and football in high school. He is a New York Yankees fan, as well as a New York Jets fan. A large portion of his income comes from illegal sports betting as well.
- Tony is also an amateur yachtsman and has owned two motor yachts over the course of the show - Stugots and Stugots II. The Neapolitan Italian word means "This dick," or in paraphrase "Fuck it."
- Tony maintains an avid interest in history, particularly World War II. He is often shown watching programs on the History Channel about great leaders such as George Patton, Erwin Rommel and Winston Churchill. He reads The Art of War by Sun Tzu, a work which is quoted by several other characters on the show as well, particularly Paulie Gualtieri.
- Tony seems to have a soft spot for classic black and white films, as he is often seem watching them before sleep and regularly commentating on them.
- Tony listens to classic rock and pop music, particularly of the 1960s and 70s. Over the course of the show he is seen to enjoy Jefferson Airplane, Eric Clapton, The Clash, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, AC/DC, Rush, Eagles, Journey, Boston, and Deep Purple.
Tony has a penchant for carrying on extramarital affairs. His wife Carmela seems to know about this and usually turns a blind eye, though sometimes the bottled-up tensions explode in domestic arguments - particularly at the end of Season 4, when Tony's affairs drive Carmela to separate from him. He typically has mistresses who he consistently sees for long periods of time, though he also has a number of brief one-night-stands with strippers from the Bada Bing.
Tony has a strong preference for women of European, particularly Italian descent, with dark hair and eyes and exotic features. His mistresses have been, in chronological order, of Russian, Italian, Italian/Cuban, and Jewish descent. He favors dark features but also had a few brief flings with blond European women, including a Russian housekeeper and a stewardess from Icelandic Airways. He had one very short encounter with an Asian-American escort during "The Test Dream".
- Irina Peltsin - a young Russian woman who he sees consistently throughout the first two seasons. She is a severe alcoholic and frequently calls Tony's house while drunk, and when Janice hints that she knows that he is seeing her, he breaks off the relationship. Despite Tony repeatedly turning down her advances towards him after their breakup, he still feels an attachment to her deep down. Newark Assemblyman Ronald Zellman begins dating Irina in 2002 during the fourth season of the show, and Tony initially gives them his blessing. However, Tony later changed his mind on their relationship and became jealous, and one night while slightly drunk, he arrived at Zellman's house and beat him with his belt in front of Irina to humiliate him. Irina left Zellman soon after, because he was no longer able to sexually perform after the humiliation he felt from the beating. The beating becomes a catalyst for an ugly separation between Carmela and Tony later, when a drunken Irina calls Carmela and confesses to her previous affair with Tony as well as his affair with her cousin Svetlana.
- Gloria Trillo - an Italian-American Mercedes-Benz saleswoman with stylish tastes and exotic looks. Tony dates her throughout Season 3 after meeting her at Dr. Melfi's office. He eventually stops seeing her when she begins stalking him and calling his house, and threatening to tell Carmela of their affair. She commits suicide after the breakup, after Patsy Parisi aims a gun at her and threatens to violently murder her if she contacts Tony or his family again.
- Valentina La Paz - a beautiful art dealer of Italian and Cuban descent. Initially the mistress of Ralph Cifaretto, Tony "steals" her away and dates her throughout Season 4. They share a love of horses, and she visits Pie-O-My at the stable with Tony. She accidentally sets her robe on fire in Season 5 while cooking eggs for Tony. Shortly thereafter he decides to get back together with Carmela, and he breaks up with Valentina while she is in the hospital recovering from second degree burns to her head, face and arm. Their relationship ends on bad terms and he has not seen her since.
- Julianna Skiff - a real estate developer of Jewish descent. She meets Tony in Season 6 when offering to buy a building that he owns, to be converted into a Jamba Juice. They later begin an affair, along with a business relationship, but ironically never consummate their relationship sexually; Tony backs off and decides to be faithful to Carmela, who stuck with him after the shooting and seemed re-devoted to him after. Julianna eventually dates Christopher Moltisanti and the two begin a very destructive, co-dependent drug habit, and she is last seen attending Christopher's funeral service where she mentions that they had split up.
Tony has suffered from panic attacks that sometimes cause him to lose consciousness since his childhood. He has his first on-screen panic attack while cooking sausages at his son's birthday party — this occurs in a flashback in the Pilot. Tony loses consciousness and causes a small explosion when he drops a bottle of lighter fluid onto the coals. Tony describes the experience of the panic attack as feeling like he had "ginger ale in his skull". This prompts him to seek help for the attacks. After extensive testing that includes an MRI scan and blood work no physical cause can be found so Dr. Cusamano referred Tony to psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi.
Tony's referral to therapy allowed a discussion of his thoughts and feelings away from both aspects of his life — this forum for reaching into the character's thoughts has been described as a Greek chorus and key to the viewers understanding of the character. William Bender, "The Last Aria of Tony Soprano", The New York Times, February 26, 2006
Tony was initially very resistant to the idea that there was a psychiatric cause for his symptoms. He resented being in therapy and refused to accept the diagnosis of panic attacks given him by the neurologists who had investigated his illness. Tony begins to open up once Dr. Melfi explains the doctor-patient confidentiality rules. He tells her about the stress of his business life — he has a feeling that he has come in at the end of something and describes a reverence for the glorified "old days" of the Mafia. Tony leaves out the violence associated with his criminal career. Tony tells Dr. Melfi a story about ducks landing in his pool. He also tells her about his mother, Livia, a cold, mean-spirited woman with whom he has an openly hostile relationship. By the end of the first session Tony has admitted that he feels depressed, but storms out when Dr. Melfi presses him further about the relationship between his symptoms and the ducks.
When the family visits Green Grove, a retirement community which Tony is trying to place his mother in, Livia's derisive outburst prompts a second panic attack. Melfi prescribes Prozac as an anti-depressant, telling him that no one needs to suffer from depression with the wonders of modern pharmacology. Tony fails to attend their next scheduled session.
At their next session Tony is still reluctant to face his own psychological weaknesses. Tony is quick to credit the medication for his improved mood but Dr. Melfi tells him it cannot be that as it takes 6 weeks to work — she credits their therapy sessions. Tony describes a dream where a bird steals his penis — Melfi extrapolates from this to reveal that Tony projected his love for his family onto the family of ducks living in his back pool and this brings him to tears, to his consternation. She tells him that their flight from the pool sparked his panic attack through the overwhelming fear of somehow losing his own family.
In the episode "46 Long" they continue discussing Tony's mother and her difficulties living alone. Tony admits that he feels guilty because his mother could not be allowed to live with his family. We learn that he has been left to care for his mother alone by his sisters. When Dr. Melfi asks him to remember good experiences from his childhood he has difficulty. He also shows that he blames Carmela for preventing his mother from living with them. Later they discuss Livia's car accident and Melfi suggests depression may have contributed to the accident - Tony misunderstands her and becomes angry. Tony has a panic attack while visiting his mother's home after she moves to Green Grove. In a later session Dr. Melfi pushes Tony to admit he has feelings of anger towards his mother and he again storms out. During this episode Tony introduces the concept of him acting like the sad clown - happy on the outside but sad on the inside.
In "Denial, Anger, Acceptance" Tony discusses Jackie's cancer with Dr. Melfi. She tries to use it as an example of Tony's negative thinking contributing to his depression. Tony becomes angry and storms out because he feels she is trying to trick him and manipulate his thoughts using the pictures that decorate her office. After Jackie worsens and Tony is called a Frankenstein by a business associate he returns to therapy to discuss these things with Dr. Melfi — she asks him if he feels like a monster.
In "Fortunate Son" Tony discusses a childhood memory of an early panic attack. He saw his father and uncle mutilate Mr. Satriale, the local butcher, and later fainted at a family dinner made with free meat from Satriale's shop. Dr. Melfi makes a connection between meat and Tony's panic attacks and also explores his mother's attitude to the fruits of his father's labor.
Later Dr. Melfi tries prescribing Lithium as a mood stabilizer. In the episode "Isabella" Tony sinks into a severe depressive episode and experiences hallucinations — he sees a beautiful Italian woman named Isabella in his neighbor's garden. Tony sees Isabella several times during the episode and later learns that she never existed. Melfi theorizes that Isabella was an idealized maternal figure that Tony's subconscious produced because of he was deeply upset at his own mother's actions at the time.
The relationship between Tony and Dr. Melfi has been up-and-down, with Tony reaching a level of comfort with Dr. Melfi that he has never experienced with anyone else before, not even his wife. This closeness leads Tony to have something of a "crush" on Dr. Melfi, something that is unattainable. However, the "prying" from Dr. Melfi is uncomfortable for Tony and he often turns sarcastic and antagonistic towards her, leading to an ongoing strain in their relationship. In the episode when Tony's sister, Janice, goes back to Seattle, it is revealed during a rushed conversation between Janice and Tony that their mother suffers from narcissistic personality disorder.
During the episode "The Second Coming", aired in part II of season six, Melfi's own therapist suggests to her that her work with Tony could be considered enabling toward Tony's sociopathic tendencies. Finally, in the penultimate episode of the series, "The Blue Comet", Melfi severs her relationship with Tony as his therapist after reading research recommended by her own therapist that sociopaths can use talk therapy to actually improve their skills in manipulating others and using what is learned in therapy to become more capable criminals.
In the first season, Tony is attacked by William Johnson "Petite" Clayborn and Rasheen Ray, two thugs sent by Donnie Paduana under orders to execute Tony. Tony sustains some injury to his ear which is partially shot off, and minor bruises and cuts from crashing his vehicle. One of the two assailants, Clayborn, is shot dead by Ray in an attempt to kill Tony, and Ray is left bruised but runs off.
In the premiere of the sixth season, "Members Only", Junior Soprano, suffering from dementia, believes Tony to be "Little Pussy" Malanga and shoots him in the abdomen. He manages to dial 911 but loses consciousness before being able to tell the operator what happened.
The second episode of the sixth season, "Join the Club" reveals Tony is currently in a medically-induced coma in the hospital. In the second and third episode the viewer sees Tony in a dream-like state, eventually arriving at what could be purgatory, where he is greeted by a man who takes the physical form of his late cousin Tony Blundetto. The shadowy figure in the doorway of the house has the profile of his mother, Livia, who is dead. The voice of a younger version of his daughter calls him back. At the end of the third episode he awakes from his coma in a confused but stable state.
By the fourth episode Tony is mobile and fully aware and has regained his voice but is still recovering. Tony's attitude to life has been changed by his near death experience. He has yet to discuss his experiences while unconscious with anyone close to him. However, in the Season 6 episode "Kaisha", he admits to Phil Leotardo (who had just suffered a heart attack), that while he was in a coma, he went to a place, but he knows he never wants to go back there. He talks philosophy with John Schwinn, another patient at the hospital, and mentions that while in the coma he had the experience of being drawn towards somewhere he did not want to go and narrowly avoiding it.
In the sixth episode of season 6, part 2, "Kennedy and Heidi", Tony sustains minor injuries in a car accident that seriously injures his nephew Christopher Moltisanti (whom Tony killed by suffocation while Christopher succumbed to his injuries). Tony was on bed rest for a few days and quickly recovered. Nonetheless, this gave his family quite a scare and a painful memory of his nearly fatal shooting the previous year.
In the pilot, Tony tells Dr. Melfi about a dream he had wherein a screw in his belly button, when removed, causes his penis to fall off. He tries to find a car mechanic (who had worked on his Lincoln when Tony drove Lincolns) to put it back on, but a duck swoops down and snatches it from his hand.
In "Meadowlands", Tony has a dream of several people in his life in Dr. Melfi's office, causing him to be paranoid that people will find out he is seeing a psychiatrist. The dream ends with Tony confronting Melfi, only to find out he's speaking to his mother, Livia.
In "Pax Soprana", Tony has several dreams and fantasies of Dr. Melfi. He becomes convinced that he is in love with her, but she turns him down when he makes advances towards her.
In "Isabella", Tony, suffering from depression after Big Pussy disappears, acquaints himself with a dental student named Isabella who is staying in the Cusamano home while they are on vacation. He later discovers that he'd hallucinated Isabella due to taking too much lithium, and that Isabella represented the mother he never had.
In "Funhouse", an extended dream sequence exposes many of Tony's subconscious thoughts and feelings through symbolic and sometimes bizarre events: he attempts suicide to preempt a doctor's diagnosis of early death by dousing himself in gasoline and lighting himself on fire, witnesses himself shooting Paulie "Walnuts" Gaultieri to death during a card game, has an innuendo-laden conversation with his therapist Dr. Melfi while sporting a prominent erection, and a fish that speaks with the voice of Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero confirms his suspicions that the longtime friend and soldier is a federal informant.
In "Everybody Hurts", Tony dreams of his ex-comaré Gloria Trillo shortly after learning of her suicide by hanging. He visits her apartment and finds her in a black dress with a black scarf around her neck. She is cooking dinner and when she goes over to the oven the scarf drapes across Tony. Plaster falls down in front of Tony and when he looks up he sees that the chandelier is almost pulled out of the ceiling. Gloria is suddenly back at the table and offers Tony a choice between seeing what she has under her dress or under her scarf. As she goes to peel away the scarf, Tony wakes up and makes his way to the bathroom for some medication.
In "Calling All Cars" Tony has two dreams featuring Ralph Cifaretto. In the first he is being driven by Carmela in the back of his father's old car while Ralph sits in the passenger seat. There is a caterpillar crawling on the back of Ralph's head. Tony's fellow passenger in the back seat changes — Gloria Trillo and Svetlana Kirilenko are both seen. The caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Dr. Melfi later tells him that the dream signifies a change for Ralphie (recently killed by Tony) and Carmela being in control.
In the second dream Tony follows Ralph to an old house, which Ralph enters. Tony is dressed in trousers, suspenders and an undershirt. He knocks on the door and a female figure descends slowly in shadow; the door creaks ominously. Tony says he is there for the stonemason job but does not speak English well (Tony's grandfather was an immigrant stonemason). Just as Tony is about to enter the house he wakes up.
In "The Test Dream", Tony comes to terms with having to kill his cousin Tony Blundetto, as well reflecting inner demons and fears ranging from his children's future, his relationship with his wife, his infidelities, deceased acquaintances including some who have died by his hand or by his orders, his fate and even his relationship with his father. He is again shown in his father's old car accompanied by a range of past associates.
In "Join the Club", a comatose Tony finds himself in an alternate universe where he is a law-abiding salesman on a business trip. Among other differences, his accent has changed and his hotel's bartender condescends him (in sharp contrast to the bartender at The Bing, who is a recurring punching bag for Tony). Tony has mistakenly taken another man's briefcase - Kevin Finnerty's - along with all of his identification and work. The episode follows his attempts to discern his identity, recover his briefcase, and get back to his family.
In "Kennedy and Heidi", a stressed Tony Soprano has a dream following the death of his nephew Christopher Moltisanti. In this dream he tells his therapist Jennifer Melfi that Christopher was a burden and that he was relieved that he was dead. After that he also tells her that he murdered Big Pussy and his cousin Tony Blundetto. Following the dream he acts differently to his friends and family, trying to see if they also feel relieved now that Christopher is dead.