The Sopranos' Engine

The Sopranos' Engine

I (re)watched / read The Soprano's pilot (again), and I'd like to share a few thoughts. I think everyone is familiar with the show, so I won't go into details about storylines or what the pilot is all about.

I'll tell you this...

  • 15x BEATS related to Tony's crime life
  • 16x BEATS related to Tony's home life
  • 11x BEATS with Dr Melfi (Tony's therapist)

(OK, give or take a few beats)

Obviously, David Chase didn't structure the pilot this way by accident. The great UCLA Prof. Landau has an interesting take on PILOTS:

The pilot establishes the prototype of what the SWEET SPOT of the show is going to be moving forward.

The Soprano's sweet spot can be described as the crossing between Tony's crime life and home life. The fact that David Chase had divided (almost equally) his script into two "segments" (crime + home) is significant. The protagonist having to navigate both of these areas is the central conflict of the show. And it provides unlimited story engines.

But, for me, the most exciting catch is how Dr Melfi and Tony's therapy sessions were introduced as a clever framing device. Again, not by accident — the therapy sessions cover the pilot's third segment with 11x beats, thus creating another sweet spot for the show and unlimited story engines. Pretty sweet, right?

The script's braided structure where three distinct areas of Tony's life are constantly clashing is, in my opinion, what makes the show great.

Nov 06, 2021