Part of the reason The Sopranos has retained its crown as the greatest TV drama ever made is the sheer variety of its content. At its core it’s a crime drama and an in depth depiction of the modern American family, but it’s able to achieve lots of other tones, too - it can reach Lynchian levels of weird, and be remarkably funny.
Then there are the episodes that are downright disturbing. If you’re someone who watches a lot of crime dramas, after a while you’ll become inured to onscreen violence, but The Sopranos was capable of delivering moments and plots that can genuinely shock and appal the viewer with their edge and horror.
On occasion this is achieved by the sheer visceral nature of the content, but The Sopranos’ horror often goes deeper than that, patiently developing characters and sending them spiralling through tragic or otherwise psychologically chilling arcs.
These episodes rank among some of the show’s best, but they’re not for the faint of heart. Whether bloody and gruesome or spine chillingly bleak, these instalments are guaranteed to disturb.
10. Cold Stones
The elevation of Vito Spatafore in The Sopranos’ endgame was something of an eyebrow raiser. A former tertiary character was suddenly awarded a prominent side plot about his repressed homosexuality, and much of season six’s screentime was given over to his eventual outing and his swift departure from New Jersey lest his bigoted colleagues decide to take him out.
It wasn’t the most compelling material the show ever did, but the cruel end to Vito was stomach churning and heartbreaking violence on a par with many of The Sopranos’ more incidental characters.
After failing to make a fresh start in New Hampshire, Vito returns to Jersey to make things right. Tony wants to show mercy, but his New York equivalent Phil, Vito’s brother in law, has other ideas, and arranges for the disgraced capo to meet a sickening fate.
Vito isn’t just killed, he’s tortured and brutalised before being dispatched in such a manner as to send out a message regarding the mafia’s lack of tolerance. The Vito storyline often briskly covers an element previously untouched, but the ending is memorable to say the least.