This overhead shot aligns Tony with danger, especially towards his family. Tony’s panic attack leads to him lying on the ground, directly below the flaming barbecue, set apart from the otherwise idyllic backyard scene.
The next head-on shot highlights the divide that Tony’s danger causes between him and his family.
In his AV Club coverage of The Sopranos, Todd VanDerWerff discusses the use of cancerous imagery, depicting Tony as the rotting centre of the show. With a scene in the pilot episode featuring an MRI machine and the possibility of a protagonist with brain cancer, this imagery is set up immediately.
One of HBO’s first original television programme, The Sopranos took advantage of the fact that less dependence on advertising meant greater freedom to air risky, controversial material. Cocaine on a cleaver: prime example.
The pilot is full of beautiful shots of Tony eclipsed by shadows. Although the entire episode is driven by Tony revealing himself to his new therapist, the visual inaccessibility of his figure implies darker secrets and motives unspoken in the doctor’s office.
A protagonist framed completely by trash, describing his business both literally and metaphorically. What could be a simple exchange between friends becomes a symbol of Tony’s entire world, about to unfold as one of television’s most fascinating shows.