A striking feature of the first season of The Sopranos is the ease with which the show introduces and connects its large ensemble of supporting characters. In addition to Tony’s wife, kids, relatives, and close circle of business associates, the show also features neighbours, members of other Mafia groups, victims of Tony’s friends, various mobster girlfriends/wives, and distance family members. For a show that centres around the psychological investigation of one protagonist, the cast list is impressively vast.
What maintains connections between characters and plotlines is the repetition of phrases, uses of certain language, and impersonations of common culture. Viewers can see how deeply Livia Soprano affects Tony by seeing him imitate her gestures of indifference and lack of sympathy (“poor you!”). Episode seven, “Down Neck,” involves detailed flashbacks to Tony’s childhood, and when his father scolds his mother “always with the drama,” it’s as if Tony is yellilng the words because he has – at both Carmela and his mother, earlier in the season. Johnny Boy Soprano, though deceased in the actual show, is used to explain Tony’s behaviour and relationships and therefore works as a link to understanding characters rather than getting confused between them.
In the same episode, the word “polio” gets used by many characters, each in their own conversations. As the show switches between multiple plotlines, there is a constant connection between each. As well, throughout the first season Tony can be seen incorporating the language of Dr. Melfi’s therapy into his everyday interactions, emphasizing the influence that his psychological state has on his work and family. The infiltration of plotlines into one another, usually stemming from Tony himself, prevents The Sopranos from becoming disconnected scenes of mobster/domestic conflict and instead allows it to become a reflection on transferred emotional states.